Minneapolis Ward 2 City Council Candidates’ Stances on Transit, Biking, Walking, and Rolling
From Left to Right: Yusra Arab, Cam Gordon, Robin Worlobah
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.
All candidate responses are listed in alphabetical order last name basis.
What is your primary mode of transportation? How often do you ride transit?
Yusra marked that they use transit 2-3 times a month
I have several regular pedestrian, bicycle, and transit routes.
As a pedestrian, I often walk from my house the few blocks to the Seward Coop, and other businesses near my home on Franklin Avenue. I also walk to nearby Riverside Park.
As a bicyclist, I have a number of routes that work well for me. To get to City Hall from my home, I ride up Riverside Avenue, cross Cedar (where Riverside becomes 4th St S), turn left onto 15th Ave S, and then take the Hiawatha Trail into downtown, where the Hiawatha extension connects down to 3rd St S. I also frequently bike across the river on the new Franklin Avenue bridge. As a transit rider, I most often take the 67, the 3, the 21, and the Green and Blue lines.
I take the blue and green line to the Mall and to St. Paul.
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?
We need a leader who will commit to taking a proactive stance in advocating on behalf of our BIPOC communities and advocating for cleaner environments. Decisions made at this level all too often have real life consequences for the people without a seat at the bargaining table, and the effects can be devastating to our families and our communities. I am prepared to do everything in my power to be the voice that our ward needs by advocating for investment in accessible public transit to reduce reliance on individual vehicles in our neighborhoods, and to expand the viability of shorter, greener commuter routes within the city. I will work to bring our state-level officials to the table so that our concerns can be addressed with clarity through the most expedient channels, and I will work to expand environmental education in my and other communities to equip our next generation of advocates with all the tools they need to fight for environmental justice in their communities.
I believe the City has a major role to play in ensuring that MnDOT’s Rethinking I-94 project lives up to its promise, and that it begins to undo some of the harm that freeways have done to our communities. As you note, that harm has fallen disproportionately on communities of color.
This is why I led the effort, with Sierra Club Northstar Chapter and my colleague Jamal Osman, to get the Council to unanimously adopt the Rethinking I-94 Resolution, which folks can find here: https://lims.minneapolismn.gov/Download/MetaData/19737/2020R-391_Id_19737.pdf. The first “resolved” clause states that “the City of Minneapolis strongly opposes the repair or reconstruction of l-94 in its current form and categorically rejects any roadway expansion within its boundaries or any right-of-way expansion.” It goes on to lay out my vision for the project and the corridor, which includes a Bus Rapid Transit lane, mitigating the many negative impacts on surrounding communities, planning for the vehicle miles traveled reduction we need to achieve, connecting people walking and biking across the freeway safely and conveniently, building the Midtown Greenway connection to Ayd Mill Road, reducing crash injuries and deaths, and prioritizing healthy, safe, affordable, accessible, and equitable mobility. I will also note that the Racial Impact Equity Analysis for this resolution was prepared by my staff, and lays out a very strong racial equity case for why the City of Minneapolis should fight for an authentic rethinking of I-94: https://lims.minneapolismn.gov/File/RacialEquity/7077.
I also led the effort to add Policy 48, Freeway Remediation, to the 2040 Plan. Folks can find that policy, which my office wrote and I added by an amendment to the Plan, here: https://minneapolis2040.com/policies/freeway-remediation/. It states, in part, that “the City will seek to accomplish the following action steps to recover and repurpose space taken by construction of the interstate highway system in Minneapolis and use it to reconnect neighborhoods and provide needed housing, employment, greenspace, clean energy and other amenities consistent with City goals.” I have been the Council’s strongest advocate for undoing the harm that freeways have caused our communities. I will continue to lead on this.
Let me start by saying that in all transportation matters, I feel that we must center two things in our decision making processes: (1) moving towards transportation equity and inclusion and (2) planning for climate resiliency. All of my answers are informed by these critical aspects of improving our transportation planning and policy. The built environment is not neutral: it either exacerbates inequity or supports social and economic cohesion. We are now seeing the devastating impacts of a changing climate every day, so we must act now to plan for resiliency.
