Look at the photo above. This is a bus stop. In St. Paul, a city committed to “creating safe, pleasant, lively streets and public spaces that work for everyone from eight to eighty.” If you are eight years old, will you be secure climbing over the snow to the bus? If you are eighty, will you be secure walking a block over the unplowed, unshoveled side of the street to get to the bus?
Back in October, I wrote to the powers that be asking for safer bus stops:
“There are three bus stops on the west side of Cretin Avenue between St. Anthony and Marshall. While I appreciate the rerouting (last year) of the Grand Avenue bus to give those of us who live in Desnoyer and Merriam Park a way to connect to the Green Line, these three stops are not adequate and probably violate all kinds of accessibility rules.”
Metro Transit’s Customer Relations Specialist replied:
“I’m writing to you from Metro Transit’s Customer Relations Department. I was forwarded your concerns regarding the bus stops on the west side of Cretin between St. Anthony and Marshall. I will have someone from my Street Operations department look into this right away, and get in touch with you regarding your concerns of accessibility.”
That sounded promising. In my initial email, I had detailed the problems with the bus stops:
- “None of the stops has a sidewalk. To get to the stop, you must walk on grass (best case) or mud or ice and snow. Getting on and off the bus or to and from these stops if you are mobility impaired is somewhat difficult to impossible, depending on the season and the degree of mobility.
- “Because there is no sidewalk, there is no snow and ice removal in this area in the wintertime. Getting off the bus in the winter can be very hazardous, even if you are completely able-bodied.
- “None of these stops has a crosswalk. Cretin Avenue between I-94and Marshall is a very busy four-lane street, with automobile traffic frequently exceeding the speed limit and NEVER looking for pedestrians crossing Cretin.”
Now it sounded like someone might take action. But then my query got kicked upstairs to the Assist. Mgr, Street Ops:
Thank you for the comments regarding the lack of crosswalks and sidewalk on Cretin along the golf course.
Metro Transit does not build sidewalks on roadways. I spoke to a representative from Ramsey County and he suggested that I refer you to Ramsey County Planning Department.
A few days later, the Street Ops person corrected his initial suggestion – I needed to contact St. Paul, not Ramsey County. Since my first email had been directed to Kathy Lantry at the St. Paul Department of Public Works, I had already heard f rom her – in regard to accessibility rules, she replied, “I will let the Metropolitan Council chime in on this.” And as far as sidewalks … which have a lot to do with accessibility:
“Adding sidewalks where none currently exists is assessed 100% to the abutting property owners. I believe the idea of adding a sidewalk at the location you have pictured was discussed at some point in the past several years but the limited right of way width and the necessity to remove the vegetation may have impeded progress.”
Well – that’s not terribly helpful. My point was that a sidewalk is needed for safe access to the bus stop. This year. Not “at some point in the past several years.” The vegetation present is grass and weeds, and the space is plenty wide enough for a sidewalk.
I understand the city’s reluctance to assess the landowner — Town and Country Golf Club — for a sidewalk along Cretin Avenue. Back in 2010, the city wanted to replace a dirt path along Marshall Avenue with a sidewalk, in order to improve accessibility for bus stops and pedestrians. The city tried to assess the $43,000 cost to abutting property owner, Town and Country Golf Club. Town and Country sued to stop the sidewalk from being built, citing “concerns about losing trees, public safety and paying for a project that it said wouldn’t benefit its property value.” In the end, the lawsuit was settled — the city built the sidewalk and the city, not Town and Country, paid for it.
As for my concern about crosswalks:
“All intersections whether marked or not are crosswalks. We know crosswalks on roads that have 4 lane stretches of road with high average daily traffic are not advised. They actually end up being more dangerous for pedestrians because cars end up going around other cars that are stopped to allow a person to cross.”
That response actually makes a lot of sense – it just doesn’t help pedestrians.
Some time ago — I think it was in 2014, but the city’s web page record is undated — the St. Paul city council established an 8-80 Vitality Fund, “putting into motion funding for city projects such as street reconstruction, new and improved bicycle infrastructure, Palace Theatre renovations and green space development along the Green Line.” The press release said that the fund “aims to create city infrastructure, streets and public spaces that function for residents ages 8 to 80.”