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Minneapolis Ward 13 City Council Candidate’s Stances on Transit, Biking, Walking, and Rolling

Pictured: Mike Norton

Move Minnesota and Our Streets Minneapolis have teamed up on a questionnaire for 2021 Minneapolis city council candidates to learn about their ideas and vision for the future of transportation in Minneapolis.

Access to quality transit, biking, walking, and rolling play an essential role in tackling climate change and ensuring equitable access to the opportunities and services the people of Minneapolis need to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

This questionnaire is for candidate and voter information only. Participating organizations will not be making endorsements in any Minneapolis city elections in 2021. This questionnaire was sent to all candidates, but those not listed have chosen not to respond.

Only one candidate from this ward has responded to the questionnaire.

The Responses

Question 1

What is your primary mode of transportation? How often do you ride transit?  

Mike Norton:

When biking with my wife and stepdaughter, we usually ride from our home in Lynnhurst
to either the Lake Harriet Banshell or Minnehaha Falls. We’re fortunate to live in an area
where we can take great routes like these while staying safe in mostly protected bike

Question 2

Rethinking I-94 & Environmental Justice: Climate change and pollution disproportionately affect Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Children in North Minneapolis—particularly those closest to I-94 in the 55411 & 55412 zip codes are hospitalized at rates as high as 4x compared to children in other parts of Minneapolis. During the last Minneapolis freeway reconstruction project, the city withdrew municipal consent for the I-35W reconstruction until the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Council redesigned I-35W with highway Bus Rapid Transit, resulting in the Orange Line I-35W. Currently, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is exploring reconstruction efforts for I-94 going North out of the city; what role, if any, do you see the city playing in rethinking our freeways and addressing environmental injustice and pollution from freeways? Are there specific transportation or transit efforts you would pursue to achieve this?   

Mike Norton:

One of the elements of the 2040 plan that we need to prioritize is the proposal for
freeway remediation. Redlining and racial covenants were used for decades to prevent
people of color from living in quiet, unpolluted areas of the city like Ward 13 and push
them into the areas where freeways were being built. We need to prioritize reclaiming
freeway space to reconnect those historically marginalized communities with pedestrian
bridges, green spaces, and protected bike lanes. We should be shifting away from
car-centric travel and making other forms of transit more plentiful and accessible,
especially in these currently underserved areas of the city

Question 3

Minneapolis Transportation Action Plan: State and city studies show that we will need to reduce how much people drive (“vehicle miles traveled”) to reach established emissions-reduction goals. Transportation is the #1 source of climate change pollution in Minnesota. The Minneapolis Transportation Action Plan has highlighted changing “mode split” (the shifting of car trips to transit, biking, or walking) as a critical strategy in reaching and measuring VMT reduction and in achieving overall emission reduction goals. The city now has an ambitious “mode split goal” to shift 60% of car trips to biking, walking, and transit by 2030. Despite an increase in bike and pedestrian infrastructure investments, data from the previous decade shows that VMT numbers dropped only 2% between 2007-2016.  What specific transit, biking, and walking policies and investments should the city make, if any, to achieve Transportation Action Plan mode split goals? What new or accelerated interventions, if any, do you see as appropriate for reaching VMT goals by 2050?

Mike Norton:

We’re in a climate emergency. We can and must act now to protect our air quality and
reduce our reliance on fossil fuels as a city, but we can’t do it without being realistic
about people’s needs. If we want to encourage greener transit choices, we need to make
them safe and convenient.

First, I support significantly increasing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes. BRT lines are
relatively inexpensive to build and are easy to shift and re-route as demand changes. I
also support increasing the number of dedicated bus lanes on major corridors to
increase the speed of public transit.

Second, painted lines on the side of the road should not be considered acceptable bike
lanes. Unless a 10-year old child can safely bike there, it’s really not a bike lane at all.
Bikes are a greener way to get from A to B, but it’s unrealistic to expect biking to become
a regular mode of transit if it’s not safe to bike around town. Especially with the rising
popularity of e-bikes, which make biking faster and more accessible for people with
disabilities, we should be prioritizing a robust, safe biking network in Minneapolis. We
can start by fully connecting the Grand Rounds with protected bike lanes. Then the city
should add a series of protected bike lanes linking neighborhoods to the Grand Rounds.

We also need to make streets safer for pedestrians by design. I think 20 is plenty and
support slower speeds for neighborhoods. BIPOC and elderly pedestrians are
disproportionately killed and injured by cars. When replacing old streets and sidewalks,
we have an opportunity to choose plans that put pedestrian safety at the forefront.