For decades, the expansion of highways and freeways through urban neighborhoods across this country (in concert with the FHA’s approved practice of redlining and racial covenants) has torn apart BIPOC communities at disproportionately higher rates than white communities. Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, New York City and others all have their own version of what happened to the Rondo community here in the Twin Cities. The City of Minneapolis has an incredible opportunity (and I believe an appetite) to change the way transportation planning and policy is done. We must center real community inclusion in these processes if we want to create a transportation system that works for everyone, regardless of age, ability, income level, zip code or car ownership status. That means elevating and sharing power with the voices of the communities who face the most direct and indirect impacts.
MNDOT is not doing enough to gather public input. Their last virtual Policy Advisory Committee that was open to the public was held on July 30th and there was only 15 minutes for Q&A at the end of the meeting. That is a weak attempt at public input. A strong approach requires public outreach, engagement, and listening sessions with as few barriers to participation as possible. A good first step is to hold these events in public parks, church parking lots—any outdoor place where groups can gather and food can be served, at multiple days and times throughout the decision-making process. Too often, public engagement happens at times and locations that are inconvenient, if not impossible, for working-class people with families and jobs to attend.
Rethinking I94 is an opportunity to reduce car dependence and encourage more equitable and sustainable forms of transportation such as Bus Rapid Transit and even Light Rail Train expansion. Car dominance and freeway expansion must end now. Why do we continue sinking massive sums of public money into a form of transportation that has des
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?
I believe our city has a few steps at its immediate disposal to increase the viability of cleaner transportation options. To start, we are long overdue for a serious attempt at investing in public transit. By exploring new routes to accommodate for our growing communities we have a shot at expanding the availability of more environmentally friendly options in a way that meets the needs of people of every income bracket. As we rebuild our infrastructure we should do so with an eye towards standardizing layouts that emphasize safer bicycle traffic, expanding the use of transit priority lanes to increase the reliability of public transit, and exploring new methods of encouraging current single occupancy commuters to switch. In addition, we should look into fostering diverse local economies by investing strategically in our small businesses so that people’s needs can be met within walking distance of their neighborhoods, regardless of their economic background.
I strongly supported the Transportation Action Plan, which builds on past work I have led, including the adoption of our Complete Streets policy. That policy established, for the first time, a priority for people walking, biking, and taking transit over automobiles. I also pushed for our Climate Action Plan to include a VMT reduction goal, and believe that the TAP has strengthened that goal and made it more specific and actionable.
In order to meet our aggressive VMT reduction goal, we need to make it easier, safer, more comfortable and more convenient to choose to walk and roll, bike, take transit, and telecommute.
This starts with creating “complete neighborhoods,” through our land use and built form rules. If people can meet their basic needs in their neighborhoods by walking or biking a short distance, this will reduce car trips. I proudly supported the 2040 Plan, and to my knowledge I am the only candidate in this race to publicly support the Plan. Since its passage, I have authored multiple ordinances to implement it, including the changes to the zoning code that allow duplexes and triplexes in all neighborhoods, with density bonuses for public and affordable housing and sustainable buildings. I also authored ordinances allowing Accessory Dwelling Units citywide, and re-legalizing Single Room Occupancy. I will continue to push for creating complete neighborhoods.
We need to finish the work that the City has begun to create a network of Mobility Hubs. My vision is that every person in Minneapolis will live within a short walk of a node where they can find bike share, electric car share, fast and reliable transit, and other shared mobility options.
And we need to look at the specific improvements we can make for each mode.
For walking and rolling: we need to ensure that our sidewalks are usable in all neighborhoods and in all seasons. We need to provide more amenities for people walking – things like seating and drinking fountains. During the pandemic, the City turned off nearly all of the pedestrian actuators for streetlights, and gave pedestrians a walk signal every cycle; we should make that change permanent. And we should ensure that new buildings improve our streetscape and enhance the experience of people walking.
