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« June 2008 | Main | August 2008 »

James Sorensen Joins Transit for Livable Communities Board

July 31, 2008

James Sorenson joined Transit for Livable Communities' board in July 2008. He is a retired airline pilot who worked for Northwest Airlines for 37 years. He was also the first employee at Penn Cycle, Inc., a family-owned business founded in 1957 and still owned by the Sorensen family. In 2004, James formed Two Wheels To Town, a bicycle advocacy group, to bring the European bicycle mode/culture to the Twin Cities metropolitan area. He currently serves on two family boards and is the current president of Terrace Point Homeowners Association in Grand Marais, MN.

Steve Schultz Joins Transit for Livable Communities Staff

Steve Schultz was hired as TLC’s first Development and Membership Manager in July 2008 and manages membership and development activities to support TLC’s programs. Previously, Steve worked for 13 years with Clean Water Action, most recently as the Membership Relations Director.  There he directed all membership recruitment, development, fundraising and mobilizing efforts.  Steve graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Minnesota in 2003, attaining a B.A. from the College of Liberal Arts. His studies focused on American history, economics, politics, and foreign relations as well as Latin American and American Indian history.

Transit on a Stick: Call for State Fair Volunteers

Join Transit for Livable Communities (TLC) at the Great Minnesota Get Together this August! TLC will again have a big presence to share our work of creating a more balanced transportation system. We’ll highlight both our Bike Walk Twin Cities activities as well as our advocacy work for resources and policies. We will have a substantial TLC booth in the Education Building (“Focus on a Better Future”), and will partner with other organizations for the sustainable transportation exhibit in the Eco Experience building (“Kick Gas”).

We need volunteers to help tell the story of what we’re doing to make Minnesota communities more livable. Together, we are working to invest in a transportation system that provides alternatives to driving, protects the environment,  encourages smart development and healthy communities, and ensures access to transportation for all Minnesotans, drivers or not.

No experience or expertise required – just a desire to spread the word about transportation choices, encourage more people to get involved with Transit for Livable Communities, and work with staff and volunteers to provide a welcoming and informative experience for fairgoers coming to our booth!

Our primary recruiting right now is for the Education Building exhibit. Click here to get to TLC’s online registration for shifts at the State Fair. We’re looking for volunteers to fill 4-hour shifts daily (9am-1pm, 1-5pm, or 5-9pm).  We’ll buy your ticket in (but will happily accept your in-kind donation of the $8 ticket if you feel so moved to help support our presence at the fair).

We will need some volunteers in the Eco Experience booth as well. To get more information about volunteering for this effort, contact Michelle (see below).

Questions? Contact Michelle Dibblee, TLC organizer, at 651-767-0298 or michelled@tlcminnesota.org.

Bold Stand: Against Fare Increases

Shortly after the Metropolitan Council announced its proposal for a fare raise in June, Transit for Livable Communities published our statement opposing the fare hike. We knew there was a very real budget shortfall, and we proposed several alternative funding streams. We also asked you, our members, to contact the Metropolitan Council with opposition to the proposal.  Many of you did, at public hearings and over email, citing concerns ranging from the ability of low-income people to pay (including some of you), your hopes to keep new riders on board, and the need for a sustainable transportation system focused on new opportunities to take transit and increase ridership.

Others wrote back to us with concerns about our stand -- some thoughtful, some strident, and mostly focused on the rising price of gas, citing the fare hike as a necessary step to keep the buses running. The media jumped in as well, comparing the cost of gas for a suburban commuter (driver) to the cost of the increased express fare for the same commuter on the bus, and concluded that the bus is still a better deal.

So why would Transit for Livable Communities take such a bold stand at a time when many people, including some riders, are resigned to the possibility of spending an additional 25 cents this year and 50 cents more next year for each bus or train ride? Here's why: Transit for Livable Communities believes that we can do better by Minnesota.

    * We can do better than raising fares to the point where they are among the nation’s highest for a transit system that is relatively small. 
    * We can be clear with the legislature that transit will need additional funding in 2009 since transit’s primary funding source – a sales tax on motor vehicles – has declined so dramatically
    * We can  create a transit expansion plan more like those of Seattle, Dallas, Portland, and Denver that will meet the challenges of rising gas prices, climate change, and an aging population.
    * We can recognize that roads and parking are heavily subsidized by local property taxes and that government investment in public transit makes good sense.

The Metropolitan Council has long planned to expand our region’s bus systems, believing that an expanded system is needed to address our state’s growing population. This expansion has been delayed every year since 2000, and (despite any fare increases) will be delayed once again.

Why? Fare increases are designed to plug part of the hole in a much bigger problem: the lack of a reliable source of funding for our bus system.

Right now, the primary source of funding for our bus system is the sales tax on cars. With rising gas prices and a tough economy, fewer people are purchasing cars and more people are turning to transit…which, oddly enough, means less money for the bus system.

We have a duty to address our transportation challenges now, rather than passing the buck to our children and grandchildren. There is a reason that the Metropolitan Council is looking at fare increases, but we need to creatively address the long-term problem that is causing the Council to seek fare increases in the first place.

In a new era of high gas prices, we must ensure that transit remains affordable and accessible to Minnesotans. This sometimes requires bold moves. 

