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Hennepin County Plan Aims for Four-Fold Increase in Bike Commuting

10/30/2014

 

By Barb Thoman, Executive Director

 

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If you currently bicycle in Hennepin County, or would like to someday, you will want to review the recently released Hennepin County 2040 Bicycle Transportation Plan: Safety and Comfort for All Ages and Abilities. The draft plan has ambitious goals for increasing the percent of trips by bicycle, for getting more women riding, and for reducing crashes. We urge all our readers to review the plan and support the county in this effort to increase investment and support for bicycling. The draft is out for public review and comment through December 5.

 

The focus of the plan is roads and trails in Hennepin County and also the trail systems owned and operated by Three Rivers Park District. The plan proposes to increase bicycle facilities by 21 miles each year: from 651 today to 1,187 miles in 2040. This annual growth would be a four-fold increase over the current level of bikeway implementation! About a third of the increased mileage is within the Three River’s system.

 

Currently 2.5 percent of trips taken in Hennepin County are by bicycle. This is twice the national average. In the last decade, trips by bike on the Three Rivers Park system trails doubled to 2.3 million trips in 2012. By building new facilities, providing better signage and lighting, and increasing education and enforcement, the county hopes to quadruple the number of bike commuters from 12,000 daily in 2014 to 48,000 in 2040.

 

Other major goals for bicycling contained in the plan are worth mentioning and include:

  • Reducing crashes per-capita by half
  • Increasing the percentage of women riding to half of all riders (up from only 30% now)
  • Providing a bikeway within a half-mile of 90 percent of residences in Hennepin County
  • Greatly increasing winter riding

 

For this expanded system to become a reality, Hennepin County will need to greatly increase the amount it invests in bicycle facilities and programs. The County currently invests less than $1 million per year in bikeways and the plan proposes investment of $6 million per year. That amount compares to approximately $50 million the County spends on roads and bridges annually. The plan proposes to consider additional investments in lighting and signage (page 49), promotion, education, and enforcement, but these costs ARE NOT estimated or included in the $6 million per year Hennepin County proposes to invest.

 

The plan also talks about the need for funding partners—typically cities—which could be a stumbling block for implementation. Cities receive very little state transportation funding compared to counties.

 

Recently there has been a lot of local discussion and planning for protected bikeways and cycle tracks. The plan contains good descriptions of each on page 33.

 

While the plan mentions bike sharing in a number of places and also talks briefly about equity, we want to see information on the community bike centers in Hennepin County: Spokes Bike Walk Connect and Venture North. The County can have a great bikeway network, but if county residents can’t afford a bike or have never learned to ride, they can’t use the system and they miss out on the health, social, and financial benefits of bicycling. We urge Hennepin County to add a section on community bike centers and commit to some level of county funding for their operations.

 

TLC would like to see more counties in Minnesota develop a bicycle plan like Hennepin County has done. Ramsey County also recently issued a plan for a bikeway system.

 

In developing its 2040 Bicycle Transportation Plan, the County surveyed 2,700 people, and held 10 listening sessions and an open house.

 

Two more open houses will be held this month before the plan is finalized and adopted:

  • Wednesday, November 5, 5-7:30 p.m. at Wayzata Library
  • Thursday, November 13, 5-7:30 p.m. at Brookdale Library in Brooklyn Center

 

Hennepin County will review all the comments that come in through December 5. Visit http://www.hennepin.us/bikeplan for more about the plan, including information on submitting your comments.

 

If you have questions about the plan, you can contact Kelley Yemen, Hennepin County Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, at kelley.yemen@hennepin.us or 612-543-1963.

 

Transformative Transit Projects Move Forward this Fall

 

By Dave Van Hattum, Advocacy Director

 Updated: 11/04/14


6.20_LightRail_AllisonOsberg_11-WEB

Photo credit: Allison Osberg

 

The Twin Cities metro area continues to make important incremental progress toward building a regional system of transitways and strengthening the bus system. Many transformative projects are moving forward—though our region still needs a significant increase in dedicated funding to meet growing demand for transit service and bike/ped connections, and to implement new projects on a reasonable timeline.

