Non-profit provides funding, performs travel research on campus

Transit for Livable Communities, is collecting data on pedestrians and bicyclists to track their impact.

by James Nord

There are some major improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians in the works at the University of Minnesota, as well as a wealth of data being collected on these groups. Transit for Livable Communities , a non-profit organization based in St. Paul, is administering a federal initiative called the Non-motorized Transportation Pilot program , which provides $21.5 million for the improvement of pedestrian and cycling projects in the Minneapolis area. TLC calls the program Bike Walk Twin Cities . In a recent initiative, a group of 48 TLC volunteers collected data by counting the amount of pedestrians and bicyclists passing at 42 locations across the city last Tuesday and Wednesday, including on the University campus. âÄúBecause the NTP program is a pilot program, and weâÄôre trying to demonstrate the impact of the investment, itâÄôs really critical for us to be out measuring bikes and âÄòpedsâÄô as much as possible,âÄù said Tony Hull, TLC program and evaluation specialist. âÄúTraditionally we donâÄôt have a lot of data about that.âÄù Under the program, interested entities, including the city of Minneapolis, propose specific plans to TLC, but the organization controls the flow of funds. TLC is in an odd position, because they direct the flow of funds to the city of Minneapolis, the reverse of the typical relationship between a non-profit organization and the government. âÄúThe rationale for selecting [TLC] is weâÄôre not sort of caught up in the traditional practices of other agencies, so itâÄôs more likely that we will push the envelope; weâÄôre really open to new things,âÄù Hull said. The University has four major infrastructure projects funded by TLC. University of Minnesota Trail TLC awarded the University $2.5 million for the University of Minnesota Trail , which will connect Bridge #9, the walking and bicycle bridge next to the 10th Avenue bridge, with the U of M Transitway, opening up access in Dinkytown and the East Bank. âÄúThe idea is to have a âĦ bikeway that comes from the St. Paul campus that goes to the Minneapolis campus and then to downtown,âÄù said Minneapolis Non-Motorized Pilot Coordinator Shaun Murphy. Bike Center A bike center will open in 2010 that will provide commuting students with a viable cycling option. Stemming from a more than $524,000 grant from TLC, the center, located in the Oak Street Parking Ramp, will provide cycling commuters access to secure storage, showers, classes and the ability to make repairs. âÄúThatâÄôs a big deal because thatâÄôs one of the reasons people donâÄôt bike is because theyâÄôre worried about mechanical stuff,âÄù University bike coordinator Steve Sanders said. A tracking system will also be put in place to determine the number of University employees who bike to work, eventually allowing the school to provide stipends to employees who commute by bike. Nice Ride Minnesota The largest bike share program in the country will open in Minneapolis in May 2010, serving downtown Minneapolis, Uptown and the University of Minnesota with about 1,000 bikes and 80 rental points. Sanders said the program would cost roughly $60 per year and there would be about 150 to 200 bikes available for students on campus. The program is modeled after bike share initiatives in Paris and Montreal, Sanders said, and TLC is providing $1.75 million in funding. Northeast Suburban Campus Connector TLC is helping fund improvements to sidewalks, bike lanes and benches on Fairview Avenue North to better connect the communities of Falcon Heights, Roseville and Lauderdale to the St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses of the University. Those cities and the University received money to make improvements for the project. âÄúThis grant would pay for us to put a sidewalk in on the East side of Gortner [Avenue] between Folwell and Larpenter [Avenues], âÄù Sanders said. At a cost of roughly $1 million, the project is expected to be completed next summer.