Creating Great Streets For the Future of St. Paul

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I’m running for city council to be a leader for the future of our city - and that means creating more inclusive neighborhoods through safer, friendlier streets and more ways to travel them. We have an opportunity to bring our city into the future through continued investments in transit, bike infrastructure, pedestrian safety, and equitable city services. This is all the more important since right now, it can sometimes literally be deadly to walk or bike to work or school in Saint Paul. It’s time for that to change, and to turn our challenges into victories that propel our city forward.

Why it Matters

Well-designed streets aren’t just safer - they’re also better for business. Major corridors in Ward 4 like Snelling, University, Marshall, Cleveland, Selby and more are the backbone of our transportation system, carrying tens of thousands of cars per day. They’re home to major transit routes like the A Line or the 21. And they’re also home to small businesses owned and operated by local residents. On these same major roads, though, walking down a street with fast-moving cars is often downright dangerous.

By improving street design with people in mind, making it easier for all travelers to cross intersections, and providing clearer marking for pedestrians and bikers, our city can increase foot traffic that flows toward local businesses and restaurants across our Ward. This keeps local shops open, helps increase our property values and strengthens our tax base, growing needed revenues to fuel future improvements and other citywide needs. Historic new attractions in our city like Allianz Field, one of the most transit-connected stadiums in the state, present further opportunities to promote visiting Saint Paul on foot, bike or train. This means more ways to support hardworking local businesses in Midway and surrounding neighborhoods, who often benefit less from foot traffic under the current reality and deserve our support. With a weaker commercial downtown system, strong neighborhood businesses are the heart of our local economy, and designing our streets for people helps more Saint Paulites experience them.

Great streets designed for people can also save our city millions of dollars. Car ownership is increasingly expensive, and through expanded transit and improvements to street design, our city can provide realistic and high-quality options for people to get around Saint Paul, saving money for residents while reducing traffic for others. Poor street design and lack of transit can also compound poverty, as working families are forced to pay hundreds of dollars a month for the asset of a car that often costs more than the wages earned from jobs they travel to. Reducing our car reliance also cuts down on exhaust, pollution, and wear and tear on our roads, which cleans up our air, preserves the life span of our streets, and saves us costly future repairs and environmental impacts.

Where We Are

Thanks to champions like my predecessor on the City Council Russ Stark, as well as the committed leadership of citizen groups and advocates like Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition, Stop For Me Campaign, Safety on Summit and more, Saint Paul has taken some significant steps forward on safer, smarter streets. The city-wide bike plan provides a clear framework for building out a network of bike routes, and deserves committed advocacy to realize its plans going forward. The safe routes to schools study, completed in partnership with Saint Paul Public Schools, MnDOT, and Ramsey County, can help make our neighborhoods more walkable for young students. Big improvements like the Capitol City Bikeway and Grand Rounds will create high-quality bike paths in our downtown and surrounding Saint Paul, while smaller projects like the Saint Anthony and Pelham bike lanes have helped connect our neighborhoods in critical ways. Community members have also rallied in support of an exciting project to connect the Twin Cities with an urban greenway spanning Minneapolis and Saint Paul. In Ward 4, our neighbors have fought hard to ensure improvements to Hamline, Cleveland, and other streets were made, as well as the crossing at Pierce Butler and Hamline. And in response to the tragic death of beloved community member Alan Grahn, who was hit by a motorist at Snelling and Summit, community members organized Safety on Summit town halls to push for immediate action.

To this point, though, a lack of dedicated funding has made every project a battle for what budget scraps are left over. We need to both dedicate city resources to match the mighty efforts of volunteer-led groups, and advocate for a culture shift that views our streets as avenues that belong to all of us, regardless of how we get around.

Moving Forward

We need community working alongside committed Council leadership to continue designing great streets across our city. Not only must we work toward a vision of inclusive, connected neighborhoods for the economic and environmental health of our future, but the fact that workers, young people, and long time residents still risk their life (and have lost them) on our streets is unacceptable. As a city councilmember, I will push for smarter, friendlier, and safer streets and the many benefits that come with them. I also believe that the users of our streets are the experts on how we can make them safer and most inclusive to everybody. I am actively open and eagerly listening to everyone’s suggestions on how we can improve them, block by block.

