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Breaking the Ice: Advocate seeks transportation options statewide

Name: Jessica Treat

Title: Executive director, Transit for Livable Communities & St. Paul Smart Trips

Education: Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering, Arizona State University; master’s degree in urban and regional planning, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Jessica Treat, executive director of Transit for Livable Communities & St. Paul Smart Trips, has chosen to live without a car for almost a decade. She lives near the Green Line, bikes to work and meetings when possible and uses car-sharing services to visit relatives in the suburbs.

That’s the multimodal approach advocated by Transit for Livable Communities & St. Paul Smart Trips, formerly separate organizations that merged on Jan. 1 to form what Treat termed the state’s largest transportation nonprofit. Treat joined Transit for Livable Communities in January 2016 after leading St. Paul Smart Trips for eight years.

“We focus on transit and that includes trains and buses and biking and walking, recognizing that you need all of those options to work together as well as car sharing,” Treat said.

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. Asking some sort of questions about context. I like relationships and getting to know a person and a little bit about them. It helps me understand where someone’s coming from.

Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A. I’m reading a Dave Eggers book called “A Hologram for the King.” I just finished “The Book of Night Women” by Marlon James. I really like novels. I like the escapism of novels.

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. This is more of a seasonal thing but people that don’t shovel their sidewalks especially on corners. It makes it really hard for people who need to get around not in a car.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A. Yoga is something I enjoy a lot. I’ve been practicing yoga for at least 20 years. Also spending time with my daughter. I have a 6-year-old daughter, and that really grounds me.

Q. Has an event or person inspired you?

A. My life event was going into the Peace Corps. I was in west Africa in a country called Mauritania or the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Getting to understand the role that nonprofits play in the world and the agency that people have — people power — to change their lives for the better set me on the course for the work I wanted to do.

Q. What’s one way to end partisan polarization?

A. Transportation shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It’s unfortunate that it’s become a partisan issue. We need well-maintained roads and bridges and transit and biking and walking. We need all of that to move our economy not just in the Twin Cities but statewide. There are people in greater Minnesota that need options, people with disabilities, seniors that are aging out of driving, people that need options all over the state. That is a public good that we need.

Q. Where do you like to eat lunch?

A. Nearby my favorite spot is Foxy Falafel. If you’ve never been, it’s really good. They do falafels, salads and platters. I tend to get a salad but the falafels are really good too.

Q. The highlight or lowlight of your daily commute to work is?

A. I love the Green Line. I love the convenience. The lowlight is when I bike, I live in the Midway near Hamline University and there’s not great bike infrastructure between there and Minneapolis. It’s an industrial area, which is important, but that means there’s a lot of competition on the roads. It can be a little bit stressful. A nod toward road maintenance: There are a lot of potholes. Those hurt more on a bike than they do in a car.

Q. Is there someone at the Capitol who you think does a lot of work without getting a lot of credit?

A. For transportation options, our champion has been Sen. [Scott] Dibble [DFL-Minneapolis]. He’s been a champion for years and years on this issue and often probably feels in some ways like a lone voice. Too often it’s become transit and that’s usually trains and then roads and bridges and between the two and either/or. It should be a both/and.

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