Twin Cities

Should local government make a profit?

StrongTowns - 1 hour 52 sec ago

This is part of the ongoing conversation happening right now at the Memphis Boot Camp. Follow us on twitter at #MEMbootcamp or at

The very notion is abhorrent to think about. Of course government does not make a profit. Government is about serving people. It is about maintaining streets and parks. It is about job creation and economic development. Local governments should not be in the business of making a profit.

Profit is for companies like Wal-Mart. A company like Wal-Mart has revenues and expenses. Their revenues must exceed their expenses, an accounting term that is called “profit”. We are comfortable with this.

What about an orphanage? Should an organization that cares for abandoned children – the most vulnerable among us – be concerned with making a profit? They have revenues. They have expenses. For the orphanage to stay in business, their revenues need to exceed their expenses. The orphanage, in short, needs to make a profit.

Cities have revenues. Cities have expenses. If a city’s revenues do not exceed their expenses, a city doesn’t go out of business. No. What happens is that things go bad. And people get hurt.

If cities want to do good – if local governments are to be a force for helping humanity improve our collective condition – they have to stay in business. They have to run a profit.

Today. Tomorrow. The next day. Forever.

The long term financial health and solvency of the city must be central to every investment discussion we have. Profit is not something the city of Memphis should seek to maximize at the cost of other goals, but solvency is a prerequisite for everything we want to do.

#MEMbootcamp |

Categories: Twin Cities

If I Were Mayor…

Streets.MN - 3 hours 16 min ago

Yesterday I presented at Cuningham Group’s “Urban Currents” series. The theme was “What if I Were Mayor?” Keep in mind the following ideas don’t represent a platform for getting elected, but rather to try and implement once in office (there’s a big difference). So here goes….

If I were mayor, I would:

1. Create a more beautiful, equitable city.

As part of that, I’d push the idea that zoning is part of creating beauty, and advocate for both a Form-Based Code and Design Review Commission (to be chosen by developers as parallel alternatives to the existing zoning and the Planning Commission, respectively). Ideally, the result would be a faster, more predictable (for developers and neighbors) approvals process and better urban design (see above).

2. Build streets for people

Can you even spot the pedestrian in the above image?

As mayor, I would advance a streets policy that genuinely placed pedestrians first, transit and bikes next, and cars last. I’d also eliminate all one-way streets in the city. Coupled with a better zoning code, our streets (even Hiawatha Avenue) could one day look like this (above).

While I’m at it I would create a pilot project for residential streets to reduce the speed limit, narrow the street, and add street amenities like play equipment. Why do playgrounds need to be relegated to our parks? Let’s bring the parks to the kids.

Lastly, I’d formalize a progressive on-street bicycle parking policy. It is long past due that we meaningfully catch up to Portland as the best biking city in America, and to do so we need an actual bicycle parking policy on our streets (above). Besides, any time you see people standing around on the street, it is probably a pretty good street, right?

3. Eliminate one freeway

Following the Congress for the New Urbanism’s Highways to Boulevards initiative, I’d eliminate the viaduct that connects 3rd and 4th Streets to Interstate 94.

But why stop at a boulevard? I’d restore Bassett Creek and make transform the route in to something more akin to the Cheonggyecheon in Seoul.

4. Welcome great architecture, but ensure it fits in to the city

Is it right that the Walker faces a public realm like this (or that the proposed reconstruction of Hennepin/Lyndale is essentially a resurfacing project)?

What did London do when a congested roadway divided the National Gallery from Trafalgar Square?

They closed the street, giving it over to people, and the city as a whole benefited.

What if the Walker and Sculpture Garden faced a street that looked a little more like this (Paris)?

5. Restore respect for the public realm

Citing the civic travesty that way too many people use skyways on even the nicest days (see above), I would find a councilmember who has already announced their retirement to take one for the team and introduce a bill to remove one skyway per year until they are gone. Finding no takers, I’d issue an official but unenforceable decree to close all skyways immediately, after which a recall election would be held and I’d be forced from office. Maybe, though, just maybe, I’d have elevated the level of discussion around Minneapolis and gotten just enough residents and business leaders to come forward with their own plan, one that included putting on a coat in the winter and an understanding that because of our strong pedestrian policies, funding for street-level improvements, better zoning code and overall sense that our public places are more valuable than private, that therefore skyways are simply redundant and unnecessary. Then I’d be forced from office but quite proud of my legacy. And then Alice Hausman would have no reason to question the City of Minneapolis’ request of $25 million from the State of Minnesota for rebuilding Nicollet Mall based on the very good design ideas of James Corner Field Operations. is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

Categories: Twin Cities

Chart of the Day – Transit Boardings in Greater Minnesota:

Streets.MN - 7 hours 29 min ago

Today’s Chart of the Day shows Transit Boardings in Greater Minnesota:

Annual boardings recorded by public transit providers serving Greater Minnesota counties (in millions)

Source: MnDOT  Annual Transportation Performance Report 2012 is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

Categories: Twin Cities

Elf and Fairy Houses at North Mississippi Regional Park

Streets.MN - 8 hours 30 min ago

Carl Kroening Interpretive Center:Where the fairy magic happens.

When I was little, I was mildly obsessed with tiny people a la the Borrowers. Growing up, we had a bottle-shaped vase on our piano and I’d pretend my very own Jeannie lived in there.

If your kiddo has a big imagination involving tiny humans, I say embrace it. And hurry up and build those little people a home before they take residence in your desk and start stealing your office supplies!

You and your kiddo (ages 6 and up) can learn how to create your own elf and fairy house at North Mississippi Regional Park Saturday, May 3, 10 am – 12 pm. Together you can explore the woods, get inspired and gather your building materials along the way. Then, get to work with all the how-tos you need to end elfin homelessness (you’ll be given a base to build from to make things easier if you prefer). Children must be accompanied by an adult (adults without children are welcome too). Reserve your spot by next Wednesday (4/30); cost is $10/house.

Your enchanted forest awaits.

