By Jennifer Harmening Thiede, Communications & Member Engagement Manager
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, 25 legislators, and other leaders accepted the Roll With Us Transit Challenge to raise awareness and understanding of transit needs in Minnesota.
Here we are: it’s mid-March and midway through the 2015 legislative session. Both Mother Nature and transportation advocates are turning up the heat.
Successful Day of Action
In recent weeks, Minnesotans from across the state came together for Transportation Day of Action at the State Capitol, united in support of a statewide, multimodal transportation solution. Transit riders from the metro and Greater Minnesota kicked things off at a press conference speaking up for greater investments in bus and rail. Supporters heard from state and coalition leaders and had meetings with their own legislators throughout the afternoon. Later in the day, a broad coalition of advocates delivered 10,000 Move MN postcards, some from every district in Minnesota, calling on legislators to fund all modes of transportation in 2015. Special thanks to the TLC members who joined us at the event and who contacted their state senators and representatives that day.
Transit Challenge Accepted
In early March, Transit for Livable Communities and allied groups followed up with the “Roll With Us” Transit Challenge. We wanted lawmakers considering transportation funding to experience the realities of today’s transit system firsthand, so we called on them to get around on the bus or train as many of their constituents do. A bipartisan group of twenty-five legislators accepted our challenge, with many documenting their transit trips on social media (see #HowWeRollMN on Facebook and Twitter). Some were regular riders, while others were new to the transit system.
Transit Challenge Week concluded with Minnesota's Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith highlighting the importance of investing in a modern transit system. Smith rode the #67 bus with Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck, inviting media along, and holding a short press conference with transit riders and legislators to draw attention to the transit needs in our state.
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, Rep. Frank Hornstein, Rep. Carolyn Laine, Met. Council Chair Adam Duininck, and a crowd of transit riders gathered to speak to the press about the importance of investing in transit.
Big thanks to the legislators who participated in the Transit Challenge:
- Senator Scott Dibble (61, Minneapolis)
- Senator Eric Pratt (55, Prior Lake)
- Senator David Senjem (25, Rochester)
- Senator Patricia Torres Ray (63, Minneapolis)
- Representative Connie Bernardy (41A, Fridley)
- Representative Jim Davnie (63A, Minneapolis)
- Representative Raymond Dehn (59B, Minneapolis)
- Representative Laurie Halverson (51B, Eagan)
- Representative Alice Hausman (66A, Saint Paul)
- Representative Frank Hornstein (61A, Minneapolis)
- Representative Melissa Hortman (36B, Brooklyn Park)
- Representative Mike Freiberg (45B, Golden Valley)
- Representative Sheldon Johnson (67B, Saint Paul)
- Representative Clark Johnson (19A, North Mankato)
- Representative Carolyn Laine (41B, Columbia Heights)
- Representative John Lesch (66B, Saint Paul)
- Representative Leon Lille (43B, North Saint Paul)
- Representative Sandra Masin (51A, Eagan)
- Representative Rena Moran (65A, Saint Paul)
- Representative Dave Pinto (64B, Saint Paul)
- Representative Jennifer Schultz (7A, Duluth)
- Representative Erik Simonson (7B, Duluth)
- Representative Mike Sundin (11A, Esko)
- Representative JoAnn Ward (53A, Woodbury)
- Representative Ryan Winkler (46A, Golden Valley)
We encourage other legislators to take up the challenge and try transit in their home districts during the legislature’s upcoming Easter/Passover break.
The month ahead will be critical in the fight for multimodal transportation funding. There are many exciting, essential ways to get engaged and make sure your voice is heard before the session ends. Below are three big, upcoming dates to add to your calendar. If you want to see transit and safe connections for bicycling and walking funded in 2015, join us!
Senate Transportation Committee Bill Hearing
Friday, March 20, 11 AM, State Capitol, Rm. 107, Saint Paul
Help us pack the hearing room when the Senate Transportation Committee hears SF 87. The bill, introduced by Sen. Scott Dibble, would significantly increase dedicated funding for transit, bicycling, and walking, while also funding roads and bridges in Minnesota. This bill has TLC's enthusiastic support and also closely aligns with the Move MN proposal. Let's make a strong showing for multimodal transportation funding on Friday and ensure SF 87 moves forward.
