Star Tribune columnist Jennifer Brooks bravely personalized her advocacy of a carless culture (“Roll with me: Ditch your car for a day,” Sept. 16). But in doing so, she left out some important information: her age and the size and composition of her household — whether it includes a working spouse or partner, children (preschool or elementary) or an invalid parent. Going without a car is simply not realistic for a working parent responsible for dropping off and picking up children from preschool and stopping on the way home at the grocery or drugstore or to deliver or pick up dry cleaning. This is not a trip that can be made in any way other than by car.
Since moving to Minneapolis in 1976, I have taken the bus to my downtown office more than 90 percent of the time. During most of that time I had two bus routes from which to choose within a block of my home; now there is one. After a few years, the stop at my block was eliminated, meaning I had to walk an extra block on the way home. This is not a great burden; in fact, the extra walk is good for me, except in the winter.
The walk is along Lake Street. Since it was widened many years ago to facilitate cars commuting from the west to downtown, the snowplows throw the snow onto the sidewalk. There are two properties along my trek home that are not very diligent about cleaning their sidewalks. I call 311 almost without fail every winter. I still have to negotiate the walk while waiting for the process of the property owner being called, allowing time for them to clean the walk and, if not, the city doing it. Often there is a thaw that melts enough of the ice-encrusted rutted sidewalks before the 311 process works itself out.
Last January and February, for the first time, I drove to my office every day to avoid the risk of falling on ice-encrusted sidewalks. The drive is 15 to 20 minutes; the bus is 45 to 50 minutes door to door. Driving takes about the same time that I spend walking to and waiting for the bus. The downside: expense (gas, parking) and missing the quiet time reading the paper on the bus ride.
A carless Minneapolis is laudable, but it is also a hopelessly utopian fantasy. It is time the Minneapolis city planners start to recognize the hard realities of the lives of most Minneapolitans. The bus service is neither frequent nor ubiquitous enough to serve as the primary means of transportation for most people for most purposes, and neither is light rail, nor will it ever be.
Vernon J. Vander Weide lives in Minneapolis.