Frogtown Neighborhood Program: Promoting Sustainable Transportation with Youth Leadership

by: Emma Pachuta, St. Paul Smart Trips
October 9, 2013

St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood is one of the most socially and economically diverse neighborhoods in the Twin Cities. The neighborhood is already well-served by transit, which is about to get better with the introduction of the Green Line along University Avenue and improved transit service in the surrounding community. Most neighborhoods that are well-served by transit correlate with high walking and biking rates, however, according to the U.S. census data, Frogtown has low rates of walking and biking, both for transportation and leisure.

Through extensive outreach and organizing in the community, we found that local barriers to bicycling and walking include:

  • High crime rates and safety concerns
  • Inability to afford a bicycle and/or theft of bicycles
  • Lack of adequate street and alleyway lighting
  • Few walking and biking connections across major roads
  • A belief that biking is not for this community
  • Large families with many children, making it harder to walk and/or bike as a family
  • Lack of clarity around how the Green Line will benefit their community

St. Paul Smart Trips works to make sustainable transportation the safe and easy choice in St. Paul through several program areas. Our past Neighborhoods Program has been successful in three different neighborhoods of St. Paul in the past five years, but in 2011 we started to look at the Frogtown neighborhood for the next iteration of our program.

We found that Frogtown residents were interested in addressing many of these barriers, but because we are an outside organization, neighbors might be less willing to hear our message. Based on this feedback, we changed our program model dramatically. We decided to focus on increasing biking and walking in the neighborhood through resident youth-led outreach, as opposed to our traditional staff-led programs of the past. We forged a partnership with the Kitty Anderson Youth Science Center to hire twelve staff members (ten youth, two adults), all from the Frogtown neighborhood, to plan and implement an outreach program, and with the Frogtown Neighborhood Association, which had already been working with residents on many issues that affect walking and biking. Through this partnership, we have empowered neighborhood youth to engage with neighbors around sustainable transportation issues and projects. This work in 2013 will ultimately lead to on-the-ground youth-led community outreach in 2014.

The Frogtown youth crew began work in 2012, hosting community events and talking to neighbors about their active transportation attitudes and behaviors. Our youth crew was recently highlighted in this video, created by Eric Lemke at the Met Council. We have partnered with several programs and organizations within the community, like Cycles for Change and the Friendly Streets Initiative, to help our youth learn about “content, careers and community” topics related to sustainable transportation. Our youth will also be working to complete outreach along Charles Avenue Bike Blvd, door-knocking for a petition to get a four-way stop at a dangerous intersection and host a transportation forum called “Forum For Us” on November 2nd.

We’ve also positioned the youth, the program and active transportation in the neighborhood for long-term success by partnering with the Frogtown Neighborhood Association in several ways. Already, the Frogtown Neighborhood Association has:

  • Elected two of our youth to their Board of Directors
  • Committed to updating the transportation chapter of their small-area transportation plan, with an increased focus on walking, biking and transit, in collaboration with the youth
  • Committed to apply for a capital improvement grant in 2015 for infrastructure changes in Frogtown
  • Actively looked for future job opportunities within the organization for Frogtown Neighborhood Program youth

These partnerships are designed to help the youth inform community projects they design in 2014 for the Neighborhoods program. These projects may take a number of different forms: from grassroots outreach to engagement around improvements in infrastructure or commissioning public art. The key to any of these outreach strategies is that they are designed by the community, for the community.

Working in tandem with the Frogtown Crew, the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center's evaluation team will host focus groups and interviews with Frogtown residents to help inform future outreach. The evaluation team will measure the program's impact by having each youth crew member survey attitude and behavior changes of residents within a three-block radius of their house, allowing each youth crew member to individually engage with their neighbors around walking and biking issues, events and projects. Finally, the evaluation team will measure the youth's knowledge of sustainable transportation topics, change in attitudes and behaviors around transportation and their impact on friends and family.

Ultimately, by having Frogtown youth design and implement our outreach program, our goal is to equip them to become leaders in their neighborhood now and for years to come. We also aim to successfully engage the neighborhood and create stronger interest in bicycling and walking among family members, friends, local organizations and neighbors.

Funding for this program is provided by the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative; Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota; Bike Walk Twin Cities, a program of Transit for Livable Communities; and Youth Job Corps.