When Jessica Treat turned 16, she couldn’t wait to get her driver’s license. For the Bloomington teen, a car meant freedom.
But after college in Arizona, a Peace Corps stint in Mauritania, graduate school in North Carolina and travel throughout Europe, she found herself back home in the Twin Cities working as an advocate for biking, walking and transit.
This month, she took over as executive director of Transit for Livable Communities, a nonpartisan nonprofit based in St. Paul. The group says it’s the largest transportation advocacy organization in Minnesota, with nearly 10,000 members.
A conversation with Treat reveals that she is passionate about educating the public about transportation options — but that doesn’t mean she’s anti-car. “It’s about mobility,” she said.
Treat hopes the Legislature crafts a long-term transportation package that is “about all modes of transportation,” including light rail, bus rapid transit and better traditional bus service.
At a public hearing last week for the Blue Line (Bottineau) light-rail extension linking downtown Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park, Treat expressed worry that the proposed park-and-ride facility at the Golden Valley Road station could siphon passengers from other stations north of the line — robbing those communities of transit-oriented development opportunities.
She’s also excited about transit-friendly development options at University and Snelling avenues in St. Paul, where the new soccer stadium is planned, and a nexus for the Green Line light rail and bus service. The stadium itself? She can “take it or leave it.”
She hopes to mobilize biking-walking-transit advocates to speak up on behalf of transportation alternatives, and characterizes anti-transit types as “a very vocal minority.”
People who don’t use transit may just be intimidated by it, Treat said. “Mobility makes for a resilient community,” she said. “We need to educate people about their options.”