The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the daily commuting patterns that we’d previously built transit networks around, and remote working will further dilute daily transit demand as companies large and small scale back office space square footage. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that it’s difficult to predict travel patterns years into the future.
For flexibility alone, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines are far superior to fixed rail transit. Once you’ve got the busses, BRT lines are much easier to move to another route than light rail trains. BRT also better lends itself to demand surges (it’s much easier to add extra busses after a Twins game than it is to add extra light rail cars). On top of all of that, BRT is significantly cheaper to build and operate than light rail.
While I wouldn’t advocate to halt the Southwest LRT project, I would advocate for exploring alternatives for any new fixed rail projects. We can move more people (sooner and for lower costs), with BRT. Trains are cool, but they’re just impractical. However I would be willing to consider giving all of the BRT bus drivers old-timey trolley hats (if that would help people feel better about electric busses).
Painted lines on the side of the road are not protected bike lanes. Unless a 10-year old kid can safely bike there, it’s really not even a bike lane at all… Bikes are a greener way to get from A to B, but it’s unrealistic to expect biking to become a regular mode of transit if it’s not safe to bike around town. Bike lanes are essential infrastructure for making streets safer for everyone.
First, we should fully connect the Grand Rounds with protected bike lanes. Then the city should add a series of 1 to 2 mile protected bike lanes to link neighborhoods to the Grand Rounds. Minneapolis already has the groundwork for an amazing biking network, we just need to work to get it completed.
We can make the city a safer and better place to live by design. I think 20 is plenty, and support slower speeds for neighborhoods. BIPOC and elderly pedestrians are disproportionately killed and injured by cars. There are steps we can take that will naturally slow the speed of traffic on residential streets.
Widening sidewalks to make streets narrower can organically curb the feeling of open roads. Beyond the cosmetics, adding trees to the edges of those newly widened sidewalks can also help with traffic calming. While some businesses may have anxiety about losing parking spaces, studies tend to show it actually improves storefront traffic.
Complimentary street parking is also subsidized by the city, and definitely isn’t free. There’s also the social cost of paying for car storage over other road uses. There are a number of simple choice architecture decisions we can be making when we replace old streets and sidewalks that would make streets significantly safer for pedestrians.
While I appreciate my Minnesotan neighbors that can’t help but start shoveling the sidewalk the moment the snowflakes stop falling, clearing the sidewalks should really be handled at the city level. Snow covered sidewalks make Minneapolis less livable, and icy sidewalks can be dangerous.
Requiring residents to shovel sidewalks also places a high burden on citizens with mobility issues. Placing snow shoveling under city control will also mean sidewalks are cleared faster and we have more control over what type of salt and chemicals are used in the ice prevention process.