Move MN Phone Bank (Sponsored by TLC)
Thursday, April 2, 6-9 PM, AFSCME Council 5, South Saint Paul
Transit for Livable Communities is sponsoring the Move MN phone bank on April 2. Volunteer with us! We'll be making calls to ensure a balanced, long-term transportation solution is passed by the state legislature this session. We will help everyone get started and provide a call script—and pizza! Returning volunteers and newcomers are welcome.
Move MN Transportation Rally featuring Governor Dayton
Thursday, April 16, 12-1 PM, State Capitol Lawn, Saint Paul
On April 16, TLC and our Move MN allies need you to join us for a massive transportation rally on the State Capitol lawn! Together we will call on legislators to fund all modes statewide before the 2015 session ends in May. The event will feature Governor Dayton and other leaders. Don’t miss it!
By Barb Thoman, Executive Director
Most people know that public transit provides mobility, reduces pollution, and saves riders money. What we don't often hear about are the significant safety benefits that transit provides. It’s time that transit agencies and groups like ours start making the case for shifting trips from driving to transit as a strategy to reduce fatalities and injuries on the road.
Travel by public transit has about one-tenth the rate of traffic injury and death of automobile travel according to data in "Safer Than You Think! Revising the Transit Safety Narrative," a recent paper by Todd Littman, director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI) in British Columbia.
Littman’s analysis of FHWA and APTA data indicates “transit tends to have lower crash rates than automobile travel, even taking into account risks to other road users.” Source: VTPI
In his paper, Littman discusses some of the reasons people overestimate the risks associated with riding public transit and underestimate the risk of driving or riding as a passenger in a private vehicle. The reasons include:
- Most drivers forget about the risk that they or other drivers pose when they speed, drive while impaired, or are distracted.
- People who don’t ride transit may not think about the protection afforded by a large very visible vehicle operated by a professional driver.
- Crashes involving public transit gain media attention, while car crashes are so common they are covered less often and then only locally.
Littman references other interesting research. He notes that regions with higher transit ridership and transit-friendly public policies—including Denver, Los Angeles, and Seattle—had lower traffic fatality and injury rates compared to auto-oriented cities with meager transit options (his examples: Cleveland, Dallas, Milwaukee). It appears that the same policies that increase transit ridership—lower traffic speeds, better connected road networks, higher development density, a good walking environment—also reduce vehicle trips, trip distance, and speeds, and contribute to improved traffic safety.
Littman’s research suggests “pro-transit policies can significantly reduce traffic fatality rates even in newer, automobile-oriented cities.” Source: VTPI
Littman’s paper also debunks some misconceptions about public transit and crime. The incidence of violent crime on transit vehicles and at transit stations is very low. For property crime, the rate of theft from private cars far exceeds the rate of theft at transit stops, stations, and park and rides.
Littman notes that transit agencies don’t often promote the safety benefit of transit use. In a review of the web pages of 20 major transit agencies, Littman notes that their messages typically emphasize perceived risks by focusing on personal safety and security, responsible behavior, reporting crime, transit policing, and terrorism. Metro Transit’s safety and security page falls in this category.
On the websites that I briefly reviewed, Tri-Met in Portland was unusual in having a positive statement about the safety of riding transit. It reads:
Security fact: Most crimes reported on bus, MAX and WES are minor incidents and property crimes, such as vandalism. There are about three reported incidents a day, which is about one in every 100,000 trips.
Nevertheless, Tri-Met—like other agencies—forgets to talk about the safety of riding transit as compared to travel by private car.
Littman is right. It’s time for a new transit safety narrative.
By Barb Thoman, Executive Director
Last month, I got a sense of the profound transportation changes underway in California when I attended the Live Ride Share summit in Los Angeles. The focus of the day-long event was how the new "sharing economy" is beginning to reshape the way Californians live and get around. In this context, Live Ride Share brought together people from government, the private sector, nonprofit organizations, and others to discuss collaboratively accelerating the proliferation and use of transportation options in the LA region.
There are many reasons to advance transportation options. High on the list for California are ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The expansion of transit—along with car sharing, bike sharing, and ride sharing—will help the state achieve those goals.
In 2006, California enacted the Global Warming Solutions Act, which set a target for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. The law established a system of pollution fees and a cap-and-trade auction. The pollution fees are estimated to total over $1 billion in the 2015-2016 program year and an impressive 60 percent of the revenue will be spent on strategies to reduce driving! The following table shows how that funding will be targeted.
California Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funding Allocation
Percent of Total GHG Funds 2015-2016
High speed rail
Transit and intercity rail capital program
Low carbon transportation options program
Affordable housing & sustainable communities
Source: California Air Resources Board
The expansion of public transit was a priority in California’s major metropolitan regions long before the state made a commitment to address climate change. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system opened in 1972, at a time when the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro region was beginning two decades of stop and go (mostly stop) planning for rail transit. In 1981, San Diego became the first US city to open a modern light rail line. The Los Angeles region, which had no rail in 1980, today has an impressive bus and rail system.
The weekend I was in LA, I rode nearly every mode of transit—all for purposeful trips to destinations I really needed to reach.
The LA region has 70 miles of light rail, one subway line, and 390 miles of regional/commuter rail, plus an extensive bus system. Local voters have approved funding referendums for transit over the past decade. Measure R, which passed in 2008 with a 2/3rd vote in favor, generates about $850 million annually for transit through a half-cent increase in the regional sales tax for transit in LA County. Measure R revenues are paying for the five rail lines under construction in Los Angeles County today.
Live Ride Share attendees hope that combining use of this robust public transit system with the innovations that allow for sharing of rides, cars, and will enable the LA region and the state of California to reduce driving and car ownership.
“We need shared mobility for an economically viable region.”
Hasan Ikhrata, Executive Director, Southern California Council of Governments
In addition to expanded public transit, the Live Ride Share summit highlighted recent developments for shared mobility apps, services, and infrastructure. Of interest:
- Lyft and Uber’s ride sharing services continue to expand in California, but controversies about safety training and employment practices continue.
- Flywheel, a new app, is being used by traditional taxis in San Francisco that are battling with Uber and Lyft for market share.
- Bike share won’t come to the City of Los Angeles until 2016. The program will be run by LA Metro, the transportation agency, with funding coming from highway express lane toll revenues.
- The Getaround app connects vehicle owners with people who want to rent their vehicle for an afternoon, week, or weekend. It is available currently in four West Coast cities.
It was exciting to hear from others at this event who are passionate about creating an integrated system of multimodal transportation options. Clearly, Los Angeles County is ambitiously moving ahead with transit and bike/walk investments. But they also don’t yet have the bike-sharing or car sharing systems we enjoy here in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. That tells me we need to keep taking advantage of the options we do have, while also pushing for more, if we want to keep pace with peer cities around the country.
By Hilary Reeves, Strategic Advancement and Communications Director
Clark Biegler, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits
This year, Transit for Livable Communities is working with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits to rethink transportation in the workplace. Specifically, we’re asking nonprofit organizations located along the Green Line (or other high frequency transit) to enroll to be certified as Transportation Leaders. As part of this new initiative, we will be establishing transportation best practices.
It is exciting to hear what some organizations who’ve signed on already are doing. Their experiences and challenges will help us together set a new standard for the ways transportation decisions impact mission, benefits, and interactions with the communities that nonprofits are there to serve.
Access & Choice
One of the first organizations to join this new initiative was Fresh Energy. Executive director Michael Noble said Fresh Energy is “committed to all-of-the-above transportation” that provides access and choice to their employees. It’s why they signed on to be a Transportation Leader. When Michael uses his phone to reserve a car2go, for example, a question pops up: “Is this a Michael Noble reservation or a Fresh Energy reservation?” That’s because, he said, “Fresh Energy has an organizational membership in car-sharing, making it easier for staff to get to meetings around town without owning or using their own car.” Organizational HOURCAR memberships are also an option. In either case, this enables staff to commute by transit, bicycling, or walking, even if they anticipate driving to a meeting during the work day.
For some organizations, the motivation for rethinking transportation comes from the stark picture of air quality along major highways, such as I-94. The Minnesota Environmental Partnership signed on early. Their executive director, Steve Morse, takes the Green Line every day, while other staff bicycle to work along the nearby Charles Avenue bikeway.
Air pollution along the I-94 corridor. Source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
When we met with the Minnesota Literacy Council, Associate Director Debbie Cushman immediately thought of their seven sites across the metro. More than 2500 volunteer tutors participate in more than 100 trainings they host every year. Transportation decisions affect not only their staff of 45 but also all the volunteers who need to get to their sites.
“I’m committed to helping our organization reduce vehicle usage whenever possible,” Debbie said. “I love walking to and from work, which I’m able to do about 20 percent of the time. Our staff are already pretty dedicated to the wellness aspects of biking and walking, and the communities we serve are often reliant on public transportation. We’re fortunate to have 4 of our 7 sites on or near high frequency routes. As we gain an understanding of air quality concerns in the Twin Cities, all these efforts are taking on more urgency. There’s always more we can do.”