For biking: we should fully and quickly build out the protected bikeway and All Ages and Abilities networks. I helped lead the fight – and it was a fight – to get our Public Works department to embrace protected bikeways. I believe that fully building out this network will not only improve the safety and comfort of current bicyclists, but get more people biking for transportation. We also need to ensure that electric bicycle share is available in all neighborhoods, because it can draw people to biking who might not otherwise. I strongly support the Nice Ride for All subsidy program, which offers lower-cost bike share subscriptions to people who are eligible for food or transit assistance.
For transit: we should fully build out the planned light rail corridors, including the Green Line and Blue Line extensions. We must speed up the implementation of arterial bus rapid transit on our high-frequency network. While those projects are led by the Met Council, I believe the City can and should do more to give buses transit priority on our streets, and that we could put funds towards speeding up these projects. And we should directly incentivize people to take transit. I authored the changes to our Travel Demand Management ordinance that now give people building new apartments a strong incentive to provide transit passes to their tenants. We should build on this, and create a free or very low-cost transit voucher program for low-income residents. This could be similar to Nice Ride for All, and use eligibility for food assistance to qualify people. Ultimately, I believe that we should make transit free, and this will be an important step in that direction.
I am very excited about the Minneapolis Transportation Action Plan (TAP), a fantastic piece of
work with bold yet achievable goals. The staff and other contributors to this plan really did their homework when setting specific goals and tactics for achievement, and I fully support the TAP as written. In order to switch 60% of car trips to biking, walking and transit by 2030, we need everyone rowing in the same direction with full support from the community. With this in mind, I would encourage my colleagues to formally define what “equitable transportation” means and use this definition as a benchmark for all future development and funding decisions. I would also
propose the following:
● Downtown Minneapolis should explore implementing a congestion tax and seek
MNDOT’s support in crafting the policy. MNDOT has a stated goal of reducing VMT by
20% in Hennepin County by 2050 per their draft Climate Action Plan, so anything the
City does to reduce VMT helps MNDOT achieve their goal.
● Require the City and appropriate departments to conduct a use case pilot study using
electric-assist cargo bikes to replace gas powered motor vehicles for light-duty projects.
At least half a dozen cities around the country have conducted such pilot studies looking
at various use cases, measuring impacts on employee health and wellness, CO2 off-sets,
and reducing employee VMT. Electric-assist cargo bikes are changing short-distance
(last-mile) delivery logistics around the world, and Minneapolis should join the party.
This recent article from Bloomberg highlights the benefits and widespread adoption of
eCargo bikes in short distance logistics. Incorporating these vehicles into City fleets has
myriad benefits, including expanding the employment pool to those without driver’s
licenses, and lower upfront and on-going maintenance costs than light electric vehicles
(LEV’s). And as the pilot studies in Portland, OR and Madison, WI showed, public
employees who are out and about in their City working from the seat of a bicycle are
more accessible and approachable to the public. This is a public relations win for the
● The City should eliminate local sales tax on eBikes less than $3,000 to encourage further
adoption of eBikes. There may be additional incentives coming from the federal level via
rebates or other tax incentives which in tandem would further make eBike more
accessible to more people.
● The City should do everything in its power to make sure the Greenway extends over the
Mississippi River via the Short Line Bridge. This connection is perhaps the single most
effective step in connecting existing bicycle networks between Minneapolis and St. Paul.
● The pandemic has had substantial and lasting impacts on the way people incorporate
active transportation into their lives. We saw this in real time in the overcrowding of
popular biking and walking paths around the city during the state’s shelter in place order.
This led to temporary closures of segments of parkways and other roads to motor vehicles
in the spring of 2021, resulting in cleaner air and safer spaces for residents, especially
families with children, to walk and ride their bikes. I would propose more frequent
closures of segments of West River Road in Ward 2 to motor vehicles and work with
neighborhood block club leaders to build support from residents along the closure
segments. Perhaps this could serve as a model to other Wards.
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?
Rail transit is an important part of our city’s infrastructure. While the expansion of rail can lead
to gentrification, when accompanied by well informed and targeted housing policy negative
effects can be kept to a minimum. The positive effects of rail transit are well worth the
investment, and when accompanied by good supporting policy will be a tremendous boon to our communities.
