• 06Apr

    If city government performs at its potential we will see a radically different transit system in Rochester in the next 5 to 10 years.  Technology, congestion, growth, and demographics are combining to create a new Rochester that we must adapt to.  If we are successful we will have a far more efficient, effective, and far reaching transit system.  Pedestrian, Bicycle, Park & Ride, Development, and Transit will merge into one seamless entity to the benefit of our citizens. Read more…

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  • 02Apr

    Today the city council unanimously voted (6-0 with Hanson absent) to approve the independent recommendation to select First Transit to operate Rochester’s transit system.  There were four companies competing, but everyone was interested in whether First Transit or stick with Rochester City Lines.

    If we are going to be a serious player for businesses we must be fair to those that wish to compete here.  After a fair process, we had an impartial recommendation that stated that First Transit was the best of 4 choices (all capable) while Rochester City Lines came in last.  First transit also cost $2 million less over 54 months based on operating 70,000 hours per year.  To look at these facts and chose anything but First Transit would be cronyism at its worst.  I asked questions about the process and found it to be exceedingly fair.  RCL questioned if the request for proposals was fair, but the example that they raised about experience with new technologies, was actually something that I strongly think is needed.

    We also secured an understanding with First Transit that they would recognize the existing ATU organization and would be offering positions to existing employees first.  If we lowered our costs by pushing working families into poverty we accomplish nothing.  I have already told these workers, that I will continue to have their backs.  I respect how good these drivers are.

    Dan Holter continues to threaten to run a parallel transit system that he implies will cause harm to the city’s system.  That kind of entitled behavior leaves me shaking my head.  That said, if he can run a successful system that will only help transit in Rochester, but to do so he will have to follow rules pertaining to franchises.

    There is no love lost between me and Dan Holter, given his lobbying antics, belief that he is “entitled” to a profit, and his holding us hostage for that profit.  But we lose credibility as a city if we don’t have a fair process to choose our venders.  We did have a fair process, and made a decision based on facts.  We did not make any sort of decision based on spite or revenge.

    This should have no negative impact on Dan Holter’s business since in a statement to the city council he stated hasn’t made any profit in 44 years…

    It will be interesting how long the wasteful lawsuits continue.  We will see tremendous improvements in transit between now and 2016.  We are going to see better access, faster service, and more hours, and we can best achieve this by working with the best.

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  • 02Apr

    As many of you know I have a background in business finance and am particularly interested in finance issues.  You are also probably aware that the City of Rochester was directed by the FTA to have competitive bids to run OUR transit system (I refer to it as ours since we own the buses, streets, shelters, set the fares and routes, and have paid for most of everything for decades…).  You probably also know that I believe that we should have bid this competitively even if we weren’t required to.  Here are the financial results in 3 charts.  If you look at these 3 charts, I think you can see why competitive bidding is good for the city.

    For a decade we saw double digit growth in expenses compared to less than 5% population growth + inflation.  The bid resulted in growth rates that are far better.  FT = First Transit

    Edit:  Today I asked staff about this and part of what we need to look at is revenue hours for each year.  Staff is getting me that information and I will update.

    Here are total expenses per the bids vs. what would happen if RCL had continued to grow at the same rate as the past 10 years.

    Edit 2: The jump in 2012 is due to an adjustment in revenue hours (I think).  I will confirm.

    Edit 3: I will update this chart to adjust for revenue hours when available.

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  • 16Feb

    Wow,  I feel sorry for Dan Holter’s employees.  My personal advice for them is below the fold.

    Dan Holter the owner of Rochester City Lines previously gave us the brilliant quote:

    A business is ENTITLED to make a profit.

    So you know what kind of an entitled person we are dealing with.  Dan is now suing the city because he feels he owns the transit system.  I had this to say when interviewed:

    I have no idea what Dan is talking about.  We own the buses, shelters, and infrastructure.  I can only assume that Dan thinks the transit system means the gum under the seat.