Widening sidewalks to make streets narrower can organically curb the feeling of open
roads and make our city easier to navigate for residents with disabilities. Beyond the
cosmetics, adding trees to the edges of those newly widened sidewalks can help calm
traffic. While some businesses may have anxiety about losing parking spaces, studies
tend to show it actually improves storefront traffic.

One concrete action we can take right now is to redesign Hennepin Avenue with greener
forms of transportation in mind. I support design option 1, which will add a fully protected
two-way bike lane and dedicated bus lanes to Hennepin Avenue, and I encourage all
residents to do the same.

Question 4

Bottineau/Blue Line Extension: This LRT project was deemed unworkable on its currently planned route on BNSF right-of-way. However, there is still substantial interest in a Bottineau project because transportation connects people to social activity, economic opportunity, educational institutions, healthy food, and critical health services. North Minneapolis has been historically underserved by transit compared to other parts of the city; however, there are also community concerns from North Minneapolis residents of displacement and gentrification surrounding the Blue Line extension project and transit-oriented development. 

What policies or programs, if any, should the city implement to ensure the success of major transit investments for both current and future communities along the line?

Mike Norton:

The Twin Cities have a long history of pushing marginalized communities out of their
homes and disrupting thriving BIPOC neighborhoods for the sake of major infrastructure
projects. We have had plenty of time to learn from the effects of these practices and
have no excuse for repeating this pattern again with this LRT project. Gentrification is a
complex problem that needs a multifaceted approach to prevent, intervene in, and
ameliorate its effects.

The first priority needs to be making sure current North Minneapolis residents can stay in
their homes. I support the proposed rent stabilization charter amendment and passing
an ordinance that caps rent increases at single-digit percentages. We also need to pass
the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), which would give renters the right of
first refusal to purchase their home when the property owner decides to sell.

BIPOC communities are also disproportionately affected by property taxes, as these
areas tend to be overvalued, while whiter, wealthier areas tend to be undervalued. We
have protections for this in place but we need to do a better job of proactively
communicating with residents to let them know that they have the legal right to contest
their property taxes if they believe their property has been overvalued. I would also
advocate for supporting landlords who participate in rent control programs by offering a
matching cap on their property tax increases.

We should also raise the city minimum wage to $20 per hour to match Hennepin
County’s internal wage floor. We fought hard for $15, but that was just a start. The most
recent numbers from MIT’s living wage calculator
show that no individual can afford to
live above the poverty line in Hennepin County on a $15 wage.

Most important, all city departments involved in the Blue Line Extension project need to
work closely with the communities who will be affected. There are already excellent local
organizations doing the work to help keep communities intact and thriving through
individual outreach services and policy proposals. We need to actively seek out their
input, listen to our most marginalized residents every step of the way, and be willing to
change plans based on their feedback.

Question 5

Hennepin Avenue: The City of Minneapolis is currently considering several design options for the stretch of Hennepin Avenue that runs between Lake Street and Franklin Avenue. The currently proposed design options for Hennepin Avenue include bus lanes, two-way traffic, and loading and parking zones; one option includes bike infrastructure, and the other design includes street greening.

On streets like Hennepin Avenue—which are key commercial corridors, have dense housing nearby, and have limited space to work with—what approach, if any, should the city take in balancing current and long-term needs for our transportation networks?

Mike Norton:

I support the city’s proposed option 1 for redesigning Hennepin Avenue, which includes
a fully protected two-way bike lane and dedicated bus lanes to meet both existing and
future transportation needs.

After this redesign is complete, it will likely be 50 years before we have the next
opportunity to make big improvements. The reality is, we’re in a climate emergency.
Reducing the miles traveled by car is one of the most important actions we can take to
prevent the worst effects of global warming. We need to make it safer and easier for
residents to choose other forms of transportation.

Biking is one of the best ways to navigate a city and the rising popularity of e-bikes is
making it even faster and more accessible for people with disabilities. I worry about my
stepdaughter riding her bike on streets like 50th, where only a line of paint separates her
from traffic. In the Netherlands their goal is to make it safe for any biker from age 8 to 80,
and that level of safety is something we should strive for in Minneapolis. We can’t expect
anyone to feel safe riding on streets like Hennepin Avenue in its current configuration,
where some people don’t even feel safe driving, let alone biking or walking.

Our climate can’t wait another 50 years一Minneapolis needs to make real investments in
safe and convenient biking and pedestrian-friendly streets now and that should start with
Hennepin Avenue.

