Dan Hoxworth’s First 100 days at TLC

From Dan Hoxworth, Executive Director

Within three weeks of joining TLC, I was flying down the rails on the new Northstar commuter rail line at 70+ miles per hour. Little did I know that the opening of the Northstar was just the beginning of many successes. Indeed, the issues of concern to TLC and its members are moving at the pace of high speed rail.

Please allow me to reflect on the various efforts that have moved forward as we move down the rail towards more livable communities. Our policy, advocacy and organizing efforts have been in full gear!!

We have been working with the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership in Washington, D.C., and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy to produce a comprehensive analysis of regional transportation and land-use planning in the Twin Cities. That report, to be released in the coming months, will identify challenges and begin a conversation about recommendations for change.

At the Capitol this session, we are making the case with the Transit Partners Coalition for a bonding bill that includes more than $107 million statewide for transit and bike/pedestrian projects. We also are working in coalition with several partners in an effort to pass “Complete Streets” legislation.

Looking to 2011 and 2012, we are working with our Transit Partners coalition to analyze the needs for long-term transit capital and operating funding and studying revenue sources to address funding gaps.

With many new and long-time partners, we took the lead in hosting the first Governor candidates forum on transportation, land use and the environment. More than 500 people packed the house on a snowy evening to hear ten candidates from three political parties speak to these issues. There is no doubt that the candidates walked out of that room with a different appreciation for the public’s interest in these issues and the questions being asked.

We are working closely with Transportation for America (T4A) and T4Minnesota on the new federal transportation bill, including meeting with the staff of Senators Klobuchar and Franken. One of the highlights of my first month was meeting privately with Congressman Oberstar, chair of the House Transportation Committee, and learning first hand of his commitment to all modes of transportation and his personal passion for biking and creating a healthy lifestyle for children. His knowledge is truly encyclopedic, with an incredible vision for our state and our nation.

TLC’s Bike Walk Twin Cities (BWTC) program, after a thorough review and analysis, allocated $1.75 million in capital funding for what may be the nation’s first large scale bike sharing program, Nice Ride. Starting from a base of approximately 750 bikes and 65 kiosks, Nice Ride will dramatically reshape the way people make short trips around central Minneapolis. Other BWTC projects set for2010 will increase Minneapolis bikeways by 40%, greatly enhancing both the environment and convenience for cyclists and pedestrians.

I also have been given a firsthand look at the expertise on TLC’s staff.  Let me share just one example. White Bear Lake’s Bike Walk taskforce is meeting and working with MNDOT officials about Highway 96 from White Bear to Stillwater. We lent our expertise to the group. Steve Clark, a member of TLC’s BWTC team, shared with the group and MNDOT officials an analysis we commissioned from a nationally recognized engineer. The report indicated that the mill and overlay would allow for the creation of a wider paved shoulder. By narrowing the lane width to 10 or 11 feet from 12 feet, the road could accommodate a 5 or 6 foot bike lane. This minor change greatly increases the safety for cyclists and pedestrians using a road that connects to the Gateway Trail, especially as currently there is no parallel trail or sidewalk on that stretch of road. With appropriate signage and road markings, a road that was hazardous could become much safer and more navigable for all users. Thus, increasing safety for cyclists also increases safety for the drivers.

At TLC, we would not have had this knowledge or capacity within our staff, but for the Bike Walk Twin Cities program. It has been impressive to see the relationships and systems put in place over the past four years to ensure that this national non-motorized pilot program, one of four in the nation, is a great vehicle for helping communities learn.  Sure, there have been growing pains for TLC in the demands of taking on such a program, but the rewards are in the quality of the projects, the knowledge that has been developed with our different state, regional, and municipal partners, and the integrated thinking that has come from it.

So in my first 100 days, I have come to understand TLC as a leader and facilitator not only for transit, biking and walking, but also in transportation reform more generally.  The staff is committed to increasing access for people throughout the metropolitan region and enabling all communities to have the tools to create safe, healthy, vibrant livable communities. Transportation is a crucial tool to creating a dynamic, thriving region.

I hope you will join me and TLC in this movement—a movement where everyone has access and a choice about transportation and where changes in development patterns make it easier to walk, bicycle, and take transit. With your help, we can keep our movement and momentum moving at the rate of high speed rail and reach our destination by 2020, not 2030!