Elf and Fairy Houses Saturday, May 3, 10 am – 12 pm Cost: $10/house

Carl W. Kroening Interpretive Center at North Mississippi Regional Park 4900 Mississippi Ct. Minneapolis, MN 55430 763-694-7693 is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

Categories: Twin Cities

Podcast #62 – Affordable Housing Spatial Inequality with Myron Orfield

Streets.MN - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 7:50pm

The podcast this week is a conversation with Myron Orfield, the director of the institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota. Orfield has also written many books on public policy and regional governance, and has spent years studying how municipal fragmentation has led to persistent inequality, particularly in the Twin Cities. Orfield made headlines a few months ago after publishing a study that called for the Metropolitan Council to build more affordable housing in the Twin Cities’ suburbs. We sat down in his office on the West Bank of the U of M campus a few weeks back to talk about his recent report, the problem with the affordable housing industrial complex, and why the Twin Cities are more segregated now than they were in the 1960s.

The link to the audio is here. Thanks for listening! is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

Categories: Twin Cities

Increase Walkability — Reduce Right Turns on Red

Streets.MN - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 2:32pm

On February 12th of this year a woman was killed in Minneapolis while walking in a crosswalk. She had the right of way. She was hit by a truck taking a right turn on red, which trucks are generally legally allowed to do (although not while a person is in a crosswalk):

The driver of a vehicle which is stopped as close as practicable at the entrance to the crosswalk . . . in obedience to a red or stop signal, and with the intention of making a right turn may make such right turn, after stopping, unless an official sign has been erected prohibiting such movement, but shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and other traffic lawfully proceeding as directed by the signal at said intersection.” Minneapolis Code of Ordinances, Title 18, section 474.630.



According to an MPR review of 2007-2011 crash data, more than a third of pedestrian/car crashes occur in Minnesota in part because of driver’s failure to yield. This means that almost 300 people a year are injured due to driver error.

Although specific data on right-turn-on-red crosswalk injuries in Minnesota was not readily available, a quick search revealed somewhat antiquated data pertaining to right-turn-on-red safety issues.

According to a 2002 paper, there were 1166 crashes involving people on foot or bicyclists in Minnesota and Illinois combined between 1985 and 1998/9 combined. This equals just .04% of all crashes (including vehicle/vehicle crashes) during that time period. This figure is consistent with figures in a 1995 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report.

Although the percentage of total crashes attributable to right-turn-on-red are low, both of the above-cited reports show that walkers and bicyclists are disproportionately represented in right-turn-on-red accident statistics: about 20% of all right-turn-on-red crashes involve a person on foot or a bicyclist. Compare this to the roughly 6% of total crashes involve people on foot and bicycles (walkers and cyclists, as vulnerable users, constitute about 14% of total traffic fatalities, however).

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “[t]he majority of these RTOR crashes involved a driver looking left for a gap in traffic and striking a pedestrian or bicyclist coming from the driver’s right.”



Even when someone on foot or a cyclist is not hit by right-turning vehicles (an admittedly rare, thought unnecessary, occurrence), right turning vehicles still do a significant disservice to vulnerable users. Right-turning vehicles often pull into the crosswalk so that the driver of the vehicle can actually see oncoming car traffic. As a result, people crossing the intersection on foot lose that small stretch of street that is supposed to be temporarily theirs. That person must then walk around the front or the back of the imposing vehicle.

If the person walks in front of the vehicle, he or she must be on guard in case the vehicle attempts to leap into traffic. If the person passes behind the vehicle, he or she must weave between multiple vehicles, any of which could move. Therefore, right turns on red mean that people can never walk across the street, even when they have the right of way, as if they own the space. People on foot must be constantly aware of their vulnerability, can never go on a walk and let their mind wander.

Shouldn’t pedestrians – people – be able to simply be in their community without wearing “light colors” and “retro-reflective materials,” as the State of Minnesota suggests? The Federal Highway Administration appears to think so: “Prohibiting RTOR should be considered where exclusive pedestrian phases or high pedestrian volumes are present.”

A car drifts into a crosswalk to see if there is oncoming car traffic.



During the oil and energy crises of the 1970s, the U.S. federal government encouraged jurisdictions to allow right turns on red as a fuel saving measure. The Federal Highway Administration estimated that right turns on red would save between 1 and 4.6 seconds for each driver at a red light.

While turning right on red does in fact save fuel for car drivers, the Massachusetts DOT points out that “[t]he best way to reduce fuel use is to drive less.” With 65% of trips under a mile in the U.S. made by car, improving the experience of being a pedestrian or biker, as well as improving actual safety, could result in significant fuel savings by encouraging people to walk and bike more.



If Minnesota jurisdictions eliminated, or at least reduced, right turns on red, they could improve both actual and perceived safety for cyclists and people on foot. This in turn could potentially encourage more people to travel using their own power. And this result, if it occurred, would produce the outcome right turns on red were initially intended to produce: lowered energy consumption.

As an obvious first step, mayors and council members should ban right turns on red in areas with heavy foot traffic. This would not be a step in a new direction. For example, the City of Minneapolis already has additional safety measures in place in heavy foot travel areas. The Minneapolis Code of Ordinances states “No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district.” Title 18, Chapter 490, section 490.140. State statute clarifies that “‘Business district’ means the territory contiguous to and including a highway when 50 percent or more of the frontage thereon for a distance of 300 feet or more is occupied by buildings in use for business.” Minn Stat 169.01 subd. 39.

A telephone call to the Minneapolis Police Department Chief of Police’s office confirmed that the reason bicycles are not allowed on sidewalks in business districts is because of public safety concerns about crashes between bicycles and people. This public safety concern exists because of particularly high foot traffic in these areas.

A cab turns right on red in a pedestrian heavy area where bikes are banned from the sidewalk (Hennepin and Lagoon, Minneapolis)

If the City of Minneapolis finds it reasonable to limit bicycle traffic in high foot traffic areas for public safety reasons, isn’t it reasonable to place minor limits on car traffic in these same areas?

Minneapolis, along with other jurisdictions, should take this step toward making our communities more walkable places. is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

Categories: Twin Cities

Density is an Historic Resource

Streets.MN - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 10:35am


Typical historic street in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

Lately I’ve been thinking about historic preservation.

