The St. Paul Healthy Transportation for All Convening, held on October 25 at Carpenter’s Hall in St. Paul, found St. Paul’s alternative transportation advocates celebrating their movement’s growing momentum and planning for challenges ahead. The goal of the conference, according to St. Paul Healthy Transportation for All (SPHTFA), was to “actively engage St. Paul grassroots community leaders to create a sustainable multimodal transportation system.”
“Based on what our planning team has heard from community members, walkable streets with safe and accessible infrastructure is the most widespread issue,” says Lauren Fulner, who coordinates the “District Council [members], transportation focused non-profits and relevant agencies” that comprise SPHTFA. “[Our unofficial motto is] ‘everyone is a pedestrian at some point’, so…awareness of the pedestrian realm is a natural place to focus.”
As SPHTFA’s first major event, the Convening drew community leaders and citizens from nearly every St. Paul neighborhood. At workshops and breakout sessions, participants learned how to lead conversations and initiatives around public and alternative transportation, collaborate with counterparts in other communities, and work directly with city and state decision-makers to effect positive change.
The Convening covered most of the day’s hot transit topics. Workshops included “You and the St. Paul Bike Plan,” “Racial Equity in Transit Decision Making” and “From Vision to Plan to Project.” The event also featured a session devoted to “Organizing Friendly Streets and Better Blocks,” which highlighted Fulner’s work with the Friendly Streets Initiative. And the conference explored useful tools for transportation advocates, including an “Equitable Development Scorecard” and a “walkability/accessibility survey” for SPHTFA attendees.
Despite St. Paul Healthy Transportation for All’s community-driven focus, the conference attracted key state and local leaders. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman opened with remarks on St. Paul’s transportation system, followed by Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger’s keynote speech on the health benefits of walking, biking and public transit. Charles Zelle, Minnesota’s Transportation Commissioner, closed with remarks on past and future developments in road use and public transit.
According to Fulner, SPHTFA formed out of “several years of conversations around more intentional collaboration and sharing of resources between District Councils,” with the Macalester-Groveland and Hamline-Midway councils taking the lead. Fulner stresses that SPHTFA is “in it for the long haul, in the sense that [this isn’t] a one event or one meeting kind of project,” she says. “We want to foster increased collaboration and creative, big picture thinking in community members and decision makers.”
SPHTFA takes a “whole city” approach to transportation, paying special attention to the needs of traditionally underserved communities and marginalized demographic groups, such as the elderly and people with disabilities. While celebrating the better-than-expected debut of the Green Line, Fulner is quick to point out that it “does not serve many of the traditionally under-represented and under-resourced neighborhoods and populations.”
“There needs to be more focus of the city as a whole, including the East Side and the West Side [meaning the area south of downtown],” she adds.
Overall, Fulner and SPHTFA would like stakeholders and citizens to recognize the fundamentally interconnected nature of St. Paul’s urban fabric and work to strengthen it. “Transportation and health are both issues that function in a web of interconnectivity, rather than as a series of isolated issues, and should be addressed with this in mind,” she says.”
Article originally posted on The Line website.