Here is a quick rundown of what’s new with transit plans and projects in the Twin Cities this fall:

 

Light Rail

Green Line Extension (Southwest LRT). After receiving municipal consent from Hennepin County and all cities along the proposed light rail line, this project is moving forward with Phase II environmental testing to determine (and plan for remediation of) any contaminated soils or water near planned project construction sites. There is also extensive work to gather property and title information leading up to acquiring approximately 150 private-properties along the route. Most of these are partial acquisitions, and very few are residential. (Project staff confirm that all of the residential acquisitions are partial and do not involve taking single-family homes.) To-date, $705 million of the $1.65 billion budget is committed from three sources: Counties Transit Improvement Board ($496 million), Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority ($165 million), and the State ($44 million). Though not yet secure, the remaining funds are expected to come primarily from the Federal Transit Administration (half of the $1.65 billion) as well as from the State. Engineering will begin next year, and service is scheduled to open in 2019.

 

Blue Line Extension (Bottineau LRT). There were two recent milestones for the Blue Line Extension: In late August, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approved moving this 13-mile line into the Project Development phase. Then, in late September, the Metropolitan Council chose Kimley-Horn and Associates to engineer the line—from Project Development through construction. Ultimately, the Blue Line Extension is expected to open in 2021.

An open house on November 12 is the next major opportunity for the public to be involved. The event will focus on:

  1. Planning efforts underway around the proposed line’s four southernmost stations (in North Minneapolis and Golden Valley).
  2. Ideas for bike, pedestrian and transit connections and development that will help neighborhoods near the stations thrive.
  3. A related planning initiative for arterial bus rapid transit on Penn Avenue.

Get involved: Attend the open house on Wednesday, November 12, 5:30-8 p.m., at University of Minnesota’s Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (2001 Plymouth Avenue North, Minneapolis).


Future Transit Corridors

Riverview Corridor. A Pre-Project Development (PPD) Study of the Riverview Corridor (between downtown Saint Paul and the MSP Airport) will be completed by December 2015. This study will determine the preferred mode (light rail, bus rapid transit, streetcar, or some combination), as well as the alignment and number of transit stations for this corridor. As is typical with a PPD study, lots of data will be crunched, including ridership projections and capital costs for different options.  There also will be opportunities for stakeholder and public input, including the upcoming open house on Nov. 6. Transit improvements for this corridor are expected by 2024.

 

Get involved: To learn more and show your support for transit improvements in Saint Paul, attend the upcoming open house on Thursday, November 6, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at Nova Classical Academy (1455 Victoria Way, Saint Paul).

  Riverview-Corridor-Map-9-25-14-WEB

Credit: Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority

 

Rush Line Corridor. A PPD Study of the Rush Line Corridor, which travels north from the Saint Paul Union Depot to Forest Lake, is also underway. This study is expected to determine a preferred mode and alignment by summer 2015. Last month, Rush Line planners held a walking tour for residents to gather feedback on the Bruce Vento Trail section (between Larpenteur and Arlington Aves.) and on the East Larpenteur Avenue section of the corridor.

 

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

Gateway BRT. With Washington County’s approval earlier this month, all communities along the corridor officially have signed off on the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for Gateway. The approved LPA, a significant step forward for this transitway, calls for highway BRT in dedicated lanes and a preferred alignment between downtown Saint Paul and Woodbury on Hudson Road (along I-94). Gateway also achieved an important milestone when it was included in the Met. Council’s draft Transportation Policy Plan (TPP) this fall. The Project Development phase will start soon.

