Monday, October 4, 2010

Moving the Bus Stop at Penn and Golden Valley Road

CM Samuels speaks with the Wally's Foods owner while Kenya McKnight asks questions and Al McFarlane records.
Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

Several weeks ago, Metro Transit temporarily relocated two of the bus stops running north and south on Penn Avenue and Golden Valley Road.  There are thankfully very few intersections left in NoMi that give me pause whenever I drive, walk, or bike through them.  This is one such intersection.

There has been near-constant loitering in front of Wally's Foods, contributing to the violence and drug sales at the intersection.  So when I first read in a monthly email update from CM Samuels that the stop would be relocated, I was immediately relieved, and hopeful this would lead to a reduction in violent crime.  Recently, Al McFarlane wrote a piece in Insight News questioning the move.  In my reading of that article, I found very little of substance beyond some whining about having to walk an extra block or so.  True, Insight brought up the fact that the hypothetical senior citizen might have to walk another block or so (no one in the article claims to have been directly burdened by the move), but let's weigh that against what has happened recently.

Hmm...walk an extra block or risk getting shot in the face?  That was how I was looking at the issue before fifteen to twenty people protested the bus stop location change on Saturday.  As it turns out, things are rarely that simple.  In speaking with a local businesswoman, I found that...

...since the Penn and GVR intersection is a transfer point for the 14 and 19 bus routes, walking an extra block might mean a difference in getting the bus that gets you to your job on time or arriving late.  And of course with enough late arrivals, one's job is in jeopardy.  Ms. Etta Christon at Wright Haircuts explained this dynamic to me, and emphasized the importance of Penn and Golden Valley as a transfer spot.  To her credit, and that of other protesters, she's got a point.  NoMi has often got the short end of the stick when it comes to transportation issues, and people should be able to get to and from places quickly and conveniently here, just as in other parts of the city.

However, nobody at the protest identified themselves as being directly affected in this way.  Councilmember Don Samuels was in attendance, and not a single person stood up to say, "I have missed my bus and been late for my job because the extra block or two walk caused a delay."  Kenya McKnight was also there, holding a sign that said, "There are other ways to address crime."  I didn't hear any such suggestions, though.

What I did hear was quite a bit of complaining about the way Wally's Food store was run.  Even while many residents and community leaders were standing outside, a 17-year-old was identified as reportedly having just bought tobacco products.  Other people identified the store proprietor or employees as having chased people (at least some minors) out of the store while brandishing a gun or knife.  The owner expressed reservations about calling 911 too often, fearing that doing so would result in the revocation of his business license.  Samuels assured him this would not be the case.

In the end, residents asked for, and were promised, a meeting between CM Samuels' office, Metrotransit, the store owner, and community members.

The moving of the bus stop is a temporary change, and after examination it might be moved back to the original location, have the change extended, made permanent, or other adjustments could happen.  I called the 4th Precinct and asked if there was any data that would link a possible reduction in crime or calls for service with the removal of the bus stop from Penn and GVR.  At this time, no such hard data has been compiled.  And even when the statistics are gathered, drawing a connection among all the other variables that contribute to crime and calls for service would be difficult at best.  However, the intersection certainly FEELS safer when you walk, bike, or drive through it and don't encounter hordes of people loitering and up to no good.

Access to transportation means access to jobs, and difficulties around that should not be ignored.  However, safety has to trump that.  It's hard to get to your job on time when you have to work in the variable of walking a few blocks in between bus stops.  But getting to your job becomes significantly more difficult when you're in the hospital or worse.  The combination of having a bus stop in front of a store like Wally's gives drug dealers and gang members an excuse to inflict their criminal activities upon our community.  Whatever solution is worked out, stopping that kind of activity must be paramount.


  1. So what's going on in the top picture?

  2. Anon 7:11, I went and added a caption that should answer the basics of your question. But the Wally's Foods owner and employees were NOT very popular people that day. The look on Don's face was definitely directed towards the owner.

  3. I don't know why you are always sticking your nose in our business. How about you worry about things in Hawthorne, and we can take care of our own Willard problems

  4. Anon 10:52, I've heard that comment before and my response is the same. I'll go where I please to cover stories in NoMi that are pertinent to me or my community. Seeing as how I and many other Hawthornites pass through this intersection on a regular basis, this isn't just a "Willard problem."

    Furthermore, while I made no attempt to hide my own bias, I also did a fair amount of fact-checking. WAS there anyone a this rally that I missed who DOES miss their connection and is therefore at risk of losing their job? What about those poor senior citizens who have to walk an extra block? So far, those situations seem to be merely hypothetical.

