Keeping busy boarding areas clean isn’t always easy. But a pilot program initiated by a group of downtown St. Paul business owners shows the dramatic impact that can be made when a small group of individuals is hired to pick up litter, remove graffiti and perform other maintenance activities.
The results of the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance’s Streets of Summer pilot program were presented this week, after the three-month test came to an end. According to the Downtown Alliance, five full-time ambassadors picked up 84 bags of trash, erased more than 500 pieces of graffiti and removed more than 5,300 pieces of gum between June and August.
The efforts were part of a broader program that also brought musical performances, public art and trash can mosaics to a four-block area of downtown St. Paul. Some of Metro Transit’s busiest boarding areas, including the METRO Green Line’s Central Station, were included in the Downtown Alliance’s focus area.
To support the effort, Metro Transit provided ambassadors space to store cleaning supplies and worked with the Downtown Alliance to host activities at boarding areas around Central Station, Rice Park and elsewhere.
“Metro Transit was an incredibly great partner,” said Emma Burns, a project manager with the Downtown Alliance. “We think it was a great success.”
Burns said the group received especially positive feedback from transit customers who appreciated not only the extra maintenance but regularly encountering ambassadors, who sported blue polos with “Street Team” printed boldly on the back.
Ambassadors had more than 2,000 contacts with individuals and business owners, according to a summary prepared by the Downtown Alliance. “First and foremost, it was about having extra eyes and ears on the street,” Burns said. “People told us it was great to see consistent staff tidying up, saying hello and just being around.”
The pilot program was funded by the Knight Foundation and others to determine whether a downtown business improvement district could be created to sustain similar efforts in the future. Discussions about next steps are underway.
Privately funded improvement districts are common in larger cities, including Minneapolis. Ambassadors with the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, created a decade ago, are similarly focused on providing a clean, safe and welcoming environment downtown.
While the St. Paul pilot has concluded, Metro Transit is continuing to do its part to provide customers a safe, clean and welcoming environment downtown.
The agency’s facilities maintenance team was recently expanded so staff could more proactively maintain busy boarding areas and clear snow during the winter.
Learn more about the impact of the Streets of Summer pilot program