Bike Walk Streets Funded Through Bike Walk Twin Cities Initiative

The Bike/Walk Twin Cities initiative unveiled the five projects it will fund out of the 2008 round of solicitations. Three bike/walk streets and two livable streets were selected, and there was a lot of media coverage! Stories about bike/walk streets appeared on the Minnesota 2020 website, in the Star Tribune/Roadguy Blog, MinnPost, KSTP, KMSP (notice TLC’s own Jaméz Smith!), and KARE. You can also view a slide show of all our photos from the event.

Richfield (July 10, 2008) – Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians prepare for a new way to share your turf.  Twin Cities cyclists and pedestrians will soon have priority on new bike walk streets to be built in the metropolitan area.

Bike walk streets for Richfield, Minneapolis and Saint Paul were announced today as part of $1.8 million in federal grants issued through Bike Walk Twin Cities.  The goal of Bike Walk Twin Cities is to increase biking and walking as an alternative to driving.

“These designs will give a new face to urban streets, and convey a new message,” said Lea Schuster, executive director of Transit for Livable Communities, the nonprofit organization that administers Bike Walk Twin Cities, a $21.5 million federal program.  “Bike walk streets accommodate auto travel but give priority to cyclists and pedestrians,” she explained. “This creates a new paradigm, and we’re excited to be working with cities that are moving in this exciting direction.”

“Bike walk streets, also known as bicycle boulevards or bike streets, are already popular around the world,” said Karen Nikolai, Bike Walk Twin Cities Advisory Committee. “Now the Twin Cities can join Portland, Oregon and other major bicycling cities by creating neighborhood-friendly bike walk streets to help people save money, get in shape and lower global warming pollution.”

In addition, two projects designed to make biking and walking safer on higher traffic streets were announced. One project will connect the cities of Roseville, Lauderdale and Falcon Heights to the University of Minnesota. The second will create a bike/pedestrian trail along Richfield Parkway in Richfield.

Among the Bike Walk Twin Cities projects announced today:

Richfield

  • Oliver Avenue Bicycle Street. This 1.85 mile bike walk street will offer an attractive alternative to driving for the 5,400 employees at the nearby Best Buy Headquarters; 800 students, who attend Richfield Middle School; and others who use the street to reach their destinations. It features a raised crosswalk over busy 66th Avenue, 10-foot wide lanes and no cross-vehicle traffic for one mile.
  • Richfield Parkway. A pedestrian/bike trail will be included along Richfield Parkway, featuring 10-foot wide paths, a raised median and a public gathering place.  This trail will connect cyclists and walkers to bus lines, Taft Park, Cedar Point shopping center and a proposed 200-unit elderly housing center.

“These projects will provide our residents and those commuting through our city with safe and scenic routes to jobs, schools, shops or other destinations,” said Richfield Mayor Debbie Goettel.

Minneapolis

  • Filmore and 6th Avenues Bike Walk Street. This 4.1 mile bike walk street will provide a direct route from Northeast Minneapolis to downtown and connects to the Stone Arch Bridge along the Mississippi River. An estimated 400 and 800 cyclists and pedestrians will use the street daily.

“Northeast Minneapolis will now have great bike and pedestrian access to the center city,” said Minneapolis City Council Member Robert Lilligren.  “Adding this bike walk street is an important link in Minneapolis’ transportation system.”

Saint Paul

  • Highland Parkway Bicycle Boulevard. This 3.5 mile project will create a bike walk street connecting Saint Paul to Minneapolis via the Ford Bridge. The project will close a sidewalk gap along the route, implement a new specially marked shared street, and minimize cross-vehicle traffic for cyclists.

Speed limits for motorized traffic will be reduced to 25 mph.

“The Highland Parkway Bicycle Boulevard will be Saint Paul’s first bike walk street, accommodating those who cannot or choose not to drive and slowing drivers to keep cyclists and walkers safe,” said Anne Hunt, environmental policy director for Mayor Chris Coleman’s Office.

Roseville/Falcon Heights/University of Minnesota

  • Northeast Suburban Campus Connector. This 3-mile project connects the three communities of Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, and Roseville to the University of Minnesota.  The construction of wider sidewalks, off-street bike trails, on-street bike lanes and landscaping and benches will create a pleasant, neighborhood-friendly street along Fairview Avenue.

“This project will provide an appealing option to driving for those commuting from the northeast suburbs,” said Roseville Mayor Craig Klausing. “We expect up to 2,000 people will use this new bike connection.”

“The rising cost of gasoline is encouraging more people to dust off their bikes and walking shoes and seek alternatives to driving,” Schuster said. “With these investments, which create safer, more pleasant places to walk and bike, we are well on our way to changing the way people think about how they get to work, run errands and visit their neighborhood stores.”

Today’s grants are the second series awarded by Bike Walk Twin Cities.  In June 2007, $7 million was granted to 30 projects.

About Bike Walk Twin Cities
Bike Walk Twin Cities is a federally-funded initiative to increase biking and walking, and reduce driving in Minneapolis and neighboring communities. Working with local governments, businesses, organizations and residents, the initiative provides public education and allocates funds for safer crosswalks, bike lanes and other improvements. Transit for Livable Communities is designated by federal law to administer the $21.5 million Bike Walk Twin Cities program (www.bikewalktwincities.org).

 

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