Health & Happiness
Interestingly, the Minnesota Literacy Council and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN)—our partners in the Transportation Leadership program—share the same landlord. The tenants have formed a green team to work with their landlord on various changes. Clark Biegler, a Policy Analyst for the Minnesota Budget Project at MCN, who bikes to work and serves on the office green team, affirmed:
“The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits is working with several other nonprofits to better our collective offices and work as a unified voice for our shared environmental and wellness priorities, including introducing more bicycle racks. MCN supports these efforts because they want to make our office a healthier and happier place to work.”
Staff at the Minnesota Land Trust also bicycle to work. At an organizational level, they also are taking other steps that fit with their nonprofit’s needs and cut down on drive time. Barbara LaMott, director of communications and operations, explains, “Because our work takes us all over the state and often requires flexible scheduling, we just adopted a new cloud-based solution to help all of our staff seamlessly work anywhere—home, office, or on the road. In addition, our location on the Green Line and on a bikeway makes it very easy to offer transit options for volunteers, board members, and staff."
Other organizations signing on to be certified as Transportation Leaders include Minnesota Public Radio, Operation de Novo, Neighborhood Energy Connection, and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity—and the list is growing.
As we talk to diverse organizations in the metro, we’re hearing about different ways to approach benefits, innovative ways to get visitors to events, and ways that people are using the Green Line for the commute and trips during the day. We are excited to recognize the strides many of these nonprofits already are taking and help them take these efforts to the next level, while also getting new organizations engaged for the first time. Nonprofits enrolling in the program will receive an assessment of their current conditions and options, attend a Transportation Options workshop, and create an action plan with goals for shifting trips and encouraging options other than driving.
We’re having a whole new conversation about how to get around and why it matters. Join us! If you work at a nonprofit in the Twin Cities or know someone who does, urge them to sign up today.
Pictured, from top: Clark Biegler, Minnesota council of Nonprofits; Michael Noble, Fresh Energy; Debbie Cushman, Minnesota Literacy Council; Kristina Geiger, Minnesota Land Trust.
By Hilary Reeves, Communications & Strategic Advancement Director, and Erin Kindell, Minnesota GreenCorps Member (TLC)
Photo Credit: Metro Transit (Flickr)
Late last fall, in collaboration with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Transit for Livable Communities sent a survey about transportation habits to nonprofit employees in the Twin Cities metro area. Our goal was to find out how respondents get to work, how they get around for other trips, and what amount of travel they have during the day. Survey results will inform our new program to certify and celebrate nonprofit transportation leaders in the Twin Cities. The survey generated 1,328 responses—and some interesting results!
Nonprofit workers live close to work
Over 50 percent of nonprofit employees responding to our survey live within 10 miles and 30 minutes of their jobs. Living near work can mean a wider range of options for getting there. About 50 percent of respondents live within the I-494 beltway, ranging from southeast of Lake Harriet to Roseville and Falcon Heights, and from Columbia Park to West 7th in Saint Paul. The three biggest zip code clusters (together about 17 percent of respondents) are from the areas around University Avenue in Saint Paul (incorporating Summit-University, Thomas-Dale/Frogtown, Hamline-Midway, and Union Park district councils) and the Powderhorn, Seward, Longfellow, and Howe neighborhoods of Minneapolis.
A multimodal, innovative group
While 72 percent drive alone to work, many people indicated they choose other ways to get around for other trips or at least have tried them before. These nonprofit staffers might be more open to commuting by modes they generally use for other trips or recreation, (e.g., walking, transit, or bicycling).
About 30 percent have tried some form of car sharing, (e.g., HOURCAR, car2go, Lyft, Uber, or taxis). This shows a willingness to try new things, perhaps capturing the nonprofit propensity for innovation! These employees may be the most willing to integrate a different mode for a day or two a week.
Common commute window
Most survey respondents work Monday to Friday during “typical” work hours (8-9 a.m. to 4-6 p.m.). Since transit service is at its highest levels during the peak commute times, these people should have more options for using different modes. In addition to the bus or train, common commute patterns present a big opportunity to carpool, walk, or bicycle with others.
Appointments during the day, stops before or after work
About one-third (34 percent) said they often have work-related meetings, appointments, or events away from their main work site. And a little under half (46 percent) said that several times a week they have other places they need stop on the way to or from work (e.g., child care, school, activities, appointments). About 75 percent do not have children under the age of 16—a common reason for not using other modes.