Though it may be overblown, Saint Paul and Minneapolis seem to be full of fights between “urbanists” and “preservationists” over the future of our cities. Examples include the ongoing spats over an historic but run-down house in Uptownold single-story buildings in Dinkytown, or the width of sidewalks in Lowertown. In each of these cases, urbanists and preservationists have ended up calling each other names, rolling their eyes, and holding all-night vigils and/or emergency strategy meetings. With so much emotion on display, something must be going on.

The problem irks me because the urban design and historic preservation communities have so much in common. Both groups of people share a deep-seeded sense of history. Both share an anger about the destructive renewal policies of the 50s and 60s that leveled our cities in the name of progress. Both groups love looking back at old pictures of our cities, going on history tours, and thinking about architecture. But somewhere on the way to the present, the two groups diverge. Preservationists and urbanists seem to lack a common language for thinking about the value of cities. Why is that?


The Conservation Frame

Here’s one problem. Many historic preservation narratives adopt a “conservation frame” that reminds me of stories about endangered species. The call to “preserve our historic resources” rhymes with stories of environmentalists chaining themselves to old-growth firs. Meanwhile, in this story developers and their urbanist henchmen assume the role of the diabolical loggers, menacing the forest with a chainsaw and a bulldozer.

What it feels like.

By calling old buildings “historic resources”, preservationists transform cities into a zero-sum game. You must choose between conservation and waste. You either have stasis or destruction. History becomes precious,  like oil or pandas, and cities are always in danger. Once we lose them, they’re gone forever.

(Thus, the all-night vigils, name calling, and histrionics.)

My problem with the “conservation narrative” is that cities are far more than buildings. Cities are the name for how our built environment shapes our lives. Cities are the shared spaces through where we make meaning. Cities are the common ground on which we understand each other. Cities are the everyday interactions that make up a street. In short, cities are people. You cannot reduce cities to piles of bricks, glass, and concrete without thinking about the dynamic social relationships that surround and fill them. Much more is at stake.

The Resource Fallacy

Maybe that’s one difference between preservationists and urbanists. When I look back at old photographs of Minneapolis or Saint Paul, I don’t focus on the amazing architecture. I’m too entranced by the people.

Wabasha Street in Saint Paul c. 1905.

Sure it’s riveting to see the old Metropolitan building or the Great Northern depot. I am amazed by the detailed signage, the intricate cornices, and the complex layers of shops, factories, and homes.

But in these old photographs, I can’t take my eyes off the crowds of people on the sidewalk. Imagine the pace of traffic in an old street! I dream about the variety of people who might fill an old downtown: young children, women in fancy dresses, men in hats, bums in the alley, workers everywhere carrying all kinds of things, vendors pushing carts, shop keepers minding the foyer, and a dozen different languages floating through the air. (Also, horrible pollution.) Historically, our cities were rich not just in high-quality architecture, but in high-quality density.

And to me, you cannot separate the our buildings from the social life of our cities. Minneapolis and Saint Paul will never have detailed buildings with copious doorways, windows on the street, and elaborate brickwork without sidewalks full of people to notice and use them. Our historic buildings come from an era when our cities were far denser than they are today. It is not enough to preserve buildings simply because they’re beautiful or historic or architecturally significant. We must revive them and bring them back to life. Otherwise, our cities will be little more than building museums.

A parade in Saint Paul in the 20s.

Charts are more sophisticated in French.

Historic Density Demands Compromise

And that’s one crux of the problem. To my mind, density is an historic resource. To bring our cities back to their historic densities, we need to make difficult decisions. Is the historic value of an old house, or a sidewalk, or a 1920s commercial storefront worth more than the historic value of street life and density? How do we make that decision?

There are no easy answers. The future of our cities is not black-and-white. Change is neither always good nor always bad. Buildings aren’t panda bears or redwood trees. They are places where people live, and each situation demands careful debate.  We must weigh the value of our existing spaces against our visions for the future. I know historic buildings are very valuable, and shouldn’t be tossed aside lightly. But so too is the kind of density that fostered those buildings in the first place. Re-creating density deserves to be part of the discussion.


Lots of people between Hennepin and Nicollet. is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

Categories: Twin Cities


StrongTowns - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 9:34am

So excited to be kicking off the Memphis Boot Camp today with Mayor A C Wharton Jr. I've had a chance to chat with the mayor and have been really inspired by his leadership. He didn't disappoint today.

Annexation is not where the action is.  

-Mayor Wharton

Memphis has long covered up its long term financial problems with the short term fix of annexation. Not any more. Mayor Wharton started the Boot Camp by letting people know that "annexation is not where the action is." That's a HUGE step in the right direction. By focusing in instead of out, Memphis is now going to be playing to its strengths.

The downtown and core neighborhoods of Memphis are really the low hanging fruit in terms of high returning investments, places where we can spend three and four figures instead in seven and get even higher returns doing so.

And just as important, these are places where we can improve the city's financial health while simultaneously improving the quality of life for the people that live there. With incremental neighborhood investments, we make people's lives better and do it in a way that will benefit everyone.

