June 8, 2010, Oxford/Jimmy Lee Recreation Center

We had 15 attendees. Mike Madden and Andy Singer gave an update on University and proposed a rough draft of a signing statement that we want to send to the US DOT regarding programming for University Avenue. The idea is to get as many local groups to sign on as possible (that we want just a single vehicle travel lane in each direction, with a parking lane and bike lane). There is a revised draft of the statement at the end of this summary. Groups that we’d like to sign on include UABA, The District Council Collaborative and any district councils, council members, TLC, Smart Trips, The Southeast Asian Business Association, Rondo Neighborhood Association, Major Taylor (and any other) bike group, University and/or Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce …and there were some other ideas but I’ve forgotten them. We want to make the wording broad enough to get as many signatories as possible.

Brady Clark and Richard Arey discussed the lack of Parks Department representation on the new Transportation Committee and the need for coordination with them regarding bicycle infrastructure (paths, signage, racks and planning). Richard presented some facts from a survey/study done of Saint Paul residents showing the bike/pedestrian trails and their maintenance where one of the top things people were using and willing to pay for in city parks. He said he’d get us a PDF or a link to the study for our website.

Brady and others discussed city plans to repave (and potentially restripe) the south end of Snelling avenue but details were scarce …so he (or others) promised to bring more information to the next meeting.

We then discussed what we want on our website. Suggestions included: A Calendar (for events, public hearings, etc) Issue Statements (of which we have a few that could readily be uploaded) Maps (either as links or PDFs) Mission Statement (from Meeting #2) Success Stories Alerts Perhaps a blog or other content that’s editable by the group Matt Cole, Todd Zerger and I agreed to work on this. Anyone else who wants to help is welcome. Matt needs to get me and Todd the FTP username and password.

Everyone seemed okay with Andy Singer creating a mailbox and contact list for the group on g-mail …which he has done and is sending you e-mail from it. If any of you want to mail stuff to the group yourselves or take over or be involved with communications, we’ll happily give you the username and password to access the box and the mailing list. We’re going to continue the practice of blind CCing most of the group for privacy and to avoid “reply-all” e-mails cluttering up people’s boxes.

A few of us went to Pizza Luce after the meeting and had a couple beers.

Here’s a revised draft of the University Avenue signing statement pasted below for people’s feeback:

We (the undersigned) oppose the current plan to maintain 2 vehicle travel lanes in each direction on University Avenue during and following construction of the LRT because:

  1. Eliminating parking would be bad for small businesses, including take-out, dry cleaning and other businesses that rely on vehicle pick-ups and drop-offs (particularly in the winter).

  2. Because many of these businesses are minority-owned, minority communities along the corridor would disproportionately feel the negative economic impact of lost parking and other issues listed below.

  3. Eliminating parking would remove psychological and physical protection for pedestrians from high-speed traffic, both from out-of-control vehicles and from vehicles splattering rain or slush on what will often be narrower sidewalks. The extra vehicle travel lane will also make it harder for pedestrians to safely cross the avenue.

  4. Maintaining a second vehicle travel lane will force bicycles off of University Avenue (as is currently proposed in the Central Corridor Bike-Walk Action Plan) and move them two blocks north to Charles Street. However, Charles Street does not go through to Rice Street on the east end of the corridor and it does not go through to Raymond on the west end of the corridor. It also lacks traffic lights at major intersections like Snelling and Lexington that would enable bicycle commuters to cross these streets during rush hour. University Avenue is the only through, east-west street for bicyclists that crosses the various railroad, warehouse and highway obstacles and is currently used by a substantial number of cyclists.

  5. The #16 bus stopping in the outside lane every two blocks and right-turning vehicles waiting for pedestrians at intersections will reduce the effectiveness of the second, outside vehicle travel lane. By contrast, a parking lane could also be used for bus pullouts and right turn lanes.

  6. The local traffic studies to date have been entirely auto-centric, focused on the delay that motorists might experience if vehicle capacity is reduced. Maintaining four lanes of through traffic at the expense of on-street parking and bicycle lanes will diminish conditions for pedestrians and cyclists at a time when the city is promoting these sustainable modes and trying to reduce dependency on automobiles. Motor vehicle congestion mitigation should not drive transportation planning. At a certain level, vehicle congestion can be beneficial. Congested locations are desirable to many businesses with walk-in customers, and lower speeds reduce the risk of injury and death in the event of a collision. Congestion can also hasten the transition from automobile dependency to transit, walking, biking and improved land use. Partly for this reason, expanding motor vehicle carrying capacity at the same time as expanding transit capacity negates the advantages of transit investment.

  7. In large part, the purpose of this LRT project is to revitalize University Avenue businesses and neighborhoods and turn them into vibrant destinations. Yet maintaining 4 vehicle travel lanes and eliminating parking and bicycles reduces the avenue to a travel corridor where people cannot stop but merely pass through on the way to one or the other downtown. By making conditions worse for pedestrians, bicycles and businesses the Twin Cities will miss a golden opportunity to create a “Complete Street” that is accessible and beneficial to all users. We therefore propose that, as part of the LRT project, University Avenue be reprogrammed to have just one vehicle travel lane in each direction with a parking lane (with bus pullouts and right turn lanes) and a bike lane. We believe there is enough width on the avenue (25’ minimum) to accommodate this and that it is just an issue of striping. We urge the FTA to reexamine this programming issue using the new “Cost Effectiveness Index” (CEI) and to pressure the city, county and MET Council to make this needed change.