Twin Cities

Raising Florida

Net Density - Sat, 01/31/2015 - 4:55pm

Miami Beach is starting to raise roadways to keep seawater off them:

In an area that has seen its fair share of roadwork during the past few years, city officials want to raise West Avenue between 1½ to 2 feet during the next few years in an effort to prepare one of the lowest-lying points of Miami Beach for anticipated sea level rise.

Raising the road would be tied to stormwater drainage and sewer improvements that include installing more pumps to prevent flooding from rain and high tides. The first phase, which will likely begin in February, involves work on West Avenue from Fifth to Eighth streets and from Lincoln Road to 17th Street. This phase would last until August.

The West Avenue Neighborhood Association met Wednesday night with city officials to discuss the plans. Public Works director Eric Carpenter told the packed room of about 100 residents — some skeptical and some more in favor of the plan — that he prefers dovetailing the street raising with the underground infrastructure work rather than tearing up the street several times.

“It doesn’t really make any sense to disturb those segments of the street twice,” he said. “We’re moving forward with the stormwater improvements. What we’re trying to do now is get a consensus from the community that we want to move forward with everything else on that street so that we don’t have to come back later and tear it up again.”

With a higher road, the city would create transitions from the road to the sidewalk that include, depending on the property, a higher sidewalk, steps down to the sidewalk and/or extra drainage components to ensure that no water from the street is draining onto private property.

The first phase of the project will cost $15 million.  A few reflections on this:

  • What about the buildings?
  • Local government officials would have a much steeper political hill to climb to spend $15  million on climate mitigation (emissions reduction) work.
  • I predict the costs of (attempting to) adapt to climate change will mostly be borne locally, be largely uncounted at the macro scale (and thus make mitigation seem expensive in comparison), and will often turn out to be a waste of money (since they won’t work for very long). I hope I’m wrong.
Categories: Twin Cities

UM, Access to Fun: Minneapolis Sculpture Garden [Episode 7]

Streets.MN - Sat, 01/31/2015 - 12:30am

My friend, Josh Lee, takes us on a tour of the Minneapolis Sculpture garden in this episode of UM, Access to Fun.

Published on Dec 4, 2014

He’s back! Welcome to Episode 7 of the “UM, Access to Fun” show with University of Minnesota student host Josh Lee. In this week’s episode, Josh hops a Nice Ride bike to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden near the Walker Art Center. It is one of the largest urban sculpture gardens in the country, with 40 permanent art installations and several other temporary pieces.

“UM, Access to Fun” is all about finding fun by transit. The series was created and produced by CTS video student John Kerber as part of a summer project.

Remember to join Josh next week as he reaches new heights in his search for fun.

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Categories: Twin Cities

Chart of the Day: Zoning Decisions in Saint Paul over Time

Streets.MN - Fri, 01/30/2015 - 3:59pm

I’m  member of the Saint Paul Planning Commission,and I thought I’d share a chart from the upcoming annual report, showing the number of zoning cases over time separated out by type. I don’t know if it’s interesting or not.

You can read more about the Planning Commission here.

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Categories: Twin Cities

Podcast #81: Inside Ending Homelessness with Randall Cohn

Streets.MN - Fri, 01/30/2015 - 2:08pm

The Harbor Lights shelter in downtown Minneapolis

The podcast this week is a conversation with Randall Cohn, a law student and long-time worker and wonk working on homelessness policy in Minneapolis. We sat down the other day in the back room of Club Jaeger, right in the North Loop near many of the homeless shelters of downtown Minneapolis. We chatted all bout Randall’s experience working in and with shelters around the city, and bout the recent attempts to “end homelessness” in Minneapolis. It’s a fascinating topic, and I think you’ll enjoy the conversation.

The link to the audio is here.

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Categories: Twin Cities

Analysis: Lots of Cheap Apartments Next to Expensive Apartments

Streets.MN - Fri, 01/30/2015 - 8:00am

Fancy new apartments: Are they expensive? We’ve heard they’re expensive. Pricing people out and ruining everything, etc. However, Minneapolis has just under 90,000 rental dwelling units. Many of them are not expensive. Some of them, in fact, are expensive but are actually located right next to ones that are not expensive. It should be noted that the idea of “expenses” and, really, of money and our entire economy generally, are merely social constructs.

The following analysis is not highly scientific. I generally picked the cheapest unit I could find in the new buildings and, with the old ones, picked what I could find. Many older buildings do not have easy to find websites, and some newer buildings do not list rents up front. Craigslist was prowled, but I was safe. This does not impact the findings of the study, which are significant.

Source: elanuptown.com/Google Streetview

Fancy new apartments: Elan Uptown It replaced a: Lumberyard Rent: 2 bedroom – $2,290/month Literally next door: Dupont Court Apartments Rent: 2 bedroom – $1,045/month Though the fancy one has: A French name (Dupont also French) A dog washing station

Source: loringvue.com/Google Streetview

Fancy new apartments: Loring VUE It replaced a: Parking lot Rent: 1 bedroom – $1,440/month Literally across the street: Park Terrace Apartments Rent: 1 bedroom – $760/month Though the fancy one has: A Sauna

Source: millandmain.com/Google Streetview

Fancy new apartments: Mill & Main It replaced a: Gravel lot Rent: 2 bedroom – $2,100/month Literally across the General Mills parking lot: 301 University Avenue Southeast Rent: 2 bedroom – $1,030/month (source: asked a friend) Though the fancy one has: Business Centers

Source: rentlpm.com/Spruce Place Apartments

Fancy new apartments: LPM Apartments It replaced a: Parking lot Rent: 2 bedroom – $2521/month Literally next door: Spruce Place Apartments Rent: 2 bedroom – $950/month Though the fancy one has: The “Magellan Rewards Program”

Source: solhausmpls.com/Google Streetview

Fancy new apartments: Solhaus It replaced a: Parking lot Rent: Studio – $1,035/month Literally across the street: Stadium Village Apartments Rent: Studio – $675/month Though the fancy one has: Fireside Study

Bonus:

Source: lindencrossing.com/Google Streetview

Fancy new condos: Linden Crossing It replaced a: Parking lot/Famous Dave’s Estimated Mortgage: 2 bedroom – $3,864/month ($899,000 listed price) Literally down the street: 2715 West 43rd Street Rent: 2 bedroom – $995/month Though the fancy one has: Cachet And crazy: The entire older four story apartment building across the street is valued at $2,200,000, not too much (I guess) higher than some of the higher priced units at Linden Crossing

An anomaly I noticed while clicking around: there’s not much cheap stuff in the North Loop, because there was no North Loop neighborhood twenty or thirty years ago and almost all the housing stock is new. Also, most of the #luxury student housing at the University of Minnesota isn’t that expensive when you consider living arrangements, roommates, and the cost of on campus housing. Also, there are probably more income-restricted units across the city than you think. On that note, compared to Minneapolis, there’s not a whole lot of market rate construction going on in St. Paul.

