An image of the stations in St. Paul on the Central Corridor light-rail line.

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Walkability survey will help guide light-rail growth

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG
  • Star Tribune
  • June 16, 2012 - 10:15 PM

Community organizers are asking St. Paul and Minneapolis residents to map, evaluate and score the walk from their homes to future Central Corridor light-rail stations.

The effort could play a key role in helping with light-rail usage because most riders will come from surrounding neighborhoods, said Carol Swenson, executive director of the District Councils Collaborative of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

"If we want to make the transition for people to use the light rail, the walk has to be good and people have to feel safe," Swenson said.

The District Councils Collaborative (DCC) is spear-heading the surveys. About 400 have been completed, although organizers are hoping to receive many more.

Results will be shared with city officials in Minneapolis and St. Paul who will be responsible for addressing problems.

"We're supportive because [the survey] ties into the mayor's livability initiative," said Dave Hunt, spokesman for St. Paul's department of public works. "The kind of information the DCC is gathering will help guide what we do in the future along the corridor."

Each station has its own questionnaire, which asks participants to provide demographic information, frequency of walks to University Avenue (or other streets with stations) and use of public transit.

The surveys rank traffic safety, personal safety and security and physical environment. Participants are asked to note problems such as curb handicap accessibility, vacant houses and crosswalk dangers.

They are also encouraged to photograph or videotape their walks up to a half-mile from the station, and to ignore ongoing construction.

"People have been having a lot of fun," Swenson said.

Husband and wife James and Diamond Smith walk to University Avenue at Dale Street almost daily to catch the bus. The Smiths said they'll become regular light-rail riders when the line through St. Paul opens in 2014 with a station at that corner.

Their walk to the corner poses no problems until nightfall, the Smiths said, when it becomes uncomfortable because of loiterers.

"It's just dangerous at night," said Diamond Smith.

"It's crazy out here," her husband added.

Those are among the concerns the surveys hope to address. St. Paul City Engineer John Maczko said that the police department will be involved in making decisions about the survey findings.

"Getting actual users and walkers of the system to give their personal opinion is important," Maczko said. "We want to do what we can to help facilitate people using transit."

Surveys are being accepted until June 30.

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib

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