An Intern’s-Eye View of the MIC
Did you realize that on just fourteen streets in Duluth and Superior during one 12-hour period in September, there are around 1,240 uses of infrastructure by bicyclists, and 5,896 uses of infrastructure by pedestrians? The entire town I live in (around 900 people) would have to walk back and forth more than six times to get that pedestrian count.
I am going to guess that your answer is no, you had no idea the extent of the infrastructure used by alternative transportation in Duluth and Superior.
This is the fourth year of the biannual bicycle and pedestrian counts. James Gittemeier, senior planner at the MIC, and Shawna Mullen-Eardley of the Healthy Duluth Area Coalition determine count data sites, recruit and coordinate volunteers, and lead volunteer training. After attending training, each volunteer* is asked to sit for two hours at a count site and fill out a form noting direction of travel, users by demographic (male, female, child, using assistive device), and mode of transportation (walking, biking, “other”). (The method for the count was created by the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project).
Are you getting a better idea of what goes into this seemingly simple chart?
After the day is over and all of the forms are gathered, the amazingly talented and intelligent intern (hey that’s me!) gets to decipher the notes of dozens of volunteers. The data gets entered into Excel by 15 minute increments for each demographic and each mode of transportation. Lucky for me, there is already an Excel spreadsheet that is set up to create the totals. I then finagle Excel to make those totals magically appear into this chart.
Don’t think this chart is the final product, either! After the data is entered and the totals are gathered, we begin an analysis of how the trends in the data will have an effect on future decision making for alternative transportation infrastructure. Excel is very useful in the analysis portion. So far I’ve created around 50 charts to get a better idea of visible trends.
Although I will concede that the data is not perfect – human error in counting and entering the data – the numbers tell an interesting story: The people of Duluth and Superior are outside and active.
*A huge thank you to all volunteers whether you did more than asked or did just as much as you could
…and buses (oh my!)
I can’t talk about all the time I’ve spent in Excel the last two weeks without also bringing buses into the mix.
Robert Herling, my supervisor and another senior planner at the MIC, has been researching the infrastructure use in the Lincoln Park for the Multi-modal Study that’s underway for that neighborhood.
Have you ever had to transfer between two city buses to find that either the last one left just minutes prior to your arrival, or you have less than five minutes to get to the bus stop on the other side of an intersection? You should try it some time.
Robert tasked me with finding out how often this occurs for a few of the major transfers in the Lincoln Park area, from the mainline at 21st Ave W and Superior Street to the mall lines, as well as the mainline at Superior Street and Garfield to the Superior, Wisconsin line. A misstep in scheduling is not a rare occurrence for these bus users, but don’t fret! Our loyal transit authorities are not overlooking this issue.
Thanks for taking the time to join me on my journey to find out what the MIC is all about. Now I must get back to my spreadsheets.
Updating the 25-year Vision for Transportation in the Twin Ports
You are invited to attend one of the four public meetings on Connections 2040 – the Twin Ports Long Range Transportation Plan.
The Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council (MIC) is updating its Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) to provide policy guidance, goals and strategies for jurisdictions within the greater metropolitan area of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. It covers a twenty-five year planning horizon and is updated every four years.
The over-arching purpose of the LRTP is to provide a planning foundation for jurisdictions to work cooperatively to provide a well-maintained, integrated, accessible and multi-modal transportation system to safely and efficiently move people and freight for the next 25 years, within the constraints of funding the region can reasonably expect to receive.
The heart of the Plan is a listing of proposed federally-funded transportation projects, as well as transportation initiatives underway within the region, to be implemented from 2015-2040. You can view an interactive map of the projects here.
To learn more about demographic trends for this area, projections, transportation priorities and planned projects, you have three opportunities for input:
1. Attend a Public Meeting
Thurs. Sept 11, 2014
Community Action Duluth, 2424 W 5th Street, Duluth, MN 55806
Thurs. Sept 18, 2014
Superior Public Library, 1530 Tower Avenue, Superior, WI 54880
Thurs. Sept 25, 2014
Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (ARDC)
221 W First Street, Duluth, MN 55802
Mon. Sept 29, 2014
214 West Superior Street
221 W First Street, Duluth, MN 55802
2. Visit our Connections 2040 web page at www.dsmic.org/lrtp for more information about the plan and to view the interactive map of proposed projects. You can use the “layers” tab in the upper right corner to toggle on and off views of information about environmentally sensitive areas, low-income and minority populations, etc.