Dedicate Funding

To this point, our city has understandably focused efforts on projects that are already being reconstructed. Streets being torn up for repairs create obvious opportunities to also repaint new crosswalks or clearer routes for people to bike. This is cost-effective, but can also mean that more significant projects have a harder time finding space in the budget. As Councilmember, I will push for dedicated city funding for proactive safer street design to accelerate progress in each of our neighborhoods.

Pursue Greatest Return

Even with dedicated funding, it still makes sense to focus heavily on projects with the greatest benefit at the lowest cost. Continuing to redesign streets as they’re due for mill, overlay and reconstructions makes sense. So does using low-cost solutions like paint to better mark intersections and routes so cars and buses can more clearly separate themselves from walkers, wheelchair users, bikers and other pedestrians. There are plenty of streets that are wide enough to paint, mark new lanes, pilot or install bollards, and generally make things safer for everybody. Pursuing these lower-lift, high-return projects can help grow the connectedness and safety of our neighborhoods one block at a time.

Raise Needed Revenues

In addition to conserving our existing funding with smart safety priorities, we should be mindful of the high relative costs of designing primarily for cars without designing for the public costs to our streets they incur over time. We should study stretches of streets across our city where targeted parking meters and strategies to modernize them make sense to pursue. Metered parking, and other ways to raise up to millions for great streets, can help encourage turnover, improve customer flow for local businesses, promote alternatives like biking and walking to popular destinations, save on road repairs, and protect the environment. Reasonable opportunities exist to capture additional funds that help all of us use our streets more safely. As Councilmember, I will look for these opportunities.

Invest in Rides for All

More public options for getting around our city is better for everyone, period - from SUV drivers to unicyclers. I would be excited to advocate for the expansion of NiceRide bikes - or other shared bikes - across our city (NiceRide bikes currently only have 50 stations compared to 150 in Minneapolis). To mitigate some of the costs of dock-based bike programs, I am eager to also explore dockless bike programs for Saint Paul, including how we can ensure this resource is available equally across our city and in an organized manner. I will advocate to county, state and federal partners for funding to expand bus service within Saint Paul in addition to nearby suburbs and other cities. I am proud to live along the Green Line, a transit accomplishment decades in the making, and will continue to advocate for other local transit options that connect our community.
 

Strengthen basic equitable city services

Too many in our city still experience challenges around basic city services like snow removal or pothole repair. Being snowed in or snagged on a rough spot can mean the difference between functional daily life or significant economic setback for so many individuals and families across our city. Seniors, working families, and people who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices to get around are even more impacted by these setbacks and deserve to be a central priority for people-designed streets - not an afterthought or “nice to have”. I will work actively with community to uphold equitable city services for all, no matter how they get around our city or where they’re trying to get to.

Connect the dots

We need to fill the gaps and better connect our existing routes to one another. We also need to be attuned to how our street design and transit options interact with other policies. Zoning our neighborhoods to allow more housing along existing routes, and adding transit options that connect housing to jobs, can multiply the benefits of these projects. By contrast, development like the Starbucks drive-thru creates high-cost spillover and traffic that make intersections dangerous for everybody. As Councilmember, I will work to thoughtfully connect housing and economic development priorities to transit and street safety so that we can sustain our city for generations.

Celebrate our streets

 As the veins that run through city, we should view our streets as ours, and work to define them in the spirit of our neighborhoods through art, greenery and celebration. Community gatherings like Open Streets can bring us together, promote exciting local businesses and artistry, and build our sense of civic pride  and city identity. Street murals and painting projects throughout Midway and other neighborhoods tell the story of our city and and employ local creatives to design them. Neighborhoods where park space is more scarce can benefit from tree planting and other urban greenery along medians and sidewalks. I will work hard to support our streets, and I will also advocate with community partners to do all we can to uplift and celebrate them.