    I met with two of Dan’s senior staffers a few weeks back (shortly after Dan held the public hostage for a $110,000 shakedown).  In talking with them even they realized that RCL didn’t own the system and they couldn’t defend the lack of competition.  A constituent joked to me that Dan’s fighting to maintain his government sanctioned competition free contract would make him a great leader of the old Soviet Communist Party. Read more…

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  • 14Jul

    Wow, 40… That was fast. Here are some reflections.

    Things I did right:

    1. Lisa Wojcik – Very different than me, I would suggest incompatible in many ways, my wife and friend, I love you. 16 years and counting (18 if you believe my 2012 campaign flyer…)
    2. Anastasia & Natalia – Anastasia is my driven young leader, passionate about everything. Natalia is already one of the kindest people I have ever met.
    3. Jaida – My Paws & Claws Mutt is now 14 ½. Still a wonderful friend. Still cannot be trusted, especially around food.
    4. Community Service – The pay, working conditions, and hours all suck. So glad I am doing it. I work 50 hours a week to attack problems that often don’t affect me or my family. I am seeing a city change in a way that is more inclusive and equitable. Big challenges like housing, transit, safe streets, and sustainability. Every day is hard, every year is easy.
    5. Starting my own business – It took a while, but 9 years in I have a successful business, meaningful work, and a boss that I love.
      Wonderful friends – So many of you have helped me in my daily life and in my public life. I would never have won an election or stayed in Rochester without so many of you. What surprises many people is how many friends I have both left-of-center and right-of-center. I learned I can get along with almost anyone who will but the needs of the community first.
    6. Volunteering in the schools – Just taking 1 day per week and going into the schools better connects me with my kids and the needs of youth in the community. When a Kindergartener told me that she was having a hard time learning because she didn’t have any food in her tummy, it reinforced what I am doing in the community.
    7. Hosting an exchange student – A fantastic opportunity to personally learn about a culture, but also have my girls learn. We loved hosting you for a year, Josefina, and hope to see you soon.

    Things I did wrong:

    1. Too much time in jobs I didn’t like. 7 years in technology hoping for the job to get better. It never did. I did myself a disservice, and those I was working with.
    2. Chose a home not a neighborhood – Dual Income / No kids – we built a fabulous home, but without thinking about the neighborhood. My values would now have me choose a neighborhood first, and then a home. We are fortunate to be where we are, but neighborhoods have diverse peoples, businesses, and special places.
    3. Not enough time for friends – This is hard. Some weeks I work 80+ hours between my business and city work (along with some occasional teaching gigs). Too often I lose touch with some of the finest people I have known. Then too quickly they move, become distant, or pass away. I wish I could be a better friend.
    4. Glacier National Park – That’s right. Don’t get me wrong Glacier is amazing, but I am an addict. Because I have always been so in love with Glacier I missed opportunities to go new places. Visit all the National Parks but save Glacier for last…

    Some goals for my 40s:

    1. Live a life that is interesting.
    2. Frequent trips with the entire family or friends or wife or kids or solo.
    3. Run for a different office. Which one? I dunno, but local since that is the highest level of government.
    4. Earn a PhD. In what? I dunno, but there will be lots of numbers.
    5. Visit more interesting places. Visit the 3 states I have not yet visited. Set foot in 25 or so new countries. Do more hiking, biking, and exploring. Go to places like Katmandu, Timbuktu, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, Torres del Paine, Milford Sound, and on.
    6. Safe connections for children in my community – I have never forgotten the young girl who died because our community didn’t provide safe connections. I will continue to change this.
    7. Develop Social Skills? Nah…

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  • 22Jun

    Vacation interrupted in favor of affordable housing…

    Is creating affordable housing really a priority or do we just want to talk about the problem for another year?

    Here is a comment I received:

    Michael, I’ll admit to being very disappointed with your view on the industrial site for affordable housing. Is this REALLY what we want? This seems like we are segregating these moderate income families and their kids from other residential areas. Their access to parks and trails will be across impossibly busy streets, surrounded by an industrial setting that is bound to cause these homes to never be able to escape the depressed market value such a neighborhood will have.