I strongly support building out our light rail system in Minneapolis and our surrounding region. I have been in regular conversation with my Northside colleagues about this important project, and I believe that the current route is likely to benefit the community more than the BNSF corridor. It is important to me that this investment in transit not just go through North Minneapolis, but serve the people and businesses of the Northside.
I helped guide the Green Line implementation, which happened while I was on the Council. I know that sometimes communities have to fight to be well served by these kinds of regional transit investments. One example of this: I fought alongside the West Bank community to change the proposed West Bank Green Line station so that it would connect to Cedar Avenue. Prior to that intervention, the station had been planned for a spot closer to the U of M. It was important to get this detail right, for the success of the small business corridor and to best connect the people who live in Riverside Plaza to the train. As part of the Green Line implementation, we also invested in direct support for businesses to mitigate construction impacts and avoid displacement. I believe we should use the same approach for Bottineau.
There were also concern about displacement and gentrification when the Green Line was put in. This was one reason why I participated, and co-chaired for a while, a project later called the Big Picture Project where we focused on develop programs and finding to help preserve existing affordable housing and see new affordable housing put in as part of future developments. As we plan for and build Bottineau, it would be wise to assemble and staff a multi-jurisdictional group that includes neighborhood, business and other community stakeholders to focus directly how to prevent displacement of residents as well as businesses both during and after construction.
The City should enlist and compensate the participation of community leaders, faith leaders and everyday citizens (from youth to the elderly) to find the best solutions for those communities in how the line will run through North Minneapolis. Not only has North Minneapolis been “underserved” historically when it comes to transportation development, residents there have largely been left out of planning processes from the start. This requires a paradigm shift when it comes to how we approach transportation planning and development. Transportation officials and urban planners need to understand where their expertise ends and realize that community leaders are the experts in knowing what their communities and neighborhoods need to thrive.
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?
Our high traffic areas are in need of modernization. As we take on new infrastructure projects we need to be approaching each one with pedestrian safety and environmental efficiency in mind. While these projects are important and steps should be taken to limit delays, we need steps in place to standardize the way cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists interact on our roadways if we want to ensure the safety of our commuters.
I strongly support the option for Hennepin Avenue that includes a protected bikeway as well as dedicated bus lanes.
In general, I believe that we must follow the policy direction that our Complete Streets policy lays out: prioritizing people walking, then people biking and taking transit, and finally motor vehicles. This is especially true on our commercial corridors, where the trade-offs are most dramatic. We should prioritize the safety, health, and vitality of our neighborhoods over moving people through our neighborhoods.
There are some streets, including Hennepin, for which there are no good alternative routes. Given how Hennepin interacts with the rest of the grid, sending bicyclists to a nearby street is not going to work. Folks would have to go blocks out of their way to make the same trip, and that won’t happen. So without a protected bikeway, we’ll see bikes on the sidewalk and taking the risk to be in a transit lane or general traffic lane.
There have been similar projects in Ward 2, and I have fought to include dedicated bicycle infrastructure. One example is Riverside, which is similarly at an angle to the rest of the grid, and for which there is no good alternative route. The original staff proposal for Riverside would have stopped the bike lanes at 19th Ave S. I found that unacceptable, as did the community, and together we fought for the bike lanes to extend all the way to – and through – the intersection of Cedar and Riverside. Now they are part of a connected bike route all the way from St. Paul to downtown. We need to do the same and better for Hennepin Avenue.
I support design Option 1 that includes widening sidewalks, protected bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes and two way car traffic. These changes will help the City of Minneapolis reach its mode share goals, and help this key commercial corridor continue to be a thriving place to do
business and live. Successful implementation of this complete street design requires community engagement with business owners, employees of those businesses, and the residents who live along this corridor. Nearly every time on-street parking is removed from a commercial area, business owners have legitimate concerns that it will negatively impact their business. However, there are dozens of examples nationally and a handful locally that show the opposite is true.
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?