These stats leave a significant group who are mainly just responsible for getting to and from work every day. While our survey showed the majority of nonprofit respondents have a car, there is an opportunity to save money by leaving the car at home, especially on days they do not have multiple meetings or errands. Employees also could have an opportunity to get in the habit of walking, busing, or bicycling to scheduled or reoccurring meetings when it is easy to do so.
How do these stats compare?
There are similar questions on the Metropolitan Council Travel Behavior Inventory (TBI), which also is based on a survey of metro-area residents. While about the same percentage drive alone to work (72 percent of nonprofit respondents, 75 percent in the TBI), we found that nonprofit respondents take transit more (10 percent versus 6 percent in the TBI) and bicycle or walk nearly twice as much (3 percent walk and 3 percent bike in the TBI versus 6 percent bike and 5 percent walk in the nonprofit survey).
This suggests that nonprofit workers already are above average when it comes to choosing sustainable, green transportation options. But, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits salary survey indicates that benefits are not keeping up with commute patterns. While 30 percent of nonprofits pay the cost of parking or share it with employees, only 4.6 percent have a transit benefit and 1 percent or less financially reward those who arrive by carpool, walking, or bicycling.
Recognizing nonprofit transportation leaders
This year, nonprofits along the Green Line—those already ahead of the curve and those who want to be—can enroll to be certified as transportation leaders. These nonprofits can show they care about equal benefits for employees and the community benefits of diversifying transportation choices. These benefits range from reduced pollution (each mile we drive puts a pound of CO2 into the air) to workplaces that reflect and attract a more diverse workforce. And that’s not to mention the reduced stress and extra exercise that come from getting out from behind the wheel from time to time. Certified organizations will be recognized at the 2015 Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Annual Conference. To enroll or find out more, click here.
By Barb Thoman, Executive Director
Credit: Transit for Livable Communities
Transit ridership in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region rose dramatically in 2014, up 3.5 percent over 2013. Metro Transit, our region’s largest transit provider, saw an increase of nearly 4 percent, as did the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority in the south metro. While transit ridership has been rising steadily for years, this more dramatic jump was due in large measure to the success of the METRO Green Line light rail, which opened in June, in combination with improved connecting bus service.
In our region overall, riders took 97.7 million trips on buses and trains in 2014, an increase of 3.4 million trips over 2013! In addition to Metro Transit and Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, the regional system includes suburban providers Maple Grove Transit, Plymouth Metrolink, and SouthWest Transit. The University of Minnesota also operates the Campus Connector bus service between their Minneapolis and Saint Paul campuses. Ridership totals also include Metro Mobility and Metropolitan Council contracted service.
Credit: Minnesota Valley Transit Authority
Bus ridership continues to account for the majority of transit trips throughout the region—about four of every five trips in 2014. Bus service in Saint Paul and Minneapolis was restructured significantly last year to improve connections to the Green Line. Metro Transit also undertook a major planning and public outreach effect to identify expanded service that could be implemented if investment in transit is increased. Approval of the final Service Improvement Plan is expected in March.
Light rail carried nearly 19 percent of Metro Transit’s customers last year. End-to-end travel times on the Green Line continue to improve and real-time arrival signage is now operating—a welcome feature for riders who now can see when the next train is due. The transformative power of the Green Line is made evident by robust ridership numbers as well as the continued pace of redevelopment along the line’s 11-mile route.
Credit: Transit for Livable Communities
The ten-year-old METRO Blue Line provided 9.5 million trips in 2014. Earlier this month, it also received a glowing endorsement from Jeff Hamiel, Executive Director/CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC). Speaking before the Metropolitan Council, Hamiel highlighted the importance of the Blue Line to the 2,000 daily riders who work at the airport, many of whom are recent immigrants and take the early trains to their jobs. Hamiel also noted the advantages of Blue Line service to travelers. He said that the Twin Cities is one of the nation’s few regions where a transit trip to downtown is faster (and a lot cheaper), than a taxi ride—a reason you see many people in business attire with roller bags on the train. In addition, he said the MAC is seeing more people booking longer layovers so they can hop the train to the Mall of America for a little shopping between flights.
