Friday, March 8, 2013


Nice Ride Minnesota
I had an opportunity to visit the St. Paul Transportation Summit over lunch the other day. They gave the scoop on the projects, programs and policies impacting commuters in St. Paul, and it was actually a very interesting event. I had been feeling a little envious of those that were attending the 2013 National Bike Summit and had even looked to see if there would be online webinar offerings of the national Summit. Unfortunately, there weren’t any that I could find. But it was nice to be able to attend a short local version during the same week. (My favorite moment was when the Frogtown Neighborhoods program was acknowledged; all of the staff from the program stood and started waving and pointing to audience members like they were rock stars walking up to receive a Grammy. It still gives me a smile thinking about it.)


Full parking at the St. Paul Transportation Summit
To be clear, the St. Paul Summit was not about biking. Biking is just one ("key cog") component of what is needed in an integrated transportation system. What struck me is that the importance of building a seamlessly integrated system was a theme through each short talk held over the lunch hour (St. Paul Smart Trips did a nice job of lining up the speakers and orchestrating the event and this message).

I think it mirrored nicely one of the highlights that I read from the National Bike Summit that bicycling should no longer be considered a fringe activity. Douglas Meyer, who spoke on the Perceptions of Biking on Capitol Hill suggested that bike advocates tone down the message that “cycling is going to save the world” and that this type of promotion risks becoming “the equivalent of selling snake-oil.” (If you read my blog from February 28 you would see that I agree with him.)

Overflow Parking

The final speaker from the St. Paul Summit, MNDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle, underlined that transit and roads are not separate systems, and that we need to maximize our investment in roads for the use of all. Agreed.

But between the rah-rah of the first and last speaker, there was a lot of talk on ways to justify raising regional sales taxes to be able to pay for improvements to the system. There is proposed legislation at the State Capitol (different from the Governor’s current budget proposal) that audience members were asked to buy into. A few days removed from the event, I wonder what the culmination of possible raised taxes for each special interest (from education and health to transportation and the arts) will leave me with.

This is too much thinking for this blog. I think I will just get out and ride.

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