Categories: Twin Cities

FTFY Bike Crash Journalism #1

Twin Cities Sidewalks - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 7:48am
--> [Note: this is the original version of the story that appeared in the Star Tribune. The newspaper made some interesting changes, which I have detailed at the bottom.]Minneapolis bicyclist in critical condition after accident crash at Snelling and SummitA 51-year-old Minneapolis bicyclist faces life-threatening injuries after being struck by an SUV on Saturday morning in St. Paul.The man underwent surgery at 3:30 p.m. at Regions Hospital in St. Paul and was in critical condition Saturday night, said St. Paul police Cmdr. Matt Toupal, who wasn't wearing a kevlar vest.He was biking west on Summit Avenue into the intersection of Snelling Avenue about 7:30 a.m. when the driver of an eastbound SUV turned left onto Snelling, Toupal said. As the SUV turned, it struck the bicyclist, who wasn't wearing a helmet, Toupal said.The SUV driver, who wasn't paying enough attention while driving, called 911 after the collision, said St. Paul police Cmdr. Steve Frazer, who wasn't wearing reflective clothing, and the bicyclist was taken by ambulance to Regions Hospital.The bicyclist's name has not been released pending notification of family.Frazer said it was unclear whether the driver or the bicyclist was at fault, though the bicyclist was in a bike lane. He said the driver was not taken into custody, and authorities were piecing together how the accident happened."It would appear this whole thing is a horrible tragedy predictable given the dangerous design of the intersection," Frazer said.Frazer said he didn't know how many people were in the SUV at the time of the accident or how fast it was going when it hit the bicyclist.St. Paul police spokesman Howie Padilla said the driver wasn't intoxicated or impaired in any way.St. Paul police and the St. Paul Fire Department assisted at the scene.Update: A more recent version of the story include the following graphs... The intersection has two lanes in each direction on the main road, then service roads on either side. Summit also has bike lanes.[...]The bicyclist was at some point in the bike lane, but not necessarily when the crash occurred, the commander said.The intersection is already the site of a white “ghost bicycle” memorial in remembrance of Virginia Heuer, who died after an early morning crash in September 2008 when she was struck by an SUV turning out of a service road onto eastbound Summit.[...]The intersection is a critical artery in both directions with Macalester College on the southwestern corner. The Twin Cities Marathon also passes through on Summit as runners make their way to the Capitol. The roadway is popular for bikers, walkers and runners throughout the seasonsAt the time of the accident, the sky was overcast but the roads were dry and in good condition.Police haven’t released the name of the bicyclist pending notification of his family.Frazer didn’t rule out that a citation could be issued or charges filed in the future, but also said the incident could have been “truly accidental,” a “sad coincidence” of place and time.The Star Tribune's changes are all big improvements, and call attention to the role that street design played in this "accident." Perhaps most notably, Olson and her editors removed any reference to helmets from the piece! Contrary to popular opinion, bike helmets are not required by law, and they do not have a convincing safety record. See former Minneapolis bike coordinator Shaun Murphy's recent Commentary (in the same paper) for a sensible take on the great helmet debate: to Rochelle Olson and editors at the Star Tribune for adopting a more nuanced and informative approach to reporting bicycle crashes.
Categories: Twin Cities

Chart of the Day – Metro Area Transit Boardings

Streets.MN - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 7:00am

Today’s Charts of the Day feature Transit Boardings in the Metro area:

Annual Twin Cities metro-ara transit ridership – All providers / all modes (in millions)

Annual boardings on commuter rail, light rail transit, and express service buses (in millions)

Source: MnDOT  Annual Transportation Performance Report 2012 is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

Categories: Twin Cities

Building a Strong Memphis

StrongTowns - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 5:00am
Following World War II, Memphis embraced America’s new strategy for growth and prosperity intended to solve the most pressing social problem of the day: the poor condition of Memphis after decades of industrialization. The new strategy was suburbanization. Relying on the automobile to facilitate growth by horizontally expanding the city, Memphis shifted away from the traditional pattern of neighborhood development and played its part in building the American Dream of large yards, easy driving, and free parking. Suburbanization, sold as a way to cure blight and promote prosperity, was radically new and untested. It was also irresistible. Driven by federal programs and financial incentives, Memphis – like most American cities – built highways through the middle of the city, annexed property and extended public utilities outward. In the process, core neighborhoods were destroyed and residents relocated to neighborhoods built in the new, experimental style. Streetcars were abandoned and the economic activity at the old stops shifted to new commercial corridors. Old buildings were torn down to provide parking and millions of tax dollars were spent widening streets to accommodate the automobiles now necessary for daily life.Eventually, the vitality of the city was inverted from its traditional historic pattern of a strong core surrounded by incrementally growing neighborhoods to one where most economic activity took place on the edge. While this shift left many people behind and devastated the historic neighborhoods of Memphis, the result was seen largely as a social problem, not an economic one. Easy growth on the periphery – where land is cheap, the development community is ready, and all the government incentives are in place – was then, and remains today, the community’s default strategy for economic improvement.There is no question that suburbanization creates growth. In fact, it produced decades of the most robust growth ever experienced. Yet, despite the incredible growth, enduring prosperity remains elusive for most American cities, including Memphis.Hard bankruptcies like Detroit and San Bernardino grab headlines, but most cities struggle against the soft default where police officers and fire fighters are laid off, pensions are underfunded, services are cut, and routine maintenance is delayed, all while taxes creep up. In such a successful country, how can our cities be so fragile?The answer is that we have mistaken growth for wealth creation. Memphis does not lack growth; it lacks productive growth through transactions that build the community’s wealth over time. When cities expand horizontally, they trade the immediate increase in revenue that comes along with expansion for the long-term liability of maintaining and servicing the new, far-flung infrastructure.  When cities expand horizontally, they trade the immediate increase in revenue that comes along with expansion for the long-term liability of maintaining and servicing the new, far-flung infrastructure. In the short term, this creates an illusion of wealth as everything is brand new and the costs to the local government are minimal. Over time, however, as the maintenance bill comes due, cities find that the spread-out and expensive nature of this pattern of development overwhelms any revenue stream. Instead of building wealth, our post-World War II approach destroys it.Perversely, the answer to fiscal difficulty has been to generate more growth. More annexation, more subdivisions, more roads, more utilities, and more subsidies provide the quick cash that solves the short-term financial problem. When development inside the core city is considered, it generally takes the form of more massive gambles – new convention centers or huge retail complexes, for instance, driven by loads of municipal debt and tax breaks – that fail to hold their value over the long term. Of course, these exchanges only makes the long-term insolvency problem that much more critical.Memphis is now six decades into the suburban experiment. We are all experiencing the costs of this American dream; it is time to wake up and understand why. We need to end investments in this experimental pattern of development, along with the many direct and indirect subsidies that make it possible. We need to return to a pattern of development that creates neighborhoods of value, focused on improving the lives of people and not just their automobiles. When we build these kinds of strong towns, we will inevitably rediscover our traditional values of prudence and thrift as well as the value of community and place.Charles Marohn is the president of Strong Towns, a non-profit organization that helps America's towns achieve financial strength and resiliency.  He will appear as part of the Urban Land Institute’s “Bootstrap Cities: The Case For Agility” free public lecture series on Tuesday, April 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the High Point Ballroom. Visit for more information.