As new Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck affirmed in a recent statement, “Investment in public transit pays off in ridership. . . . The more we invest in transit, the more convenient and reliable the service becomes and the more people use it.” Duininck also emphasized that a metro-area sales tax increase would “expedite the build-out of this region’s 21st century transit system and would be a smart investment in area residents, the economy, our workforce, and the environment.”
By Dave Van Hattum, Advocacy Director
TLC's Dave Van Hattum, co-chair of the Move MN campaign, with others at a January 8 press conference announcing Move MN's transportation proposal.
The legislative session got off to an exciting start this month for Minnesotans who want a better transportation system. All three leading voices at the State Capitol—Governor Dayton, Majority Leader Bakk, and Speaker Daudt—have identified transportation as a 2015 legislative priority. And now, three weeks in, there are a range of funding proposals on the table.
On Monday, Governor Dayton announced a comprehensive, ten-year plan to fix Minnesota’s transportation problem. In the lead-up to the announcement, TLC members and other Minnesotans called on the Governor to propose a long-term solution with dedicated, statewide funding for transit, bicycling, and walking (along with anticipated funding for roads and bridges). Thanks to all who took action! Your multimodal messages ensured Governor Dayton's transportation proposal does invest in all modes across the state! While Transit for Livable Communities thinks more funding is needed for transit and safe streets, we applaud Governor Dayton’s leadership and agree: it's time for the state legislature to pass a comprehensive transportation bill.
Already this session, Senator Dibble (Senate Transportation Committee Chair) has introduced an excellent bill that would fund all modes statewide, and provide the critical new investments in transit, bicycling, and walking that TLC has been fighting for. This Senate bill (SF 87) very closely aligns with Move MN’s proposal. The bill includes the ¾-cent metro sales tax needed to grow the metro-area bus and rail system as well as dedicated funding for Greater Minnesota transit and for pedestrian and bicycling improvements statewide. It also includes a 6.5 percent wholesale gas tax dedicated to road and bridge needs across the state.
Meanwhile, leadership in the Minnesota House has put forth a short-term plan focused exclusively on road and bridge needs. The House bill (HF 4) recently introduced by Representative Kelly (House Transportation Committee Chair) relies on funding from the one-time budget surplus, unspecified efficiencies, and GO bonding. It unfortunately includes zero additional funding for transit or for safe walking and bicycling routes. House leaders, however, have signaled a willingness to look closely at the transportation funding deficit and to discuss solutions as the session progresses.
TLC and Move MN supporters recognize that a statewide transportation solution will require new revenue from modest tax increases. Per the Governor’s numbers, the average cost to residents in the Twin Cities would be about $6 per week. Residents in Greater Minnesota would be about $2 less per week, as the metro sales tax increase for transit is proposed for only the seven-county metropolitan region. To put it in context, these costs add up to considerably less than a monthly cell phone bill. And we know that this smart investment in Minnesota’s future will pay for itself many times over via a stronger economy, healthier communities, and better access to jobs, opportunity, and affordable transportation options.
With your help, we have worked successfully to make this the “Transportation Session.” Now we need to keep up momentum to convince the legislature to pass a strong bill that meets urgent needs in the metro region and in Greater Minnesota.
Get involved! On Thursday, February 12, join Transit for Livable Communities and Move MN for Transportation Day at the State Capitol! We will meet at the Minnesota Armory in Saint Paul from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. to hear from state and coalition leaders before delivering 10,000 postcards to lawmakers—reminding them that Minnesotans from across the state support a multimodal transportation solution in 2015. Let us help you schedule a February 12 meeting with your legislators so you can personally share your story about why transportation matters and why action is needed.
As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send them our way.
By Barb Thoman, Executive Director
Southwest light rail will be an extension of the new Green Line.
The Southwest LRT (METRO Green Line Extension) project took a big step forward in December when the Metropolitan Council awarded a $117 million contract to AECOM for advanced design and design assistance during construction. AECOM was also the Metropolitan Council’s engineering services consultant for the Green Line.
The AECOM contract will move the Southwest LRT project from a 30 percent level of detail to 100 percent. Designs are needed for everything from bridges over major roads (of which there are many!) to the location of bike and pedestrian connections and electrical substations.
Project funding is also coming together. Of the $1.65 billion project budget, the Counties Transit Improvement Board, the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority, and the state legislature have formally committed $705 million, or 85 percent of the local match. The project still needs a 50 percent match from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The Metropolitan Council will submit a federal New Starts grant request in 2016.