Minneapolis and St. Paul are not experiencing a New York City or San Francisco or Hong Kong-type real estate shortage. We do not have properties that have appreciated in value to the tune of over 10,000% in a decade, in like, say, Brooklyn. The affordable units in our metro area are the units that were built in the past. If we build more of them now, people will thank us later.

Note: Trying to find apartment prices of randomly selected buildings on the Internet is a huge nightmare. SEO disaster.

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Categories: Twin Cities

Friday Photo: Walk of Spite

Streets.MN - Fri, 01/30/2015 - 7:30am

Last week I got rear-ended by a car while biking south under the Hiawatha Avenue overpass on Cedar. I was chatting with a friend about a movie. I asked him a question, but before he could answer I was rolling back onto the hood of a silver Chevy Malibu. My head shattered the windshield from one side to the other, and as the driver braked I was ejected about a dozen feet onto the road ahead.

There was something so in keeping with the boorish nature of cars in how it happened: not only was I assaulted and thrown to the ground, I was rudely interrupted. It felt less civilized than a drunken bar fight, which at least has a spark of intent. The desultory violence of cars is more base than the shit-hurling of the dumbest ape.

It’s important to strip away the numb familiarity and see cars for the relentless tide of degradation that they bring. That’s what I did when I limped from my house to retrieve my bike from the scene the next day.

 

 

 

If you look carefully you can see a piece of my red tail-light, unlike the guy who ran into me.

 

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Categories: Twin Cities

Saint Paul's Big Day Shows the Fundamental Problem with Cars in Cities

Twin Cities Sidewalks - Thu, 01/29/2015 - 12:53pm
Last Saturday was a great day in Saint Paul. I’ve written before about why I like events like Crashed Ice despite the crass commercialism inherent in transforming your city’s hallmark religious building into a giant logo for a horrible energy drink. And on Saturday, as the Winter Carnival Parade, the Crashed Ice race, a double-feature of Prairie Home Companion, and hockey things were going on simultaneously, Saint Paul felt as alive as I’ve ever seen it, full of people, activity, diversity, and surprise. It was great to walk around! But as is often the case, the experience led me to dwell on the fundamental difference between walkable cities and a car-based society. Try as we might to reconcile the various “modes” of urban movement, the difference between driving a car and doing just about anything else all comes down to density. Put simply, in a car, more is bad; outside of a car, more is good. [I made a helpful graphic.]It’s relatively simple to understand. Just look at any car commercial, showing people driving their shining new SUV through a city street. The one common denominator is that in almost every case, the streets are practically empty. The ideal state for driving a car is to be completely alone, to have the city all to yourself. Now think about any commercial that shows people walking around a city. Typically, you’ll see streets full of other people, maybe dogs, shops, street vendors. The ideal city on foot is full of other people. You just can’t get around that fundamental opposition. Cars transform us all into misanthropes.[Please sir, I want some more.]And it’s really a shame. Last Saturday, I found myself riding the Green Line train with a serendipitous friend. Because of all the activity, the train was full of people, and I found myself chatting with a man sitting on the next seat. He visiting Saint Paul from Tennessee just to see Garrison Keillor perform before he retired. Before you know it, I was giving him directions to the Fitzgerald Theater, and then helping another couple find the Great Waters Brewery. There were families, strollers, people from all over the country all taking the train through Saint Paul.Getting off and riding my bike down West 7th Street, I happened across the Winter Carnival Parade, then headed for the Original Coney Island for the first hot dog they’ve served in 30 years (one of Saint Paul’s many shuttered businesses). Later, the thrift store, a walk through the Crashed Ice, a quick tour of the Cathedral's interior, and a walk down the street to a friend’s party on Cathedral Hill.Everywhere I went, there were people on the street. The city was so much more alive than it usually is. And because I wasn’t driving, I could enjoy it.
Categories: Twin Cities

Winter Cycling & Winter Cycling Congress 2015

Streets.MN - Thu, 01/29/2015 - 11:56am

If you happen to be free the 10-12 of February and would like to head to The Netherlands for a bit there is a great conference that will be happening in Leeuwarden.

Winter Cycling Congress 2015

Photo: copenhagencyclechic.com

This is the third congress focused specifically on bicycling during the winter. The three day conference features speakers from the U.S., Canada, and Europe including MinneSNOWtans Anne Van Cleeve (Mobycon), Natalie Gille (BikeMN), and Tony Desnick (Nice Ride).

http://wintercyclingblog.org/2015/01/09/check-out-the-wcc15-programme/

The weather will very likely be better there than here though no guarantees. The average high in mid Feb is mid 40’s with lows of mid 30’s.

Registration closes Feb 1 so if you want to go you need to kind of hurry.

Leeuwarden

Leeuwarden is about 150km (90 miles) north of Amsterdam. It can be done in a day by bicycle though it’s a good haul, at least on a city bike. I’ve ridden about half of it and nearly all was on wide smooth segregated paths.

http://wintercyclingblog.org/2015/01/22/leeuwarden-a-year-round-dutch-cycling-city/

Tony may ride it. If I go I’ll likely take a train to Assen and then ride from there which is a more leisurely 75km (40 miles).

