One of the serious drawbacks to bicycle and pedestrian transit use is the lack of a real system to get anywhere as I wrote in Bicycle Network Usability Testing Finds No Network.
Ramsey County has actually come up with a plan that answers most of the problems I point out and then some, a comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian trail network system that connects state, region, and other county and city trails in a transit network. And the price is about $33 million, which is a real deal. The plan deserves to be implemented as soon as possible.The Star Tribune actually prints an interesting story on addressing the Ramsey County plan, but then drops the ball in what could be a Hennepin County fit of pique. See that last paragraph in the excerpt.
By H. Estrada, Star Tribune Last update: January 21, 2007 9:38 PM Although the Central Corridor light-rail project is getting most of the publicity, Ramsey County officials are quietly developing plans for an even more extensive alternative transportation system. They hope to use $33 million in federal aid for 44 additional miles of multi-use trails. The proposal will be presented to Congress this year for consideration. The proposed trails -- including one running parallel with the Central Corridor line between downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis -- would create new asphalt paths for biking, walking and running to complement and connect the existing 56 miles of county trails. And the additional trails would connect to existing trails in neighboring Washington, Anoka, Dakota and Hennepin counties, as part of a plan to create a seamless regional trail system in the metro area. "This is a transportation issue," said Greg Mack, the county's director of parks and recreation, who's been working on the proposal for more than a year. "This trail link ... is a different way of getting around." The idea of connecting the trails in various counties has been around for years, but it is picking up steam as cities from St. Louis Park to Maplewood connect trails in their communities. But Ramsey County's could be one of the most extensive -- and expensive -- projects because of the number of trails it would create.The Strib red flags the plan as "expensive", this for a plan that gets a whole integrated network of a hundred miles, a system for less than a third of a million a mile. Of course, the Strib leaves out that "multi-use trail" is also code for transit corridors that could carry rail transit. An entire system of transit right of way and a plan, for a few tens of millions. And that is labeled "expensive" and the number of trails is cast as seeming to be too many. The cost is about equal to a two mile stretch of freeway with no ramps or bridges. Sounds cheap to me.
The value of one hundred miles of connected trails networked in a system vs. 56 miles of disconnected, uncoordinated discrete paths to nowhere is like the difference between unconnected computers and the internet. It is not the 44 miles of additional trail that give this plan merit, it is the entire network of one hundred miles of trails, connected and coordinated into a system. Just another trail starting and stopping nowhere has relatively little value compared to the same length of right of way hooking other existing trails into a transit network, and that is the real value of Ramsey County's plan.
Ramsey County's trail network plan would seem to deliver a lot more bang for the buck than the Federal funded $21 million Transit for Livable Communities administered transit blow out in Minneapolis, (home of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.) The $21 million grant will not really create a transit "system" in Minneapolis, but mostly "studies" and other worthless endeavors of "alternate" transportation systems. I expect the usual series of $3 million studies of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), para-sails depots on top of the Foshay Tower, milk carton boat lake ferries, Huck Finn style raft transport on the Mississippi, rocket packs, flying cars, how walking is "good for you" and how people "feel" about biking and walking.
At the end of the $21 million in transit funding there will be a couple more disconnected trails to nowhere, I guess that is better than nothing. If a study is done with the Minneapolis Federal transit money it should be looking at the rights of way and trails it needs to complete a real transit system in Minneapolis, unfortunately the MNDOT lobby and local public works will make sure the money is used "productively" for the highway interests, in other words NOT for any real bike - pedestrian system.
Ramsey County on the other hand is skipping the bogus "study" stuff. They got the plan and are ready to go. One hundred miles of networked trail right of way. Build the system and people will use it, now that is a plan worth funding! Of course if it is worth funding, it will probably not get funded.