Posts Tagged ‘Transit’

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SIZING UP THE CITY

September 9, 2013

Today the STRIB launched a four part series entitled “SIZING UP THE CITY”.  The first topic focused on the relatively new “return to the city” population growth after years and years of exodus to the burbs.  The series was positioned in conjunction with the upcoming mayoral race here in Minneapolis.

However, the STRIB editorials are not a method of exploring the positions of candidates.  “Instead, the Editorial Board will use the recommendations already gathered on how best to address job creation, growth-friendly transit, and disparities in education, income, housing and health to question candidates on their positions.”  GOOD THINKING, Editorial Board – I commend you! 

As most of you know, I have an interest in cities.  I studied Urban Planning under Doctor Borchert a long time ago-and somewhere among the archives on West Bank, there may even be some mapping projects on file that I created in that process.  And then for the next 25-30 years, I visited most of the major cities around the world before deciding no more airplanes; no more hotel rooms-despite everyplace I have been, I love Minnesota and Minneapolis the best.

 So I returned.  I have lived on campus overlooking the river, in Cedar Riverside “near” the river, in old suburbs like Hopkins and Bloomington and new growing suburbs like Eagan and Plymouth, and a couple attempts at life in Edina in between. But here in Minneapolis on East Bank overlooking the river or today, on West Bank overlooking the river is where I feel most at home.   So of course, I think it is about time that we all recognize –like I grew to understand- the potential of Minneapolis!

You also know I have spent almost 20 years as part of a group originally called The Mississippi Mile that has now emerged as the Central Minneapolis Riverfront District.  That group, driven by two dedicated persons – one from CPED and one from MPRB and a mixture of many, many private and public partners helped  create not only the district but pushed the city of Minneapolis to reconnect to its roots on the river.

In the last couple years, I turned back to those urban planning roots as I participated in several planning projects as Plan It Hennepin evolved into plans for the Cultural Corridor; the new stadium brought new life to plans for East Downtown, and as plans evolve for new transit systems and rethinking of major thoroughfares such as Washington Avenue.  Recently, I have even shared with a few of you how enticing and exciting I find the plans emerging for DMC (Destination Medical Center) in Rochester – almost enough to wonder if I should return to my original roots!

So with that long explanation, you can imagine how excited I was this morning as I simply poured over the OPINION EXCHANGE featuring “Growing Minneapolis” First in a Series.

This first editorial, entitled “Sizing up the City” began on Page One above the fold and continued on to OP2- 2 columns, full page.  Do you remember ever seeing that before?  I have not, but I settled in to read and absorb as the space devoted to this signaled the STRIB thought it Important and Worthwhile!

…..60 years of declining population from 1950 on; while the overall metro area grew.

…..In 2011 a change began.  The city grew; North Loop, University and Midtown Greenway areas      blossomed.

…..Not just empty nesters but young singles and families looking for “energetic urban lifestyles” moved      downtown.

…..Growth must continue or those who live in the city will drown in property taxes.

Using Denver, Seattle and Portland as successful examples, the STRIB editorial outlined what needs to be done:   Accept density; expand transit; solve the school problem;  control crime and the perception of crime;  keep property taxes in check; and beautify public spaces.

As I read, I was nodding my agreement – familiar with most of the issues and concepts from projects I have taken part in.  And then came this paragraph:

Accepting density also requires a change of mind-set.  Growth should be infused into all city policies.  Example: an elaborate plan for parks along the Mississippi riverfront north of downtown somehow failed to include housing.  That was a mistake. More parks aren’t much good without more people.  As University of Minnesota urban geographer John S. Adam says about urban policy: ‘Everything is related to everything else.’ ‘

Well don’t try telling that to the Above the Falls folks!  These are the same people that I was working with to design an event so they could share that new “elaborate plan” with potential partners and businesses they have targeted to provide the money to get it done for them.  They told me in no uncertain terms when I suggested a map of the new plan and an interactive exercise entitled “Imagine” that no one was allowed to imagine or give input.  The plan was approved by the city and this is what it was and how it would be developed. 

Yes I know; that is NOT how development works.  I have used the Mill City Museum several times as an example.  It was not in the first development plan nor the 30 year plan nor any revision, alteration or redo through most of the forty years of initial development on the Central Riverfront.  But the timing was right and  Nina Archibal had a vision; and the rest is history-and aren’t we glad she did?!!. 

I could not help but chuckle.  This is the group I just walked away from after giving them double the hours I quoted for the project and spending eight weeks being screamed at by uncontrollable citizen members who are also “Board members”.    Although I already was at peace over refusing to attend another meeting and taking that abuse one more time while I slowly extricated myself, it is always nice to see those responsible for one’s discomfort written up in the Star Tribune as wrong! 

Accompanying the Editorial and a background piece on how the series came about and how it was produced was a third piece entitled “Twin Cities development: A history”.  It too was a good read that ended with some sage advice praising long-range thinking over thinking short term, clinging to a familiar past.   Amen to that as well! 

