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Changing the Transportation Culture at Twin Cities Colleges

Move Minnesota is working with colleges and universities in the Twin Cities to build a stronger culture and community around transportation options. It’s an important shift that benefits the students, their campuses, and the environment we all share.

Imagine you’re a first-year student going off to college in the Twin Cities. Maybe it’s your first time living on your own. In fact, maybe it’s your first time doing laundry and buying groceries and figuring out your own schedule! A lot of universities have policies that first-year students live on campus, and with that campus residence hall commonly comes restrictions on bringing a car with you. Or maybe you don’t have a car to bring anyway. (Hello, they’re expensive.) So campuses are the perfect environment for learning some new routines, like grocery shopping by transit or visiting your friend by bicycle.

Making sure that transportation options are a key component of annual events, such as orientation, registration, and sustainability fairs, is a great way to reach these new students year after year.

During the past semester, we’ve had a strong presence at first-year orientation events at the University of St. Thomas, Augsburg College, and Macalester College. We have been able to do a lot of on-the-ground engagement to break down barriers that keep people from trying transit, bicycling, walking, and shared options. For example, we’ve taught people how to put their bike on a bus’s bike rack and given them a chance to practice. We’ve helped students and staff learn how to plan and take a trip on the bus. We’ve also worked with student groups to teach them the best ways to teach other students, and written articles in campus newsletters to get the word out to students and their parents.

At a four-year school, a quarter of the student population turns over every year. This high rate means there is a real need to ensure that outreach efforts are ongoing, and that they are reinforced with supportive policies.

We help colleges and universities tackle transportation policy changes in ways that match their needs and the needs of their campus communities. There are a lot of effective solutions out there. That includes reviewing college subsidies to make transit more affordable, analyzing how things like semester-long bus passes and Metro Transit Go-To Cards are sold, enabling staff and faculty to use car-sharing for business travel, troubleshooting liability issues around carpooling, and developing a bike master plan filled with detailed recommendations for how to make campus more bike-friendly.

Many colleges and universities have strong carbon neutrality goals that motivate them to take action. They know that to meet those goals, it is essential they encourage students, staff, and faculty to get around in sustainable ways.

The good news is that there is potential to grow biking, walking, transit, and shared options on every campus. We are excited to continue this work, and to kick off our partnership with Minneapolis College, in the new year!