By Funders Collaborative, January 19, 2012
Building light rail infrastructure is a major feat unto itself, but as Central Corridor stakeholders are well aware, doing so is only half of the task. Planning for connections to and from the light rail is of equal importance. Can people easily access the line? How do we ensure their safety? Are connections convenient and timely? Are we addressing the needs of the local community? How can we best maximize opportunities to create welcoming places to live, shop and work?
On January 12, Funders Collaborative members and Central Corridor bicycle, pedestrian, and transit stakeholders came together to discuss “Connections to the Central Corridor” as part of the Funders Collaborative’s first Learning Session of 2012. The event was hosted by the Funders Collaborative, in partnership with the Metropolitan Council, the City of St. Paul and Transit for Livable Communities.
During the session, attendees learned about transit connections, infrastructure connections, and ‘programming’ connections to the Central Corridor, including several dozen efforts currently planned or underway. 40% of all riders are expected to use transit to access the line, and 60% will be bikers and pedestrians, according to John Levin with Metro Transit, highlighting that planful connections are critical to the line’s success.
While different types of connection planning are underway across cities, there are consistencies in the work taking place along the Central Corridor, as learned from presentations featuring John Levin (Metro Transit), Jessica Rosenfeld (St. Paul Planning and Economic Development), Shaun Murphy and Haila Maze (City of Minneapolis Public Works and Community Planning and Economic Development, respectively), and Joan Pasiuk (Transit for Livable Communities).
- Even outside of the Central Corridor, there is an immense amount of work already taking place to plan for bicycle, pedestrian, and transit connections (Presentation materials with examples are included below).
- Community input is crucial to success. One example where extensive community engagement is taking place is Metro Transit’s Central Corridor Transit Services Study, which seeks to maximize efficiency and effectiveness of bus service in and around the corridor. For this study, Metro Transit will expand upon its tradition community input practices and incorporate the Trusted Advocate Outreach model in partnership with the District Councils Collaborative of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. This model outreach effort will hire community members to directly engage their neighbors.
- Extensive planning has been done by both cities for bicycle and pedestrian connections to and from the Corridor. Implementation of these plans is well underway, but it will take time to fully realize the plans. Often, route improvements are easier and less expensive to implement if they are incorporated into other projects or improvements already in the works. For example, adding on-street bike lanes to roads that are being repaved or restriped requires minimal effort to make a big difference. Similarly, bridges being built or rebuilt can add a bike/pedestrian path for minimal incremental cost, especially when compared to the cost of building a completely separate structure.
- Safety is a primary concern across all connection modes. From traffic planning to countdown timers to clear signage to pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and ramps, planners are working to ensure the safest access possible in and around the Corridor.
- Given extensive plans and limited resources, each presenter talked about how they prioritize projects along the Corridor. When asked about how cities make decisions, Saint Paul City Council Member Russ Stark suggested that it’s necessary to be both planful (including setting strategic priorities) and opportunistic (being able to take advantage of opportunities as they arise).
During the discussion, participants raised areas of opportunity (where they might work together), in addition to raising questions that remain open.
- How do we fill in the connection “blanks”? For example, how can cities, businesses and communities leverage opportunities like Nice Ride or HOURCAR to help bridge gaps?
- When implementing bicycle and pedestrian connections: what are the essential elements versus elements that make a great place? What is the mechanism to make sure that great placemaking occurs?
- How do we get choice riders to think that they are a part of transit?
- How do we change the conversation to think about how much cars cost versus what transit costs? (Ex: parking becomes a commodity, not an expectation.)
- Can this be the corridor that changes how families use transit? Can we create an easy, safe and enjoyable experience, perhaps even enabling families to build wealth (eliminating the need for an extra car)?
- While cities are creating locally relevant strategic plans, how do we begin creating a regional plan that can guide all of our work and allow us to tap into Federal funding?
Participants recognized while there are still gaps to fill and work to be done, the Central Corridor stakeholders are well down the path to creating workable and inviting connections that will enable people to access the new light rail line by transit, bicycle or on foot.
January 13, 2012 Learning Session Materials