I for one, am looking forward to next week’s installment…and the eventual quizzing of mayoral candidates and their thoughts on the subject!

 

 

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SECESSION, TRANSIT, and THE HOLIDAYS

November 26, 2012

THE SECESSIONISTS ISSUE….

…I fear it will never go away if after 150 years, no lessons have been learned in much of the South.  So I thoroughly enjoyed Paul Vandevelder’s article reprinted yesterday in the STRIB from the Los Angeles Times.

Those southern folks who hated Lincoln and the newly formed Republican party had almost a hundred years to “adjust” when Humphrey finally called them on their dysfunction in 1948…but it took the ‘60s Civil Rights Movement for Democrats to get rid of them as they migrated to the very Republican they originally ran from….and 150 years later, I say, we tried; now let them go.  (Well, of course, Texas will have to change their state constitution to secede…they agreed not to secede when they petitioned to join the US but apparently the100,000 plus that signed the petition to secede  this past month are not aware of that…maybe they can’t read.)

I for one am tired of supporting them…yes, many of the revolting states get more federal help than they pay in in taxes….so, let them try to pay their own way or revert back to 1861 and the world they loved so much!

Vandervelder suggests a “divorce” and proceeds to draw up a property settlement splitting the US assets….good humor, but perhaps we shouldn’t share it with them until we have built that impenetrable  BIG WALL to keep the immigrants out they keep yakking about.  We want to be able to shut the gate when they realize we have the fresh water, natural gas, low-sulfur coal, 86% of America’s venture capital and 92 % of young entrepreneurs…and of course, all that money they use for floods, tornados, hurricanes and whatever….

TRANSIT….

…Another favorite topic of mine these days.  This morning, the STRIB Editorial  addressed the impact of aging boomers on the US transport system and the creation of urban sprawl.….and what is about to happen as we boomers are less able to drive safely, find our way, and pay for the expense of cars.  A quote from “Aging in Place: Stuck Without Options” points out that our metro is in middle ground in terms of transit access for the elderly but seniors with poor transit access will number 69% of senior population by 2015 ….most of whom have made no plans for cost of transportation assistance in their retirement budgets. What once we thought was freedom and mobility – the car – becomes a problem.  For those living in the burbs, the cul de sac miles away from food, friends and medical care, one’s home becomes a prison. For some of my aging relatives and others, so does weather.  And for me, rebuilding and maintenance of infrastructure is not only a job opportunity for those unemployed, but a major cost that contributes to our nation’s debt and balance is needed.  I have long said, if you want to live isolated in the country, pay for and maintain your own roads. The Strib urges that policymakers encourage more balance in transportation and land-use…recognizing the mobility issue as well as the health of a warming planet.

Fortunately for the most part, the Millennials coming behind us are OVER trumping parents in house size and country living and put much more value in community, urban living and its advantages and so far, are not rushing to the Burbs and Exurbs.  They should be our model for urbanization, not the Traditionalists and Boomers.  I, for one, have made the move and hope it is permanent.  Except for trips to Rochester, I drive very little and now after testing a life of walking in Downtown Mpls, am trying to transition to car-free…with a little help from Hour Car and perhaps an occasional rental car to Rochester…at some point, I expect, even that will fall off in favor of train to the airport; RST limo to visit family.  

AND MY FAVORITE SEASON

A bit behind schedule, I finished decorating for the holidays yesterday.  Like most people, I guess, it is my favorite time of year….although no Santa Claus reigns at 111 Marquette.  My house is filled with crystal stars and angels of all kinds. With much less floor and display space now, I had a bit of trouble displaying all my Nativity  Scenes….and I admit, finding room for TWO trees plus me in this space was a challenge!  But in the end, I made it work….despite lacking the convenience of on-site storage, it meant several trips to off site storage – with the last six crates in my car and ready to be moved today. 

I have already delivered my holiday gift to my brother and sister-in-law, as I gave them my mom’s lamp…a prize possession but one that has not had a home since I moved downtown.  A few weeks ago, when I was in town, stopped at the store, and mentioned the space problem for displaying the lamp, I’m sure my mom was watching as her “fourth” daughter signaled how much she would love to have it.  So we installed it in the family room at Gordon’s this past weekend and driving back from Rochester, I thought how fitting that is.  As family gathers on major holidays, there Mom, too, will be-shining her light and blessings upon us all.  

 I made my annual tour of holiday decor in stores on my birthday in early November as I generally am not a shopper and want it done and off the list before others start.  As for others, we’ve dropped the gift exchange between my other brother and sister/husband that Ray lobbied for last year… and my charitable gifting is handled, so I am now free to enjoy the season without the hassle.  Fortunately  that meant I missed the insanity of Grey Thursday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday…all of which I find pretty hard to take!

As the sun streams in across the prisms of the Swarovski snowflakes and stars filling my windows, I am immersed in colorful rainbows dancing across the walls of my home.  That is, perhaps , one of things I most look forward to…as through-out the winter, they provide the energy and hope to keep me going.