Some Thoughts on Winter Bicycling

Bicycling modal share in The Netherlands apparently drops by about a third during many winters, particularly on the more inclement days. While some people choose to not travel at all on the more inclement days others still need to get where they’re going. Presumably they take buses, trains, or other local transit options though I’d guess some or even many may choose to drive.

Photo: copenhagencyclechic.com

It’d be interesting to know if transit operators have to make any adjustments or if buses and trains simply get more crowded. With more people likely driving I’d guess that motor vehicle congestion is greater though snow and black ice probably account for 90% of the increased congestion so a few more cars likely makes little difference.

Personally I’m a bit of a winter wimp. I’ll ride just about any distance on a sunny day above 40f with little wind. As the temps fall, the clouds come in and the wind picks up my desire to ride decreases. In general I’m good for about four miles each way above 30f, three miles above 20f, and two above 10f. I say that I’ll ride one mile in any weather and mostly have but I suppose there is a limit where I’d drive rather than ride.

Dottie from LetsGoRideABike making her way through Chicago

I have studded tires on my Opafiets (Marathon Winters) which helps considerably. Since Shoreview does a pretty good job of keeping paths clear I can often ride a bike without them though many days I’m glad to have an option.

Most people in The Netherlands ride without any studded tires or with just a studded tire on the front. They can do this because their bikeways are maintained extremely well throughout the winter.

For more:

http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2012/03/winter-how-did-we-cope-how-did-you-cope.html

https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/winter-cycling-vs-summer-cycling/

http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2012/12/snow-what-tyres-to-make-it-safe.html

http://www.copenhagenize.com/2011/01/cycling-in-winter-in-copenhagen.html

http://letsgorideabike.com/2011/01/18/how-to-cycle-sleek-winter-wear/

http://streets.mn/2014/10/30/steeling-myself-for-the-winter-bike-commute/

http://streets.mn/2014/11/22/the-winter-cycling-capital-of-the-world/

http://streets.mn/2014/03/25/six-road-design-lessons-from-a-long-winter/

Summer isn’t too far away (Photo: Copenhagencyclechic.com)

 

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Categories: Twin Cities

Chart of the Day: Ten Years of Metro Transit System Ridership

Streets.MN - Thu, 01/29/2015 - 10:42am

This isn’t that great a chart, but does show the growing ridership of the Metro Transit systemwide, via Citypages:

 

(Note: 2004 was the bus strike year.)

Increases in ridership due to the Green Line alone account for (rough napkin calculation: 10K/week X 25 weeks =) 250,000 new rides on the system.  That’s why transit planners like light rail!

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Categories: Twin Cities

Calls for Accountability Miss the Mark

Streets.MN - Thu, 01/29/2015 - 10:03am

I’m going to describe a government agency and let you, brilliant reader, guess who it is.

  • This government agency is an un-elected bureaucracy with its top-ranking official appointed by the governor, who is then confirmed by the Minnesota Senate.
  • This agency gets involved with planning activities and expenditures at both the regional and local level.
  • This agency has an annual budget for the Twin Cities metropolitan area in the hundreds of millions.
  • This agency has built transportation projects where annual users fall short of projections.
  • This agency charges its users for its services but those revenues fall short of expenses, often requiring transfers from local and state budgets to make up the difference

Can you guess which agency I’m talking about?

If you guessed MnDOT, you’re right! You may have thought I was talking about those baddies at the Metropolitan Council given the recent House subcommittee created to hold them accountable.

Truth is, the two organizations share many similarities. The Met Council’s entire 2015 budget is  $936 million, compared to 2014 MnDOT spending in the Metro District on just trunk highways (no county highway or municipal street contributions included) totaling $685 million. The Metropolitan Council members and chair are appointed by the current governor and confirmed by the Senate, just like MnDOT’s commissioner. Both organizations impact land use and transportation planning by the investments they make. Both have projects with questionable capital costs per rider/driver.

I know this was a fairly trollish post. But we’re seeing the continuation of the campaign mantra from one political party carry over into action in the legislature. And while some of it may sound a bit over the top (like completely banning streetcars), sometimes things do slip through (like the Dan Patch gag order) that may not actually make sense.

If we want to hold the Metropolitan Council more accountable (and maybe I’d be on board with that, given all the expensive wastewater infrastructure and highly subsidized suburban bus routes and park & rides in our region), we should at least cast our gaze on other departments of government. Even if they build things your political party happens to like.

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Categories: Twin Cities

The Soul of St. Paul’s Highland Park

Streets.MN - Thu, 01/29/2015 - 10:00am

If you’d have told me ten years ago that I’d be bemoaning the loss of a large-format chain retailer, anywhere, I’d have been suspicious. Stranger things have happened, and as of January 1, 2015, Barnes & Noble in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul closed its doors. The neighborhood lost not only a bookstore but a “third place,” a beloved gathering space. I used to get my Financial Times Weekend there (the House and Home section is my guilty pleasure), and I miss it. As well, sidewalk replacement in late summer 2014 cost the neighborhood a little public square nearby at the southwest corner of Ford Parkway and Cleveland Avenue. I miss that little public square, too. With the loss of these two popular gathering places, Highland Park has lost a little of its soul.

I’ve long been a fan of Highland Park, as I shop and dine there frequently and I believe it is a complete, walkable neighborhood built to a standard that all new suburbs should be held. It is also changing in many ways. A new Walgreens didn’t come without controversy. Today a brand new restaurant occupies the pad site at the corner, sharing a parking lot with Walgreens (see above).

To the east, a new Schuler Shoes (see above, left) is nearly complete. A mixed-use project is proposed along Cleveland Avenue one block north of Ford Parkway. In general, all four of these new buildings improve the urbanism of the area.

Highland Park is full of good places like restaurants, coffee shops, a grocery store (Lunds), medical offices, and still has a great bookstore (Half Price Books). The east side of Cleveland Avenue between Ford Parkway and Pinehurst is the friendliest section of street, and has an insane Gehl Door Average (GDA) of close to 20 (see above). In this single stretch of street, on foot, you can eat, get a haircut, watch a movie, receive a massage, buy a gift and get your clock repaired! I love that.