 

Orange Line BRT.  The Orange Line will serve riders along I-35W South from downtown Minneapolis to Burnsville. In order to make application to the FTA Small Starts program, the Orange Line recently received a commitment of $2 million from the Met. Council and $6 million from the Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB) to complete Project Development and Engineering activities. Another $2 million from the State will go toward the critical transit station at I-35W and Lake Street. The Orange Line is scheduled to open in 2019.

 

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Design illustrations of the Lake Street Station transit bridge and transit plaza being planned in Minneapolis. Credit:
Metro Transit

 

 

Red Line BRT. The Met. Council has applied to CTIB for nearly $10 million for a new Cedar Grove Transit Station. The new station, in the center of Highway 77, will reduce travel time for bus passengers by 10 minutes on a typical Red Line BRT trip. Construction is expected to begin in spring 2015.

 

Local and Express Bus

Bus Shelters. Metro Transit recently secured a $3.26 million federal grant to build and enhance up to 140 bus passenger shelters on 19 major bus routes. This work represents an important steeping-stone toward advancing regional transit equity goals.

Metro Transit Service Improvement Plan (SIP). This draft plan to dramatically expand bus service in the metro area was released on October 22. The SIP specifies the proposed new local bus, express bus, and arterial bus rapid transit service that Metro Transit will prioritize when new funding becomes available. The 122 projects it identifies would result in a 29 percent increase in service by 2030, with a majority happening in the next six years. We are thrilled to see planning for this level of growth in the bus system. Learn more in our SIP blog.

Get involved: Metro Transit will host and accept comments at several public meetings Nov. 5-18. We strongly encourage you to attend and to weigh in!  See the meeting schedule.

 

Modern Streetcar 

Saint Paul. The Saint Paul City Council approved the Saint Paul Streetcar Feasibility Study over the summer, but has put additional analysis of a streetcar starter line on hold until Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority completes the Riverview Corridor Study.  

Minneapolis. This fall—for the first time—the Met. Council included streetcars in its draft Transportation Policy Plan (TPP) for the metro region. The draft TPP specifically states that if the City of Minneapolis identifies capital funding for the Nicollet-Central Streetcar project, it can be added to the list of regional transit expansion projects and a policy discussion will ensue to specify the source of operating funding. Environmental and design work on this Minneapolis starter line is now underway. An alternatives analysis study is also in progress for streetcar on West Broadway in Minneapolis.

 

  Nicollet-Central-Modern-Streetcar-LPAmap--creditCityofMinneapolis

Nicollet-Central Modern Streetcar LPA. Credit: City of Minneapolis.

 

*This post has been updated to further clarify that the Gateway BRT alignment runs parallel to 1-94, but not on the highway itself.

A Brighter Financial Future: New Partnership to Make Transportation Costs Visible


An Interview with Cally Ingebritson, Prepare + Prosper

By Pam Moore, Transportation Options Program Director

  Cally-Ingebritson-PrepareAndProsper-TranspoOptionsPartner-photocreditPandP-CROP-WEB

Cally Ingebritson, Financial Capability Manager at Prepare + Prosper.

Recognizing that transportation is an unmet basic need for many low-income Minnesotans, TLC’s Transportation Options program addresses the high cost of getting around by combining workshops for social service staff and one-on-one assistance for low-income participants. To date, TLC is partnered with three community-based organizations to work with individuals and families via coaching and financial assistance. These participants are all motivated to move toward economic self-sufficiency and are open to utilizing affordable transportation options—such as biking, walking, transit, car sharing, and bike sharing—to get there.

Our newest Transportation Options partner organization is Prepare + Prosper in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Recently, we followed-up with Prepare + Prosper’s Financial Capability Manager, Cally Ingebritson, to get her take on this partnership and how it fits with her organization’s ongoing work to help move Minnesotans out of poverty.


TLC: Tell us about the mission of Prepare + Prosper. Who do you serve?