3. Contact MIC Senior Planner James Gittemeier by phone at (218) 529-7556 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As cities across the U.S. are battling it out for the distinction of “Most Bike-Friendly,” does Duluth stand a chance of being included some day in the Top-50 list?
You might think that our long winters and steep hills would prevent this. But think again: two of the top-ranked cities, Portland, Oregon (back to #1 this year) and Minneapolis (dropped to #2) are neither sunny nor warm places for much of the year-Portland is rainy , cool and hilly and we know all about the cold and snowy winters of Minnesota.
Consider also that two other cities – Boulder, Colorado (#3), which is comparable to Duluth in its total population and San Francisco, California (#8) – feature many or more of the same topographical obstacles we face here.
So what does it take to get on this list?
In addition to having a significant interest in cycling on the part of its residents, a city needs to be willing to be proactive and try new things.
In some ways Duluth has operated this way, to promote bicycling as a transportation option. For example,
- The DTA was an early adopter of the bike racks on the front of buses.
- There is a dedicated lane on Park Point (from April to October) for non-motorized users.The Bong Bridge (U.S. Hwy 2/53) connecting Duluth and Superior includes a separate, protected bicycle and pedestrian lane.
- The City of Duluth and St. Louis County are creating space for bicyclists and pedestrians by adding shoulders where possible when reconstructing streets, including on parts of Arrowhead Road, Wallace Avenue, Snively Road and the new space created on Glenwood Street.
- The Lakewalk (and the future Cross City Trail link that will connect the Lakewalk to the Munger Trail) is a bike-friendly, off-street link that will run the entire length of Duluth.
These are highly visible bike-friendly amenities. However, what is missing is just as noticeable:
- Roads commonly labeled by local bicyclists as unsafe or dangerous—Superior Street in Downtown Duluth, Woodland Avenue around UMD, and 4th Street near the hospitals —are the very streets that should be the most accommodating. Although these major streets carry a quite a bit of car traffic, they are also ideal for bicycling, as they provide the most direct route to major destinations and generally have less severe slopes than other streets.
- Other streets and public spaces, including intersections and routes on top of the hill near the Mall where bicycling has not been given a whole lot of thought, are enormous impediments to bicycling in this region.
But we also have some opportunities in our near future for the Twin Ports community to be proactive in a couple of upcoming projects:
- Belknap Street, in the City of Superior, is being considered for some type of bicycle accommodation that would complement the planned bike lanes on Tower Avenue as part of their downtown streetscape project.
- A big opportunity in Duluth is the new DTA Multimodal Transportation Terminal, a part of which is a new “northwest passage” skyway connecting Downtown Duluth and the DECC. This facility has the opportunity to serve as a bike station as well as provide a safe and convenient bicycle path across I-35 to and from the core downtown area.
So, what do you think? What’s your experience with biking in Duluth? Do we have the commitment that’s necessary to bring our city up to the level of one of America’s most bike-friendly cities? What do you see as opportunities—or opportunities lost—for improving biking here?
Steep hills and long cold winters are a fact of life here in Duluth, MN – and pose a significant barrier to commuting by bike in this town.
But there’s also the Lakewalk and its planned extension across the length of the City, providing a safe and scenic off-street route; signed onstreet bike routes; a few miles of dedicated bike lanes; and ways to make it up that hill.
Not to mention, it’s summer. The cyclists are out in force and several of them stopped by our Lake Avenue bike station on Bike to Work day a couple of weeks ago.
As you’ll see from our video interviews, they come from every part of the city, feel that the advantages of biking far outweigh the disadvantages, and generally find biking to work a very viable option.
Check it out – and perhaps be persuaded that any day can be Bike to Work day.
Video footage by Robert Herling and Rondi Watson; editing by James Gittemeier