And it isn’t so much the loss of Barnes & Noble itself, although it was a really nice bookstore for browsing, and had a great children’s section. I suspect what a lot of people will miss is specifically the space between the cashier and the adjacent Stabucks (connected inside the building), next to the windows and the magazine racks. This space was an informal “third place,” not quite in Starbucks nor Barnes & Noble, but a visible place to socialize, people watch and just linger. I’d see a lot of the same people there, day after day, hanging out as people are prone to do (see above). Regardless of what they spent in either store, they kept the place populated, gave it some soul.

Similarly, the public square at the southwest corner used to look like this (see above). It had a kneewall as an informal place to sit, trees provided some shade, the kiosk provided a place to post community events and a landmark for meeting, and the location was close enough to the Ford/Cleveland intersection to be part of it all, but offset enough to provide refuge from passing traffic. In recent years there was even a piano, and people played it! This was the first place in the Twin Cities where I observed teenagers simply hanging out without seeming out of place nor threatening to others (a rare thing!). This was arguably the soul of Highland Park, a public space at the very center of the neighborhood.

Now it has been replaced by a slab of concrete (at least for the time being?). Perhaps benches, shade, another kiosk and piano will someday appear. I certainly hope so. There are other “third places” in Highland Park where folks hang out, like at Lunds and the coffee and tea shops. The Barnes & Noble space will be filled later this year by a Target Express, and maybe through a minor miracle that will become a third place. Make no mistake, Highland Park is still a great place, but the loss of Barnes & Noble and the little public square at the corner are notable. I know I’m not the only one who misses them. While it is important that new development fronts the sidewalk and is pedestrian-friendly, let’s hope that beloved places to hang out are also part of the deal. The soul of Highland Park depends on it.

This was crossposted at Joe Urban.

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Categories: Twin Cities

Signs of the Times #100 (Best of Edition)

Twin Cities Sidewalks - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 2:42pm
In celebration of the 100th edition of the Signs of the Times, here are collected for you some of my all-time favorites:Here's an example of a nice ironic sign, taking an existing signage trope and playing with it. Nicely done.A similar attempt here, but obviously much more earnest. Again, using humor to make a point and share an experience with the public.  I like signs like this because they transport you into a different world. You realize that there are multiple ways of living a life, and in one of them you make fortune cookies.A nice sign that must be one-of-a-kind. Props for the excellent giant iguana icon. Another sign that transports you into another world. Hard to believe this was real, but one must assume that whoever was holding this sign somehow got to Milwaukee. This falls under the category of 'signs that tell you things that ought to be obvious.' For example, there are many signs explaining to people how to use doors. Rarely do you see public signs relating directly to mouths. A sign under the DIY category, a lovely marriage of hand-made signage and technology. This sign somehow makes surveillance cozy. Another 'explaining the obvious' sign.   There are certain signs that are extremely earnest. You get the feeling that the person who made these signs is desparate to tell a story, and that this is the best they can do. The unplanned topography with the '-ed' crammed in there is also an example of an evolving sign, where the editorial modifications are apparent on the surface.Another 'another world' sign. In this world you buy live pheasants.Explaining the obvious. Anytime cities have to deploy signs like this, they've designed something terribly wrong. Falls under the category of 'cute intervention' signage. There are many such examples, but this is one of my favorites for its simplicity, font, and placement on the #3 route schedule.  Typographic modification of a classic. Checks two boxes: both a edit-palooza and an 'obvious dumb design' sign. Cute modification signage from Portland. Nice that they attempted to mimic the existing typographical conventions.One of the many earnest political signs from Midway Books, surely one of the most noteworthy signage campaigns in Saint Paul history. He may have lost the war, but he made great signs. An example of a store moving sign, but so beautifully done that you just want to go get your haircut.Many signs relate to dogs (e.g. their poo). This is one of the coolest.  Beautiful DIY sign here, though I think some of the strange lettering effects might be accidental. One of my all-time favorites, a DIY stop sign from the Cedar-Riverside area. I think this street is technically one-way, but many people don't regard it that way. A great example of the 'accidental poetry' sign, combined with the 'entropic decay' category. We could all use a relaxing.Poetic DIY signage combined with the 'slow down' category. Clearly an artist doing something nice for their neighborhood. There are lots of signs like this in South Minneapolis, many of them with elliptical statements. This is my favorite, because there are so many potential meanings.Another accidental poetry sign. You just want to go in there and become your best self. One of the most earnest examples of declaration signage that I've ever seen is this one from old Mendota all about Kelo vs. New London. Intentionally so, but mysterious. "Please be careful of letters in the wind." The answer might be blowing in there, I suppose. Call out signage, rare because it names names. This is from Southern Minnesota.A typo on the classic garage sale sign. Most typo signs revolve around "your" vs "you're", so this one is fun. No thank you. Were they thanking all the societies in turn? Who can say, but it's a lovely sentiment.A great sign here. Hair cut places have the best names, and this was one during the LRT construction detour period. But it's nice and horrifying to imagine a world where infinite hair did exist in the alley behind University Avenue.Another classic signage category is the 'lost/found/stolen' flyer. This is one of the best I've ever seen, though I doubt she got her laptop back.A great slow down sign, which also makes claims about neighborhood identity. I like that; let's do more of that.An example of the classic storefront 'sandwich board'. Most of these try too hard. All you have to do is open up a line of inquiry, as this does.  A sign-eating tree. I love this so much. What if all trees contain ancient signs? Another classic sign category is the 'now closed' or 'moving' announcement. This is my favorite. "Abandon Kansas is canceled!" I guess we're all going to have to stay there, I suppose.Most signs are improved by a drawing. This is a great drawing, though I doubt ferrets can be "nice."Another great drawing + typography example of the classic garage sale sign. Wonderful sign. Great evolving edit sign from Saint Paul's West 7th Street.Beware of Doug.  A poetic dump truck from Milwaukee. If only all businesses were so up front about their inner angst. Accidental typo poetry. Good to know for those of you in anticipation. A sad sign from Hinckley, but fortunate that so many things begin with 'b'. Somewhere out there someone is making a bunch of signs for small University Avenue businesses, because this lettering style looks familiar. This is the best of them. A great DIY sign here.My favorite poetic accident of the year.
Categories: Twin Cities

Chart of the Day: Top 10 Metro Transit Bus Routes by Ridership, 2014

Streets.MN - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 1:07pm

Metro Transit released some 2014 ridership data today. Here are their top ten bus routes, by ridership.

