NYC turnstile. Image source: Planyourcity.net

Mainstream Media Misses the Point on Green Line Fare Enforcement

You’re probably reading the various news stories out there regarding the Metro Transitstudy finding between 4.6 and 9 percent of Green Line Riders evade their fares in some way. Blue Line evasion rates are lower, between 2.6 and 3.6 percent. Go ahead and read the click-bait articles for a bit more information, and as always read the study itself to understand the methodology and conclusions.Articles like these bring out the region’s finest; excellent terms like “hoodlum,” “Shiny Toy Train,” “free-loaders,” and “bums” are de rigueur for any worthy internet commenter. But how does the Green Line stack up against other transportation systems?Well, for starters, we know fare evasion on proof-of-payment transit systems is extremely common. The report points out that 1994 fare evasion in the NYC Subway – a completely closed system with turnstiles and transit police – had fare evasion rates between 2.3 and 2.6 percent.Los Angeles had fare evasion rates of 6% before spending millions installing turnstyles with marginal results. Continue Reading

Dan Lubben, co-founder of the University's chapter of the Minneapolis Bike Coalition, leads the group down Southeast Oak Street to discuss ways to improve bicycle traffic. Photo byJames Healy

New bicycle advocacy group aims at students, protected bikeways

From improving existing bike lanes to giving city officials suggestions on upcoming projects, a new advocacy group at the University of Minnesota is working to address cyclists’ concerns.The group is a collaboration between members of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition and the Minneapolis Public Interest Research Group. It aims to formulate plans for improving campus-area infrastructure and raise people’s awareness of bicyclists’ issues.“Our goal is to have bike infrastructure that works for students and connects them to the rest of the city,” said Daniel Lubben, an urban studies junior and co-leader of the group.He said the group is focusing on several bike projects that city officials are pushing forward in the coming years, including the Oak Street Southeast Bikeway — a city-funded project that will begin construction this year. The project will create a bike path along the west side of the street. According to a city report, the road carries more than 1,100 bicyclists a day.The group met earlier this month to discuss the new bikeway and examine its potential problems.“It is important to get the earliest generations of bike lanes correct,” said Steve Sanders, the University’s alternative transportation manager.Sanders suggested the group discuss challenges the new bike lane could pose at the busy intersection of Washington Avenue and Oak Street.Lubben said members of the bike coalition asked him and Bailey Shatz-Akin, an environmental science policy and management junior, to lead the bike advocacy group.Shatz-Akin said the group will also focus on proposing updates to the Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan, a plan aimed at improving bicyclists’ safety and increasing the amount of them in the city.She said the group will analyze the plan and offer suggestions to city officials.About 30 students and bike advocates showed up for the group’s first meeting on March 12. Laura Kling, Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition’s community organizer, said the turnout represents the high amount of involvement people have in cyclists’ issues on campus.Among those who attended the meeting was Rob DeHoff, owner of Varsity Bike and Transit in Dinkytown.DeHoff said he hopes the group can expand on existing bike projects in the University’s area, like the 15th Avenue Southeast bike lane.Chris Stanley, a neuroscience sophomore and member of the group, said the group’s goals will ultimately benefit everyone traveling in the campus area.“We’re a community of people who want to improve the way our street systems work by making it friendly for both cars and bikes,” he said.[See original post here: http://mndaily.com/news/campus/2015/04/08/new-group-rides-student-bicyclists] Continue Reading

36thlynrefuelstationcanopy-blog

36 Lyn Refuel Station in Minneapolis saves big with LED lighting improvements

The Clean Energy Resources Teams (CERTs) is spearheading a statewide campaign,Light Up Your Station & Save, to help convenience stores reduce energy and maintenance costs and improve their businesses with LED lighting. We spoke with Lonnie McQuirter, owner of the 36 Lyn Refuel Station at 36th Street & Lyndale Avenue in south Minneapolis.  Joel Haskard: Why did you decide to upgrade your canopy lights to LEDs?We have been familiar with LED technology for some time. However, price and financial incentives as well as the long-term reliability of LED lights became clear to us a couple years ago (2013). I was tired of pulling out our 24-foot ladder in the brisk winters to change out our old metal halide bulbs. The ballasts, which use even more energy beyond the bulb itself, also were a pain to deal with.Joel Haskard: Have you seen a reduction in your energy bills?Lonnie McQuirter: We have seen a significant reduction in our energy bills, despite us using our current lights for longer periods than we had with the old metal halide bulbs. Continue Reading

A taxi in Minneapolis; image from City Pages.

