Make your voice heard on the 2023-2025 Vision Zero Action Plan!
The public comment survey closes Sunday, December 11. Share your comments here.
The City of Minneapolis has committed to eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries on streets within the city by 2027. This goal is known as "vision zero". To progress toward that goal, the City develops a Vision Zero action plan every three years which outlines specific strategies and tactics to achieve the vision zero goal.
This winter, the City unveiled its draft 2023-2025 Minneapolis Vision Zero Action Plan. The plan outlines actions in four key areas:
- Making safety improvements on High Injury Streets
- Advancing street designs to reduce dangerous vehicle speeds
- Working to implement a speed safety camera pilot of automated enforcement
- Evaluating alternative approaches to staffing and implementing traffic enforcement while addressing discriminatory outcomes and building trust
The plan's public comment survey says that staff will review feedback and consider potential adjustments to the plan before a final version is brought to the City Council for adoption in early 2023.
We spent some time reading through the plan and assembled our thoughts here. This blog post gives an overview of this plan and serves as a guide for public comment. Scroll to the bottom for suggested comments.
What is good about the plan?
The plan does a good job of identifying where and how the worst crashes occur on Minneapolis streets. It updates the “high injury crash network”, a set of streets that only make up 9% of the total street grid, but where 66% of all fatal and severe injury crashes happen. These are streets like Lowry Ave N and W Broadway Avenue that typically have two traffic lanes in each direction and no median or divider between them. The plan states that a majority of traffic safety improvements will be targeted along these streets and intersections that are within them.
The plan also relies on a crash study that identifies that low income neighborhoods suffer the worst consequences of unsafe street design. It revealed that Native community members have a disproportionately high risk of being hit or killed by a car. People walking and biking are also more likely to be injured or killed in a crash. Speeding cars have been identified as the single biggest cause of severe injuries and fatalities.
The plan also lists several different strategies that are aimed to curb traffic crashes. There is a major focus on infrastructure changes, which is encouraging. This includes reconfiguring streets to reduce the number of car travel lanes, adding protected bike infrastructure and making crosswalks more visible. These safety treatments, if implemented at scale, are most likely to result in a sustained reduction in traffic crashes and also reduce the severity of crashes when they do occur.
What is concerning about the plan?
While there are several encouraging infrastructure strategies mentioned in the plan, there are several important actions that were not included.
No mention of narrowing lanes or artwork crosswalks
One major omission is narrowing traffic lanes to reduce car speeds. Narrower car lanes have been linked to slower vehicle speeds, less risky driving behavior and better safety outcomes. It is concerning that this has not been included as a strategy in the plan.
Furthermore, there is no specific mention of artwork crosswalks, which are a proven and cost-effective solution for reducing pedestrian crashes.
Missed opportunity to highlight strategies that improve pedestrian and transit access
Additionally, this plan provides an opportunity to highlight other street treatments that improve accessibility and service quality for people walking, rolling and taking transit. These include implementing full-time dedicated bus lanes and the creation of a city-led winter sidewalk plowing program. While these actions may not appear to directly relate to reducing traffic crashes, improving pedestrian and transit infrastructure helps to reduce the need for car trips, thereby reducing crash rates and injury risk.
We have seen a pattern of the City ignoring its own plans and policies including its Transportation Action Plan and Complete Streets policies when the time comes to implement major projects. For example, while these plans call for a clear prioritization of walking, rolling, biking and transit, the City chose to prioritize parking for cars over 24/7 bus lanes on recent plans to reconstruct Hennepin Ave S, a high injury corridor. Our Streets Minneapolis will continue to organize to ensure that the infrastructure changes proposed in the Vision Zero plan are fully implemented.
Traffic enforcement will exacerbate injustice and uses funds that could be used for permanent infrastructure solutions
Another major concern we have is the plan’s focus on increasing policing and enforcement. While the previous plan called for the recreation of the Minneapolis Traffic Enforcement Unit, this current plan does not explicitly do so – instead mentioning that the City’s police department currently lacks capacity to carry out traffic enforcement. Our Streets Minneapolis has for years been a vocal opponent of traffic enforcement due to its disproportionate harm to marginalized community members. We have instead called for that funding to be used for infrastructure improvements to permanently build people-centered streets that "enforce" themselves.
The 2023-2025 plan calls for seeking legislative authority to implement automated enforcement, including the creation of a speed safety camera pilot program. We are concerned that punitive measures to automatically ticket people driving could perpetuate inequity, especially for those who are of low-income. We also have serious concerns that traffic camera footage could be used by agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detect and deport our undocumented community members.
We continue to reiterate that the most effective way to reduce fatalities and injuries on our streets is by changing the nature of our streets themselves to put people first on them and not just cars. Many streets were designed to move cars as quickly as possible, with multiple, wide lanes and limited interruption by pedestrian, bicycle or transit infrastructure. It is not fair to ticket someone for doing what the street was designed to do: drive as quickly as possible. Instead of spending money on expensive enforcement systems that will likely disproportionately punish poor people, these funds could be used to narrow traffic lanes, build chicanes, add artwork crosswalks, and implement other strategies that slow traffic speeds.
Lack of specificity about where improvements will be implemented
Another area of concern is that it is unclear when and how this plan will be implemented. While the plan identifies the high injury crash network as the major focus of upcoming Vision Zero improvements, it does not provide a clear list of corridors that it will address in the next three years. While the plan also states that between $500,000 and $1 million have been allocated to support this plan each year, there is a lack of clarity on what specific improvements this money will be spent on. In addition, the plan states that a major federal grant application has been submitted to access funds to implement these changes. We invite the City to provide more details on this application and plan for how these funds will be prioritized, if the application is successful.
The plan ignores traffic deaths and injuries that occur on freeways within the City boundaries
The plan also does not address crashes that happen on freeways like I-94 and I-35W which bisect our City. Dozens of severe traffic crashes occur on these roadways every year. While the City may not have direct control over these corridors (they are owned and maintained by MnDOT), the City does have significant say over their future. We believe the City of Minneapolis should play a much bigger role in addressing the harms of urban freeways throughout its boundaries – including working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation on eliminating dangerous traffic crashes.
Make your voice heard! Click here to take the City's feedback survey.
Key comments to mention in the survey:
- The plan should list which streets will be prioritized for safety improvements and the timelines by which they will be implemented. Olson Memorial Highway, where the surrounding community has been demanding safety improvements for decades, should be at the top of the list.
- Provide a transparent overview of the budget available for these improvements and how it is allocated across the city.
- Add the following actions: narrow travel lanes, add artwork crosswalks, implement 24/7 bus lanes, invest in a city-led sidewalk plowing program
- Invest in infrastructure solutions instead of punitive enforcement measures
- Add strategies that address the traffic deaths and severe injuries that occur on freeways within the City
You can also contact the City's Vision Zero Coordinator Ethan Fawley:
Email: [email protected] Phone: 612-673-5983