    Maybe we need a mixed income zoning requirement that would require 15% of these houses to be high market value, so there is equal opportunity for the kind of limited resources this area will provide for residents.

    It seems to me so very much not mixed income housing–help me understand why this is the direction you think we should be going

    Great question Helen, I will try to explain why I support this site.

    First, or decision to approve a site is dependent on our land development rules. The one issue that has come into play general compatibility. A compelling case against this was made by Nick Campion. I like to think I made a compelling case for it. There is some level of subjectivity, so I am not surprising that the Planning was split as was the council. I don’t think any preposterous leaps like when we declared that 50 units per acre was low density residential in Kutzky Park. Any time you find me and Randy Staver on the same side of a split vote, you know things are getting wild…

    That is the legalese, now to the good stuff…

    Is this REALLY what we want? No. I personally would want all affordable housing to be mixed income transit, connected, walkable to most amenities, have access to extensive green space, and have certainty of future compatible neighbors. Perhaps this in not what we want, it is what we need.

    The site is located in an industrial area, but that is misleading. The site is surrounded by uses that are largely technology, transportation, and retail. Industrial land sounds like there could be a superfund site there. Really there are some technology companies there. The site has a small amount of additional residential in the area. My biggest concern would be late night noise issues which we can mostly address through conditions of approval.

    While there are no immediately adjacent parks, there is immediate access to the most heavily used state trail in the state of Minnesota. This safely leads to the nearly 400 acre Cascade Lake Park. I know this route well as I bike it 50 times a year. In addition the proposed development would house more than 160 households and offer some on site amenities.

    One of the most important considerations for affordable housing is good access to jobs & services by walking, biking, and public transportation. This site has some reasonable access to retailers, grocers, and jobs. The transit is not currently great there, but we know this is changing fast. Our transportation and comprehensive plans call for the area where this project is proposed to be mixed use and dense. Further, it is near the intersection of 2 future primary transit routes. Access to transit is actually one of the greatest strengths of this site.

    Right now in Rochester we need thousands of affordable housing units. Since designating this issue as a priority earlier this year the city council has taken no actions to address our enormous shortage. No one policy or development can bring the market into balance, but this, like the inclusionary housing ordinance, can be part of a solution. This project is essentially asking for nothing in public subsidy, at the same time luxury housing in downtown Rochester is getting millions in subsidies (and yes, while mostly voting against these I have supported some offering public improvements).

    Is building housing in an industrial area crazy? Maybe, but we just did it successfully two times. Concerns were raised about the Ashland Village and Flats on First proposals. These projects now provide housing to more than 100 households and I suspect have a substantial waiting list. Of course “affordable” is not the same to all people but we are creating units that are more affordable to more people than we would otherwise have.

    Here is the big picture. We have a site that has been vacant for the 18 years I have lived in Rochester. We need thousands of units of affordable housing. The growth of low wage hospitality, service and retail jobs in the community will only make the situation worse (increasing the minimum will help). We have limited tools to address the problem. Here we have a proposal on a less than perfect, but acceptable site. It would create high quality, safe, healthy, affordable housing for more than 160 households. It would grow the tax base at almost no incremental taxpayer expense. Its hard to fill our 8,000 open jobs without providing people a place they can afford to live.

    Great question Helen, hope the answer articulated my reasoning.

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  • 16Apr

    Here is a note from constituent Paula Hardin. I appreciate her thoughts and wished to share. There are a few suggestions that I disagree with, but many more with which I concur. I am sharing with her permission.

    MY CREDENTIALS

    As you know, the library is central to my life, even if I was not disabled due to multiple sclerosis, libraries and books have been a constant in my life. I have used ALL the library iterations in Rochester ever since I was a toddler. I can say with certainty that it made me a better person and enriched my life in so many ways that I scarcely know how to describe it.

