We’re engaging and listening to residents
On a beautiful July evening, dozens of people turned out to look closely at detailed maps of the proposed METRO Gold Line bus rapid transit project. Neighbors, business owners and other interested people studied where the dedicated bus-only lane will run through the communities of Woodbury, Oakdale, Maplewood, Landfall and Saint Paul.
The open house was one of hundreds of public engagement events the project will hold before the first buses start running in 2024, and a key example of how community learning and input drives decision-making.
“I’m going to open a coffee shop here,” one man said, as he pointed to small plot of land on Saint Paul’s East Side. “How will this impact my parking?” Staff found the engineer working on the project, who came over to show that vehicle access to the property would not be impeded. Others at the event offered suggestions for improving the route, which staff wrote on Post-It notes and stuck to the map for future reference.
It’s difficult to overstate how important meetings like this are to the Metropolitan Council’s work. Whether we’re planning a new bus line, improving access to regional parks, or developing long-range regional plans for housing, we engage residents so that our plans and services reflect the desires and needs of the people we serve. We need your involvement and feedback, whether you live in Anoka or serve on a city council in Dakota County.
You can see the result of our outreach and engagement efforts in many arenas. Regional park agencies are developing more programming to attract and welcome new visitors to the parks. Metro Transit designed better bus stop signage for all riders by engaging with residents for whom English is not their first language. Local officials on a community task force proposed a solution that simplified how we calculate the sewer availability charge for many business owners.
It’s important to engage community experts early in a project so their knowledge can influence the decisions. For example, last year the Transit Accessibility Advisory Committee completed a review of how our light rail transit vehicles serve the needs of people with disabilities. The review led to a redesign of the interiors of the next generation of LRT vehicles for our system. Committee member Ken Rodgers summed up the importance of community engagement. “It’s the right thing to do,” Rodgers said. “When you have a system that is universally able to benefit the most people, it makes that system better for everybody.”
By Alene Tchourumoff