Question 6

Bus Priority: Transit operations cross multiple jurisdictions of government. Metro Transit manages bus operations and service schedules. The city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County have authority over most of the streets Metro Transit Buses run through; and, the city also has control of the stoplights within city limits. 

What improvements, if any, should the city be pursuing to improve speed and reliability for Minneapolis transit riders? How do you see the city, Metro Transit, and Hennepin County collaborating to improve bus service? 

Mike Norton:

If we’re serious about reducing carbon emissions and becoming a more sustainable and
accessible city, buses need to play an greater role in our transportation system. Busing
should be a premier form of transit in Minneapolis一quicker and easier than driving a car.
I support expanding the number of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines to make it easier to
access all corners of our city. I also support increasing the number of dedicated bus
lanes on major corridors and incorporating other strategies to increase the speed and
reliability of our bus system, including priority traffic signals for buses.

Question 7

Parking Policy: The City of Minneapolis recently eliminated parking minimums; however, the city approved both a multi-thousand Allina parking ramp and proposed a parking plan for the Roof Depot site with spots for nearly every employee or visitor to travel by car, which is not in alignment with the city’s mode shift goals as cited in the TAP.

What role do you think the city should play, if any, in reducing parking to meet mode shift goals?

Mike Norton:

I support the Council’s recent decision to eliminate parking minimums along with the
other parking and mobility goals outlined in the 2040 plan. Changing everyday
behaviors, like our reliance on cars, is hard. But it’s growing more necessary by the day
to combat the increasing effects of climate change.

Instead of focusing on what eliminating the parking minimum could take away, we need
to seriously commit to what benefits we as a City will offer residents in exchange. We
need to replace unnecessary parking spaces with new green infrastructure: protected
bike lanes, more buses that travel more quickly and reliably, wider sidewalks, better
snow removal, and beautiful green spaces. Reducing parking minimums and unused
parking spaces also increases the quantity and variety of housing and retail space,
making rents more affordable and streets more walkable. We can’t eliminate our reliance
on cars overnight. But it’s past time that we question car-centric assumptions in all future
development and commit to a city that works for every person and every mode of transit.

Question 8

Traffic Enforcement: A recent article in the Star Tribune found that 78% of police searches that started as stops for moving or equipment violations from June 2019 through May 2020 were of Black or East African drivers. Also, in 2016, Our Streets Minneapolis published a report that suggests black bicyclists face greater threats of police violence than white bicyclists, especially for small infractions like failure to use a light or riding on the sidewalk.

What role should the city play, if any, in changing or maintaining how minor traffic violations are enforced? or maintaining how minor traffic violations are enforced?

Mike Norton:

Minor traffic violations do not require a response by an armed police officer. As
mentioned in the question, traffic violations are inconsistently enforced and tend to target
people of color, which further increases their chances of being subject to police violence
or becoming involved in the justice system for minor issues like being unable to pay a
ticket. The data shows that these stops also do not reduce crime.

I support ending pretext traffic stops entirely and investing in a team of unarmed traffic
enforcement staff to respond to minor incidents with a focus on community safety, not
making arrests. We can start this process by passing the public safety charter
amendment to create a Department of Public Safety with an appointed Commissioner
who could oversee this division alongside the police department and make adjustments
to policy as needed.

Question 9

Snow Removal: Sidewalks that are inadequately shoveled create both risks and barriers for pedestrians and transit riders. We also know that the risks and barriers aren’t experienced equally– with Minneapolis senior citizens and community members with disabilities being the most impacted by neglected sidewalks in the wintertime. 

What changes, if any, would you advocate for in how our city addresses snow and ice removal from sidewalks during winter?

Mike Norton:

Clearing sidewalks should be handled at the city level. Requiring residents to shovel
sidewalks places a high burden on citizens with mobility issues and snow-covered
sidewalks can be dangerous for everyone. Placing snow shoveling under city control will
mean sidewalks are cleared faster and we can have a say in the type of salt and
chemicals used in the ice prevention process.

Question 10

Bike, Walk, Roll: What actions, if any, will you take to make Minneapolis better for biking, walking, and rolling by the end of your term, if you are elected?

Mike Norton:

One of the great things about coming into elected office right now is there are already a
lot of excellent people and advocacy groups with ideas for a safer, more efficient, and
more sustainable city. I have discussed my personal priorities above, but I look forward
to hearing what else we can and should be doing better. I plan to be a highly visible and
accessible leader in ward 13 who collaborates with council members and residents all
over the city. If you have thoughts on my answers above, or other priorities I should be
considering, please reach out and let me know

Thank you to the candidates for their responses to the questionnaire.

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