    It was actually a surprise to that it took me until 1983 to figure out I could and should go to graduate school to get my Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. Among the several areas of special studies, my classes included archival management, thesaurus construction, and  I also completed the entire separate Museum Studies program, law librarianship (I think the first non-lawyer allowed to do so), and project management from the Business School.
    I have lived and travelled all over the country (all but 3 states) and been a dedicated patron of libraries everywhere I lived. I have been a library tourist, visiting libraries around the world. In what is apparently a really hard thing to do even with advanced notice and preferring of credentials, I was allowed in to the famous Bodelian library and I touched books that existed in 1500 and before; it was a spiritual experience for me.
    Additionally, architecture has been a hobby of mine, and library history an area of special study (I was going to write a book).
    My application of my library studies has been non-traditional. One of my areas of national expertise was on developing and designing digital libraries. Before my multiple sclerosis worsened, I took PhD classes with plans to attend the program to study user interface design. Since I know art as an art major and was a graphic designer for many years, combined with my computer and database expertise, it was a goal I was very sad to have to give up because of my health.
    SO BELIEVE ME WHEN I SAY BUILD A NEW LIBRARY
    Now that I have some of my credentials covered to establish my expertise on all things library, this is what my recent research and attendance at library board meetings has led to reassess my support for library expansion downtown and say with absolute certainty that the best choice is BUILD A NEW LIBRARY.
    I wish my health situation would have let me serve on the Library Board because I think I would have been perfect for the post. However, since they do have public comment, I have taken advantage of that to share my research and make suggestions. I have also written directly to Audrey in her capacity as library director about a number of things, and she recently proposed (3-15) one of my ideas I had written her about to the board (without acknowledging my contribution) that was met with great enthusiasm.
    I have asked for but not received any copies or links to the $40,000 plus study that was originally done about 5 years ago or more that concluded that EXPANSION was the best alternative. As you may recall, I have been a supporter of expansion.
    I have changed my mind and even have come to question the validity of the original research and definitely their conclusion! I realized this when I spoke to some other members of the community, random people who were attending my American Sign Language class.
    They were very bitter about the 125 LIVE debacle (including scorn for the name which I think is the widespread opinion of it). Admittedly, most of the arguments made by one woman in particular were, let’s call it not progressive, though she adamantly voiced support for the public library — just had reservations about the many millions of dollars and other factors that indicated she was not a user of the library since she did not know basic functions available.
    What happened when I spoke to her, though, was a sudden awareness that my coming late to the party (due to caregiving for my late mother) meant I had been thinking of the library EXPANSION as if were vetted to be the optimal solution (branches discussion notwithstanding and not worthy of even being discussed as viable to anyone with a clue).
    So I reassessed the reason why so much effort has gone into the obsession with expanding an atrociously awful, outdated, and actually wretched location for a public library.
    The #1 thing that struck me was the prioritization of people dependent on transit to be able to get to the library. As the non-progressive lady pointed out, “Who do you serve?” The absolute truth is that the majority of the library users are NOT transit dependent and use cars for very good reasons.
    For one thing, transit is never going to be free, and never going to be cheap even if subsidized, and is that the best use of money to serve a tiny percentage of users or potential users? If a mom with 3 kids wants to go to the library, that is 4 bus fares in two directions, and possibly requires a transfer and even a short walk. Even if each fare were only $1.00, that costs the family $8.00 to make that visit and a realistic estimate of 1 HOUR to get from home to bus stop to downtown to library.
    NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.
    What I do not understand, although I suspect the answer is the liberal obsession with serving the disadvantaged over the 99% of main users of the library. I am NOT advocating EXCLUDING the disadvantaged. I am saying do something else to serve that population that might be better, cheaper, and more efficient.