Now that the route and station locations are set, station design and public art will be a major focus of community input in 2015. Many of those community meetings will occur next spring and summer. An additional focus of public input in 2015 will be the selection of a design concept for the bridge over the channel between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. One goal is to create more space for skiers, canoeists, and kayakers under the bridge. All three recently shared design concepts would reduce the number of rows of bridge piers from six to three.
The Southwest Project Office and local communities also will consider how to increase safe and direct access for bicyclists, pedestrians, and people using a wheelchair (or other device) to and from the new stations.
While a lawsuit has been filed to stop or delay Southwest LRT, lawsuits are common with many major transit projects, and often major highway projects. Despite past legal action by Xcel Energy, Minnesota Public Radio, and the University of Minnesota, our region’s first two light rail lines are operating successfully today.
See the project website for more news and upcoming meeting notices.
By Erin Kindell, Minnesota GreenCorps Member (TLC), and Hilary Reeves, Strategic Advancement and Communications Director
Photo credit: Kirk Johnson
It’s clear that Millennials are influencing transportation trends, and using a range of options to get around, stay connected, and save money. But what about teenagers and younger kids? What’s their transportation world—and what should it be?
On December 9, TLC members and allies gathered at Republic in Minneapolis to explore the topic of “Youth and Active Transportation,” as part of TLC’s Transportation on Tap series. The final event of 2014 featured panelists Amber Dallman, Physical Activity Coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Health; Nicole Campbell, Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Coordinator at MnDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Section; and Casey Pavek, General Manager at Venture North community bicycle shop. Thank you to the panelists and everyone who joined us for a great conversation! For everyone else, here is some of what you missed:
Moderated by TLC's Hilary Reeves, the last Transportation on Tap panel of 2014 brought us a smart, engaging conversation about youth and active transportation.
Barriers and Successes: Access, Infrastructure, Education
Casey Pavek emphasized that access plays a major role in how everyone get around; if kids are equipped with bicycles, they will use them. But, there are barriers that make it harder. Venture North works with nearby schools and neighborhood youth. They’ve noted infrastructure barriers, such as a lack of bicycle lanes or safe crossings at major roads. Another problem is a lack of safe places to park or store bicycles. Casey also said sometimes drivers tell bicyclists to get on the sidewalk, and sometimes kids on bicycles are associated with loitering or bad behavior. Overcoming these misperceptions, while also addressing access and infrastructure issues, is essential to supporting a new generation of bicyclists and pedestrians.
Nicole Campbell noted that some parents are opposed to their children walking or bicycling alone, in cold weather conditions, or in seemingly unsafe areas. Although the idea of “stranger danger” originated several decades ago, that idea is still very prominent. Nicole explained that although infrastructure changes are necessary and welcome, these need to be paired with education and programming for parents and students. This could include walking or bicycling clubs, “walking school buses,” or teaching bicycling and walking safety skills in school. Students exposed to this type of engagement are more likely to be open-minded to a variety of travel habits as adults.
A walking school bus is one way to make walking to school a fun group activity for young students.
Amber Dallman echoed the need for education and outreach to encourage active transportation. Through initiatives such as the St. Paul Smart Trips Frogtown Neighborhoods Program, she has seen kids become champions of bicycling and walking and see their neighborhoods in new ways. Amber also noted that some believe active transportation “doesn’t work” in rural communities because of longer distances between destinations and busy roads. But, in Greater Minnesota, she has seen successful collaboration between service groups, seniors, and kids around active transportation. The local Kiwanis or senior group, for example, will volunteer to monitor bicycle rides or kids walking to school, bringing the community together.
Frogtown Youth Crew, Summer 2013. Photo credit: St. Paul Smart Trips
Ages 9 to Adult: Engaging Community & Cultivating the Next Generation
Community bike/walk centers can be important incubators for the next generation of bicyclists and pedestrians. In North Minneapolis, Venture North engages youth in different ways at different ages. The Earn-a-Bike program teaches participants ages 9 through adult to fix and maintain bikes as they earn their own bike. The Bike Mechanic Apprenticeship program employs and trains community youth ages 15-23 about bicycling and walking in addition to professional skills for future employment. Many younger kids visit the shop with older siblings and become interested in bicycling. Around age 10, kids start being interested in taking bikes apart but might not be able to put them back together. At about age 12, they might start doing both. As they transition into teenage years, they begin to understand how the shop operates as a business. By demonstrating how bicycling and walking can be inexpensive, fun, and practical, kids are more likely to integrate those activities into their daily lives.
