“Convenient” Prison To North Minneapolis Connection Draws Boos For Rep. Newberger

 Rep. Jim Newberger (R-Becker) is against more funding for Minnesota’s North Star rail, a line that was originally supposed to go between Minneapolis and St. Cloud but has yet to be extended that far. During debate on a transportation bill Newberger said he’s against expanding the route because the tracks would go near St. Cloud’s prison.“Boy, wouldn’t that be convenient, to have that rail line going from the prison to North Minneapolis,” said Newberger. After hearing some grumbling he quickly added, “or to any section of our state.” Boos were heard in the House chamber.North Minneapolis is a neighborhood with a racially diverse population.Newberger quickly apologized for naming North Minneapolis, “but that’s what came into my mind. Continue Reading

Getting to the Green Line: Seen through the Lens of a Wheelchair User

No, I’m not in a wheelchair, but I’ve spent time walking alongside people who are, as we tested out walking and rolling routes to a couple of the Green Line stations. For me, and others who walk every day, the wheelchair user’s view offers a new lens that focuses on the challenges facing people who must navigate the walking terrain on wheels to get to the light rail station, or to any other destination.Two cars block the ramp as Rick Cardenas makes his way to the sidewalk. Photo by Carol Swenson  Now the District Councils Collaborative of Saint Paul and Minneapolis (DCC) is preparing to release a new report on a 2014 Accessibility Survey that shines a light on a number of access issues that were not addressed in planning for the Green Line. Equally important, the report identifies improvements that can still be made, after the fact, for the Green Line. And it highlights issues that need to be considered as additional light rail lines are being planned.A woman confronts the challenge of getting across the light rail tracks with her walker. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | North Minneapolis Transit Forum: SWLRT

A little after 4 pm on Wednesday April 9, the Met Council will consider a slightly revised recommendation for the scope and budget of the Southwest Light Rail Project.  When completed, the new light rail line will become the westerly length of what the Met Council has branded “The Green Line.” It will link St. Paul’s Union Station to Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie – and the hundreds of businesses and scores of communities along the line.Over the past year, major regional media has obsessed on controversies prompted by recommendations by planning engineers and SWLRT project committees of citizens, businesses and municipal, county and state officials, to route light rail along an active freight line through the so called “Kenilworth Corridor.”   Hundreds of recreational and commuter bicyclers travel through corridor between Kenwood and Cedar Lake neighborhoods every day.Teams of planners, consultants and citizens have addressed the challenges of co-locating freight, light rail and bike trails though what folks have come to think of as a recreational area.  The prospect of moving the freight trains to St, Louis Park or Chaska has now been rejected as unfeasible several times.  Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Ryback and frosh Mayor Betsy Hodges (in a SWLRT Project committee) have consistently argued against Kenilworth co-location plans called for running LRT through tunnels hidden by the bike trail and vegetation.With pinched sound bites and careless headlines, bolstered by hundreds of reader comments (caustic spitballs for the most part) in the Strib’s coverage, the Kenilworth controversy trumped all other aspects of the $1.6 billion project.  Light rail, if one only browsed Minnpost, the StarTribune and TV news one of the following:1. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | The future of Southwest Transit and light rail

Southwest Transit CEO Len SImich and progressive broadcaster Nancy Nelson discuss the future of commuter bus service and light rail transit in the southwest suburbs on the current edition of Democratic Visions.Simich says that Southwest LRT project planners and the Met Council are expected to begin negotiating terms that would enable light rail to share SW Transit’s large station, parking ramp, restaurant and condo-apartment complex wedged between Highway 212 and Technology Drive and Purgatory Creek Park, Eden Prairie’s most heavily used, non-athletic park.But those negotiations, says Simich, will only occur if the Met Council chooses to run light rail as far as or beyond Southwest Transit’s large Eden Prairie hub at Technology Drive and Prairie Center Drive.  The publicly owned bus company serves Eden Prairie, Chanhassen and Chaska.  Simich and Nelson agree that the Met Council should not attempt to diminish this award winning commuter service to provide advantage to its own, much larger Metro Transit bus service or light rail.  Carver County, Eden Prairie, Chanhassen and Chaska have passed resolutions of support for Southwest Transit’s position, but Simich reports that to date, the Met Council has shown little interest in discussing the issue with Southwest Transit.This is a direct link to the story on YouTube.Democratic Visions is produced by volunteers through DFL Senate District 48 at the Bloomington Community Access Television studio by arrangement with the Southwest Suburban Cable Commission.Cable cast times:Hopkins, Minnetonka, Edina, Richfield and Eden Prairie – Comcast Channel 15 – Sundays at 9 p.m., Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. and Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.Bloomington – BCAT Cable Channel 16 – Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.; Fridays at 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.Minneapolis – MTN Channel 16 – Sundays at 8:30 p.m.Segments of the program are posted on the web on YouTube’s Democratic Visions Channel. Continue Reading

ST. PAUL NOTES | Taking care of business on St. Paul’s Central Corridor

Construction disruption for the Green Line down University Avenue hurt the community, especially small and ethnic businesses. Old news, right? But with new Light Rail Transit, Bus Rapid Transit, and other street construction/reconstruction project moving ahead across the metro, what’s old news on University Avenue could be valuable lessons for the future of many other communities impacted by transit construction.Va-Megn Thoj, executive director of the Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA), was in the middle of the Central Corridor action. “Before construction, business mitigation was at the bottom of the list for Met Council,” he told a July 17 forum sponsored by the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability at Merriam Park Library. The Met Council said there would be no disproportionate impact on minority businesses and communities, “but we showed this was wrong.” Continue Reading