    Like BOOKMOBILES with hotspots and a computer for users without computers or internet (although there is an app for cell phones which many people however poor HAVE TO HAVE to function in contemporary society Jason Chaffetz’s baseless opinion to the contrary.
    I have made that suggestion based on a librarian’s suggestion in the video online during the 2016 Post Bulletin public discussion on the project. She pointed out that the Bookmobile was, essentially, a BRANCH library. So my idea immediately became, what we need instead of branches (that still would require $$$$ transit with all of the time and hassle I mentioned before), we could add one or two bookmobiles.
    I sent Audrey some links to new, energy efficient, bookmobiles. She is busy doing her job and more with the school thing going on and so much else. She doesn’t have time to research and there is no money, and given the inadequacy of the previous OVERPRICED “research” study, there is no money to do it over by someone with a clue. But I have a vested interest in the future of the library and I have the time. And I have a clue.
    In the video, a very astute lady in the audience made some very thoughtful and pointed remarks questioning some of the unspoken assumptions that led to the expansion as the best option.
    I have heard Audrey say many times, as if it were factual, that since a new library would cost the same as the expansion, “it is a wash” therefore she concludes we may as well do the expansion. Sometimes she mentions land cost. There is a phrase for the fundamental problem this belief causes, something like “opportunity cost” meaning that things you could do with a new building warrant consideration and higher weighting.
    No disrespect to Audrey in  ANY OF THIS. She is doing a great job. The library is understaffed, heavily used, and is badly designed. It also serves as a day time homeless shelter which has been a problem of public libraries since at least the 80s. But that’s another problem requiring a solution.
    The cost basis of new versus expansion is falsely framed as the ONLY difference between the two when that is so obviously false that I am astonished that it even took me awhile to question that assumption.
    With a new library, you get NEW from scratch facilities that will last 20 years instead of a patchwork throwing good money after bad.
    New HVAC with all the energy star bells and whistles and new ductwork, local control of air flow and temperatures in meeting rooms, that could perhaps make it possible for me to actually attend a meeting in a conference room there again without nearly having a fatal asthma attack from the lack of fresh air that could filter out heavy scented perfume odors with the door closed.
    It could be a GREEN building, like the Vancouver (B.C. Canada) Public library. It could use locally sourced materials. It could be DESIGNED by someone competent beyond the dozens of AUTOCAD 101 buildings that exist in town.
    I could go on and on with dozens more aspects that do not seem to have been even considered since the choice was to push expansion.
    BUT A BIG ONE IS PARKING.
    As you know, there is inadequate dedicated handicapped parking already. People are constantly having to double park to pick up kids, or as has happened to me at least 5 times in the last two months, they sit in the handicapped spots to wait thinking, hey, I’m just going to be here for a little bit, what are the odds someone handicapped will need this space. I have gotten out of my double parked car to ask someone to move their vehicle several times, and let it go many more.
    The space in front of the disabled spots is inadequately painted and just big enough for a good parallel parker to park there, no doubt planning to offer the “oh I didn’t realize it wasn’t a parking place” excuse if busted. I get a ticket for 10 minutes over the 30-minute meter but never once have I seen the NO PARKING space (not that there is a sign) in front of the handicapped space with a ticket. And the people who park there frequently do stay more than a few minutes to just pick up books.
    Another woman I spoke to at the ASL class said she went there to do genealogy because they have a subscription to Ancestry.com and she needs to spend hours there. Well, that means she has to park in the ramps because the meters are 30-minute and 2-hour across the street — leading to constant jaywalking of course, a public safety hazard. This means the public library is not really “free”  — and as I pointed out to the Board members who obviously never gave it a moment’s thought: library employees have to park in the lot at a significant cost of over an estimated $1,000 a year for the privilege of working there.
    I could go more on this, but let’s be realistic: FREE PARKING incorporated under a new library building or a paved lot, or both would enable many more people to use the library without it costing them a day’s budget for food to park there.
    DRIVE THROUGH PICK UP WINDOW!!!!!!!
