“Vision Zero Action Plan” Dec. report, part 1

Call to order at 6:15.  20 attenders
The Minneapolis Vision Zero Action Plan was 2-PAC’s topic this month.  Ethan Fawley, the coordinator for the VZAP was joined by MPD Deputy Chief Erick Fors, who is a principal in shaping the plan and dealing with traffic safety efforts.  Second Precinct Inspector Loining added details specific to the Second Precinct.

The Vision Zero Action Plan has a goal of eliminating traffic deaths and severe injuries on Minneapolis streets by 2027.  An average of 95 people were killed or had life-altering injuries every year in Minneapolis from 2007 to 2016.   Fawley emphasized, it’s important for us to remember that those statistics represent real people–people whose lives were ended or severely altered on our streets. 

For a long time, Minneapolis was safer than Minnesota as a whole, and safer than many large cities in our country.  That is starting to change as other cities take action against traffic injury and death.  If we compare the Minneapolis rate against New York City, we now have more deaths per thousand than NYC.  New York was the first to adopt the strategies we will use in the VZAP, which led to significantly lower crash rates than Minneapolis has.  They adopted their plan five years ago; last year they had fewer traffic deaths than they’ve ever had since 1912, which is when they began recording that statistic.

Comparing crashes in our own city:  crashes occur more often in neighborhoods where more people are Native Americans, or have lower incomes, or are walking or bicycling. 1% of our population produces 9% of our traffic deaths.  People walking and people biking are over-represented in crashes.  Surveying people across Minneapolis, the study found that people want this situation to improve, and they know what they want the city to improve on.  They want to slow down traffic speed and have existing laws enforced.  They expressed interest in how the city will build a culture change that promotes safety.  The final grouping is summarized below.
The team defined four guiding principles:1) Human life and safety come first.  One death on a Minneapolis street is too many.2) Equity  – Foundational to the plan is that the social disparities that increase the number and severity of crashes must be eliminated.  These disparities are easily mapped, and the maps clearly point to racial,  economic and allied disparities.  All people deserve fair and just opportunities  and out comes.  People want to trust the systems which are in place for protection.
3) Data-driven –  Vision Zero strategies and actions will be developed from relevant data, based on recognized best practices, and responsive to community experiences and input.  The team will work to improve the data they have and to recognize its gaps, and fill them.
4) Accountability – The team will set clear objectives and report on them; team members will work for transparency and will seek community engagement.  They will collaborate with community members and agency partners to develop and implement Vision Zero.  The currently proposed methods and mode will be adapted to change as needed. This is a foundation of community trust.

The team identified strategies and actions to improve traffic safety.  They defined four systems –
— Safe Streets – They will use street design, infrastructure and operations to improve traffic safety–Safe People – They will support and encourage safe human behavior–Safe Vehicles – They will regulate vehicle fleets for safety, including scooters, cabs, Uber and other on-call or rental rides.
–Safety data – They will develop and use data-driven approaches to Vision Zero, ensuring accountability for progress toward goals
The Vision Zero Action Plan includes 16 strategies and 68 actions to be implemented between 2020 and 2022 — the three year plan.    The early focus areas are
1) REDUCE SPEED LIMITS – Lower traffic speeds save lives by reducing the chance of a crash and by making it less likely that a crash will be deadly.  All Minnesota cities can now control speed limits on city-owned streets.  Minneapolis is now taking  steps to lower speed limits on most City streets — this will roll out in 2020.2) MAKE SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS ON HIGH INJURY STREETS – A startling statistic:  70% of severe and fatal crashes happen on just 9% of City streets.  (See the High Injury Streets map in the online report, URL is below.)   These streets will first receive “safety treatments” including 4-to-3 lane conversions, painting turn lanes (can reduce crashes by as much as 36%, and it’s just paint), pedestrian medians, bump-outs, and others.  Ballard installations are also low cost, easy to install and remove, and we can study placement and effectiveness over time.  The improvement work will be in partnership with Hennepin County.
3) ADDRESS LEADING UNSAFE BEHAVIORS – The 5 behaviors that produce the most severe and fatal injuries are Driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, Distracted driving, Speeding, Red light running, Unsafe turning (usually failure to yield).    These behaviors will be addressed through education, communications and enforcement actions.  The recent “hands free” push is an example of this re-training program.4) SEEK TO IMPLEMENT AUTOMATED TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT – Citizens have reported they want more effective traffic enforcement and are worried about inequities in enforcement.    In other cities, automated enforcement has proven effective in saving lives and frees up officer time for other duties.  Minneapolis will seek authority from the Legislature to use camera enforcement of laws while studying how to use it effectively and equitably.  (A previous trial in 2005 had to be stopped because the Supreme Court found that Minneapolis did not have the authority to use camera enforcement at that time.  Agencies are now working to get the right legislation in place.)

