The threats issued by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen to cut off funds for the Department of Natural Resources and other state agencies are irresponsible ("Minnesota's state parks could close over 'clean cars' impasse," front page, May 5). These Senate Republicans seem to have lost sight of the big picture. It used to be that here in Minnesota we could find common cause to protect the environment, support small-business owners and agree to disagree on a host of other issues. Closing state parks will cause thousands of small resort and retail businesses that depend on tourism to suffer economic losses. The public will be denied the benefits of outdoor recreation as a relief valve after 18 months of COVID restrictions and CO2 emissions will continue unabated for the lack of a nonthreatening change to state policy.
Under the rule, hunters and fisherpersons can continue to buy big diesel trucks to haul campers and boats, farmers will continue to use diesel tractors and car buyers will have the benefit of increased choice of vehicles, including more battery and hybrid designs. Throwing a hissy fit over the proposed rule changes does nothing to mitigate the increased emission of heat-trapping gasses that are damaging the climate and, incidentally, harming the state's recreational resources as well.
The public interest is clearly served by adopting policies that encourage reductions in CO2 emissions. Republicans seem only interested in serving the misguided demands of the car dealers.
George Hutchinson, Minneapolis
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Really, GOP! First of all, get your heads out of the sand! We have to start making changes to reduce emissions, and it's hopefully not too late.
My husband and I want to do what we can and should do to reduce our car emissions. We would like to buy a plug-in hybrid but can't in Minnesota because our state hasn't adopted new emission standards; car dealerships don't think they can sell environmentally friendly cars here.
You are getting in the way of those of us who take climate change seriously and want to do our part.
Are you so sure none of your constituents are on the side of reducing emissions? Are you so sure none of your constituents would be impacted by the effects of reduced state park funding?
Are you so sure you are doing a favor for the car industry by letting it stay stuck in the past rather than making cars for the future?
Becky Carpenter, Minneapolis
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The GOP plans to blackmail the state into not doing the will of the people. In a 2020 Yale Climate Opinion Survey, 71% of Minnesotans believe global warming is happening, 73% believe it will harm future generations and 82% want incentives for solar panels and electric vehicles. Transportation, and especially cars and light trucks, are the No. 1 source of CO2 emissions in the state. 2+2=4. If we want to protect future generations, we need more clean cars! But the GOP says Minnesota cannot have the clean cars rule (which is designed to decrease CO2 emissions) and it will defund state parks and other environmental protections if its members don't get their way.
Really? The GOP would punish citizens who love to camp with their kids and want to protect their future? Why would the party do such a thing? Likely answer: climate change denial (contrary to the science) and funding from fossil fuel interests, over the interests and expressed desires of Minnesotans. Come on, GOP, make your case to the people, but don't blackmail them.
Alan Anderson, Northfield, Minn.
Driving out of necessity, not nature
In response to Carol Becker's counterpoint ("Hennepin Av. plans leave equity stranded," Opinion Exchange, May 5): It's true that most people currently travel Hennepin Avenue south of Franklin by car. But this isn't because people have a natural inclination to drive — it's because Hennepin Avenue isn't safe or pleasant for anyone outside of a car. Anyone who wants to walk, roll or ride down Hennepin is disincentivized by a streetscape made hostile by decades of car-centered planning. Just as anyone who wants to use public transit is disincentivized by slow, unreliable service — not because public transit is naturally slow, but because buses in Minneapolis are routinely stuck in car traffic (as an aside, I wish Becker — who expresses so much concern about equity in her piece — had considered the equity implications of slow, unreliable transit!).
Contrary to Becker's claim that it's a "no-brainer" that reducing traffic lanes will "substantially increase" congestion, studies routinely show that reducing the amount of space devoted to cars creates demand for other modes of transportation. In other words, when it's safe and easy for people to get around without a car, they do.
Car-centered cities aren't a result of our organic desires. They're a result of planning decisions. We can — and must — design streets that are safe and functional for everyone.
Richard Hackler, Minneapolis
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Becker's commentary provided compelling numbers. I'd like to fill in the blanks with some examples. I'm a retired white guy who rode his bike from south Minneapolis to work downtown. I used my feet and the bus, too, depending on the weather. I never used bike lanes, though, except around the lakes. Side streets were much less crowded and safer. I also drove, when necessary, but we did sell our second car along the way. That would make me a poster child for our city planners, right? Except that I'm a privileged white guy who happened to live on a bus route and work downtown. But for most of my career, when I was less privileged, I worked freelance or for companies in the suburbs. I drove my car all over the metro area. No car, no job.
Our family now has three grown kids, two raising our four grandkids, all in Minneapolis. Altogether, we have six cars. Public transport does not go where we need to go or when we need to go there. Why not call Lyft or Uber, you say? We have, but not when we've had to pack kids, diaper bags and car seats for stops all over the place, carefully planned to reduce trips. And when we get where we're going, we need to park, unload, go the appointment, shop, whatever, load up again and drive home. One of our kids has had to worry about having a place to park near home.
Why should I gripe? I'm doing OK. When I needed a car most, however, I was not doing OK. For a time, I had four old cars in the hope that at least one of them would get me to work. It's the same today for poor families trying to scrape together a decent living. It might not be "no car, no job" for all of them. It might be "no car, fewer opportunities for good jobs." The Minneapolis City Council and planners seem to have hit on an efficient way to keep poor people poor or force them out of town.
A lifelong friend and Minneapolis resident is moving out. His parting comment to me was, "They just don't want old people in the city." He was griping about good traffic lanes and parking. One of his kids with kids lives in the city, too, right on a bus route that doesn't go where or when they need it. They have two cars, too.
Will Minneapolis ever outgrow its need for cars? Public transport, though useful, will never fill the need. That opportunity passed in the 1950s. Bikes are great — for privileged white guys who have a shower waiting for them at work.
Here's a final point I haven't seen mentioned enough. Cars with polluting gasoline engines will be going away anyway. Of the six vehicles in our family, one is a Prius. Our cars are getting older. My guess is that in a few years all our vehicles will be electrics or hybrids.
The need for personal transportation is not going away. As the gas burners exit, where are the electrics going to drive and park if our shortsighted planners continue down the path they are on?
John Widen, Minneapolis
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