Survey Verdict: Downtown Needs Work
Stillwater is sharply divided on a number of issues but not on downtown trucks, noise, crosswalks, and parking. A more livable, walkable Downtown is part of SSMN's mission - this survey was designed to find out where the rest of Stillwater is on these topics.
A survey, conducted in July and August 2019, received 466 responses online and in person. 83% were Stillwater residents, 8% were Stillwater business owners or employees, and 13% were visitors. Responses were from in-person interviews and via an online Google poll by SSSMN’s Active Transportation Workgroup.
Heavy Construction Trucks Seen as a Negative
Random survey-takers were asked if the volume of the large tractor-trailer and construction trucks on Main Street is positive or negative to downtown businesses, a whopping 73% said these trucks are a negative and 7% said the truck traffic is positive. Some 77% of those interviewed would like to see fewer big trucks downtown with 10% saying they are satisfied with the current volume. The vast majority of 75% of survey-takers said they would be in favor of a truck bypass route that allows trucks to avoid downtown altogether. Just 11% of the respondents said they were not in favor of a truck bypass route.
Heavy construction truck traffic regularly passes through downtown as it travels to and from quarries located north of town and the new St. Croix Crossings bridge.
The second biggest negative for survey-takers were unsafe crosswalks. Asked if Stillwater should have better crosswalks with safer, more modern features, most people surveyed - 60.4% - said yes, Downtown crosswalks need to be safer and 25.8% said they do not need to be safer. There are at least four crosswalk areas on Main Street north of Myrtle that have no traffic lights nor electronic signals available to pedestrians. A similar situation exists at the crosswalk near the corner of Olive Street and Main Street near Lolo’s restaurant.
The majority of survey-takers also said they want better public transportation in Stillwater. Asked if Stillwater should create a seasonal weekend shuttle service so visitors can park their cars a distance away from downtown and take a shuttle into the city center, 61.4% said yes, 19.8% said no. A majority were in favor of better public transit options to get around within Stillwater and to other areas of the metro with 54% saying yes and 26% say no.
Noise Still a Problem
A smaller majority of survey takers said loud traffic noise, in general, is still a problem and needs better enforcement — 48% agreed and 35% did not. Some 53% specifically criticized loud motorcycle noise downtown (34% did not think motorcycle noise is a problem).
Bicycling Mecca Needs Work
When it comes to an expected influx of new bicycle enthusiasts flocking to Stillwater with the opening of the St. Croix Loop Trail in May 2020, Stillwater overwhelmingly is enthusiastic about this prospect — 80% think this will be good for the city. A majority of respondents, however, also feel that the city is not entirely safe for bicyclists. 47.1% said no, it is not safe, while 30% believe it is.
The public was asked if they would favor paid parking meters downtown if the money is used for downtown pedestrian and bike safety improvements, but that prospect received mostly thumbs-down. Some 60% did not want paid parking while compared to 29% were in favor.
There was no consensus on questions related to the speed limit reduction or speed enforcement, sidewalk widening, bike lanes, and electric car charging spaces. However, on questions regarding the removal of parking spaces for bike lanes or sidewalk widening or the creation of a downtown parking-free boulevard, most said they were not in favor of such measures until Downtown parking problems are solved.
Sustainable Stillwater MN’s downtown transportation survey was designed as a general, initial survey within Stillwater to capture themes about transportation preferences within the community and as a guide to create a dialog with city leaders and residents.
As a caveat, the responses may have been influenced by how much time survey-takers actually spent downtown, whether they park downtown, and whether they personally use bicycles. The survey did not intend to dive into complex issues and discussions like “how to” solve the complex issues.
The Active Transportation Workgroup aims to increase active transportation like cycling and walking to reduce the use of carbon-emitting vehicles. Recent initiatives include successfully working with the city to install the speed radar sign and to road striping on North Main Street.