CI: Prepare + Prosper is a robust and multifaceted organization focused on economic justice and financial capability. Working with more than 550 volunteers, our work is about leveraging the “money moment” of tax time to help more than 13,000 households work toward a brighter financial future. With the support of staff, our volunteers are the core of our ability to provide these services in our community each year.

We continue to grow as an organization and currently I lead our new volunteer-based financial coaching program, Money Mentors. Money Mentors is a volunteer-based financial coaching program in which we aim to help participants boost savings, eliminate debt, and improve credit. We are in the first year of launching this program. The decision to start Money Mentors came after offering free tax preparation and financial services for over 40 years as we wanted to grow as an organization to help the community with their financial goals in a deeper way.

 

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Financial coaches and mentees in Prepare + Prosper’s Money Mentors program.


TLC: Why were you interested in attending a Transportation Options workshop? What were your key takeaways from the workshop personally and professionally?

CI: Personally, I became much more aware of and enthusiastic about the numerous transportation options available in the Twin Cities after attending a Transportation Options workshop. I was even inspired to become a Nice Ride member and have begun walking to work. Hopefully this new habit keeps up over the winter! I have told many people about the training I attended at TLC! Recently I attended a concert at the Target Center and my friend, girlfriend, and I chose to use Nice Ride bikes instead of driving and paying for parking. Afterward my friend told me, “Riding the bikes through downtown Minneapolis was almost as fun as the concert!”

Professionally, I saw the benefit of partnering with Transit for Livable Communities through sharing this information with the volunteer financial coaches I supervise and encouraging them to pass this information along to our participants. We also altered some of the financial coaching activities we lead with our participants to discuss transportation more directly. No longer should transportation be an invisible, unspoken expense—it should be viewed as part of everybody’s overall financial life.

 

TLC: Share the value you see in partnering with the Transportation Options program. What impact do you expect it will have for your participants?

CI: By attending Transportation Options, I was motivated to have TLC train our volunteer financial coaches. Through TLC’s hands-on, interactive training our volunteers learned how the various transportation systems work in the Twin Cities. Our goal is to send five participants to TLC to receive additional support to make new transportation options a regular habit and save money in the process. The coach who referred our first participant to TLC has discussed saving money and using light rail, bus, bike, or some combination of these.

 

All featured photos are courtesy of Prepare + Prosper.

Metro Transit Plans for a Better Bus System: Support (and Funding) Needed

10/29/2014

 

By Barb Thoman, Executive Director

 

Metro-Transit-Bus-Route5-Minneaopolis-Credit-Val-Escher
Photo credit: Val Escher 

 

A welcome plan to dramatically expand bus service in the metropolitan area was released on October 22 by the Metropolitan Council. The draft Service Improvement Plan, or SIP, identifies the proposed new local bus, express bus, and arterial bus rapid transit (BRT) service that Metro Transit will prioritize when new funding becomes available. The final plan will guide bus service improvements and expansion through 2030.

 

The SIP identifies 122 projects that would result in a 29 percent increase in service by 2030, with a majority happening in the next six years. We are thrilled to see planning for this level of growth in the bus system. While there have been specific plans for growth in transitways and bus rapid transit, there has not been a concrete plan for growth in regular route or express bus service. Expanded bus service would improve affordable access to jobs, school, and opportunity. It would improve service for current riders, while also helping to attract new riders.  

 

Before the plan is finalized and adopted, Metro Transit will host public informational meetings and accept comments through the end of November. Comments will be accepted at all the meetings. (See the schedule below.)

 

Three primary criteria—productivity, social equity, and system connectivity—were used to evaluate and select the slate of new service proposed in the plan. Productivity, or ridership potential, was weighted at 50 percent. Social equity and system connectivity were each weighted at 25 percent. The SIP estimates ridership growth would be 16 million annually after full implementation. The estimated ridership growth from the new proposed arterial BRT lines is an additional 13 million.

 

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“Strong express and local bus service is critical to connecting residents to economic and recreational opportunities. The draft Service Improvement Plan provides a strong vision that builds on our existing network and will make our region better-connected than ever.”