    Taking two toddlers and a baby on the bus is never going to be cheap compared to a car. Parking in the garage and dragging the two kids out and making sure they don’t get hit by a car coming in to park while getting a baby out of a car seat and into a stroller, and then going through doors and possibly an elevator ride to get to the skyway, which has a non ADA slope to travel the 1/4 mile (I measured) to the ELEVATOR to go down to the door of the library, and all that just to PICK UP SOME CHILDREN’S BOOKS, and repeat the journey back to the car must surely be an ordeal to much to consider. They might not even make it in the free hour time limit. They certainly don’t have any time for “story hour” or “discovery” under such circumstances.
    How can FREE PARKING all by itself not been a criterion that would sway the decision to a new building? Free for staff and patrons!
    But here’s another idea that the wretches that did the fatally flawed study didn’t address: a new facility could have a DRIVE THROUGH PICKUP WINDOW. Many public libraries have gotten on the ball with this UNIVERSAL DESIGN feature. When I am stuck in my electric wheelchair, I would LOVE to be able to just drive my vehicle through a pickup and BETTER drop off rather than have to get out of the car, travel through snow and ice and rain, just to be able to pick up my books.
    And I am guessing THOUSANDS of other library users would love that as well. Moms and Dads with kids especially! How can that OPPORTUNITY not have been covered in the new v. expansion pros and cons?
    There would be no extra staff required because the design of the building would have to (please let me provide OVERSIGHT!) place the circulation desk and reserves adjacent to the book drop off and pick up. Right now the library spends time and money pulling books off the shelves that people reserve online.
    This includes interlibrary loans and music and videos, all of which are shelved behind the circulation desk and require the staff at the desk to get for you. One lovely drive though and all of that could be managed with existing staff, or possibly fewer depending on other factors if PEOPLE COULD DRIVE THROUGH and pick up reserves.
    One person commented on the chi chi phrase of “discovery” being used by library people to describe the opportunities of browsing and finding other material of interest. Indeed “discovery” is a primary reason I am 100% committed to a central library (this does NOT mean downtown center location).
    People cannot and should not be forced to park and shuffle kids or get out a wheelchair, or walk when they are too fatigued to do so under the guise that a drive through pickup for reserves would PREVENT “discovery” because these people are NOT THERE TO BROWSE. They did their browsing ONLINE that’s why they did the reserves! When they have time and they think parking will be available or free, they can take all the time they want for “discovery” but that is NOT an acceptable argument to oppose a DRIVE THOUGH PICK UP WINDOW.
    Interlibrary loans actually COST THE LIBRARY $10 per book to obtain. Yet, all too often they are never picked up. Why? MAYBE THE PERSON REQUESTING COULDN’T FIND PARKING within the 5 day limit. (Much more education needs to be done to teach people how to use the library and what services are offered. For example, if you can’t make the pick up deadline, you can call and ask for a few days more until you can get there.)
    One other idea I had was a way to make the pulling of reserves and return shelving faster, easier, and more efficient. A book elevator. These are like dumbwaiters, only for books. If you have a book elevator right by drop off bins and reserve shelves, you can easily sort fiction from nonfiction for example, and send the books up to the appropriate floor. A new building with this in mind could plan for this and layout the shelving to match what a book elevator could provide as a first level sorting, reducing the number of mass book sorting and carting considerably.
    They may have a staff use elevator, I don’t know, but the existing elevator is PAINFULLY DECREPIT and ugly and small. I doubt I could fit in there with my future electric wheelchair that will have to tilt back to take pressure off my spine and my left leg has to be stretched outward because of arthritis in my hip.
    Imagine how nice and fun it would be to do a GLASS ELEVATOR so people could see outside and inside. It could even be lit with changing color LED artwork type enhancements that would clearly show from a distance if the library were open or not. There is a parking garage in Ohio like this. I have pictures. It is cool. Also one in Reno. I also have pictures.
    So another question you have to ask yourself is, DID THE ORIGINAL STUDY even consider actually disabled people at all? The landscape designer for DMC admitted she had never considered what her landscape designs would be like from a wheelchair perspective (or a child or a short person either I am guessing).
    It is one thing to have some numbers provided by decades old legislation, but the INTENT of the ADA is UNIVERSAL DESIGN. For example, if you went for a flat pave lot, AND IT SNOWED, a disabled person in a wheelchair would have trouble clearing the snow from their car even if they were only in the library a short time. So might an elderly person, or a mom dealing with kids. MAYBE A PAVED LOT IS NOT A GOOD IDEA, or maybe something along the lines of a carport style that would keep cars clean and provide a COVERED WALKWAY into the library as well.