This three year plan went to the City Council on December 13.

Points to think about – Minneapolis has 114 miles of High Injury streets, BUT  only 46 miles of those streets are owned by Minneapolis (and so under MPD control).  48 miles are owned by Hennepin County and 19 are MnDOT-owned.  Minneapolis will work with the County and MnDOT to make improvements to all high-injury streets.  44% of High Injury Streets are in areas of concentrated poverty, but those areas are only 24% of the total streets in the city.
The full report (so far) is at https://www.visionzerompls.com/?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=For the map referred to in this 2-PAC report, focus area 2, “Make Safety Improvements on High Injury Streets”, click on the “Safety Data” on the tab at the top.  Then scroll down; there are a number of other startling statistics on that page.  Included are charts that point out racial disparities in traffic deaths, car speed as a driver of injury, crash concentration by neighborhood.  You can also click through to the links to full reports on Pedestrian Crashes and Bicycle-vehicle crashes.  These reports include comparisons with national data, sitemaps and a lot more.

Deputy Chief Fors continued the report —

Traffic enforcement is generally run by the local precincts.  The MPD has a city-wide Traffic Investigations Unit consisting of 4 Sergeants and a DWI  Enforcement Officer.  The unit used to be larger with a number of officers running radar and other practices, but over time, the officers got reassigned to the Precincts to meet Precinct-focused needs.  We’re raising the question again about a Traffic Enforcement Unit.  It’s still to be determined if we can bring that back.  If so, that would be the unit the MPD would use to enforce the changes brought by the Vision Zero campaign. 

There is an ongoing discussion about racial disparities in traffic stops.  If we have an area with lots of crime, we put more officers in those areas.  Because we’re still lacking a city-wide traffic unit, it’s the Precinct officers who must respond to traffic issues. 

The crash study 10-years of crash data show where those accidents are.  Gathered evidence points to the most-likely causes of those accidents.  What is it we are seeing at those dangerous intersections?  Because it’s data-driven, we can report that at “this” intersection, we see a lot of “this behavior” because of “this factor”.  That is the reason we put officers in that area.  Hopefully, we can start to talk to people, educate them, and, if necessary, issue citations.  People feel comfortable with knowing how we use this data.  We are not arbitrarily picking on places; we can show we are deploying our officers in response to data.  We know there is some distrust out there, but we are following the data. 

Inspector Loining presented Second Precinct use of data.  We do have an officer on daywatch who has an interest in doing more traffic education and enforcement.  We pick our areas by time of the day.  The Hennepin Avenue Bridge has been a watch spot since business owners and home owners along East Hennepin started reporting excessive speeding. Some speeders coming off the Bridge (fortunately not many) have been clocked at 65 mph!  At any time of day we have citizens out walking, kids, people who can’t walk too fast, bikers, and it’s highly dangerous spot.  When we get complaints from citizens we follow up and work to be responsive. 

Another spot that got close attention is the area at 22nd and Stinson, rolling all the way down past the Quarry.  Again, this was dangerous speeding.  We’ve run the Speedwagon with a squad parked nearby, which always slows traffic down and that enhances safety.  QUESTION about alcohol detection.  ANSWER  Alcohol you can smell. We have a number of officers who are certified in detecting other chemicals. 

Another question about automated enforcement:  Minneapolis Police Dept. is working with other agencies across the state (including the Inter-Governmental Affairs Staff)  to present a strong case to the State Legislature to get a good law written.  37 other states in the U.S. have these laws in place so we are not opening new territory.  People might know that a certain spot is a speed trap, and if they don’t see a squad car, they will do what they want.  But if a camera is there, filming the behavior, people are more likely to drive well.  The goal is to change behavior, not to issue a lot of tickets.  Changing behavior is what improves safety for everyone. 

For now, keep reporting to 311; all reports are logged and examined.  You can also report through the Vision Zero website click on the “Get Involved” tab, a reporting site is the second option on that page.

Emilie Quast, board member
MPD Second Precinct Advisory Council (2-PAC)
Minneapolis MN 55418


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