    (And if anyone is indeed impacted in this way, I would be happy to raise that profile so that they are treated fairly - whatever that outcome might look like.)

    But before the bus stop was moved, the crime was real. The loitering was real. The drug dealing and prostitution was real. The gun violence was real, and the risk of one's basic safety merely by passing through was real.

    I've spent several years riding the bus when I had no access to a vehicle. I know what it means to miss a transfer and have to wait another half an hour. I know what it's like to be tired and not want to walk one step more than necessary, especially in the Minnesota cold. But safety trumps convenience and reality trumps the hypothetical.

    That being said, I think there are solutions that can benefit (most) everyone, and I hope they are fleshed out when the sit-down meeting with all parties happens.

  5. I don't believe your Anon10:52pm commenter is a real "Willard" person. I would bet it's just some malcontent thug hugger who really doesn't want North Minneapolis to change; who wants North Minneapolis to continue to be a dysfunctional community where criminals have a safe harbor to live criminal lifestyles "unfettered" by upstanding citizens.

    I have a NoMi blog too, and I'd love to invite your Anon10:52 commenter to submit a guest piece to my blog. Use your real name, tell us who you are, where you live and why you want citizens to stay within their own neighborhoods and never be concerned about an issue outside their neighborhood boundaries.

    Feel free to contact me at goodponyz at yahoo and let's work out a deal where you can write and elaborate more on your anonymous comment.

    Looking forward to hearing from you, Anon10:52pm

  6. Editorial note: I went in and added a link to a JNS post about the "epic" number of 911 calls to Wally's Foods.

    If the anonymous commenter wants to go on the NoMi Passenger blog with a post about why it is that people should somehow stay in their own neighborhoods, go ahead. I'm not really interested in that argument here.

    Here's what I WOULD like to see, though: will anyone come forward and identify themselves as either a senior citizen who is burdened by the longer walk to a bus stop? Will anyone identify themselves as having trouble getting to their job on time because connecting routes are more problematic after the move?

    I'll offer a deal: anyone affected in this way can either post here (anonymous posts may or may not be published but certainly won't carry much weight), or contact me and I would be happy to meet over coffee. If there is a real case like this out there, I want to tell that story so that person gets fair and safe access to public transit in NoMi.

  7. As a non bus rider it's easy to sit back and smile that this crime stop has been removed.

    However, as a former bus rider it gives me pause to contemplate those hypothetical drawbacks.

    Perhaps a better solution to this problem is to deal with Wally's. Moving the bus stop seems like a bandaid which addresses a symptom but doesn't really address the core problem.

  8. Wally's Foods isn't located in "Willard"

    Kenya McKnight does not live in "Willard".

  9. Let us not be fooled by those that make the moving of a bus stop another reason to emote about how the man is keeping you down.Inconvenience my ass.Quit fucking lying and looking for any reason to call White people racists.Bus stops are notorious hangouts for people looking to rob you, sell you drugs and harass the fuck out of anyone who isn't a punkass thug wannabe.It is high time to stop the accusations and charges that everything is racially motivated and all of it starts and stops with White people.Fuck all you assholes of ANY backround that play the race card and cheapen the facts related for instances of true fucking racism.Stop blowing your horns bcause the hot air is melting your fake ass instruments. A note to all of you that think just because you have lived here longer and think you have all the answers and nothing is going to change. to you i say get the hell out of the way if it means moving to another fucking country then so be it.Let the folks doing the footwork continue ther trek and the rest of you keep your upper level shithole sealed.

  10. I'm definitely with Hans. Moving the bus stop might improve the situation, but it is not addressing the root of the problem. I personally would love to know more about what Wally's is doing to improve security at their location.

  11. "Dealing" with the problem inconvenience store Wally's is a long drawn out process. I commend the city and the metro transit for taking a more immediate measure that might help relieve the problems/symptoms and mostly it gives us citizens more clear reasons to call 9-1-1 to get the police there on site to deal with loiterers. If the city/metro transit DIDN'T take this available action then we'd be bitching and griping that they did nothing.

    C'mon people, stop the bitching and support our city and police when they are making moves and taking actions.

    Get mad at the thugs. It's their behavior that is causing so many problems, big problems, all over the country. Bitch at the thugs. It's up to us to make thug life unacceptable and to become intolerant of it before we expect thug life to change.

  12. Wally's is a problem and should be shut down. Every time decent citizens drive by Wally's and see obvious drug loitering, these citizens need to make a 911 call. Keep racking up the calls on Wally's and maybe we can get this inconvenience store shut down.


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