2018-01-05

Eight Biggest Twin Cities Urban Mistakes of 2017

[Just like it was before, only more shiny.]
There are lots of reasons to celebrate 2017, good things that happened like the pair of short-but-sweet curb-separated bikeways in both downtowns, lots of new housing projects replacing parking lots or other urban marginalia, new transit plans, and pedestrian / sidewalk improvements galore.

But let’s have some fun and bash some stuff instead. I was brainstorming this list while on a walk the other day. Perhaps you have something to add?

Caveat on the rules here: “errors of omission” don’t count. You can’t say, for example, “Minneapolis didn’t get rid of all parking minimums” or “Saint Paul didn’t build a bike lane on X Street.” Let’s focus instead on things that were actually done (or killed) over the past year.


#8. Nicollet Mall re-opens with buses and without a skyway connection


Some might disagree here, but I think it’s a mistake to re-make Nicollet Mall as a transit hybrid instead of a people-centered place. The design doesn’t really fix the main problem with downtown Minneapolis, which is the so-called skyway paradox. (Key problem: the lack of doorways, shops, stores on the street.)

And keeping buses on the street prevents it from truly being a café-centered place, where people could enjoy sidewalks and car-free spaces without having the noise and pollution of an idling bus waiting at the ever-present stoplights.


#7. Plastic bag ban ban

The legislature made a lot of mistakes while it devolved into a junior high cafeteria food fight, but for some reason the one thing everyone could agree upon was a ban on bans of plastic bags. Yes, that’s right: pre-emption on behalf of the plastic bag lobby, of all things.

Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come.


#6. Saint Paul’s abandonment of street fees


I still think Saint Paul should find a legal basis for charging street maintenance to non-profits and (state) government entities. Just throwing everything onto the property tax is a mistake, in my book.


#5. Killing the 4th Street Market District

One-lane 4th Street in downtown Saint Paul offers a golden opportunity to improve the streetscape, public spaces, and bike/walk access at almost no cost to the city. There was a study done to look at the options for transforming this marginal “street” into a useful bike/walk space.

Though it had support, it was quietly killed, I suspect at the behest of conservative downtown property owners.


#4. Half-assing the 38th Street bike lane

You can still park in it by the Fire Roast Café in the morning. Someone told me that the owner does this out of spite. Half-assing a bike lane is neither wise nor safe, and certainly not for an extra marginal parking space for a neighborhood coffee shop.

(The same thing happened on 40th Street by Chris and Rob's, IIRC.)


#3. Bus fare hike

Speaking of Metro Transit, raising the fares is not a wise nor morally defensible move. Every day I watch people dig for change to pay for the bus. This was a big tax on those who can least afford it, while we continue to subsidize the hell out of suburban riders, not to mention the mountains of taxpayer cash that go to reducing costs and congestion for those driving around in private cars.


#2. D-line de-listing

The aBRT plans are the single most effective and affordable transit investments on the table in the Twin Cities right now. The D-line is especially important, as it serves the poorest and most transit-dependent parts of Minnesota. This should have happened yesterday, and instead it's been demoted to "wish list" status.

(This might change, because I don't think the decision has been finalized.)



#1. Southwest LRT bid fiasco / wall thing

I don’t know what went on here, or here, but neither was good and both are terrible. The fact that this line continues to get delayed is just terrible news for a project that was already a mixed bag. This is quickly becoming an albatross for the Met Council, if it hasn’t already.


That’s all I could think of.

What did I miss? What’s on your list?



[Article is from 1987. See the rest at Magrino's Twitter.]

2 comments:

Nathanael said...

I don't know what's going on in Minnesota, but here in upstate NY it is *clearly and definitively legal* to charge a street maintenance fee propotional to the amount of street frontage of a property. And not-for-profits have to pay it.

Established law. Is that what St. Paul was doing? Because if not, they should.

Alex said...

My understanding is that Minnesota courts tend to rule that cities don't have any powers that aren't expressly granted by the legislature, especially where taxation is concerned. Here in Oregon things are more loosy-goosy,perhaps like New York. It would be interesting to see a state by state comparison of municipal legislative leeway.