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Listening to Young Adults: 8 Key Priorities for Transit Justice

By Grace Bassekle

A multi-racial group of young adults holding Metro Transit cards and smiling

With a massive increase in investment, thanks to this year’s legislative wins, we are poised for transformation of our transit system in the Twin Cities. We know this will enrich the lives of community members who will gain more freedom with increased mobility, but how can we ensure this transit evolution is equitable? As a 21-year-old myself, I wanted to mobilize young adults like me to dream about the future of our region and how faster, expanded transit networks can shape our experiences of the Twin Cities. 

So, throughout the month of August, I organized four listening sessions for young adults aged 15 to 30 years old to discuss different ways of living and interacting with each other and our communities. Together, we dove into one primary question: How do young people navigate the Twin Cities — and how could better transit impact our mobility? 

I was excited by the rich diversity of perspectives and experiences the participants brought to our sessions — and the knowledge they were able to share with me and with each other. Some folks were frequent transit riders (some of whom have even used transit systems in other states or countries!) while others don’t use transit (yet!). Some had recently moved to Minnesota while others were born and raised here. Some were students while others relocated to the Twin Cities for a job. 

Transit is an intersectional issue, and that was showcased in the discussions that we had. Some people were focused on community dreaming — how can we fix transit to make the Twin Cities more livable? Others were more focused on implementation — how can we ensure that the investments we won during the legislative session are used wisely? Ultimately, we all agreed that the Met Council needs to be accountable and democratic: ensuring new leaders believe in the potential of transit and listening to the voices of young people as they expand the transit system.

Here are eight key issues our participants lifted up as priorities for new transit leadership and increased investments: 

Fair Fares: Participants shared their experiences with discrimination in how fares are enforced, especially during rush hour. We also discussed how fares should be more affordable for families and Metro Transit should consider fare capping. 

Route Expansion: We need our buses and trains to go more places! Participants lifted up a number of important changes, like more direct routes to the suburbs, circular routes that do NOT go through downtowns, and the expansion of MicroDot. 

Increased Connectivity: We talked a lot about how transit can address infrastructure injustice in our communities, including access to healthy grocery stores for folks who live in food deserts, expanded employment opportunities, better medical care and a more vibrant social life! But that also relies on better networks that connect bus and light rail lines for the many riders who use a combination of different transit types. 

More Frequent: Taking transit requires a lot of planning. That doesn’t need to be the case! We need buses and trains that come more frequently and have expanded hours, especially in the winter. We also need a NorthStar schedule that works for people who aren’t traveling for 9-5 work! 

Faster Service: Our buses and light rail could get us to our destinations faster. We need to move forward now with signal prioritization that gives buses the green light at intersections. We also have concerns about bus rapid transit on the highways, because freeways can be dangerous. 

Safe for Everyone: Especially at night and in the winter, safety is a big concern — and we’re eager to see the impact of our new transit ambassadors. We also need investments in transit stop design, like more and better shelters, so folks can stay safe when there are delays. And let’s make quality masks and Narcan available so we can stay healthy and help a fellow rider experiencing an overdose. 

Better for bikes: Many young folks get to their destinations using multiple modes, including biking. Metro Transit should consider bike network connectivity in its routes, and add additional bike racks inside the trains.

Easy for New Users: Using transit is not intuitive for new riders. We need better, more convenient apps that can help people understand routes, see where their bus is and pay their fare more easily.  

Thank you so much to everyone who participated — and MJ Carpio and Nas Nourkadi for their support and guidance!