With Minneapolis Transportation Action Plan, The Opportunity to Build a Better Future

March 20, 2020

A large group of people walking and biking in downtown Minneapolis.

What a week. Many of us are hunkered down in our kitchens, unsure of how much food to stock up on or how we will juggle our work and our kids in these unusual and uncertain times. Some are facing unknowns about employment and how to pay the bills. Others—from our doctors and nurses to bus drivers, grocery workers, and cleaning crews—are out there on the front lines doing their best to keep essential services going. There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting all of us one way or another.

Yet even as we worry about our day to day, we know we must continue to keep an eye on our future. And not just our future next week, but our future five, ten, twenty years down the line. Move Minnesota’s work has always been about that long view, about building a just and sustainable society that reflects a deep care for each other and our planet. If the current health crisis is showing us anything, it’s how interdependent we all are. And when we come through the other side, we’re going to need a better new normal.

Released just last week, the City of Minneapolis’s draft Transportation Action Plan (TAP) is one important way to support immediate and long-term positive change in our community.

The TAP has clear potential to reduce the amount of money Minneapolis residents are forced to spend on transportation each year and reduce the amount of pollution they generate. (See more on the numbers below.) With a focus on redesigning streets and improving transit, biking, and walking, the plan lays out a compelling path for increasing those affordable, climate-friendly trips and in turn cutting down on solo car trips over the next 10 years.

There is a lot to like in this plan. A few of the things we’re most excited about:

  • People, not cars, finally get priority. The TAP makes a solid break from decades of car-centric planning, instead laying out a citywide goal for 3 of every 5 trips to be taken by walking, rolling, biking, or transit by 2030. Not only is this essential to addressing the climate crisis, it fits with how people want to experience the city. A recent survey noted in the plan showed many people in Minneapolis “typically travel by car, but many of those same people would prefer to travel more by biking and transit.”
  • Near-universal access to high-frequency transit. Perhaps the TAP’s boldest goal around transit is to ensure “75% of residents are within a 5-minute walk of high-frequency transit and 90% are within a 10-minute walk.” We are very excited by this goal and are committed to helping the city achieve it.
  • More bus-only lanes. Transit riders should not be stuck in traffic. The TAP lays out a plan for painting bus lanes on key corridors in downtown Minneapolis and exploring bus lane implementation elsewhere in the city. This is fantastic! We encourage the City to quickly analyze all potential bus lane locations so that other improvements—like curb “bumpouts” intended to shrink crossing distances for people on foot—can complement, not preclude, long-term transit goals. We further encourage the City to establish bus-only lanes on as many high-frequency transit corridors as possible to help speed up our transit vehicles and make the most efficient use of our public streets.
  • Safe and comfortable networks for people on foot and bike. Walking, biking, and rolling are our most sustainable and fundamental ways of getting around. They should be easy and stress-free ways to access our full city. The TAP guides future improvements to the Pedestrian Priority Network and the All Ages and Abilities bicycle network, an important commitment to ensuring routes are connected and accessible to all. The TAP also suggests shifts of a variety of signals and systems to prioritize people on bike and on foot—from eliminating crosswalk “beg buttons” to warning cars of pedestrians at parking ramp exits, rather than the other way around. This represents an important shift in approach and philosophy for city regulations.

Some ways the plan could be even better:

  • Shorter transit wait times to make high-frequency routes even more frequent. The TAP suggests that Metro Transit’s current definition—that high frequency transit comes at least every 15 minutes through the day—should be strengthened to a 10-minute maximum wait time. We think the plan should go further. A 10-minute wait is fine at 1:00 PM, but rush hour transit on key corridors should come every five minutes. High-frequency service with 10-15 minute wait times should also be available in the evening, until at least 10:00 PM, so that our community can more easily rely on transit for all their needs.
  • Ensuring transit service can compete with cars in terms of trip time and speed. You shouldn’t have to choose between a slow transit trip and a fast car trip. The draft TAP sets goals for speeding up Minneapolis’s High-Frequency Network buses. This is great! And we want to make sure the City is setting the right targets. Today, Minneapolis local bus routes can travel at just 6 miles per hour on average. That’s less than half than the speed of local routes in Boston, D.C., or Chicago. Demand better: high-frequency routes that average 13-15 miles per hour and are time-competitive with car travel.
  • Stronger, science-based climate targets that reflect the scale of action needed on climate change. We need our city governments to do what it takes to avoid the threat posed by the climate crisis, and that includes being even more serious about getting cars off the road. The draft TAP sets a goal to reduce Minneapolis’s transportation-related carbon pollution by 35% by 2030. But experts with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say we need to reduce carbon pollution by 45% by 2030 if we want to head off extraordinary hardship for hundreds of millions of people.

Overall, this Transportation Action Plan is a huge opportunity to advance mobility, equity, and climate action throughout Minneapolis. We are excited by the draft and excited to work with the City to improve it—with your help.

We know there’s a lot on everyone’s minds right now. At the same time, your voice is still incredibly important in this planning process. Public comment on the Minneapolis Transportation Action Plan is open now through April 22. To create a better future, all of us need to speak up for great transit and safe streets that put people first. We need to show that this matters and that we care. Please make your voice heard by commenting through the TAP website or sharing feedback at an upcoming online event. You can also tell us what you think of the plan! We’ll be continuing to engage the City and refine suggestions over the coming weeks—we’d love to hear from you.

TAP by the Numbers:

  1. The breadth of the plan’s impact on the city’s landscape and operations is enormous: streets occupy a full 22% of the land area in Minneapolis, and the TAP addresses every square inch.
  2. The average Minneapolis household spends 19% of its income on transportation, while Minneapolis households at the federal poverty income level spend an astounding 41% of their income on transportation.
  3. Related: 68% of all trips in Minneapolis are currently taken in a car, and we know cars are expensive to own and maintain.
  4. 24% of the city’s climate pollution comes from transportation—totaling around just over one million metric tons of emissions generated by about 2.4 billion miles driven each year.
  5. Even at half capacity a single 40-foot standard city bus is incredibly efficient at moving people. An astounding bit of math reveals the same number of people traveling 25 miles-an-hour in a single lane of cars would stretch for a full mile!