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Tony Hull Joins Transit for Livable Communities

September 23, 2008

Tony Hull recently joined Transit for Livable Communities as the Program and Evaluation Specialist for the Bike Walk Twin Cities initiative. He is a multi-modal transportation planner, with a particular focus on pedestrian needs and traffic calming. Tony has worked as a principal planner at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) in Columbus Ohio for the past seven years and has prior planning experience with the Central Ohio Transit Authority and city of Hilliard, Ohio. Welcome Tony!

Member Profile: Mike Madden

As a business owner, I work within a one-mile radius of my home on my bicycle and I am also involved locally to support more bicycling opportunities in my community.

I’m a small business owner running a home repair and carpentry business. I use a bike and bike trailer to reach my jobs, which are all within a one-mile radius. I love bicycling, and I like to play my part in keeping our environment healthy. By using a bicycle rather than a truck, I have a major competitive advantage: no vehicle payments, no insurance, no fuel bills, and no temptation to drive all over the cities for work. All my work comes by word of mouth from happy customers! As an urban environmentalist, I feel there’s no greater contribution than advocating for sustainable transportation and development.

Mike’s commitment to biking, walking, and transit:

  • Serves on committees and boards that support transit-focused development, such as University United and the St. Paul Transit Oriented Development (TOD) task force.
  • Organizes people to create better opportunities for bicyclists, including founding Neighborhoods First, a local organization.

Operation State Fair? A Success!

Many thanks to all of the volunteers who helped Transit for Livable Communities and the Bike Walk Twin Cities initiative reach thousands of fairgoers during the State Fair! Here’s what you helped us achieve:

  • At the Let's Go! booth in the education building, we talked with almost 6,000 fairgoers during the 12 days of the fair.
  • Over 200 people joined TLC's action network, and 50 signed up to help with our regional bike/walk counts or to fight another fare increase in 2009.
  • More than 3,000 people learned how to put a bike onto the bus rack at the Kick Gas! booth. Even more explored transportation opportunities on the new map and/or learned what Share the Road means for cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists.
  • As a group, you volunteered over 250 hours at the Let's Go! and Kick Gas! booths.

Even more importantly, these statistics don't begin to measure the impact of your engagement with people from all over the state who want more transportation options. You shared information, your enthusiasm and ideas, and the possibility of a future with more bicycling, walking, transit, car-sharing and more...

If you have ideas about planning for next year, either about what attracted the attention of fairgoers, what we could give away, or what we could do differently, please share! Email Michelle at michelled@tlcminnesota.org ... her inbox is awaiting your thoughts! We look forward to working with you all in the future and again offer our thanks to our network for being such a stellar outreach team!

Speak Up: Metropolitan Council 2030 Transportation Policy Plan

The Metropolitan Council just released its draft 2030 Transportation Policy Plan (TPP). This important document, prepared every four years, guides the region’s planning and investment in surface transportation, especially in transit, highways, walking and bicycling. 

The Council will hold six informational open houses this fall. Open houses will include a presentation about the 2030 Transportation Policy Plan and opportunities to comment or ask questions. A public hearing, where official comments will be taken, is scheduled for October 22nd. Open houses are scheduled throughout October (see dates/locations below).

Transit for Livable Communities has reviewed the draft plan. Based on experience working for a balanced transportation system, TLC suggests the following comments at open houses to help strengthen the 2030 plan for transit.

  • The Met Council has a goal of doubling transit ridership by 2030, but the TPP does not suggest a funding mechanism to reach this goal (TPP page 30: “While this policy plan calls for the doubling of transit ridership by 2030, of which over 28 percent is anticipated to come from growth in the bus system, it is very uncertain that a funding source to provide for this growth can be identified). Comment/question: Several potential funding sources are identified and potentially available to help meet this stated goal, including 1) increasing the regional property tax and use it for both capital and operating costs, 2) increasing the state’s general fund contribution to transit, 3) increasing the share of MVST revenues that go to transit (vs. roads), and/or 4) increasing the regional sales tax (beyond ¼ cent) to transit.
  • New roads or major road construction projects should safely accommodate all users (i.e. bicyclists, pedestrians, transit, and cars). But the TPP only “encourages” these provisions (TPP page 7: states that “The Council will encourage roadway and transit investments to include provisions for bicycle and pedestrian travel"). Comment/question: To only “encourage” investments for all users is not strong enough. A requirement would be better. I would like to see the Metropolitan Council follow the lead of other metro areas to adopt a “complete streets” regional policy requiring all new roadways and transit investments to safely accommodate all transportation modes.