Venture North engages kids ages 9 and up with Earn-a-Bike and other programming.
Photo credits: Venture North.
For the Future: Changing Trends & Supporting Multimodal Families
According to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, the number of children walking or bicycling to school plummeted significantly, from about 50 percent in 1969 to only 13 percent in 2009. The panelists described programs that are helping to reverse that trend, in terms of the communities we build, the options at hand, and the decisions we make daily about how to get around. A key component of getting more kids and teens into the lifelong habit of bicycling and walking for transportation is ensuring that more young families can leave the car at home. Amber currently walks her children 2 miles to and from school every day, and frequently uses transit and bicycles to destinations. Because she utilizes these modes on a daily basis, her kids view vehicle trips a lot differently. Her four-year-old son’s reaction when she tells him to get in their vehicle is often something like “But that’s going to take forever!” He associates car rides with traveling to visit family in Wisconsin.
By Pamela Moore, Transportation Options Program Director, and Jennifer Harmening Thiede, Communications and Member Engagement Manager
Winter can be a particularly challenging time for all of us in Minnesota to get where we need to go. Traveling by bike is no exception. Still, if you think you’re seeing more people biking year-round, you’re right: data from Bike Walk Twin Cities monthly counts confirm winter bicycling is on the rise in the Twin Cities. This winter, we expect some of those cold-weather bicyclists will be participants in our Transportation Options program.
Through Transportation Options, Transit for Livable Communities has been connecting people with the knowledge and resources essential to getting around via bicycling, walking, transit, bike sharing, and car sharing. In late November, with the cold and snowy season on its way, we invited Transportation Options participants and volunteer consultants for a mini-workshop on winter bicycling basics to ensure anyone interested would be well prepared.
Bill Dooley, a year-round bicyclist and active member of the Minneapolis bicycling community, led the hour-long workshop with a focus on safety, proper gear, and advice for navigating through snow and ice. Here are some of his key tips for safe and enjoyable winter bicycling:
1. Dress for success. Sure, it’s winter in Minnesota, but when you’re bicycling, it is surprisingly easy to get overdressed and overheated. You don’t need a down jacket. Instead, Bill’s go-to layers include:
- Wool sweater from thrift store
- Two pairs of sox (with the thickest layer on the outside)
- Long john pants and top
- Balaclava/face mask
- Light weight wind-resistant jacket
- Wool pants or wind pants
- Neck gaiter (to keep wind from going down into jacket)
- Insulated hiking boots (and wider bike pedals as needed)
- Bucket bike helmet (to keep your head safe and warm)
- Lobster gloves
- Road ID wrist band in case of emergency
Bill gives Transportatation participants and volunteers advice about proper clothing for pedaling through a Minnesota winter.
2. Prepare your bike. Bill uses an old bike for winter rides. He wipes the chain and cleans the rest of the bike once a week. Swapping in studded tires can be helpful for snowy conditions. Fat tire bikes are also growing in popularity, although the expense doesn’t work for every household budget. With short winter days, though, lights are essential. Bill rides with two front lights and two back lights. Between trips, he keeps them in a clear plastic zippered toiletries kit in his bike bag. (This way they are easy to find and you can see if you left a light turned on.)
Bill rides his bike year-round in almost any weather. Lights are essential.
3. Adjust your route. Bill recommends riding on slightly busier roads in the winter as the riding conditions are better. Don’t be afraid to take the lane. This time of year, bicyclists will need to ride farther left to stay out of messy, slippery areas. During winter months, Bill’s routes of choice also include well-maintained bicycle boulevards and off-street trails such as the Midtown Greenway.
4. Take it slow. Bill has noticed many drivers are courteous to people pedaling through the winter. Still, slippery black ice and snow pose risks for all road users. He recommends bicycling slowly to be safe. Brake early, especially when riding downhill and approaching intersections.
Adjusting your route and your ride for winter road conditions can help ensure you have a safe trip.
5. Combine options in bad weather conditions. Bill rides his bike almost every day of the year, including days when the temperature is well below zero. On days when it is snowing and roads are very slippery, however, he puts his bike on the bus or train. Taking transit or combining multimodal options is a great alternative when road or weather conditions are beyond your comfort level.
All Metro Transit bus and trains are equipped with bike racks, making it easy to combine multimodal options and get where you need to go in any season.
Special thanks to Bill Dooley for leading our Winter Bicycling 101 workshop and sharing your experience with participants and volunteers in the Transportation Options program!