Brain Twister: Lisa Goodman says she can’t support this already-funded $60 million transit project because the legislature won’t fund transit projects

The major point of contention in the Hennepin Avenue reconstruction debate is whether the street gets a full-time bus lane or if that lane should spend 20 hours per day as car parking. On June 16, the City Council approved a full-time bus lane. A day later, Mayor Frey vetoed. This Thursday there’s a chance for the City Council to override that veto.

The street currently has partial and part-time lanes — a big hit when they were first installed as a pilot four years ago. This success inspired the city to put in full-time lanes on 7th Street to serve the C Line BRT. The timing of the Hennepin reconstruction is fortuitous: the street reopening in 2026 will coincide with the opening of a $60 million transit upgrade, the E Line BRT.

The E Line is funded largely by the state, which is why all 15 Minneapolis members of the Minnesota House and Senate have written to the Mayor and City Council urging them to implement full-time lanes. The legislators’ letter cites an earlier request from Metro Transit, and emphasizes the importance of full-time lanes to the success of the E Line.

The reason I go into all this history is so you can understand why my head exploded after reading the email newsletter Ward 7 Council Member Lisa Goodman sent to her constituents justifying her vote against a full-time lane:

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Mayor Frey not telling the truth about his bus lane veto

So much agreement on something so necessary, ambitious and having to do with the removal of any amount of parking is incredibly rare. But in a Friday evening veto, Mayor Jacob Frey stomped all over the remarkable consensus that has formed in support of full-time bus lanes serving the E Line BRT when it opens in 2026. Not only was Frey using his veto power to override a vote of the Minneapolis City Council — he was disregarding things like the strongly worded request (expressed in a recent letter) of the entire 15 member Minneapolis legislative delegation, his own professional Public Works staff, the desire of Metro Transit (who’d like to ensure the success of a $60 million transit upgrade), and the needs of transit riders.

But there are reasons to keep pushing. Transit advocates have had an answer every step of this process. They have built this consensus for full-time bus lanes so successfully that the Frey administration can’t tell the truth about what they’re doing. They know they’re on the wrong side and they aren’t proud of it.

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Hennepin Ave Redesign: Key Dates on the Road to Generational Change in Minneapolis Transportation Infrastructure

  • Apr 11, 2018 – First public meeting on the Hennepin Avenue reconstruction and redesign.
  • Dec 4 2020 – Minneapolis Transportation Action Plan adopted 12-1 by the City Council (Lisa Goodman is the lone vote against)
  • Mar 2, 2021 – Professional staff in the city’s Public Works Dept release two options for Hennepin Avenue: both include full-time bus lanes, relying on policy contained in the recently adopted Transportation Action Plan.
  • March 4, 2021 – Public Works traffic engineer Allan Klugman provides stats at an open house: 6,600 bus riders per day is expected to become 14,000 bus riders once E-Line bus rapid transit is added. Transit riders already account for 49% of those in vehicles on Hennepin during peak times.
  • 2021-2022 – Lisa Goodman continuously fucking around behind the scenes, threatening and blowing up at staff.
  • Early to Mid 2021 – Initial timeline for City Council approval of Hennepin layout. This was indefinitely delayed for no apparent reason.
  • August 4, 2021 – Metro Transit sends a letter to the city’s Public Works Dept giving feedback on the Hennepin layout: “all-day bus lanes are critical to the success of both the Hennepin Avenue reconstruction project and the METRO E Line.”
  • January 2022 – A final staff recommended layout for Hennepin is released, based on public input received for the initial two options. Full-time bus lanes are included. This is referred to by staff as the “inform stage” – meaning the Public Works Dept will make no further changes in response to public input. City Council is the next step in the process.
  • Feb 10, 2022 – Mayor Frey’s appointment for the position of Public Works director, Margaret Anderson Kelliher (Lisa Goodman’s actual best friend) is confirmed by the Minneapolis City Council.
  • May 12, 2022 – All 15 members of the Minneapolis legislative delegation to the MN House and Senate write a letter to the City Council strongly urging them to adopt a layout that includes full-time bus lanes on Hennepin Ave, in order to support the E Line BRT, a project for which they allocated $40 million: “Schedule interruptions and delays will suppress ridership, and is tantamount to forcing the route to fail, the effort and resource it took to create it will have been wasted.”
  • May 19, 2022 – The Minneapolis City Council’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee holds their regular meeting and committee vote on the Hennepin layout, at which it will be officially announced for the first time that Margaret Anderson Kelliher has yanked the full-time bus lane from the plan.
  • May 26, 2022 – Expected date that the full City Council will vote to approve Hennepin layout.

Hennepin Avenue: In pursuit of worthy goals, enshrined in city policy, developed over many years

Hennepin Avenue, a street that was last rebuilt in 1957, is due for a reconstruction from Lake Street to Douglas Ave. This isn’t just a surface-level fix. The city will be digging up the street and replacing everything, from top to bottom (utilities). It’s not optional. It’s also an opportunity to rethink the way the street is laid out and who it serves.

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An Opportunity of a Lifetime on Hennepin Avenue

It was a moment that forever shaped the way I think about street reconstructions. A mom speaking at a public meeting, holding her child, asking the city’s public works department for a street with sidewalk space to push a stroller. Even more than that, she wanted a street designed with aspiration for the future — because whatever we decide today, we’re going to be stuck with it from now until the time her little baby is middle aged.

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