Edina has spent a decade writing plans and studies to push more non-car transportation. Now, the city's transportation commission said, it's time to stop writing reports and start making better sidewalks, bike lanes and bus routes in the city.
In a memo to the City Council last week, transportation commission members said the dense and growing area around the Southdale Center mall should be a focus for improving infrastructure for walkers, bicyclists and bus riders — living up to the city's plans, and meeting climate goals.
The city hopes the Southdale area will become more walkable and bike-friendly as more people move in. In the last decade, the area has added more than 2,700 apartments, with another 567 set to open soon. But the transportation commission saw shortcomings in bike, pedestrian and public transit infrastructure, especially along France Avenue.
Hennepin County's ongoing reconstruction of the street will not include bike lanes, the commission pointed out. The county said France Avenue is too narrow. A new sidewalk will be only 8 feet wide — probably too narrow for cyclists and walkers to share.
"The existing sidewalks along France Avenue are insufficient in scale, quality and safety to be considered an appropriate non-vehicular transit corridor in the Southdale District," the commissioners' memo stated.
Bike routes near Southdale and elsewhere in the city tend to exist for leisure, the transportation commissioners wrote. Nature trails and promenades are lovely, but don't serve people trying to get to work or appointments.
"If the City of Edina would like to see their vision of more residents choosing non-vehicular transportation come to fruition, then there needs to be a better understanding of bicycles as transportation versus recreation," the memo said.
Enforcing 50-foot setbacks required in zoning around Southdale will make sure there's room for sidewalks and bike lanes, the commissioners said, and requiring developers to plant more trees would make those sidewalks nicer to use.
The bus rapid transit E Line, set to replace the bus to downtown Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota, is an exciting development, commissioners said. But they worry it won't extend far enough south.
"The E Line service and amenities in the north of the Southdale District adjacent to planned luxury housing are very exciting, but there are no proposed improvements in the South close to older and lower income housing developments," the memo read.
The commissioners also wanted to see more amenities at bus stops — not just the bus rapid transit stops that will be equipped with new shelters, benches and screens that show when buses will arrive.
"The austere stop conditions are an equity issue for the residents of the district."
The transportation commissioners plan to examine existing bike lanes, sidewalks and bus routes in the coming year, and they want to study the idea of a bike and walking path on the west side of France Avenue.