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ENEWS: Building Urban Transit, Rural Caregivers, Arts Placemaking

Date Published: 09/06/2018

Author: Dane Smith

If We Build Better Transit, They Will Ride

Growth & Justice persistently advocates for ample public investment in transportation systems that serve both Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities metropolitan area.   We reject the false choice some try to force between highways or transit systems, and we agree with the overwhelming consensus among state business leaders that we need both, especially improved transit and mobility options, urban and rural.   New data making this case for urban areas comes from City Lab, in a provocative article, “Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit? (Don't Blame Cars).”    Maps in the article show the present-day network of high-service rail and bus lines (operating at least every 30 minutes, all day to midnight, seven days a week) for five urban areas in the U.S. and one in Canada.   The more lines and the better the service, the higher the ridership, in direct correlation.   Diagnosis:   “Transit providers in the U.S. have continually cut basic local service in a vain effort to improve their finances. But they only succeeded in driving riders and revenue away. When the transit service that cities provide is not attractive, the demand from passengers that might ‘justify’ its improvement will never materialize.”   Prescription:  “The only way to reverse the vicious cycle in the U.S. is by providing better service up front. The riders might not come on day one, but numerous examples, from cities like Phoenix and Seattle, have shown that better service will attract more riders. This can, in turn, produce a virtuous cycle where more riders justify further improved service—as well as providing a stronger political base of support.”

Rural Caregivers Need More Support

From a recent article in the Business Section of the Star Tribune:  “Workers in rural areas who take care of an ailing adult or child have significantly less support at the workplace to buttress the strains of their dual roles than those in urban areas.”   Citing a new study from the University of Minnesota,  which also was published  in the Journal of Rural Health, reporter Jackie Crosby notes that rural caregivers are much less likely to have access to workplace benefits such as telecommuting, employee assistance programs or paid leave.   Only 15 percent of rural caregivers worked for a company that offered employee assistance programs or other services that lend resources or emotional support, compared with 26 percent of urban caregivers.  Similarly, less than 10 percent of rural caregivers are able to work from home, because they lack access to reliable broadband internet or because their workplace policies don’t allow it, while about 25 percent of urban workers are able to take advantage of that flexibility.   The gap is even wider when it comes to paid leave, according to the research. Just 18 percent of rural caregivers have access to paid time away to care for a sick loved one, compared with 34 percent of urban caregivers.   Growth & Justice will continue to push for  investment in rural broadband, employee assistance programs, and paid family leave policies

Ashley Hanson and Arts “Placemaking” in Granite Falls

When Growth & Justice co-hosted the  Thriving by Design conference in Granite Falls earlier this summer, we bused all our attendees to the town’s main street to learn about new revitalization efforts underway.   Among these bright spots was the YES House and artist/entrepreneur Ashley Hanson’s effort to create a hub for art and culture.   We were thus very pleased to see the Star Tribune discover this remarkable initiative as well, in a recent article headlined: “Can art bring new life to a small town? Granite Falls, Minn., says YES!”   The article noted that Hanson, who recently was awarded one of 20 national Obama Fellowships, has focused her efforts broadly on “building community in rural towns. Last year, she drove a school bus across the country, visiting artists in cities with fewer than 10,000 people. She traveled more than 6,000 miles, stopping in 24 towns in 20 states, with the goal of better understanding the rural-urban divide in America.”  Meanwhile, “the Minnesota River Valley is gaining a reputation as an arts-rich area, thanks to efforts such as the Meander Art Crawl, an annual self-guided tour featuring the work of more than 40 local artists in the upper valley.’’   We concur with the growing agreement  --  among arts advocates and community development experts alike --  that cultural amenities and creative placemaking must be a first-tier priority for economic development in Greater Minnesota.   Check out this persuasive essay from the McKnight Foundation, “The Long View on Artist-Centered Creative Placemaking in Minnesota.’’


“They really are waking up our sleepy little town with art.  I was sort of banking on health care [for economic development], and then the arts kind of took me by surprise. But as an economic development person, I’ll take growth wherever it comes from.’’   Cathy Anderson, director of the Granite Falls Economic Development Authority, in Star Tribune article, cited above.

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