Commuters who take scenic West River Parkway in south Minneapolis during weekday morning rush hours — whether by car, bike or foot — are among the happiest in the Twin Cities. Conversely, nearby Hiawatha Avenue between Fort Snelling and downtown Minneapolis “is not a happy road,” said Yingling Fan, a professor in urban and regional planning at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the death of George Floyd have brought people out onto the street as never before, showing how much our roadways are no longer just corridors devoted to moving vehicles, bikes and pedestrians as fast and efficiently as possible. Streets have become the places where we increasingly pursue our personal, public and even our political lives, and we could use some new ways of talking about them. We also could use new names for them that more accurately describe how we have come to use them.
University of Minnesota professor Edward Goetz studies issues of race, class and access to affordable housing. “Systemic racism refers to racism and disparate outcomes that are built into our systems. That may have been built into our systems for reasons that have nothing to do with race, but that in fact work now to reinforce racial inequity and inequalities,” Goetz said. For example, in the 20th century, Goetz says there were explicit forms of racial discrimination in housing. It was illegal for some people to occupy certain types of housing and it created great wealth imbalances.
Most residential sidewalks in the Twin Cities are about 5 feet wide — too narrow to maintain a 6-foot buffer when parties pass one another. A once-simple stroll can now feel like a real-life version of the video game Frogger, dodging other walkers and joggers.
The Midwestern city that has been the site of unrest views itself as embracing multiculturalism. But it also struggles with segregation and racial gaps on education. The legacy of policies discriminating against people of color has lingered. “The racism has been around for a very, very long time," said Lawrence R. Jacobs, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota. “You can see it in the redlining of neighborhoods, the education system, the transportation system and, obviously, policing.”
Race and transportation access have collided before in Minneapolis, said Yingling Fan, a professor of regional planning and public policy at the University of Minnesota. Like many U.S. cities, it is sliced up by major interstates built in the 1960s. These forced out black communities, including the Rondo neighborhood, which made way for I-94 near downtown. “It displaced and destroyed what was a vibrant African-American community with surgical precision,” said Fan, also a CTS scholar.
The nation’s 2 million truck drivers, deemed essential workers in the pandemic, are now viewed by some as heroes — just like doctors, nurses and grocery store clerks. “Truck drivers are getting the credit they’ve long deserved in this crisis,” said John Hausladen, president and CEO of the Minnesota Trucking Association. With trucks moving about 71% of the nation’s freight, the industry “provides the essential goods that we need,” he added.
As the novel coronavirus expands beyond major cities and the coasts — and as states start to emerge from shelter-in-place orders — locations with fewer medical resources will need strategies that work for them. “While rural areas are typically under-resourced and disadvantaged as it comes to health and health care, a model like this shows that rural places can be particularly nimble and flexible,” said Carrie Henning-Smith, deputy director of the University of Minnesota’s Rural Health Research Center.
While it’s impossible to predict the future, interviews with transportation and public-health experts suggest that the pandemic offers an opportunity to reshape transit systems and revive cities, with the potential to ward off infectious disease and even some chronic illnesses.
Dairy farmers have felt the pandemic’s effects, too. “Some farmers are dumping liquid milk because schools are closed,” trucking industry economist Stephen Burks at the University of Minnesota Morris told TT. Morris is in a region dominated by agriculture. “There’s just a lot fewer milk tankers that are running.” Plus, getting milk from a farmer to a grocery store, restaurant or cafeteria often involves multiple trips in a tanker truck.
Global manufacturing is an intricate ecosystem of specialized players, their fates closely intertwined.... "I tell my students that the supply chain professionals they're becoming are going to be the heroes of the next phase of [the coronavirus] recovery," says Karen Donohue, an expert on supply chains at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. "Right now, the health care workers are the heroes.
From accelerating existing trends to inspiring technological advances, the COVID-19 pandemic is poised to have a lasting impact on the way future offices and other public gathering places are designed, built and used. That’s a big-picture message from Twin Cities architects and other building experts, who looked at the future of buildings through the lens of the public health crisis....
There's a new COVID-19 tracking app for Minnesotans that breaks it down into neighborhoods. "SafeDistance" uses public data but it will also rely heavily on users to add to the platform. HealthPartners Institute, researchers at the University of Minnesota and Modern Logic have teamed up for this nonprofit project. They hope that through the app, users can learn more about the health of their neighborhood and help them avoid potential COVID-19 hotspots.
Working with researchers from the University of Minnesota, the HealthPartners Institute has launched a free smartphone app intended to help fight COVID-19 by tracking outbreaks at the neighborhood level using crowd-sourced information from anonymous users. The SafeDistance app, which is making its debut across Minnesota this week, is even being touted as a potential strategy to reopen the economy.
Annual nationwide data from the Accessibility Observatory at the University of Minnesota revealed significant differences among major U.S. cities in how well they are coping with the congestion. According to the Access Across America: Auto 2018 study, the Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area ranked sixth in terms of job accessibility but 28th in the reduction in job access due to congestion. In fact, Minneapolis–St.
The University of Minnesota and HealthPartners are at work on an app they tentatively plan to call "SafeDistance." What’s less certain is the degree to which privacy advocates and everyday consumers will voluntarily opt into such services when they’re ready for widespread application — or whether government might someday legally mandate that smartphone companies automatically enroll their customers....
The share of Minnesotans working from home rather than going to an office will not return to pre-pandemic levels soon, if ever.... Lee Munnich said he isn’t surprised. Munnich might be called Minnesota’s telework policy guru. It’s a research specialty he honed during 25 years as director of the State and Local Policy Program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.
University of Minnesota researchers have developed an app to warn senior drivers when they are engaging in risky maneuvers and help them pay better attention while behind the wheel. The RoadCoach app provides auditory and visual messages in real time when drivers speed, brake too hard, fail to yield or run stop signs, then encourages them to make corrections. “It’s like a surrogate coach in the passenger seat,” said Nichole Morris, who led the research and study funded through a grant from the Roadway Safety Institute. Morris is director of the U’s HumanFIRST Laboratory.
University computer science and engineering professor Shashi Shekhar writes that smartphone-location-based contact tracing could not only save lives now, but also provide valuable information to public health researchers to improve the understanding of epidemiology and improve intervention methods when it comes to containing future waves of SARS-Cov2 and other communicable diseases. (Co-author: Apurv Hirsh Shekhar, MD candidate, Yale School of Medicine.
Trucking has seen an upturn, too, as drivers rush the supplies that fill grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies and other critical businesses. But Stephen Burks, an industry economist at the University of Minnesota-Morris, told Transport Topics that trucking likely will see a slowdown, too, as the rest of the economy deals with the lingering effects of the coronavirus. “I think the big question is whether … the current spike can sustain itself, and my opinion is, it’s probably going to be a short run,” Burks said.
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