Categories: Twin Cities

Boneyard transforms former Old Chicago

Our Uptown - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 9:33pm

The brothers behind Crave leased the former Old Chicago at 2841 Hennepin and out came Boneyard, a southern-style restaurant and bar. The place opened in March and will boast a 180-seat outdoor patio this summer and roll up doors connecting it to the inside. Heavy Table has a review with plenty of food photos to give you the run down on whether or not you want to visit.

The revamped Hennepin facade.

The patio at Boneyard will seat 180, which is larger than the previous one when it was Old Chicago.

A rear bar on the Boneyard patio in Uptown


Categories: Twin Cities

Chart of the Day – Trucks

Streets.MN - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 7:00am

Today’s Charts of the Day concern trucking in Minnesota:

Heavy Commercial Average Annual Daily Traffic (HCAADT) by Corridor: 2012

Heavy Commercial Vehicle Miles Traveled (HCVMT) on the Minnesota State Highway System (in billions)

Source: MnDOT  Annual Transportation Performance Report 2012 is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

Categories: Twin Cities

Access by Nice Ride

Streets.MN - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 7:00am

I took my first Nice Ride last week. I had ridden a bicycle before, and I had used bike rental before (though not one of the modern automated systems), and I had used transportation vehicle “sharing” before (see e.g. ZipCar and Car2Go with mixed results), but I had not put all those things together. I finally figured since I am supervising research on this, I should actually become a member and test the system first person. [Not that this is a requirement, a medical researcher need not infect herself with a disease to study it, fortunately bike sharing is likely to be less lethal].

After signing up online. My subscription key came quickly in the mail. My first ride worked technically well. I inserted my key, and got a bike, and rode (helmet-less) from all of Coffman Union to McNamara on the University of Minnesota campus (1 km), riding on the mostly car-less Washington Avenue Bicycle Mall most of the distance, and then found the station to return the bike to, and pushed it in, and saw a green light, and left. Check out was simpler than Car2Go.

For me personally, the functional markets of NiceRide seem limited at the moment, (see map … sadly without actual bicycle trails marked) there isn’t a station too near my house, nor just outside my office. This particular ride did not save me any time, but hey, it got me a blog post. Perhaps NiceRide will slightly shorten a trip to Dinkytown or WestBank. City-wide there are lots of Origin-Destination pairs where NiceRide would be useful.

As part of a research project (Nice Stations: An Exploration of Nice Ride Bike Share Accessibility and Station Choice) published earlier this year, Jessica Schoner and I systematically analyzed the accessibility differential created by NiceRide vs. Walking. We write.

Bike-share stations provided an increase in accessibility to jobs relative to walking at medium and high time thresholds. For short thresholds (e.g., 5 to 10 minutes), the cost of walking to a station to retrieve a bike consumed too much of the travel time budget, resulting in fewer jobs being accessible by Nice Ride than by walking directly. At 15 minutes, using Nice Ride provides access to 1.7 times as many jobs as walking on average in blocks that are within a 15-minute walk to a station. The peak advantage occurs at 30 minutes, where bike-share provides access to 221% more jobs than walking.

Nice Ride – Walk Accessibility at 40 minutes

The Figure shows where bike-share has the strongest advantage at the 40-minute threshold. Yellow and brown areas indicate higher job accessibility by bike-share than walking, and pink areas indicate the reverse. In downtown Minneapolis and immediately surrounding neighborhoods, bike-share improves job accessibility, but the areas are dense enough that walking still provides access to a large number of jobs. The dark brown ring shows the boundary where the utility of walking declines and bike-share remains high. Much of this area is lower density with fewer jobs, and it is too far from downtown for pedestrians reach it within the threshold. Bike-share’s higher travel speeds continue to enable people with access to a station to reach major job centers in and near downtown. Although downtown St. Paul also has a high concentration of jobs, the distribution of stations at the end of the 2011 season did not extend far enough to provide a benefit over walking. is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

Categories: Twin Cities

Reversing Sprawl through Connectivity

StrongTowns - Mon, 04/21/2014 - 6:47am

We will try to provide periodic updates here this week from the Memphis Boot Camp, but you can follow everything that is going on at and at #membootcamp.

We will start the week by posting an op-ed by the Mayor of the city of Memphis, A.C. Wharton, Jr..

Last week, Smart Growth America released “Measuring Sprawl 2014,” a report examining development in 221 major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and evaluating development on a national index. With a score of 71, the greater Memphis region ranks near the bottom of the list at number 196 out of 221. Furthermore, Memphis ranks as the sixth most sprawled large metropolitan area.

Photo: Billy Hathorn CC-BY-SA-3.0While these findings are disappointing, they are not surprising. The Memphis region has shown a pattern of sprawled development over several decades. Between 1970 and 2010, the city of Memphis population increased by 4 percent (619,757 to 645,237), while the geographic area of the city increased by 55 percent (208 square miles to 323 square miles). This is why the work we’ve done over the last few years, starting with Sustainable Shelby, to create a more sustainable city and region is so important for our future.

Since 2010, Memphis officials have worked to improve conditions for persons using bikes and have embarked on an ambitious process to create new bike infrastructure throughout the city. The result of 71 new miles of dedicated bike lanes, shared-use paths, and bikes are increased bicycle usage (double the usage in 2008) and improved safety (number of accidents reduced by 35 percent since 2008). Most of these new miles were achieved through coordination with ongoing repaving projects and did not require any new budgetary considerations in order to create on-street bicycle lanes. With an understanding of projects planned for the next three years, Memphis is expected to once again double the miles of bicycle-specific infrastructure within its limits by 2016.

The city achieved national recognition for its rapid progress towards becoming more bicycle friendly. In 2012, Bicycling magazine named Memphis the “Most Improved City for Cycling” after naming it to the “worst” list in both 2008 and 2010.

The city of Memphis is a partner with Shelby County government on the Mid-South Regional Greenprint and Sustainability Plan, a tri-state planning effort to connect green space and bike infrastructure across four counties in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. This ambitious effort not only calls for 400 miles of new trails over the next 25 years, but serves as a framework for managing growth across the region by placing an emphasis on balancing our most critical ecological areas with our population and employment centers to achieve the greatest value from infrastructure investments.