Metro Transit’s General Manager Brian Lamb in an
agency press release

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The public investment needed for the service identified in the SIP is approximately $56 million per year. The estimated public investment need to operate new proposed arterial BRT lines is an additional $19 million. (The planned arterial BRT line on Saint Paul’s Snelling Avenue will be the first in the region.)

 

Metro-Transit-SIP-costs-chart

Credit: Metro Transit 

 

The cost estimates do not include other improvements that are a priority for Metro Transit, including more and improved bus shelters/lighting, passenger information, buses, or facilities. Those costs will also need to be included in a funding package for transit improvements (something we are working to secure at the State Capitol in 2015).

While we are enthusiastic about the prospect of significantly improving bus service over the next 15 years, it is important to note that Metro Transit’s SIP currently is not funded! In that regard, legislative action is needed to turn this plan into service on the street. Implementation of the SIP is one of many transit and bike/ped improvements that could be funded with a multimodal transportation funding bill next session. TLC’s top priority during the upcoming legislative session will be continuing to advocate for this funding with our Move MN coalition partners.

 

In the meantime, we strongly encourage our readers to attend the upcoming meetings and to weigh in on the service proposed in the SIP. TLC has been advocating for development of this plan and for new bus service for as long as the organization has been in existence!

 

Public Meetings:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 5, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. , Hennepin County Central Library, Minneapolis

—served by multiple downtown routes, METRO Blue Line, METRO Green Line

 

  • Saturday, Nov. 8, 1 to 3:30 p.m., North Community YMCA, Minneapolis

—served by route 14

 

  • Thursday, Nov. 13, 6 to 7:30 p.m., Hennepin County Southdale Library, Edina

—served by routes 6, 538

 

  • Saturday, Nov. 15, 1 to 3:30 p.m., Conway Recreation Center, Saint Paul

—served by routes 74, 80, 219

 

  • Monday, Nov. 17, 6 to 7:30 p.m. , Anoka County Northtown Central Library, Blaine

 

  • Tuesday, Nov. 18, 11:30 to 1 p.m., Metropolitan Council Chambers, Saint Paul

—served by multiple downtown bus routes, METRO Green Line

 

Can’t make an event? You can still submit your comments through November 30:

  • By mail: Metro Transit Service Development, Attn: SIP, 560 Sixth Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55411
  • By email: SIP@metrotransit.org
  • By phone: 651-602-1500 (leave a message)

 

The SIP contact at Metro Transit is Cyndi Harper, Manager of Route Planning, Cyndi.harper@metrotransit.org.

 

 

Meet Joan: New TLC Board Member

10/22/2014

 By Jennifer Harmening Thiede, Communications & Member Engagement Manager

 

This fall, Transit for Livable Communities welcomes Joan Gangl to our Board of Directors. Joan is both a daily transit rider and an experienced accountant. She is a strong fit for our organization and we are happy to have her service on the board as well as on our Finance Committee.

  Joan-Gangl-TLCboard-crop-WEB


“I am really looking forward to working with the TLC board. I commute to work every day on the bus, have enjoyed many of the wonderful trails that we have here in Minnesota, and find myself using light rail and the train as well. I have been looking for an opportunity to share my expertise with a nonprofit, and wanted to find one that shared my core values. I love the idea of promoting a transportation system that also protects our natural resources. Transit for Livable Communities is an organization that I can get excited about!”

 

Joan Gangl is a Certified Public Accountant with more than twenty-five years of experience, including estate planning, year-end tax planning, charitable planning, and review of individual, trust, and estate tax returns. Joan has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Business, as well as a Master’s in Business Taxation from the same school. She lives in Blaine and works in Minneapolis.

 

Keep an eye on our events calendar for opportunities to connect with Joan and with other TLC board members and staff in person later in the year.

 

 

 

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