Bus priority lanes are an important tool for increasing the reliability and expedience of public
transit in high traffic areas. Our city should invest in more infrastructure that focuses primarily
on presenting busing as a more reliable and cost effective alternative for current single
occupancy commuters as a means of reducing traffic downtown. This is an important step in
reducing our carbon footprint, expanding access to the area, and reducing safety risks for
I believe we need to use every option available to us to give transit a priority on Minneapolis streets.
I envision a close and collaborative relationship between the City, Metro Transit, Hennepin County and MnDOT (which controls several high-priority streets in Minneapolis) to improve transit service. We need to speed up building arterial bus rapid transit, which has the promise to improve speeds, and especially to improve reliability of service. Shifting to fewer stops with more amenities and payment before boarding will allow our buses to arrive when they’re scheduled, and get people to their destinations faster.
The City’s main role is in ensuring that buses don’t get stuck in traffic. That includes, but is certainly not limited to: bus-only lanes, signal preemption, signal priority (where buses get to go first, before other traffic), and shifting stops to the far side of intersections (where buses will less likely get stuck in a light cycle). We also need to make sure that our pedestrian infrastructure – including streetlight timing – helps get people to and from transit stations safely and conveniently.
And we should ensure that where we have protected bikeways adjacent to bus routes, we design bus stops carefully to manage that potential conflict. That includes “floating” bus stops, like we have piloted on Oak Street in Ward 2. Floating bus stops need to be designed in a way that is easy and intuitive for everyone, but especially people with disabilities, to understand.
Making our buses the backbone of our public transit system is critical for long-term success and
resilience. An equitably distributed and funded bus system allows for the creation of bus stops
that could double as mobility hubs. I support Strategy 1 in the Transit segment of the TAP.
From a cultural standpoint, we have to squash the mindset that only certain people are transit
dependent. We are all dependent on those who rely on transit, so therefore, we are all transit
dependent. When everyone at the table realizes this, transformative change can take place.
While speed and reliability (and increasing frequency from every 15 min to 10 min) are critical
improvements that our bus system needs, accessibility is the third leg of the stool. I would
advocate for eliminating all MetroTransit bus fares. According to MetroTransit’s 2021 operating budget, only 4% of operating funds come from fares. This reduction in revenue could be offset by savings realized from not having to pay for fare enforcement.
In 2020, public transit ridership dropped 53% from the previous year due to the pandemic.
However, BRT, including the A and C lines, fared better than other types of transportation within
the Metro Transit system. Ridership on those lines only declined 24% from the previous year.
This illustrates the importance of maintaining service in areas where residents and essential
workers don’t have other options, even during a pandemic.
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?
We need to be mindful of the way parking impacts the walkability of our city. The amount of
square footage occupied by lots and parking ramps increases walking distance and negatively
impacts liveability in our communities. I will explore a variety of modern layouts to determine
how we can best serve our communities without creating dead zones through needless unused lots.
I was proud to coauthor the ordinance that eliminated parking minimums in Minneapolis, and replaced them with land use regulations designed to get us what we actually want: fewer car trips in our city. The cornerstone of this approach is a much stronger Travel Demand Management system, which applies to more buildings, and which will direct developers away from building parking, and towards giving transit incentives, locating bike- and car-share on their sites, and other approaches. These changes also strengthened our maximum parking regulations, which will prevent large surface parking lots like the one at Lake and Minnehaha.
We also need to do better when it comes to City projects. For one example, I pushed hard for the new City Public Service building to have a high-quality bicycle storage area, located on the main floor. The original plan would have had bikes in the basement, and would have made it virtually impossible for riders who use any kind of cargo bike, extended bike, or trailer to use the facility. When we build these kinds of spaces, we need to make them flexible enough to serve all different kinds of people on all different kids of bikes. And these spaces should be the default, and even celebrated, rather than being hidden away.
I did not support the action to purchase the Roof Depot site, and have been working to end the City’s interest in the site. I have found a lot of the design details to be disappointing, including the over-provision of parking spaces.
We have had some victories recently, in terms of denying large parking ramp projects. One key example was the Federal Reserve parking ramp, which was denied by the Planning Commission in 2019. I strongly supported that action, and worked with Move Minneapolis and others to advocate against that ramp.