Please attend one of the following open houses:

  • Thursday, Sept. 25, 5-7:00 p.m., Council Chambers, Minnetonka City Hall, 14600 Minnetonka Blvd, Minnetonka.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 30, 5-7:00 p.m., Clover Leaf Room, Blaine City Hall, 10801 Town Square Dr. NE, Blaine.
  • Thursday, Oct. 2, 5-7:00 p.m., Council Chambers, Woodbury City Hall, 8301 Valley Creek Rd., Woodbury.
  • Thursday, Oct. 9, 5-7:00 p.m., Council Chambers, Eagan City Hall, 3830 Pilot Knob Rd., Eagan.
  • Friday, Oct. 10, 11-1:00 p.m., Doty Room, Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis.
  • Thursday, Oct.16, 11-1:00 p.m., Alliance Bank Skyway, Sixth and Cedar Sts., Saint Paul

To obtain a copy of the plan, contact the Metropolitan Council Data Center at 651-602-1140 or online at http://www.metrocouncil.org/planning/transportation/TPP/2008/index.htm

Within the coming weeks, Transit for Livable Communities will provide an overview and comments on the plan, so keep an eye on www.tlcminnesota.org for more information. If you'd like to learn more, please contact Michelle at 651-767-0298 or MichelleD [at] tlcminnesota.org.

If you'd like to provide official comments on the plan, please attend a public hearing on the plan at 5:00 p.m. October 22nd in the Council chambers, 390 N. Robert St., St. Paul. Public comments will be taken until November 6th, 2008.

Transportation Project Updates in the Twin Cities Region

So what's happening with all of the proposed transit, walking, and bicycling developments in the Twin Cities region? Well, we have news about the Central Corridor, the Southwest Line, and the Rush Line, as well as openings of several Bike Walk Twin Cities projects, and an opportunity to provide input on Minneapolis' pedestrian plan (which was also funded through the Bike Walk Twin Cities initiative).

Southwest Transitway Takes a Major Step Forward by Launching the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS); Final "Scoping" Meeting Dates

The Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA), in partnership with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), is launching the Southwest Transitway DEIS, the next major phase of project development for the proposed light rail transit (LRT) line. The proposed 14-mile LRT line will provide more than 28,000 trips per day, improving travel times and providing access to jobs in the fastest growing area of the metro. The line is proposed to serve the cities of Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Edina, Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Minneapolis.

“This is quite a substantial step for the Southwest Transitway project and one that puts it in the queue right behind the Central Corridor LRT project which will connect downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul,” said Gail Dorfman, Hennepin County Commissioner and Chair of the Southwest Policy Advisory Committee. “We’ve had broad-based community and business support in getting to this stage. We’ve worked as a team and that’s essential.”

To launch the DEIS, the HCRRA is hosting public “scoping” meetings giving the public an opportunity to review and comment on alternatives for improving transit service in the southwest metro area. The meetings consist of an open house to learn more about the project, plus a public hearing -- a forum for comment.

Scoping meeting information is as follows:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 7 at the Hennepin County Government Center (300 South 6th St., Minneapolis, 612 348 3169). Open House 2 p.m.; Public Hearing 3 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 14 at the St. Louis Park City Hall (5005 Minnetonka Boulevard, St. Louis Park, 55416). Open House 5 p.m.; Public Hearing 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 23 at the Eden Prairie City Hall (8080 Mitchell Road, Eden Prairie, 55344). Open House 5 p.m.; Public Hearing 6 p.m.

