Getting Minnesotans used to transit, one game at a time.
If the horns of Metro Transit buses and trains could play a tune this month, it would be "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Everything short of that musical cue, it seems, will be employed to advise people heading to the new home of the Minnesota Twins that the smart way to get there isn't to drive.
It's hard to imagine a ballpark more transit-friendly than Target Field. The Hiawatha light-rail and Northstar commuter lines both stop only steps from the turnstiles, and a major bus garage is just across the street.
But if drive one must to Target Field, there's help with routes and parking at www.destinationtargetfield.com. Some 7,000 parking spaces are in three giant ramps next door, and 25,000 more spaces are available within walking distance (or, if one prefers, the 50-cent downtown transit zone.) Bikers and pedestrians will also find ample info on the website, including where to find racks in which upwards of 400 bicycles can be locked. (Planners say that if they find that's not enough to satisfy demand, more will come.)
About all that's lacking is a tip for tying up a kayak on the nearby Mississippi River before taking in a game. Only the State Fair has been the focus of a similarly sustained publicity campaign and the expansion of transit services that will be aimed at Twins fans in coming months.
If all goes as planners intend, Target Field will be more than a showcase for winning baseball. It will also demonstrate the capability of a coordinated, flexible, well-advertised multimodal transportation system to serve patrons of a major new attraction in the heart of the state's busiest urban center.
That demonstration, in turn, ought to whet Minnesota appetites for more nonautomotive transportation options -- though if Minnesotans' thinking mirrors the rest of the nation's, that appetite is already large.
A national survey last month sponsored by the advocacy group Transportation for America (www.t4america.org) found that 59 percent of respondents prefer to reduce traffic congestion by improving public transportation and making biking and walking more convenient, rather than building more roads. Similarly, 58 percent of respondents said the federal government should spend a larger share of transportation dollars on public transit than the 17 cents per dollar it directs to transit today.
As for state transit funding, it's bound to be a point of contention in this fall's governor's race. Both of the leading Republican candidates for governor have said they want future state transportation money to flow predominantly to roads and bridges, not transit. One of them, Rep. Tom Emmer of Delano, said at a GOP candidates' forum last fall that if it were up to him, no additional light-rail lines would be built.
They'll get an argument from any of the DFLers and several of the Independence Party candidates in the governor's race, who say that providing more alternatives to personal vehicles is a smart downpayment on the state's future needs.
Impressing tens of thousands of Twins fans with transit's capabilities and convenience this summer could have political significance come fall.
But deciding how to get to Target Field isn't an occasion for a political statement. It should be all about enhancing the fun of visiting the nation's spiffiest ballpark and rooting for an exciting team. The fun starts with tonight's 5:10 p.m. first pitch in an exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Plan ahead at www.destinationtargetfield.com to go by foot, bike, bus, train or car -- and go Twins!