When I was looking for a home, I asked myself the same question before I even stepped through the front door: is this close to public transit with safe streets to get there? In so many cases, in so many neighborhoods, the answer was no.
And for my family, like so many others, access to transportation options isn’t simply an added amenity; it’s a life necessity. For my mother who doesn’t drive, going to the store or getting to the doctor’s office typically start with walking our neighborhood streets, crossing busy intersections on foot and riding public transit to her destination. Unfortunately, what should be a simple and joyful part of our everyday experience can range from frustrating to fatal in too many areas across Ward 5.
One of the reasons I’m running for city council is to ensure that every member of your family — and mine — has safe, accessible and reliable transportation options so adults can get to work, kids can get to school and our seniors can maintain healthy and engaged lives as they age.
I still remember the evening earlier this year when Robert Buxton and Meridith Aikens were struck and killed by a motorist while crossing Larpenteur Avenue near Rice Street, at the upper boundary of Ward 5. For years, we’d know that area was highly dangerous for pedestrians, lacking even basic lighting for those traveling on foot. I knew firsthand because my mother had navigated that area using her walker countless times before. Yet it took the death of two people — community members who can’t be replaced – to make any changes to infrastructure in that deadly area.
I know we can do better. When I was the Executive Director at St. Anthony Park Community Council (SAPCC) we were recognized nationally for our work around accessible transit and safe streets. One of the first things we did was a walking survey — led by our neighbors with disabilities. We quickly saw all the ways our streets are inaccessible and dangerous as a trip that would have taken a mere 15 minutes for someone walking extended to nearly two hours for someone in a wheelchair because of construction, incomplete sidewalks and other barriers. Instead of waiting for tragedy, we were proactive in making sure our neighborhood was fully accessible to everyone, whether they drive, walk, bike or roll. And there wasn’t a single death on our streets for four years.
But I also know transportation isn’t just a city issue. I’ve served on the Transportation Advisory Board for the Metropolitan Council, which operates Metro Transit and plays a central role in how federal and state tax dollars are spent in our region. I’ve advocated to shift the dominant focus from moving vehicles to serving people, elevating the need for investments in public transit and services like Metro Mobility.
In Ward 5 we deserve dignified infrastructure, like heated shelters for high frequency buses that have trash cans and solar charging stations. We need safe and complete sidewalks in ALL our neighborhoods and bike lanes that don’t just get people through our Ward but are informed by and serve neighbors in our Ward. And we need to be smart and strategic about using design and enforcement to enhance the safety of dangerous streets and intersections that community members have identified as problems in their neighborhoods.
As your Ward 5 City Councilmember I would work every day to ensure that our streets are safe for all types of travel, from walking and biking to taking the bus, and that people have public transit options that give them the freedom to move around our city and the region. Some of my priorities would include:
Developing intentional policies, by partnering with City planning staff, to be inclusive of multi-modal transportation
Ensuring street and neighborhood development projects are designed for walkability and accessibility across age, income level, family structure and ability
Creating and maintaining safe environments to bike
Advocating to balance Metro Transit investment in the east and west metro so St. Paul receives adequate and appropriate services and funding
It’s time we had a strong voice for safe and accessible transportation options on the St. Paul City Council. Let’s do better — let’s move forward — together.