The need for this connection between housing and employment can be seen clearly in the Airport City area surrounding the Memphis International Airport. Considering that the Airport City area is Memphis’ largest employment center, Memphis developed a master plan for the area to encourage businesses and residents to locate closer to this center of commerce.

The plan provides recommendations that demonstrate the benefits of the last mile connectivity for manufacturers and distributors. For those who work in the area, the plan provides recommendations for greater opportunities for decent, affordable housing so individuals can have choices to live near where they work.

The city of Memphis, through the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team, is focused on using data to identify those areas in the core of the city where small, tactical investments generate a high return. This has been seen in the revival of Broad Avenue in Binghampton, South Memphis, Overton Square, Crosstown and other citizen-led creative placemaking efforts. Over the past two years, Memphis is cleaning up our older neighborhoods and investing our time and money in our core city neighborhoods that generate high returns. For example, city investments in Crosstown, Overton Square and Broad Avenue are returning people to the core of the city where we have seen a 40-50 percent reduction in vacancy rates in these areas.

These initiatives work in concert with a host of other programs being implemented throughout the region. As we finalize the plans for the Blueprint for Prosperity, a program to reduce the number of Memphians in poverty, initiatives targeted towards reducing sprawl will play an integral role in ensuring that all Memphians have access to jobs and resources. This administration is highly committed to reversing the negative trends of the past decades.


Categories: Twin Cities

100 days of solar

Net Density - Sun, 04/20/2014 - 9:36pm

Today I noticed that my solar charge controller has been running for 100 days (it logs this among many other data points).  Here are some highlights from the first 100 days:

  • The system has produced 32 kWhs from two 100-watt panels.  This is roughly 2% of the total electricity consumption we saw over the same period last year.
  • Converting from DC current to AC current at low wattages is wildly inefficient.  I usually run the wifi router and cable modem continuously off the battery and I lose about 40% of my produced energy to the inverter.  It is much happier running closer to its peak (1000 watts).  We should probably convert to DC.
  • Something happened to my charge controller settings when I converted to 24 volts.  Although the controller was still charging, I lost about 10 days worth of data (hence the gap in the chart) and wasn’t able to communicate with it over that time.  A firmware reboot fixed this.
  • Although very cold, clear days are when the panels perform their best, the sun just doesn’t shine for that long each day in January and February in Minnesota.  The panels being on the ground doesn’t help either.  Just from the middle of March to the middle of April I’ve about doubled my daily output.
  • All that said, this chart doesn’t really show total potential of the panels on a given day.  If I didn’t use much of the battery the day before, panel production the next day was curtailed by the controller to avoid overcharging the battery.  I’m trying to match the loads I put on the battery with the “capacity” of the season, but that’s sometimes tricky.
  • I recently learned we were accepted into the Minnesota solar rebate program for 2014!  So with the help of a friendly solar installer, we should have a 2.8 kW grid-tied system installed sometime this year. Along with the grid-tied panels, the installer will be adding two panels on the roof dedicated to battery charging.  Now I just have to wait…
Categories: Twin Cities

Sunday Summary

Streets.MN - Sun, 04/20/2014 - 1:01pm

Here’s the quick guide to the past week on on a warm, sunny Easter Sunday

Big Issues:

  • In Defense of the Dinkytown “Riots” uses first-hand reporting to suggest the spontaneous street gatherings in Dinkytown could have been mitigated if the pedestrian facilities were improved; comments debate the crowd management infrastructure as well as the riot rhetoric.
  • TCF Bank to Leave Minneapolis for Sad Warehouse is a photo essay of TCF’s new location in Plymouth plus a request for comments.  The comments are many and varied…transit, free parking, availability of amenities (such as lunch), contrasting other corporate moves toward the center
  • Dense Ideas: Southwest And Other LRT Lines provides more review of the SWLRT and the density (or lack of it) along the line as well as the bias/assumption that the purpose is to bring suburban residents into the city for work or vice versa, but not serve the neighborhoods.


Politics (and more big issues):


Series: Critique of the ITDP’s BRT Scorecard is the last installment in a series which looked at the ITDP scoring of the Red Line and Campus Connector and now scores the scorecard itself.  Swinging slightly south, the EU Bicycling Information Collection Initiative series stays in Germany for its 4th installment Munching on Munich’s Climb to Cycling Prowess (following Seville, Ferrara, and Berlin).


Audio/visual department

Audio:  Are streets too inviting to cars? flags’s Bill Lindeke’s appearance on MPR’s Daily Circuit show and



Finally, for this lovely sunny Sunday we have posts on Bicycles and Springtime: Nice Ride Q&A: Funding Exists for 17 New Stations celebrates the opening of bike share season by talking to Anthony Ongaro, Nice Ride’s Director of Marketing, about what’s new with Nice Ride and bike sharing etc.; The Best Laid Plans maps an early Spring bike ride around St. Paul and shows us some of the sights and people along the way.

Have a great week! is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

Categories: Twin Cities

Touch of Evil Opening

Streets.MN - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 9:49am

In this famous opening shot in Touch of Evil (1958), Orson Welles shows us that walking can be just as fast and much safer than driving in many cases. Via Critical Commons. is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

Categories: Twin Cities

How can we cure congestion?

Streets.MN - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 7:00am

How can we cure congestion? by Lewis Lehe is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

Categories: Twin Cities

The city we’re all looking for

Getting Around Minneapolis - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 11:36pm

From The Golden Age by Kenneth Grahame:

ALL the roads of our neighbourhood were cheerful and friendly, having each of them pleasant qualities of their own; but this one seemed different from the others in its masterful suggestion of a serious purpose, speeding you along with a strange uplifting of the heart. The others tempted chiefly with their treasures of hedge and ditch; the rapt surprise of the first lords-and-ladies, the rustle of a field-mouse, splash of a frog; while cool noses of brother-beasts were pushed at you through gate or gap. A loiterer you had need to be, did you choose one of them,—so many were the tiny hands thrust out to detain you, from this side and that. But this other was of a sterner sort, and even in its shedding off of bank and hedgerow as it marched straight and full for the open downs, it seemed to declare its contempt for adventitious trappings to catch the shallow-pated. When the sense of injustice or disappointment was heavy on me, and things were very black within, as on this particular day, the road of character was my choice for that solitary ramble, when I turned my back for an afternoon on a world that had unaccountably declared itself against me.