I believe that the City can do much more to improve the way that on-street parking is used citywide. Much of that is supported by the Transportation Action Plan. We can better price on-street parking to ensure that spots are available and make more electric charging available on-street. I believe we should explore area-wide “coupon parking,” where drivers would pay to park in a given area, and the funds could be used to improve the walkability of that area.
Lastly, I believe that we should put a price on carbon, and use the proceeds to invest in fighting climate change. One way we can do that is by putting a price on parking spaces, equal to the amount of carbon generated by the cars that use those spaces. Those funds could be used to invest in walking, biking, and equitable access to transit.
When the City has chosen to be a leader in alternative transportation design and policy, tangible results followed. Thanks to City leadership in the 90s and early 2000’s, Minneapolis developed a bicycle trail network that led to some of the highest per capita rates of bicycle ridership in the country. This, combined with timely snow removal from city streets and off-street bike paths, resulted in Minneapolis being ranked one of the top US cities for bicycle ridership for years. Those rankings indirectly attracted tourism, talent and business to Minneapolis.
Reducing parking minimums is a fantastic step towards meeting the mode shift goals outlined in the TAP. However, reductions in available parking need to be paired with alternatives such as increased bus/train service or “park and ride” services to the surrounding suburbs. Other measures that can support reduced parking options are the availability of secure bicycle parking, availability of bike and scooter share systems and connected bicycle networks.
Rumor has it that City Council members and their staff were encouraged to read Donald Shoup’s book The High Cost of Free Parking to better understand the big picture of parking. Next on my personal reading list is Chris and Meslissa Bruntlett’s new book, Curbing Traffic: The Human Case for Fewer Cars in Our Lives.
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?
We need to redesign our traffic enforcement policy, shifting to a system that promotes safety for all of our citizens. This means focusing on accident prevention and reducing risk to pedestrians by targeting violators in high traffic and high risk areas. Another step towards protecting our citizens would be disincentivizing frivolous stops by implementing greater specialization within our departments to reduce the escalation of minor traffic offenses into high risk situations.
I believe that we need to completely change our approach to traffic enforcement. The status quo is not working in several ways. First, as you note, it has been found to be consistently and egregiously racially disproportionate. Most of these stops are so-called “pretext” stops, which are not really about traffic safety, but about trying to catch someone – pretty clearly based on the way they look – having a warrant, drugs, or weapons. Second, the current approach to traffic enforcement has never adequately addressed the things we know lead to serious injuries and deaths: speeding, failure to yield to pedestrians and bicyclists, failure to stop for stoplights and stop signs. These driver behaviors put people’s safety and lives at risk, and we need to be better able to prevent them. And third, we have built streets that feel to drivers like comfortable places to drive fast enough that an accident will lead to serious injury and death. We can’t enforce our way to safe driver behavior when the infrastructure says that folks should speed.
Our emphasis should be on safe street design. That means narrowing and reducing travel lanes, dedicating more space to pedestrian, stormwater, bicycle and transit infrastructure. It means lowering speed limits – which I strongly supported – in order to reduce design speeds. It means more bumpouts, roundabouts, and other traffic calming devices.
But we will also need enforcement, to address drivers who disregard the safety and lives of the people around them. That enforcement should be specifically directed towards improving traffic safety, and away from pretext stops. And it should be done by unarmed public safety personnel, and with limited direct interactions with drivers.
I am a strong supporter of creating a new Department of Public Safety. I was the first Council Member to call for fixing our broken Charter, collected signatures with Yes 4 Minneapolis, and will proudly vote Yes on Question 2. I believe that this new Department will give us the flexibility to move functions like traffic enforcement out of the policing function for the city, and into a new unarmed role that is focused on traffic safety, rather than viewing traffic stops as pretexts.
We have already started to take steps to creating a new traffic enforcement division, outside of the police department, with my strong support. More information on that is available here: https://lims.minneapolismn.gov/file/2021-00474. I will continue to push for creating an unarmed traffic enforcement division.
