See more of the story

In response to "What becomes Hennepin Avenue?" (editorial, April 17) let's begin with the numbers.

1) Minneapolis studied daily traffic on Hennepin Avenue south of Franklin (pre-pandemic) and found:

• 25,050 to 50,600 people in 15,000 to 31,500 vehicles (88% of travelers)

• 6,600 transit riders on 400 buses (11.5%)

• 220 to 280 cyclists (0.5%)

Roughly a third of the trips are for work and school, a third for shopping and a third everything else.

Few trips are discretionary — people have to go to work and school and feed themselves.

2) One out of every five people in Minneapolis is a child under the age of 18, and 60% of kids in Minneapolis are on free or reduced school lunches.

3) Families of color average larger than white families, and families with children make more trips per day than families without kids because children have to go to school and to their activities.

4) Ten percent of city residents are 65 or older, and about 10% have a disability.

5) Local bus ridership (the kind of transit on Hennepin Avenue) declined 25% over the last six years before the pandemic. It is down 58% from the beginning of the pandemic and isn't improving.

Businesses have discovered that employees can very effectively work from home and are now reducing their presence downtown (i.e., Target). This is why transit ridership is so low. The region's biggest transit destination may not be so big anymore.

6) Most bike lane users are white men. Women commute on bikes at one-third the rate of men. Black people commute on bikes at one-third the rate of white men.

7) Even if we tripled the number of people biking on Hennepin Avenue, it would only be 1.5% of travelers (see above).

The city's proposal is to take out all the parking along Hennepin Avenue and possibly reduce the two automobile lanes down to one to provide space to add bike lanes and dedicated bus lanes. This is being done to fight climate change. There has been no actual study on what this will do to traffic, but it is a no-brainer that it will substantially increase travel time in that corridor.

That in turn shrinks the area in which those 50,000 people can seek good-paying jobs, because workers have only so much time to commute. It will reduce the time that parents have to spend with their children, especially parents of color.

Businesses will be cut off from customers. Some will close, reducing jobs in the city at a time when we are desperate for economic justice.

But the Star Tribune Editorial Board whiffed on the key question. What values are most important? Is it more important to fight climate change in this way, or is it more important to support businesses and get people to jobs?

It is hard for me to think of a starker statement than this of the values clash in our city today.

Only wealthy people have the luxury of choosing climate change over jobs.

Families with children, especially families of color, are disproportionately affected when we make travel difficult because they make so many more trips. Is it more important to fight climate change in this way or help parents and children?

Is it more important to worry about the preferences of white male travelers or to create jobs that lead to economic justice? We talk about wanting to help people of color but then kill the businesses that can hire them and make it harder for them to get to jobs.

There is a limited amount of right of way. You have to pick one set of values or the other. It isn't enough to say, "we need change." You have to pick which values are most important.

But in the end, this proposal isn't about climate change. If you want to reduce emissions, you reduce congestion, you don't increase it.

But the Editorial Board didn't call that out either. So why are we doing this, anyway?

Carol Becker lives in Minneapolis.