More information: http://www.southwesttransitway.org/home.html

Rush Line Undertakes Alternatives Analysis; Needs Public Input

The Rush Line Corridor Task Force, made up of more than two dozen elected officials from counties and municipalities along the corridor, is undertaking a federal alternatives analysis to examine transit improvements between Hinckley and the Twin Cities.

The task force has hired transportation consulting firm URS to complete an alternatives analysis. An alternatives analysis is the first phase in the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program, which funds new projects and extensions to existing transit systems. In the analysis, different routes (such as I-35/I-35E, Highway 61/County Road 30, and various existing and former freight railroad lines) and several modes of transit will be considered and evaluated for their benefits, costs and impacts.

The Task Force will hold a series of public meetings over the next year to discuss transit along the 80-mile corridor from downtown St. Paul to Hinckley. Several bus rapid transit, light rail transit, and commuter rail options will be open for community discussion at a pair of open houses this fall:

  • October 2: 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Maplewood Community Center, 2100 White Bear Avenue, with presentations at 6 and 7 p.m. Click here for a map to the open house.
  • October 7: 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 6355 379th Street, with presentations at 6 and 7 p.m. Click here for a map to the open house.

The following modes were considered for the Rush Line Corridor:

  • Bus, both conventional and electric trolley bus
  • Bus rapid transit, conventional and guided bus
  • Light rail transit
  • Modern streetcar
  • Magnetic levitation
  • Heavy rail
  • Commuter rail, both conventional and diesel multiple unit
  • Automated guideway transit

The Alternatives Analysis study will conclude in mid-2009. At that time, the counties, cities and townships along the Rush Line Corridor will recommend a next step, which could be anything from pursuing a “build” mode (BRT, light rail or commuter rail) to continuing to advocate for additional bus service in the corridor.

For more information, call Tim Mayasich at (651) 266-2762.

Central Corridor Plans Refined to Meet Tight Deadline (adapted from the Star Tribune)
THE LATEST: With construction costs escalating and a federal deadline at the beginning of this month, planners of the Central Corridor light-rail line have pared back items such as the amount of track at a maintenance yard and the number of ticket machines at each station.

NEW ESTIMATE: The construction estimate, presented at a meeting of the line's planners, is just shy of $915 million, up from $892 million earlier this year. Mark Fuhrmann, the project director, said prices for such necessities as asphalt and fuel are driving the increase, with the cost of steel for the tracks doubling since last year.

APPLICATION SENT: The Federal Transit Administration is expected to fund half the cost of the 11-mile line, which will link the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The Metropolitan Council submitted its application to move into the final design phase.

As currently proposed, the project includes 15 new stations, a transit mall on Washington Avenue within the University of Minnesota campus and the substructure for three additional stations at Western, Victoria and Hamline avenues in St. Paul that could be added later.

The line will share five stations with the existing Hiawatha line in Minneapolis and terminate at a new intermodal station now under construction adjacent to the new Twins ballpark. That station also will serve the new 40-mile Northstar commuter rail line, which is scheduled begin service by the end of 2009.

The line's costs, ridership estimates and travel times are plugged into a complex federal formula called the cost-effectiveness index. The feds look favorably on a cost effectiveness index (CEI) of $24.49 or less; the figure for the Central Corridor configuration presented in the application is $24.41.

SOME GOOD NEWS: A trip from one end of the line to the other has been trimmed by 62 seconds, to 39 minutes, 13 seconds. Engineers softened some curves to allow higher speeds and reduced the number of traffic signals trains will encounter. The line is set to open in 2014.

Minneapolis Pedestrian Plan
The Bike Walk Twin Cities initiative provided funding for the City of Minneapolis to develop a Pedestrian Master Plan to help the City improve and maintain pedestrian facilities and get more people farther and more often. The Plan will help to unify numerous interests into a comprehensive strategy so the city can focus its resources to make the most of its walking environment.

More information is available at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/pedestrian/pedestrian-masterplan.asp.