Lastly, we need to work with the state and federal governments for changes that will allow us to take new approaches that will both increase safety and decrease bias. One of these is automated enforcement of red-light running. We should advocate for changes to state law to allow lower-penalty tickets for running red lights, so that we can send the ticket to the owner of a vehicle, rather than having to prove who was driving the car. When we enforce parking rules, we don’t have to prove who parked the car illegally – we just send a ticket to the owner. We should do the same with red light cameras. And we should push the federal government to limit how large, how tall, and how massive new vehicles can be, given studies that show clearly that a larger vehicle is likelier to kill a pedestrian in a crash at the same speed. We should similarly push for statewide and national rules for semi trucks to make them safer to operate in a city environment, including requiring mirrors that will allow a turning semi to see a pedestrian or bicyclist in their blind spot, to prevent future tragedies like the death of a bicyclist in Dinkytown several years ago.
As it relates to bicyclists, the City should remove armed law enforcement from stopping cyclists for minor infractions. This follows the League of American Bicyclists best practices for creating a Bicycle Friendly America. As of October 2020, the League removed “Enforcement” from their Bicycle Friendly American framework. According to their website, “For nearly 20 years, this framework has guided the Bicycle Friendly America program’s applications and judging criteria, assessing communities’ efforts in Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Evaluation and Planning, Equity, and until now, Enforcement. These pillars are intended to guide communities in making bicycling safe and welcoming for everyone.” What many White people are finally realizing is that “enforcement” does not equal “safety”, particularly for BIPOC communities and Black Americans. This was evidenced this past May when Daunte Wright was shot and killed by a Brooklyn Park police officer during a minor traffic stop, or in 2017 when Philando Castille was murdered by Falcon Heights during a routine traffic stop, and as in 2015 when Sandra Bland was unjustly arrested during a minor traffic stop, and suspiciously died while in police custody a few days later. All three murders could have been prevented if traffic violations were handled by unarmed traffic violation responders. If elected, I will advocate for not only the creation of a new department of public safety that goes beyond policing, but will also champion that an unarmed traffic division be located within it.
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?
Yusra Arab: Did not respond to this question
In order for our pedestrian infrastructure to work for everyone, it has to work in all seasons, in all neighborhoods. Right now, it doesn’t work everywhere in our city during the winter. That’s because we rely on property owners to clear snow, and many just don’t. We also rely on enforcement to address unshoveled sidewalks, which leads to inequitable outcomes: some parts of the city, where people are likelier to call 311 to report an unshoveled sidewalk, are more walkable than other parts of the city. And we have some parts of our city where commercial property owners have voluntarily banded together to clear snow, but others – like Cedar Riverside – where those kinds of efforts have failed. I have seen access to billion-dollar transit investments like the Green Line blocked, especially for people using wheelchairs, by mounds of snow and ice. We can and must do better.
That’s why I made the motion to amend the Transportation Action Plan to better address snow clearance on sidewalks. I believe that it is time for us to have a serious public conversation about how we can best ensure that every sidewalk, especially those on our transit corridors, is cleared. I believe that the best solution may be for the city to provide this service, starting on transit corridors. This will have real costs, and we should be honest about that, and find an equitable way to fund this work. It also has the promise to create jobs, which we must ensure are equitably distributed.
Lastly, we need to get serious about preventing salt pollution. Salt permanently degrades our water bodies. This should include local action to require that all snow and ice contractors get training on the proper use of salt, and requiring that salt storage be covered and not open to the elements. And we should advocate for the state to adopt a law like the one in New Hampshire, where snow and ice contractors are indemnified from slip and fall complaints if they follow salting guidelines from the state environmental protection agency.
Ward 2 was once home to a community-based program that addressed snow and ice removal
from sidewalks in front of senior residences. The program was a collaborative effort between
Longfellow Community Council (LCC), Senior Community Services (SCS) and
Longfellow/Seward Healthy Seniors. A few years ago, the program was put on hold due to lack
of staff and funding to manage the program. This is an example of a community-driven approach to public safety (rather than punitive) and I would like to see the City find ways to support similar solutions that address snow and ice removal from city sidewalks. This is a seasonal job creation opportunity wrapped in a community building program, topped with a dollop of community safety and enhanced access
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?