Source: Metro Transit

Kind of crazy how it drops off after the first few routes. The busiest route, Route 5, is more than twice as busy as the fourth busiest route, Route 6. Route 16 still holds on with just a half year of real ridership–much of the route was discontinued after the Green Line opened. Also conspicuous is the lack of St. Paul routes on the list–I would imagine a huge chunk of the Route 3 ridership is within the University of Minnesota and Como neighborhoods in Minneapolis.

So, looking at these routes with lots of proven, existing ridership, how are we investing in them for the future?

A Very General Key:

  • Route 5: Emerson & Fremont in North Minneapolis, Chicago Avenue in South Minneapolis (N-S)
  • Route 21: Lake Street in Minneapolis, Marshall & Selby in St. Paul (E-W)
  • Route 18: Nicollet Mall & Avenue in Minneapolis (N-S)
  • Route 6: Hennepin Avenue in South Minneapolis (N-S)
  • Route 10: Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis (N-S)
  • Route 3: Downtown Minneapolis to University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Como Avenue in St. Paul (E-W)
  • Route 16: University Avenue between Downtown Minneapolis and Downtown St. Paul (E-W) Note: Greatly reduced service after Green Line opened June 2014)
  • Route 19: Penn Avenue in North Minneapolis (N-S)
  • Route 17: Northeast Minneapolis to Nicollet Mall & Avenue to Uptown to St. Louis Park (N-S)
  • Route 4: Johnson Street in Northeast Minneapolis to Lyndale Avenue in South Minneapolis to Richfield (N-S)

You can check out the details of all the routes on Metro Transit’s website here.

The numbers:

Route 2014 Ridership 5 5,701,197 21 4,297,883 18 3,737,512 6 2,740,260 10 2,635,130 3 2,598,147 16 2,342,947 19 2,198,387 17 2,110,331 4 1,981,129 Total 30,342,923

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Categories: Twin Cities

Some Optimism for 2015

Streets.MN - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 11:50am

The North Minneapolis Greenway, an exciting possibility in our future (Image courtesy of Bike Walk Twin Cities / Transit for Livable Communities and Twin Cities Greenways).

I’m optimistic and excited about 2015. We have a whole new year of opportunity laid out before us and it looks to be a good year for bicycling in MN.

We’ll likely see some new and better bicycling facilities around the Twin Cities and elsewhere in Minnesota. That will mean a few more people walking and riding bicycles for transportation, and a bit fewer cars on our roads.

We’ll likely see some better mixed-use development birthed from the ground and from paper. For example, the TCAAP and the Ford Plant site plans will progress, and hopefully both with a solid human urbanist bent rather than what I call “suburbanist drivealot.”

—–

For a few decades our civil engineering, planning, and architectural professions and  institutions have been dominated by thinking that bicycles are toys, walking is for recreation, and buildings are edifices to the glory of architects[1].

This coming year universities like the University of Minnesota will graduate civil engineers, planners, and architects who have better ideas. This year a few of the engineers, planners, and architects who continue to give us sterile car dominated cities and suburban sprawl will be replaced by those who know the value of walkable, bicyleable human scale communities.

—–

In 2014 we saw some major and in my opinion very negative consolidation of retail with perhaps the biggest impact locally coming from the closing of numerous medium to large groceries that left consumers having to drive considerably farther to get to the local super-big-box-distribution-center format grocery five miles farther away. On the plus side we saw the opening of Lunds in downtown St Paul.

This Rainbow Foods was less than a 2 mile bike ride. We now have to drive (unless we have a fair bit of extra time to ride) over 3 times as far.

Europe was slower to the big-box concept and European consumers have been quicker to reject them. They never embraced supercenters except for durable goods (though durable might not be what we think of when we think of IKEA). European retailers like Tesco, Morrisons and Carrefour are turning from big box (60,000 sq ft) to smaller local neighborhood stores (10,000 sq ft). This isn’t expansion — they are closing big box stores and replacing them with smaller neighborhood locations.

We’ll see a bit of the same this year with Target following in Tesco’s footsteps in creating 20,000 sq ft Target Express stores (similar to Tesco Metro 11,000 sq ft stores and Wal-Mart Express 15,000 sq ft) with one of the first to open in Highland Park this July. I have a strong preference for locally owned stores and personally prefer something around 10,000 sq ft but I think for general commodities the big chains are here to stay. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a retrenchment from big box back towards smaller local neighborhood stores.

—-

Hopefully we’ll see fewer people killed by people driving cars and trucks. I think that our roads are getting safer each year. We seem to be doing a better job of reducing death roads and even small things like eliminating a pork chop here or there will help.

One of the more encouraging posts for me on streets.mn in 2014 (aside from Anne White’s and Wolfie Bowbender’s regular stream of happiness) was Sean OLeary’s on 66th street in Richfield and the Richfield city council’s support for this project. Richfield’s solution is far from perfect and from Dutch standard infrastructure but moving in the right direction and I think we’ll move even more in the right direction this next year[2].

We’ll get a full year of Anne White’s encouraging posts.

We’ll likely see approval and beginning implementation of the new St Paul Bicycle Plan.

2015 should be a good year for bike share. Problems with Bixi and Alta slowed things down a bit the past couple of years but towards the end of 2014 things got back on track (and perhaps on better tracks). Jay Walder took over the helm at the company formerly known as Alta Bicycle Share, now Motivate and Nice Ride’s Bill Dossett led the charge on forming the North American Bikeshare Association. This should lead to improvements in the design and availability of bikes, stations, software, and apps.