“The Knights’ Road,” we children had named it, from a sort of feeling that, if from any quarter at all, it would be down this track we might some day see Lancelot and his peers come pacing on their great war-horses,—supposing that any of the stout band still survived, in nooks and unexplored places. Grown-up people sometimes spoke of it as the “Pilgrims’ Way”; but I didn’t know much about pilgrims,—except Walter in the Horselberg story. Him I sometimes saw, breaking with haggard eyes out of yonder copse, and calling to the pilgrims as they hurried along on their desperate march to the Holy City, where peace and pardon were awaiting them. “All roads lead to Rome,” I had once heard somebody say; and I had taken the remark very seriously, of course, and puzzled over it many days. There must have been some mistake, I concluded at last; but of one road at least I intuitively felt it to be true. And my belief was clinched by something that fell from Miss Smedley during a history lesson, about a strange road that ran right down the middle of England till it reached the coast, and then began again in France, just opposite, and so on undeviating, through city and vineyard, right from the misty Highlands to the Eternal City. Uncorroborated, any statement of Miss Smedley’s usually fell on incredulous ears; but here, with the road itself in evidence, she seemed, once, in a way, to have strayed into truth.

Rome! It was fascinating to think that it lay at the other end of this white ribbon that rolled itself off from my feet over the distant downs. I was not quite so uninstructed as to imagine l could reach it that afternoon; but some day, I thought, if things went on being as unpleasant as they were now,—some day, when Aunt Eliza had gone on a visit,—we would see.

I tried to imagine what it would be like when I got there. The Coliseum I knew, of course, from a woodcut in the history-book: so to begin with I plumped that down in the middle. The rest had to be patched up from the little grey market-town where twice a year we went to have our hair cut; hence, in the result, Vespasian’s amphitheatre was approached by muddy little streets, wherein the Red Lion and the Blue Boar, with Somebody’s Entire along their front, and “Commercial Room” on their windows; the doctor’s house, of substantial red-brick; and the facade of the New Wesleyan Chapel, which we thought very fine, were the chief architectural ornaments: while the Roman populace pottered about in smocks and corduroys, twisting the tails of Roman calves and inviting each other to beer in musical Wessex. From Rome I drifted on to other cities, dimly heard of—Damascus, Brighton (Aunt Eliza’s ideal), Athens, and Glasgow, whose glories the gardener sang; but there was a certain sameness in my conception of all of them: that Wesleyan chapel would keep cropping up everywhere. It was easier to go a-building among those dream-cities where no limitations were imposed, and one was sole architect, with a free hand. Down a delectable street of cloud-built palaces I was mentally pacing, when I happened upon the Artist.

He was seated at work by the roadside, at a point whence the cool large spaces of the downs, juniper-studded, swept grandly westwards. His attributes proclaimed him of the artist tribe: besides, he wore knickerbockers like myself,—a garb confined, I was aware, to boys and artists. I knew I was not to bother him with questions, nor look over his shoulder and breathe in his ear—they didn’t like it, this genus irritabile; but there was nothing about staring in my code of instructions, the point having somehow been overlooked: so, squatting down on the grass, I devoted myself to a passionate absorbing of every detail. At the end of five minutes there was not a button on him that I could not have passed an examination in; and the wearer himself of that homespun suit was probably less familiar with its pattern and texture than I was. Once he looked up, nodded, half held out his tobacco pouch,—mechanically, as it were,—then, returning it to his pocket, resumed his work, and I my mental photography.

After another five minutes or so had passed he remarked, without looking my way: “Fine afternoon we’re having: going far to-day?”

“No, I’m not going any farther than this,” I replied; “I WAS thinking of going on to Rome but I’ve put it off.”

“Pleasant place, Rome,” he murmured; “you’ll like it.” It was some minutes later that he added: “But I wouldn’t go just now, if I were you,—too jolly hot.”

“YOU haven’t been to Rome, have you?” I inquired.

“Rather,” he replied, briefly; “I live there.”

This was too much, and my jaw dropped as I struggled to grasp the fact that I was sitting there talking to a fellow who lived in Rome. Speech was out of the question: besides, I had other things to do. Ten solid minutes had I already spent in an examination of him as a mere stranger and artist; and now the whole thing had to be done over again, from the changed point of view. So I began afresh, at the crown of his soft hat, and worked down to his solid British shoes, this time investing everything with the new Roman halo; and at last I managed to get out: “But you don’t really live there, do you?” never doubting the fact, but wanting to hear it repeated.

“Well,” he said, good-naturedly overlooking the slight rudeness of my query, “I live there as much as l live anywhere,—about half the year sometimes. I’ve got a sort of a shanty there. You must come and see it some day.”

“But do you live anywhere else as well?” I went on, feeling the forbidden tide of questions surging up within me.

“O yes, all over the place,” was his vague reply. “And I’ve got a diggings somewhere off Piccadilly.”

“Where’s that?” I inquired.

“Where’s what?” said he. “Oh, Piccadilly! It’s in London.”

“Have you a large garden?” I asked; “and how many pigs have you got?”

“I’ve no garden at all,” he replied, sadly, “and they don’t allow me to keep pigs, though I’d like to, awfully. It’s very hard.”

“But what do you do all day, then,” I cried, “and where do you go and play, without any garden, or pigs, or things?”

“When I want to play,” he said, gravely, “I have to go and play in the street; but it’s poor fun, I grant you. There’s a goat, though, not far off, and sometimes I talk to him when I’m feeling lonely; but he’s very proud.”

“Goats ARE proud,” I admitted. “There’s one lives near here, and if you say anything to him at all, he hits you in the wind with his head. You know what it feels like when a fellow hits you in the wind?”