    The space above could either be library space, maybe an auditorium since that is clearly lusted after by all concerned for the round bit of the existing library (but a new one could have it too). Or a green area with benches to sit in and enjoy some plantings and park benches on nice days. Of course, you could do pocket park on the ground level as well. The Cleveland Public library has a lovely little urban spot with a Maya Lin sculpture in it as well as other book themed statues and benches.
    Oh the possibilities of a new library make my heart soar! Why oh why did no one on the study even look at these opportunities?
    FUNDING
    As I note in my email to Audrey and my public statement to the board last week (attached), they have not done any serious consideration of all the possible options for funding the library out there.
    Named rooms for big donors, such as the Mayo auditorium perhaps? How about the IBM computer lab including computers and other tech contributions? How about BROADBAND donated by Charter/Spectrum? There are some funds available for bricks and mortar sometime through the Minnesota State Library programs funded by the IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services), though this program is going to be axed in the current budget, but there might be time and enough money to get in for the last bit.
    Audrey never even asked DMC for funds. We all know, and the lady I spoke to even said, it make sense to put a HOTEL right across from the convention center. Surely that location is worth millions to a hotel developer, connected by skyways and right across from it!
    I have lots more ideas on funding, and have been a successful grant writer in the past as well as a reviewer for IMLS grants.
    VISITORS
    Like the bookmobile expansion to bring the library to the people instead of bricks and mortar inflexible and expensive options on many levels, I have lots of ideas of how the library could serve the visitors without them having to have a car to get there. One could be that the hotels would offer their already existing shuttles to do a daily run to the new library location if people requested it. No need, no run. No extra cost to the library or the city to provide access. Another amenity for hotels to offer to give them a competitive edge using vehicles that otherwise would simply be parked.
    DEACCESSIONING
    The library has a large room filled with books that did not sell at the Friends bookshop and aren’t suitable or needed for the collection. Kind of like the Little Free Libraries popping up, maybe a city ordinance would be required, but why not just OFFER THE BOOKS TO LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES? Much better than pulping. I have a picture of a great bus stop that has book shelves with library books on them to read while you wait, and/or take with you on the ride. Then you could just put it back at another BUS STOP LIBRARY. Since the books would be destroyed anyway (is that a cost or a gain for the library?) why not let the people who paid for them originally enjoy them?
    —-
    Please support me in this cause to change from supporting expansion of the library to a new library building. Hopefully on the 9 acres of land the City has where the old Think bank building was. This would allow for some much needed green space rather than the horrendous concrete pile that is the library now, including the lining of the river.
    OH and another thing the original study had as a MAJOR FAIL was the so-called “wash” of the differences did not include THE UTTER MADNESS OF TRYING TO KEEP A PUBLIC LIBRARY OPEN WHILE UNDER MASSIVE RECONSTRUCTION AND REPLACEMENT OF HVAC and more.
    HOW COULD ANYONE READING SUCH A STUDY NOT SIMPLY GAWP IN AMAZEMENT AT THIS FACTOR — ALSO ON ITS OWN — BEING ENOUGH TO SAY BUILD A NEW BUILDING rather than expansion!
    Drive through pick up – opportunity lost
    Free parking – opportunity lost
    Green building – opportunity lost (Platinum LEED!)
    Serving the needs of the 99% of users – opportunity lost
    Integrating green space, park benches, nature programs – opportunity lost
    Serving the needs of the disabled and elderly and families – opportunity lost
    Bookmobile expansion to serve unmet needs – opportunity lost
    Enhanced contemporary functionality  (book elevator, rolling stacks) – opportunity lost
    NAME ARCHITECT for NOTABLE AWARD WINNING BUILDING to enhance the city generally – opportunity lost
    Combine with Children’s museum, Disabled MSers housing, and possible community center — even arts center — that won’t happen at the Armory – opportunity lost
    Kiss transit dollars goodbye — not a realistic basis for planning the best LIBRARY TO MEET THE PUBLIC NEEDS
    I will stop now, but as you might suspect, I have a lot more research, ideas, and I think I could find a way to make a new library building of 180,000 square feet at the City owned land be possible for LESS THAN 55 million dollars. Google Cedar Rapids, Iowa Public Library to see a nice new building.
    Sincerely,