There are many initiatives that can be taken on a case by case basis as we modernize our
infrastructure, but we need to prioritize standardization of our traffic systems to meet the safety needs of our various commuters. With standardization comes a familiarity of traffic laws and the more user friendly our transportation system appears, the safer we all are.
I have been one of the Council’s strongest and most consistent leaders on making our city safer, more comfortable, and more convenient for people who walk, roll, and bike. I will continue to push for a more walkable, bikeable city.
I’ve laid out much of my vision above. We need to invest more in streetscapes, build complete neighborhoods, and make our current infrastructure (like signals) work better for people who walk and bike. We need to build out our protected bikeway and All Ages and Abilities network. We need to invest in transit improvements that people who walk and bike use as parts of their trips, or as a “backup” mode. We need to build out our Mobility Hub network, to make bike share available to people in every neighborhood, and to make car-sharing available for when someone really needs a car, so they won’t find it necessary to own one of their own.
There are a few specific projects that I have been working on, and that I’m excited to get done. The most transformational is extending the Midtown Greenway across the Mississippi River and into St. Paul, where St. Paul will be able to link it to the Ayd Mill trail. This should also include a connection to the U of M East Bank campus, using right of way that I pushed to be maintained when the Arrow Apartments were built on 27th Ave SE. I am working on this right now with a multi-jurisdictional group, led by the Greenway Coalition and Sierra Club Northstar Chapter.
Another significant project will be connecting the missing link of the Grand Rounds. I strongly support bridging the gap between Malcolm Ave SE in Prospect Park and Kasota, which will allow us to extend a trail from the Dinkytown Greenway north to Southeast Como and Northeast.
There are many other, smaller improvements that I will work for. We should make the bike lanes on 27th Ave SE into a protected bikeway, to address the near-constant parking in the bike lane. We should finish the gap in the Franklin Ave SE bike lanes, between I-94 and East River Parkway. We should upgrade the Franklin Ave protected bikeway in Seward with physical separation. We should extend the Oak Street protected bikeway a block north to link up with the planned University Avenue two-way protected bikeway and both to the Dinkytown Greenway.
I am also very supportive of Public Works staff’s proposal to formalize the process for community members to request traffic calming, and to ensure that the outcomes of this process are equitable.
I led the fight to get the City involved as a sponsor of Open Streets, and I will fight to ensure that we continue to support these important community building events. I also led the effort to give all event organizers the flexibility to provide security of their choice, rather than requiring Minneapolis Police, and will defend that policy.
And I will work with other jurisdictions to improve walking and biking on their facilities, and provide more programming and options. One example is working with the Park Board to allow some Parkways to be closed to vehicular traffic more regularly. Another is working with the School Board to continue to strengthen Safe Routes to School programs, and ensure that our schools are all connected to All Ages and Abilities facilities.
I have been a leader on the Council for walking, biking, and transit. If reelected I will continue to lead on this important work.
Amsterdam and Copenhagen weren’t always the meccas of cycling and walking that they are today. Motor vehicles used to use the public squares as parking lots in both cities after WWII. Fortunately for the humans who lived there, both cities went through gradual transformations that took roughly 50 years of grass roots and community organizing to reclaim the squares and streets from motor vehicles and give them back to the people.
I support the Minneapolis TAP’s strategies for bicycling and walking, and am especially committed to helping reach a bicycle mode share of 10%. As the crafters of the TAP likely know, 10% bicycle mode share is the momentum threshold at which long term, substantial investment in active transportation infrastructure is catalyzed. This has been demonstrated in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Helsinki among other European cities.
While there are a number of quick-build infrastructure solutions and pilots that we can and will pursue during my four-year term (e.g. “bike/ped/roll only parkway weekends” as mentioned above, eCargo bike fleet use case study, etc.) I am a skilled, charismatic and passionate organizer that will contribute to the long game fight for sustainable, equitable and accessible transportation and urban planning. I look forward to establishing relationships with your organizations as well as other cycling, walking and transit accessibility advocacy groups in the Twin Cities
Thank you to the candidates for their responses to the questionnaire.
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