A bikeway design that serves almost nobody well. It’s too dangerous for children and most adults and too close to opening car doors for faster and more confident riders. (Photo: Bill Lindeke)

For some decades there has been a bit of an ongoing battle between those who support vehicular cycling and those who want segregated paths and cycletracks. Each year, and 2015 will be no different, an increasing number of vehicular cyclists realize the benefits of segregated paths and that they’re coming. Rather than fight them they are getting on board with supporting them and encouraging good Dutch standards design that provides for speed and comfort rather than fighting them and then ending up with poor designs.

A Look Back

Most recently I was quite critical of the Downtown Council’s Christmas Market. Well, it apparently wasn’t all bad. My sister and brother-in-law gave us a couple of ornaments that they purchased at the market and they are quite nice ornaments.

I have a number of follow-up posts that I’d intended to do in 2014 that I’m working on now such as one that looks at how MN (not just the U.S.) compares to countries like Germany and The Netherlands for traffic safety. This is a follow-up to a comment John made on this.

A Good Start

Tony Desnick, Director of Greater Minnesota Strategies for Nice Ride told me that we are 40 years behind Europe, but he thinks that 40 years from now we’ll be ahead of where Europe is today. And he provided some good rationale for his thinking. That’s encouraging.

This morning on my way to meet a friend for coffee at Angry Catfish I counted over 30 people riding bicycles, presumably to work. Not bad for the middle of January. And I didn’t go near any Universities.

2015 should be a good year.

—-

[1] Interestingly I’m moving closer each year to my bicycle being my main mode of transportation and cars edging towards primarily recreational.

[2] Personally I’d really like to see much narrower lanes, like 10’ and little to no curb reaction distance. This to slow traffic down a bit and cause drivers to pay better attention. With more efficient roundabouts I’d think three lanes rather than five would also work.

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Categories: Twin Cities

The Beautiful Inconsistencies of a Grand Avenue

Streets.MN - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 8:00am

Grand Avenue: Diversity and chaos can help create beautiful, walkable streetscapes

Gerber Jewelers is a small business situated on one of St. Paul’s most desirable streets and it’s trying to extend its storefront to the sidewalk.

“Gerber Jewelers’ bid to extend the front of its building at 945 Grand Ave. to the sidewalk has been rebuffed. On a 7-0 vote … St. Paul City Council rejected owner Rafic Chechori’s appeal and upheld the Board of Zoning Appeals’ previous denial of a setback.” – The Highland Villager, Jan. 21, 2015

The Council is upholding a requirement that the front-yard setback from the property line be 25 feet. Dave Thune, out-going Ward 2 Council Member, said “granting the variance would have set a bad precedent and would have encouraged other property owners to extend their buildings to the sidewalk as well, destroying the residential character of Grand.”*

This is a bad decision and the entire Grand Avenue plan needs to be revisited to acknowledge the real urban character of the street, improve walkability, to help local businesses, and improve the City’s overall tax base.

The problem with the City Council’s decision, and the zoning code in general, is that it’s trying to impose a character that doesn’t exist (and shouldn’t exist).

Grand Avenue is not a street with a residential character. For starters, literally every building on this particular 900 Block is either commercial or mixed use (residential + retail). This includes the building immediately to the Gerber’s left with a 0ft (zero) setback.

Gerber Jewelry was denied the right to look like it’s neighbor immediately to its west.

Grand Avenue can be chaotic and disorganized, but unquestionably beautiful. This is the character of a city! This is the character of Grand Avenue. No two blocks are alike, and this is something that should continue. In fact, there is nothing more consistent about Grand Avenue setbacks than that they are entirely inconsistent.

It is not uncommon to see a single family house, next to a 4plex-turned-cooking-store, next to a two story office/burrito/real-estate/pastry/yoga/hair-salon – and all of them have different setbacks! This is the Grand Avenue norm.

Nothing is more consistent about Grand Ave. setbacks than the fact that they are inconsistent.

Gerber’s block on Grand Avenue includes everything from a gas station, dance studio, sandwich shop, quality dining with sidewalk patio seating, a cigar shop in a house, a small frozen yogurt shop on the sidewalk, and more than a handful of other small businesses.

These small, unique spaces are one of the reasons that Grand Ave has a disproportionately high percentage of local businesses. It is precisely these types of businesses that we want to thrive as they are more likely to use local services (such as marketing, legal, accounting, etc.) and more of their profit stays within the community. This is precisely the type of incremental growth we should be trying to encourage.

There are few things more important for creating walkable spaces than giving people something to experience at the sidewalk level. The social value of a storefront is too important to pass up, and rejecting Gerber’s application is an unfortunate error in judgement.

This decision is also costing the city money. The adjacent building abuts the sidewalk similar to the new proposal and pays nearly 2.3x times more in property taxes ($31,130 vs. $13,919).** This alone is a drop in the bucket, but when you consider the long-term ramifications it can have some costs.

The entire Grand Avenue plan needs to be revisited, and we need to take into consideration the viewpoints of people other than the Summit Hill Associations. We need to acknowledge the real urban character of the street, improve walkability through more sidewalk storefront, to help neighborhood businesses grow to improve our local economy, and improve the City’s overall tax base.

__

* Quote is not a direct quote, but a summary of Thune’s quote taken from The Highland Villager, Jan. 21, 2015. ** It’s fair to say a similar new addition would yield similar results. However, you never know since valuations are based off a number of factors, such as building materials, etc. *** Related Reading: Anthropologie: A Storefront Not Worthy of Grand Ave.

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Categories: Twin Cities

An Article About Grand Avenue’s Setbacks

Thoughts on the Urban Environment - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 11:41pm

Grand Avenue: Diversity and chaos can help create beautiful, walkable streetscapes

Gerber Jewelers is a small business situated on one of St. Paul’s most desirable streets and it’s trying to extend its storefront to the sidewalk.

“Gerber Jewelers’ bid to extend the front of its building at 945 Grand Ave. to the sidewalk has been rebuffed. On a 7-0 vote … St. Paul City Council rejected owner Rafic Chechori’s appeal and upheld the Board of Zoning Appeals’ previous denial of a setback.” – The Highland Villager, Jan. 21, 2015

The Council is upholding a requirement that the front-yard setback from the property line be 25 feet. Dave Thune, out-going Ward 2 Council Member, said “granting the variance would have set a bad precedent and would have encouraged other property owners to extend their buildings to the sidewalk as well, destroying the residential character of Grand.”*

This is a bad decision and the entire Grand Avenue plan needs to be revisited to acknowledge the real urban character of the street, improve walkability, to help local businesses, and improve the City’s overall tax base.