“I do, well,” he replied, in a tone of proper melancholy, and painted on.

“And have you been to any other places,” I began again, presently, “besides Rome and Piccy-what’s-his-name?”

“Heaps,” he said. “I’m a sort of Ulysses—seen men and cities, you know. In fact, about the only place I never got to was the Fortunate Island.”

I began to like this man. He answered your questions briefly and to the point, and never tried to be funny. I felt I could be confidential with him.

“Wouldn’t you like,” I inquired, “to find a city without any people in it at all?”

He looked puzzled. “I’m afraid I don’t quite understand,” said he.

“I mean,” I went on eagerly, “a city where you walk in at the gates, and the shops are all full of beautiful things, and the houses furnished as grand as can be, and there isn’t anybody there whatever! And you go into the shops, and take anything you want—chocolates and magic lanterns and injirubber balls—and there’s nothing to pay; and you choose your own house and live there and do just as you like, and never go to bed unless you want to!”

The artist laid down his brush. “That WOULD be a nice city,” he said. “Better than Rome. You can’t do that sort of thing in Rome,—or in Piccadilly either. But I fear it’s one of the places I’ve never been to.”

“And you’d ask your friends,” I went on, warming to my subject,—”only those you really like, of course,—and they’d each have a house to themselves,—there’d be lots of houses,—and no relations at all, unless they promised they’d be pleasant, and if they weren’t they’d have to go.”

“So you wouldn’t have any relations?” said the artist. “Well, perhaps you’re right. We have tastes in common, I see.”

“I’d have Harold,” I said, reflectively, “and Charlotte. They’d like it awfully. The others are getting too old. Oh, and Martha—I’d have Martha, to cook and wash up and do things. You’d like Martha. She’s ever so much nicer than Aunt Eliza. She’s my idea of a real lady.”

“Then I’m sure I should like her,” he replied, heartily, “and when I come to—what do you call this city of yours? Nephelo—something, did you say?”

“I—I don’t know,” I replied, timidly. “I’m afraid it hasn’t got a name—yet.”

The artist gazed out over the downs. “‘The poet says, dear city of Cecrops;’” he said, softly, to himself, “‘and wilt not thou say, dear city of Zeus?’ That’s from Marcus Aurelius,” he went on, turning again to his work. “You don’t know him, I suppose; you will some day.”

“Who’s he?” I inquired.

“Oh, just another fellow who lived in Rome,” he replied, dabbing away.

“O dear!” I cried, disconsolately. “What a lot of people seem to live at Rome, and I’ve never even been there! But I think I’d like MY city best.”

“And so would I,” he replied with unction. “But Marcus Aurelius wouldn’t, you know.”

“Then we won’t invite him,” I said, “will we?”

“I won’t if you won’t,” said he. And that point being settled, we were silent for a while.

“Do you know,” he said, presently, “I’ve met one or two fellows from time to time who have been to a city like yours,—perhaps it was the same one. They won’t talk much about it—only broken hints, now and then; but they’ve been there sure enough. They don’t seem to care about anything in particular—and every thing’s the same to them, rough or smooth; and sooner or later they slip off and disappear; and you never see them again. Gone back, I suppose.”

“Of course,” said I. “Don’t see what they ever came away for; I wouldn’t,—to be told you’ve broken things when you haven’t, and stopped having tea with the servants in the kitchen, and not allowed to have a dog to sleep with you. But I’ve known people, too, who’ve gone there.”

The artist stared, but without incivility.

“Well, there’s Lancelot,” I went on. “The book says he died, but it never seemed to read right, somehow. He just went away, like Arthur. And Crusoe, when he got tired of wearing clothes and being respectable. And all the nice men in the stones who don’t marry the Princess, ‘cos only one man ever gets married in a book, you know. They’ll be there!”

“And the men who never come off,” he said, “who try like the rest, but get knocked out, or somehow miss,—or break down or get bowled over in the melee,—and get no Princess, nor even a second-class kingdom,—some of them’ll be there, I hope?”

“Yes, if you like,” I replied, not quite understanding him; “if they’re friends of yours, we’ll ask ‘em, of course.”

“What a time we shall have!” said the artist, reflectively; “and how shocked old Marcus Aurelius will be!”

The shadows had lengthened uncannily, a tide of golden haze was flooding the grey-green surface of the downs, and the artist began to put his traps together, preparatory to a move. I felt very low; we would have to part, it seemed, just as we were getting on so well together. Then he stood up, and he was very straight and tall, and the sunset was in his hair and beard as he stood there, high over me. He took my hand like an equal. “I’ve enjoyed our conversation very much,” he said. “That was an interesting subject you started, and we haven’t half exhausted it. We shall meet again, I hope.”

“Of course we shall,” I replied, surprised that there should be any doubt about it.

“In Rome, perhaps?” said he.

“Yes, in Rome,” I answered, “or Piccy-the-other-place, or somewhere.”

“Or else,” said he, “in that other city,—when we’ve found the way there. And I’ll look out for you, and you’ll sing out as soon as you see me. And we’ll go down the street arm-in-arm, and into all the shops, and then I’ll choose my house, and you’ll choose your house, and we’ll live there like princes and good fellows.”

“Oh, but you’ll stay in my house, won’t you?” I cried; “wouldn’t ask everybody; but I’ll ask YOU.”

He affected to consider a moment; then “Right!” he said: “I believe you mean it, and I WILL come and stay with you. I won’t go to anybody else, if they ask me ever so much. And I’ll stay quite a long time, too, and I won’t be any trouble.”

Upon this compact we parted, and I went down-heartedly from the man who understood me, back to the house where I never could do anything right. How was it that everything seemed natural and sensible to him, which these uncles, vicars, and other grown-up men took for the merest tomfoolery? Well, he would explain this, and many another thing, when we met again. The Knights’ Road! How it always brought consolation! Was he possibly one of those vanished knights I had been looking for so long? Perhaps he would be in armour next time,—why not? He would look well in armour, I thought. And I would take care to get there first, and see the sunlight flash and play on his helmet and shield, as he rode up the High Street of the Golden City.

Meantime, there only remained the finding it,—an easy matter.



Categories: Twin Cities