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Report: Driving is down, transit use up in metro area

  • Blog Post by: Tim Harlow
  • October 24, 2013 - 11:00 AM

Driving continues to be the most popular way for Twin Cities residents to get around, but a recent report put out by the Metropolitan Council shows that the number of miles driven has declined over the past 10 years while the use of public transportation has risen.

More than 84 percent of trips made in the metropolitan area are done by car, the report said, but the number of trips made using public transit rose from 2.5 percent to 3.2 percent. A trip is defined as one leg of any journey. Going from home to the bank to the supermarket to the post office counts as four trips.

About 6 percent of trips are made by walking, and 2 percent by biking, according to results published in the Met Council's Travel Behavior Inventory (TBI), which looks at where people go, how they get there, how often and when.

"Current data from the TBI are vital for regional planning and for making informed choices on details of major transportation investments," said Mark Filipi, manager of technical planning support for Metropolitan Transportation Services.

The results are among several tools transportation planners and policymakers use to respond make decisions about transportation investments and infrastructure. The Met Council is currently shaping its 2040 Transportation Policy Plan.

While the total number of trips by car dropped between 2000 and 2010, the 10-year survey period, the survey of 30,000 people in 14,000 households found that it took people longer to get where they were going. The average trip increased from 6.6 miles to 7 miles, and the time it took to make those trips rose from 17 minutes to 22.

Commuting to work accounts for 18 percent of trips made in the metropolitan area. However, the primary reason for travel is for social and recreational purposes, which accounted for 40 percent of all trips, the TBI found.

The TBI attributed the drop in overall trips made to the fact that Millennials, people born between 1983 and 2000, opted to use public transit more and were more likely to bike or walk to their destination. That mirrors a national trend.

"Millennials are less willing to spend their time driving alone rather than pursuing more productive activities or interacting with friends, family or electronic media," said Libby Starling, the Met Council's manager of Regional Policy and Research.

The growth in transit use comes as new forms of transit came on line. The Blue Line, the light-rail line which runs from downtown Minneapolis to the Mall of America, began operating in 2004 and has seen strong ridership.  The Northstar Commuter Line begain rolling in 2009.

The Metro Red Line, the bus rapid transit line on Cedar Avenue, opened in June. Next year, a new light-rail line from Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul will begin operating.

There continues to be discussion about the Southwest Light Rail line from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie and plans for another BRT line on 35W from Minneapolis to Burnsville. Minneapolis also is looking into putting streetcars on Nicollet and Central avenues.

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