    Read more…

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  • 28Feb

    Here is some context to the bus shutdown on Friday. I know it is frustrating, but we call it a snow emergency for a reason.

    Gary,

    Below I am repeating some the information I shared on Friday with Council Members  Hickey, Campion and Bilderback.

    The decision to run, delay, or partial or  full shutdown involves various inputs;  weather forecasts (including the projected timing of the storm), street conditions, the plowing/ sanding schedule and consultation with Mayo. A final decision is made jointly by the City Transit and Parking Manager and First Transit General Manager. The bus routes for the most part are on arterials or neighborhood collector streets. A number of years back a policy was set in place that bus routes would have priority in regards to order of plowing for City streets. (RPT routes also operates on roads under the  jurisdiction of the Olmsted County and MnDOT.)  The discussion starts with a staff meeting the day before the forecasted event where all information is reviewed. The plan for public dissemination is also laid out.  A review of actual conditions depends on the timing. The last major storms were overnight events. Therefore,  a review of conditions including a visual observation of street conditions started at 2:00 a.m.. A decision to shut down for the last storm was made at 4:00 a.m..

    RPT also parks 1500 commuters in its park and ride lots. The leases require all lots to be cleared by 6:00 a.m. Some lots are cleared by RPT’s snow contractor. In the last storm two lots representing about 50% of our capacity did not get cleared by 6:00 a.m. These were owner operated. We will be following up with the owners.

    Following is a summary of events for the February 24 storm.

    Planning started (2/23) with  an operations meeting to discuss the street plowing schedule, forecasts and the various community cancellations. Communications were also initiated with Mayo. On February 23 (the day before the storm) RPT posted that passengers should consult the website and media as to RPT’s status. Mayo was also asked to post alerts on their internal website.

    A reconnaissance by RPT/FT (First Transit) of street conditions started at 2 a.m. with review of the forecast and the plowing schedule. The decision to shutdown  was made at 4:00 a.m.  The alerts were sent out to media and posted on the website and RPT’s  AVL phone app after the decision was made. Dispatchers were still called in to answer calls. Most major roads appeared to be clear by 7:00 a.m. but there was  a lot of glazing with a continuing fine mist that was freezing on the road surface.  A mid- morning reconnaissance of routes and park and ride lots was made followed by a RPT staff meeting at 10:00 a.m. to discuss whether drivers should be called in for the remainder of day. Staff consulted with street maintenance and the weather forecasts that were predicting a second storm starting at 11 :00 a.m.  We were informed there would be no sanding because of the next storm coming in.

    These are hard calls to make.  They are white knuckle events (stressful) for drivers. Last winter (2016) there was a similar storm where we decided to run as the plows started at 4:00 a.m. RPT started out from the garage at  5:00 a.m. The weather shifted and we had a significant snow fall after the decision was made requiring RPT to pull buses and shut down for 2 hours.

    Our practice after each of these events is to have a debriefing and assess our performance. We will be discussing with Infrastructure the timing of snow removal at the downtown bus stop area to accommodate bus turning movements.  There are always things we can do better. We have excellent service and coordination from the Infrastructure Division (street maintenance).  The final decision is driven by road conditions and safety.

    Respectfully,

    Tony

    Anthony J Knauer

    Transit and Parking Manager

    4300 East River Road

    Rochester, MN 55906

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  • 21Feb

    Here is a fascinating blog post:

    Traffic Studies

    In short we need to move towards smarter planning and appropriate density to create housing opportunities, reasonable transit. And we need to do so before we bankrupt ourselves over infrastructure liabilities.

  • 17Nov

    Here is the Transit Networked Companies (Uber) ordinance. I hope to pass this on Monday, If possible I will suspend the rules and do a second reading with the intention of having Uber in place before the holiday season where drunk driving spikes.

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