If you live in one of the St. Paul neighborhoods within walking distance of the Green Line, you may have noticed new signs pointing the way to light-rail platforms.
They are the brainchild of Matt Privratsky, a transportation and clean energy advocate who thought it would be a good idea to let people know where to catch the train, and better yet, how to walk there.
Privratsky, who lives in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood, noticed that thousands of people ride the Green Line each day, but few people from the neighborhoods actually hoofed it all the way to the station. He counted himself among those ranks, saying he sometimes hopped a bus to get to the train.
“It did not seem like that convenient of a trip even though it was a quick 20-minute walk,” he said. “People feel like they are too far away from it or that there is too much traffic.” But he started walking to the train and thought, “If there was a nudge that could make people feel more confident about getting to the train, it would make it easier to choose that option.”
With his idea of putting up easy-to-read signs telling people how far it was to the nearest station and how long it would take to walk there, Privratsky applied for and was awarded a $23,500 Green Line Challenge Grant from the Knight Foundation. Privratsky was one of 358 applicants in the communitywide contest that sought projects to make St. Paul neighborhoods along the $957 million Green Line more vibrant places to live, work, play and visit.
East Metro Strong, another transportation advocacy group, also pitched in, giving Privratsky a few thousand dollars more to work with.
With the premise that people might be willing to walk 20 minutes — but not much more than that — Privratsky mapped out 176 locations along streets within a mile or less of the Green Line. And he strategically placed signs near popular destinations such as libraries, schools and parks to show that they are close to the light-rail line and that it’s easy to use.
“So many neighborhoods are within walking distance of this significant community asset and transportation option,” Privratsky said. “I hope people will walk to the train, and by doing that you will experience more of your neighborhood and see more businesses. Connecting with the neighborhood helps people feel ownership over their city.”
Other upsides of walking, he said, are that it allows transit riders to work exercise into their day and in turn takes cars off the street, reduces congestion and cuts down on the wear and tear on roads.
As a fun amenity and as a way to gauge the signs’ impact, Privratsky included a #walkthegreenline hashtag on the lower left corner.
“It’s been a big undertaking,” he said. “The best thing would be if a random person posted a picture on Twitter. I hope #walkthegreenline will show up on social media.”
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