Three Bike Walk Twin Cities Projects Opening This Fall
In June 2007, the Bike Walk Twin Cities initiative provided funding to numerous projects in Minneapolis and its neighboring communities. Three of these projects may open in the fall of 2008.

  • Minnehaha. This 1.73 mile project will add bike lanes to the Minnehaha Avenue corridor (from 31st St to 46th St) corridor in South Minneapolis, in addition to upgrading the existing 20th Avenue bike lanes to year-round facilities. It will include signage, striping, sealcoating and bike racks. This corridor will provide a much needed connection between the LRT Trail and the existing Minnehaha Avenue bike facilities.
  • Glenwood.This 1.82-mile project will add bicycle lanes along Glenwood Avenue from Xerxes Avenue to Royalston Avenue, and will reduce the number of road lanes from four to three. Bicycle chevrons will be placed where the bike lane would otherwise run, supplemented by three-foot passing signs for motorists. Where only two lanes exist, parking may need to be removed in some locations. The project also includes signage, striping, sealcoating, and bicycle racks.
  • 27th Avenue SE.This .55 miles project will add bike lanes to the 27th Avenue corridor in southeast Minneapolis, as well as a signed connection to the UofM Transitway Bike Trail. It will include signage, striping, sealcoating and bicycle racks. The project necessitates either removal of parking between University Avenue and Essex Street along w/ a 3-to-4 lane conversion or otherwise converting rush-hour restricted parking to 24-hour parking, along with a 4-to-2 lane conversion.

Transit for Livable Communities Questions Fairness of Public Input Process for Transit Fare Increases

See the letter that Transit for Livable Communities and the Transit Partners coalition sent to the Metropolitan Council

Transit for Livable Communities, along with several other members of the Transit Partners coalition, sent a letter to Peter Bell, the Chair of the Metropolitan Council, to share concerns regarding the public process which led to the Council’s decision to increase transit fares. Among the concerns:

1. The summary of comments presented to Metropolitan Council members is far too brief, numerical and impersonal. The decision to simply tally over 429 comments in a matrix of yes/no responses to the different categories of fare increases failed to give appropriate weight to the extensive testimony that residents gave about the real-life impact of the fare increases on metropolitan residents and recommendations for funding alternatives.  At a minimum, a full report of written comments should have been provided to Council members and should be available publicly (i.e. on the Metropolitan Council website).  Finally, if the results of public input are to be presented in such an over-simplified manner, it would seem reasonable to highlight the fact that more than 75 percent of the comments received were in opposition to the fare increases.

2. The lack of a breakdown of expected revenues from the different fare increases at the start of the process severely limited the opportunity for informed input. Were Council members briefed on these details prior to the August 13th meeting?  Raising fares for youth and seniors (when those riders would only make up two percent of total new revenues and a tiny fraction of total operating revenues) seems very shortsighted and unfair.

3. The hearings could have been structured to make it easier for working-class, transit-dependent individuals to participate. The lack of an evening or Saturday public hearing in either of the two core cities suggests that comments from transit-dependent individuals were not highly valued.

4. It is unclear what level of public input will be sought if, in fact, a 50-cent fare increase proposal is considered in 2009. We are pleased to see a commitment to some public input. But the failure to explicitly commit to public hearings is a concern. We would like to work with you to help ensure meaningful opportunities for public input.

5. It is unclear to what extent Metropolitan Council members could modify the fare increase proposal without requiring another round of public hearings. We are pleased that the Council retracted its proposal to extend the a.m. peak period. However, we were confused when staff told Council members that other changes in the proposal could not be considered without a further round of public hearings. This requirement was attributed to Federal Transit Administration (FTA) regulations, but FTA’s regional counsel believes that to be inaccurate. Modifying the proposed fare increases could have avoided putting so high a burden on those least able to pay. We are frustrated that Council members were unwilling to explore these choices because they erroneously believed they could not.

Since the recent fare increase will only make a small impact “to lower an anticipated shortfall in 2010 and 2011," Transit for Livable Communities and the Transit Partners coalition plan to work with the Metropolitan Council to secure more money for the regional bus system in the coming legislative session. If you are interested in working on this issue, please contact Michelle Dibblee at 651-767-0298 or MichelleD [at] tlcminnesota.org.

