Transit for Livable Communities.


 About Us.Our Work.Take Action.Support Us.For the Media.Resources.
Transit.Walking.BicyclingThoughtful Development.


« November 2014 | Main | January 2015 »

Southwest Light Rail: Making Good Progress


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.


Transportation on Tap: Youth and Active Transportation


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. 


Winter Bicycling 101


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!


Denver Continues to Grow and Improve Transit



By Barb Thoman, Executive Director


Denver Union Station1
Union Station, Denver, Colorado.

The newly renovated Union Station in Denver was buzzing with activity when I visited it with my family over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The historic train station, on the north end of the downtown core, reopened as a major transit hub and boutique hotel this past July. Regional buses, light rail, free mall shuttles, and Amtrak trains all converge at the depot.


Denver Union Station inside

Denver's Union Station combines a major transit hub with hotel, restaurant, and retail options.


High-speed commuter rail service running 23 miles between the depot and the airport will begin operation in 2016. One of the new electric rail cars that will run on the East Rail Line was on display over the holiday weekend. The self-propelled train, which looks somewhat like an Amtrak passenger railcar, will operate at speeds of 79 mph on corridor adjacent to freight rail. Making just six stops, those trains will whisk riders between downtown Denver and Denver International Airport in 35 minutes. Some may remember that Denver moved its airport out of the city back in 1995, distancing jet noise and air emissions from populated areas of the region.


Denver new rail cars

One of Denver's new high-speed commuter rail vehicles.


Adjacent to Denver’s Union Station is a new, modern, underground bus terminal that opened in May 2014. It primarily serves passengers riding regional, intercity, and express buses. Bus passengers wait in a bright, warm corridor separated by glass doors from the 22 bus bays. The facility even has restrooms! Light rail trains are one level up and just north of the bus facility.


Denver Union Station bus terminal

A weekend stop at Union Station's new underground bus terminal.


All this new transit in Denver was made possible with the passage in 2004 of FasTracks, a major transit funding package. FasTracks increased the regional sales tax for transit to a full penny, less than in Seattle, but significant enough to build and operate 122 miles of new light rail and commuter rail, 18 miles of bus rapid transit, and a wider network of bus service. (In comparison, the regional sales tax for transit in the Twin Cities region is 1/4 cent.)


The area around Union Station has become a significant site of transit-oriented development. Formerly a freight rail yard, the 20-acre area is flourishing with high-density residential and commercial redevelopment.


Denver TOD by Union Station


Free mall bus
Transit-oriented development is growing in the area around Union Station.


It’s amazing to see Denver and other peer regions around the country continue to benefit from increased investments in transit. Of course, if the Minnesota legislature votes to increase transit funding in 2015 as part of a comprehensive transportation funding package, the Twin Cities metro would be poised to join them.  




March 2015

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31