The problem with the City Council’s decision, and the zoning code in general, is that it’s trying to impose a character that doesn’t exist (and shouldn’t exist).

Grand Avenue is not a street with a residential character. For starters, literally every building on this particular 900 Block is either commercial or mixed use (residential + retail). This includes the building immediately to the Gerber’s left with a 0ft (zero) setback.

Gerber Jewelry was denied the right to look like it’s neighbor immediately to its west.

Grand Avenue can be chaotic and disorganized, but unquestionably beautiful. This is the character of a city! This is the character of Grand Avenue. No two blocks are alike, and this is something that should continue. In fact, there is nothing more consistent about Grand Avenue setbacks than that they are entirely inconsistent.

It is not uncommon to see a single family house, next to a 4plex-turned-cooking-store, next to a two story office/burrito/real-estate/pastry/yoga/hair-salon – and all of them have different setbacks! This is the Grand Avenue norm.

Nothing is more consistent about Grand Ave. setbacks than the fact that they are inconsistent.

Gerber’s block on Grand Avenue includes everything from a gas station, dance studio, sandwich shop, quality dining with sidewalk patio seating, a cigar shop in a house, a small frozen yogurt shop on the sidewalk, and more than a handful of other small businesses.

These small, unique spaces are one of the reasons that Grand Ave has a disproportionately high percentage of local businesses. It is precisely these types of businesses that we want to thrive as they are more likely to use local services (such as marketing, legal, accounting, etc.) and more of their profit stays within the community. This is precisely the type of incremental growth we should be trying to encourage.

There are few things more important for creating walkable spaces than giving people something to experience at the sidewalk level. The social value of a storefront is too important to pass up, and rejecting Gerber’s application is an unfortunate error in judgement.

This decision is also costing the city money. The adjacent building abuts the sidewalk similar to the new proposal and pays nearly 2.3x times more in property taxes ($31,130 vs. $13,919).** This alone is a drop in the bucket, but when you consider the long-term ramifications it can have some costs.

The entire Grand Avenue plan needs to be revisited, and we need to take into consideration the viewpoints of people other than the Summit Hill Associations. We need to acknowledge the real urban character of the street, improve walkability through more sidewalk storefront, to help neighborhood businesses grow to improve our local economy, and improve the City’s overall tax base.

__

* Quote is not a direct quote, but a summary of Thune’s quote taken from The Highland Villager, Jan. 21, 2015. ** It’s fair to say a similar new addition would yield similar results. However, you never know since valuations are based off a number of factors, such as building materials, etc. *** Related Reading: Anthropologie: A Storefront Not Worthy of Grand Ave.

Categories: Twin Cities

Chart of the Day: Perceived Comfort for Bike Lane Types

Streets.MN - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 2:18pm

If you’ve been paying attention to bike infrastructure over the last few years, you know that protected bike lanes (aka cycletracks) are trending. We’re planning on building more of these in the Twin Cities and around Minnesota, and of the key reasons why is that they help people feel more comfortable and protected while they ride.

There’s research about this now, too. This chart is from a recent study out of Portland that rated comfort levels using different barrier types:

 

The takeaway is this:

For us on the Green Lane Project team, one of the biggest surprises of 2014 was that a bike lane separated from cars by a “2-3 foot buffer with plastic flexposts” makes riders feel more comfortable biking than anything else, with the exception of “planters separating the bikeway.”

Check out the rest at streetsblog.

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Categories: Twin Cities

Map of the Day: Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint by Zipcode

Streets.MN - Mon, 01/26/2015 - 6:00am

Today’s map shows an estimate of a household’s carbon footprint based on consumption of various goods and services.  You can explore the map here.  The maps and data come from the CoolClimate Network at the University of California Berkeley.  One thing that becomes clear as you explore the map: the carbon emissions from goods and services doesn’t vary all that much as geography changes (at least in the Twin Cities metro).  The big changes across the transect are mostly due to changes in transportation usage and housing-related sources (energy usage).

This consumption-based emissions inventory differs from other approaches explored on streets.mn, like the geographic inventory, because it looks at emissions throughout the supply-chain related to purchases a household makes, regardless of where on earth the emissions originated (think of a computer you buy that is made in China, the emissions are still counted at your household).  Here’s a bit from the FAQ on the methodology:

The model uses national household energy, transportation, and consumer expenditures surveys along with local census, weather and other data – 37 variables in total – to approximate greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the energy, transportation, food, goods and services consumed by average households in essentially all populated U.S. zip codes. See the paper and online supporting materials for detailed descriptions of the methods.

The FAQ (and research it is based on), has some interesting discussion of the implications for local and regional planning (the title of the paper is Suburban sprawl cancels carbon-footprint savings of dense urban cores):

Population dense central cities have significantly lower carbon footprints than less dense central cites; however, these cities also have more extensive suburbs. When considering the net effect of all metropolitan residents (suburbs and central city residents together), larger, more populous and population-dense metropolitan areas have slightly higher average carbon footprints than less populous and lower population-dense metropolitan areas.

i. Note: this is the primary finding of the paper that is used in the title. The implication for policy is that suburban sprawl undermines, or cancels, the benefits of urban population density. Urban development planning should focus on impacts at metropolitan as well as more local scales, as is typical in regional transportation planning.

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Categories: Twin Cities

A License To Walk

Streets.MN - Sun, 01/25/2015 - 9:00am

Some people inside and outside the bicycling community believe that we should require cyclists to get licenses and/or register their bikes with the state. License and registration fees would help pay for bicycle infrastructure and ensure that all cyclists are adequately trained in correct riding techniques. Motorists like this idea because they think cyclists don’t pay for bike infrastructure and don’t obey traffic laws. Some cyclists like this idea because they think it will get them more respect from drivers and state institutions.