No Bus Only Shoulder Lanes on I-94? No Way!

SEE TRANSIT FOR LIVABLE COMMUNITIES' LETTER TO TOM SOREL

SEE DAVE VAN HATTUM'S LETTER TO THE EDITOR PUBLISHED IN THE STAR TRIBUNE

Earlier this month, Governor Tim Pawlenty announced that the temporary shoulder lanes on Interstate I-94 between downtown Minneapolis and Hwy. 280 won't revert to bus-only shoulder lanes when the new Interstate 35W bridge opens.

We need you to contact MnDOT and the Metropolitan Council to tell them that the temporary shoulder lane on I-94 should return to its previous use as highway shoulder lanes reserved for bus access during congested periods, vehicle breakdowns and crashes, and short-term snow storage.Safety and transit access should be the highest priorities for the shoulder lanes in this congested corridor.

Any plan to turn the temporary shoulder lanes into permanent lanes for mixed traffic clearly runs counter to both statutory and agency goals, which call for both safe transportation and increased transit use in urban areas. I-94 without shoulder lanes is simply not as safe as it was previously; federal design guidelines call for 12-foot lane widths, a 10-foot paved shoulder on the right, and a 4-foot paved shoulder on the left.

Further, our region has a national reputation for its bus-only shoulder lanes, which by encouraging transit ridership, are a proven congestion management strategy. When I-94 is very congested and the buses are stuck in mixed traffic, entire bus trips may be missed because drivers are unable to make a second run.

TLC staff members were told that MnDOT would extensively study the costs and benefits of returning the shoulders to their previous use, and that there would be an opportunity for public input regarding this decision. As of publication, MnDOT has not communicated the dates for the study to begin or when public input will be solicited.

Lea Schuster, the Executive Director of Transit for Livable Communities, wrote a letter to Tom Sorel, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation asking MnDOT to state clearly and publicly that the I-94 shoulder lanes will remain temporary until such a study is completed. Transit for Livable Communities plans to meet with MnDOT to discuss this issue in the near future, to express TLC's strong concerns about the possible decision and the decision-making process.

To reach Tom Sorel, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation:

Tom Sorel, Commissioner
Minnesota Dept. of Transportation
395 John Ireland Boulevard
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-366-4800
thomas.sorel@dot.state.mn.us

To reach Peter Bell, the Chair of the Metropolitan Council:
Peter Bell, Chair
Metropolitan Council
390 Robert Street North
St. Paul, MN 55101
651-602-1390
peter.bell@metc.state.mn.us

 

Temporary Was Best: Dave Van Hattum's Letter to the Editor

September 09, 2008

Dave Van Hattum, Policy and Advocacy Program Manager at Transit for Livable Communities, sent a letter to the editor of the Star Tribune shortly after the announcement. The letter was published on September 9th, and notes that the article failed to mention what was lost by keeping the lanes.

September 9, 2008
TEMPORARY WAS BEST
Return I-94 bus lanes

It is curious that you fail to mention what is lost by keeping the "temporary" extra lanes on Interstate 94 open to all traffic (Star Tribune, Aug. 30). What are lost -- bus-only shoulders -- are an appropriate incentive for commuters to choose to ride in buses that carry 10 times (or more) the number of people as do cars in the same space. What is lost is a highly effective greenhouse gas reduction strategy.

Also lost are transparency and accountability. The state Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Council, under the governor's direction, will keep these lanes open to all cars after the new I-35W bridge opens with exactly zero opportunity for public input, and only a vague promise of future study.

Key statutory goals for Minnesota's transportation system include "safety" and "giving highest priority to the transportation modes with the greatest people-moving capacity." Converting a highway shoulder to a carpool/bus/toll lane is not without merit. But claiming highway shoulders for all traffic is not the way to get there.

DAVE VAN HATTUM, MINNEAPOLIS

 

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