Uber protests have precedent

Uber, a ride-sharing business that has been in the Twin Cities since October 2012, is protesting a proposed bill that would require its drivers to have additional insurance coverage.  To be exact, the bill would require online ride-hailing companies to cover their business’ vehicles with $1 million insurance policies.  Current Uber policies do not cover accidents in which the other driver is uninsured, but its drivers are constantly at a high risk for traffic accidents — they’re driving in unknown areas while looking at their phones for directions.  However, Mike White, the general manager of Uber, believes the bill would be both unfair and unreasonable, saying it may cost the state jobs. There is now an online petition against it, and many Uber drivers rallied outside the Capitol last Thursday. Officials on both sides are nearing a compromise, but it’s likely this back-and-forth will continue. Despite Uber’s protests, the bill, which is now out of contention in favor of a different measure, wasn’t unprecedented or out of reach. The required insurance policy mentioned in the Minnesota Legislature is almost identical to the policies that limousine and taxi companies pay. Furthermore, Utah passed a similar bill last week, and Uber announced that the policy was acceptable. Continue Reading

The Midway Murals logo

Murals Bridge Divides on Snelling Avenue, Saint Paul’s Busiest Street

[At right: Snelling Avenue sidewalks. Photo by Bill Lindeke.]Snelling Avenue is one of the busiest streets in Minnesota, but it’s also one of the most overlooked: narrow sidewalks, aging buildings, and the steady stream of traffic filled with drivers that never seem to notice the rich diversity of the neighborhood around them.This summer, the Midway Murals project, which one a coveted Knight Arts Grant last year, will try to change that. Jonathan Oppenheimer, who wrote the grant for the murals project, is trying to bring together neighbors, business owners, and skilled public artists to bridge both the physical barrier of Snelling’s high-speed traffic and the cultural barriers around different immigrant and non-immigrant communities. The project, which just reached its goal of raising $22,000 from the community,I met Oppenheimer at the Midway Murals official launch at the Turf Club last month, and recently asked him a few questions about goals of the innovative public art project. Snelling Avenue is undergoing a big construction project this summer that will widen the sidewalks and attempt to calm traffic north of University Avenue and around Interstate 94. Continue Reading

Image: A artist's rendition of the Zip Rail.

Who’s got a ticket to ride on private Zip Rail?

While a private entity calling itself the North American High Speed Rail Group LLC has declared itself the private organization that’s going to raise capital and build the Zip Rail, a nonstop high speed rail line between the Twin Cities and Rochester, the group has been reluctant to share much about its corporate structure or backers.In an email exchange with Bluestem Prairie, the group’s Chief Strategy Officer Wendy Meadley declined to share information via email about the group’s corporate structure, the CEO’s bio, and the group’s plan to elevate the Zip Rail tracks to accommodate agriculture.  “At this time we are not publicly displaying the type of information you are requesting, but we are happy to respond,” Meadley wrote.We’ve done a bit of research, hoping to learn more. This is what we’ve come across so far.CEO: Joe SperberThe Rochester Post Bulletin’s Heather Carlson reported in Long road ahead for private rail developer:During an interview after the meeting, North American’s CEO and president, Joe Sperber, said the company believes it can do something that has never been done in the United States before —privately build and operate a high-speed rail system. The key to making the plan a success is that it would not rely simply on the rail. Instead, Sperber said the project would including economic development tied into the project.Who is Joe Sperber?  He appears to be a resident of Stillwater who was CEO of HexFuel.  Finance and Commerce reported in HexFuel gets state grant for Hastings facility:Maplewood-based startup HexFuel is getting a $740,000 grant from the Minnesota Job Creation Fund to help with a new manufacturing facility in Hastings that is expected to employ 150 people within three years, according to a Department of Employment and Economic Development news release.HexFuel makes a device that can be installed on diesel engines to make them more efficient. The BoostBox H2 breaks down water into hydrogen and oxygen and uses the gases to improve combustion, which increases fuel efficiency, reduces emissions and enhances performance.The company is investing $10 million to open a plant for manufacturing the devices. Continue Reading