This idea has some merit but I’d like to take it one step further. I propose that all pedestrians should have to get walking licenses and register their shoes with the state DMV.

Lets face it, like bicyclists, pedestrians don’t get much respect from motorists and highway departments. The way motorists see it, pedestrians don’t pay for sidewalks and there are vast numbers of sidewalks in most American cities and towns. In motorists’ eyes, pedestrians also do dangerous things like jay walk or try to cross four-lane boulevards at intersections with no crosswalks or traffic lights.

Walking licenses and shoe registration fees could change all this. They would help pay for sidewalks and the license/registration process would ensure pedestrians get adequate training in correct and safe walking techniques from licensed professionals. At the age of one, infants would get “Conditional Learners Permits” that would allow them to walk if accompanied by a licensed adult. If a person is caught repeatedly jay walking, crossing against a red light or outside a designated crosswalk, their walking license could be suspended or revoked. If police discover that someone’s shoes are unregistered, they could be taken away and the person could be thrown in jail. All this would greatly reduce pedestrian crashes. It could also help revive the American economy because, once people lost their walking licenses, they’d be forced to buy cars and drive everywhere. Plus there’d be increased spending on new shoes and criminal defense attorneys.

I know, some of you are saying, “But Andy, most pedestrians are hit by cars because the cars don’t see them, often at night!” I’ve already thought of that. As part of the licensing and shoe registration procedure, I’d require that pedestrians have to wear bright, reflective clothing at all times and have shoes with lights in them, like little kids sometimes wear. I’d also require education programs that train pedestrians to be alert for cars at all moments in all situations, even inside offices, restaurants and homes.

Sure, motorists would still hit a few pedestrians, but they’d do it with more respect. Highway departments might even respect pedestrians enough to keep track of when, where and how they get hit by cars! Yes, we could ban right-turns-on-red, require more signage, pavement markings, signals and better lighting and traffic calming measures …but that would just slow down drivers, and we can’t slow down drivers, even for a minute, or our entire national economy will collapse.

Walking licenses and shoe registration would be good for pedestrians, good for drivers and good for the economy. Think about it!

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Categories: Twin Cities

Sunday Summary – January 25, 2015

Streets.MN - Sun, 01/25/2015 - 6:16am

Here are the all week’s posts summarized and sorted for strategic reading. Why read the Sunday newspaper when the Sunday Summary has the stuff you really need?

Telling good stories

Urban Living is Good for Your Health is a good story about how our built environments shape behavior without technical details, policy language or other formalities. Living in the city makes walking and bicycling obvious and easy; the result is building improved health and well-being back into daily life, rather than something special to be pursued at the gym. Comments include another wonderful life story about learning to bike (and bike more) and other confirmation that when walking and biking are easy, people will walk and bike.

Slap in the face department

Two posts push hard against clichés sometimes used to dismiss tough issues.  “Think of the Hardworking Families” unpacks the political rhetoric surrounding raising the gas tax to ask what the real impact on families beyond the fearmongering including providing suggestions for how to drive less. Discussion considers the cost of car ownership, possibility of cycling. I Don’t Want to be Like You, Either replies to critics who fear urbanists just want to force happy suburbanites into high density housing by discussing why some of us don’t want to live on quarter acre lots past the strip mall; real urban development is also distinguished from mixing a few urban features into the suburbs or suburban-style regulations into the downtown.

Transit-related posts

Hey Transit Investments, Don’t Skimp on the Sidewalks reviews transit funding and finds sidewalks left out of state and federal funding formulas; proposed state legislation includes dedicated funding for bike/ped improvements. This post also reminds us that sidewalks (and other bike/ped connections) are part of the transit system rather than something extra. MetroTransit’s Signage: Still Room for Improvement complains new signage for bus links from Franklin Avenue to the Green Line might be well-intentioned but fails on the details; commenters offer some more positive feedback, ask some questions about Metro Transit programs, and add some feet on the street perspective about using the system. Increased Transit Funding Can Save You Money considers how the DFL-proposed sales tax for transit could help save households money by letting them ditch the car. The comments have a lively discussion about how additional money could be spent wisely, looking at housing (and housing prices) and transit, and more. Read this one along with “Think of the Hardworking Families” and Urban Living is Good for Your Health for more about reducing car-dependence.

Sidewalks are (part of ) transit

Around the neighborhood

Whittier Alliance Among Most Restrictive Minneapolis Neighborhoods is partly about the Whittier Alliance neighborhood association’s recent amendments to their bylaws, but also provides a survey of many (all?) Minneapolis neighborhood association bylaws provisions about membership, voting and representation. Comments help tease out issues of public funding for neighborhood groups and its link to representation as well as revisiting the question of how renters and property owners should be included. Streets.mn has also mapped the money unspent by neighborhood organizations and considered the importance of participation during 2014. Start Seeing CCTVs looks at public CCTV in the UK and its more limited use in the US raising a few questions, but providing no answers, about the cameras.

Greater Minnesota

For a road trip this afternoon, perhaps, or just a virtual tour, we have two destinations this week.  New Ulm: The Urbanists Utopia takes us to the compact, urban small city of New Ulm to show that good urbanism can happen at a smaller scale out of the metro area. Main Street – Le Sueur, Minnesota is another photo tour of small town Minnesota (others are here).

Le Sueur Farmers Elevator

Audiovisual department

Two videos: Brazilian Auto Insurance Ad–Texting While Driving and NOIR: ‘Walking’ (Original Song Version). The next of the podcasts: Podcast #80: Amusingly Approaching Public Policy with Tane Danger (of Theater of Public Policy fame). Two maps: 2013 Vehicle Miles Traveled per Capita by County and Map Monday: The Second Great African-American Migration. And three Charts of the Day: Parking Loss vs. Total Parking SupplyTwin Cities Population (Age and Race) by 2040 and Salt Use by Industry over Time.

By this time next week, it will be February. Enjoy this week’s posts and think encouraging thoughts about snow for next weekend’s City of Lakes Loppet. Have a great week!

 

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Categories: Twin Cities