Ax-Man Surplus: In spite of light rail, a family affair

Packed into an old building at the corner of University and Fry, Ax-Man Surplus does not seem particularly noteworthy from the outside. Walking in, a potential customer is bombarded with a number of seemingly unrelated items. Several mannequins are waiting to greet the customer, dressed in whatever clothes the staff found lying around. These and a number of other goods are for sale: a crate of bowling pins, a bike, a box of umbrellas, tiny bells, garbage cans, a very-used nightstand, several rolling chairs, a giant model horse with a saddle, a giant scale, and a can crusher. And this is just walking through the entrance.Ax-Man Surplus has lasted decades on University Avenue, now surviving light rail construction with the help of a unique approach to business and a loyal customer base.It is hard to explain exactly what it is that Ax-Man sells. The website describes it as “A second home for collectors, crafters, artists, and those who love to tinker” and “home to pretty much everything you never knew you couldn’t live without.”“No two days are the same, that’s for sure. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | roadkill on the shoehorned line

Anh Trinh has operated a beauty shop at 397 University Avenue for more than 20 years.  She lives above the shop.  During the Central Corridor construction project, as bulldozing and jackhammering took place in front of her home and business, a drain pipe in Ms. Trinh’s basement sprang a leak.   According to Anh, before the construction, her drainpipe was straight.  After the construction, her basement wall sunk and bent the pipe.  When she complained, she was told that her sewer leak was not caused by the construction.Free Speech ZoneThe Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. This is an open forum for articles that otherwise might not find a place for publication, including news articles, opinion columns, announcements and even a few press releases. The opinions expressed in the Free Speech Zone and Neighborhood Notes, as well as the opinions of bloggers, are their own and not necessarily the opinion of the TC Daily Planet.Before the construction, there was room between her building and the street to pile snow.   Now, when there’s a heavy snow, it gets plowed onto the sidewalk in front of her home and business.  Due to the construction, Anh has lost a lot of business.  The customer parking in front of her shop is gone, and her shop is located in the middle of the block, so parking on nearby side streets, if available, is not a convenient option.Anh’s an optimist, a wishful thinker, a true believer.  She’s gone to the Met Council Central Corridor Project hearings in the past, and she showed up once again on January 10, 2013, hoping maybe someone will finally listen.  As Jack McCann, president of the University Avenue Business Association accurately states, the Central Corridor Project “can be summed up as dishonest and pathetic.  An honest organization (which is not the Met Council) would have openly evaluated the real effects of shoehorning a project this size onto this avenue.” Continue Reading

Ten tips for creative placemaking emerge from Get Connected! meeting in St. Paul

Have you ever wondered what creative placemaking is? A top-ten how-to list from Jill Mazullo, Envision Minnesota’s director of communications and development, reveals what it is by describing how to do it: Go where the people are.Block off the street.Make it easy for people to come.Feed people.Show pictures of what’s possible.Have people vote with post-its.Give people something to do.Have fun projects for kids and grownups.Invest people in the outcome.Use social media to your advantage.Irrigate, an artist-led creative placemaking initiative that spans the Central Corridor Light Rail line in Saint Paul, gives a more formal definition of “placemaking” as, “The act of people coming together to change overlooked and undervalued public and shared spaces into welcoming places where community gathers, supports one another, and thrives.“ Placemaking can involve temporary activities such as performances and chalked poetry, or more permanent installations such as landscaping and unique art.Connecting over placemakingCreative placemaking was the focus of the final Twin Cities Media Alliance Get Connected! community meeting, held in partnership with Envision Minnesota at St. Paul’s Chatterbox Pub on October 30. Mazullo’s list comes from a blog she wrote about the event, synthesizing the lessons of the Charles Avenue Friendly Streets group.The Get Connected! event featured opening remarks by Mazullo and Envision’s executive director Lee Helgen. Most of the evening was devoted to presentations by Hamline Midway Coalition members Lars Christensen and Erin Pavlica, and Twin Cities Media Alliance neighborhood engagement coordinator, Marcos Lopez-Carlson.Lopez-Carlson, in his presentation, illustrated how blogging, Reddit, and other new media tools can play a major role in placemaking. Continue Reading

Taking Care of Business on the Central Corridor – the good, the bad, the ugly

How could the long term impacts of light rail construction be better anticipated? What level of outreach has been successful? How we can we best help local businesses survive and thrive amidst long term construction? More than 30 community leaders and organizers focused on these questions November 21 at the Organizer Roundtable: Taking Care of Business, hosted by the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability at the Rondo Community Library.

Continue Reading

Connecting around equitable transit and safe, livable communities

The District Councils Collaborative (DCC) of St. Paul and Minneapolis is all about connecting and engaging members of communities along the Central Corridor, ensuring that residents and business owners’ voices and concerns are heard so that the new light rail green line benefits everyone. At a Twin Cities Media Alliance-sponsored Get Connected! event held on September 18, DCC’s executive director, Carol Swenson, explained that the organization has been active in environmental review processes and the Stops for Us campaign, which added three stops to the line. DCC, which represents the coming together of all St. Continue Reading