The city of Minneapolis wants you to stop driving to the grocery store.
These kinds of routine errands account for an outsized percentage of driving trips, city planners say, contributing in a big way to Minneapolis’s struggle to reduce its environmental footprint.
In drafting the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, city planners have been revisiting Minneapolis’ ambitious 2014 goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. In order to make good on this commitment, they say the city needs to reduce driving trips in Minneapolis by 37 percent.
“What we’re saying is, what 37 percent of trips could you eliminate from your life?” said Paul Mogush, city planning manager. “And what would it take to help you get there?”
The city’s answer includes bringing more goods and services closer to where people already live, such as allowing for more commercial businesses in highly populated areas. In other words: “Put the stuff closer together so it’s easier to get to the stuff,” said Mogush.
The city’s 2040 plan lays out a long-range vision for the future of Minneapolis. It includes a series of interconnected, big-picture goals, such as building more affordable housing, creating more living-wage jobs and making the city more resilient to climate change.
Since the city released its first draft this spring, most of the conversation has focused on proposals to rezone the city to make way for more multiunit housing, including fourplexes in what are now neighborhoods of single-family homes. That has generated lawn-sign campaigns and dozens of spirited community meetings.
As the city prepares to release a revised draft later this month, officials are working to solidify long-term goals to reduce Minneapolis’ emissions, and how land use could be part of that strategy.
The city has made some progress in cutting pollution in recent years. From 2006 to 2015, Minneapolis’s electricity consumption — the city’s largest area of emissions — dropped 31 percent.
But emissions from transportation have grown slightly from 2006 to 2015, now accounting for 26 percent of greenhouse gases emitted citywide, or the equivalent of 1.1 million metric tons of CO2.
Nationwide, shopping and errands make up about 45 percent of driving trips, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Using this baseline, city planners are paying extra attention to this subset of trips in order to cut transportation emissions, including raising awareness about how this behavior hurts the environment.
“I live six blocks from a Target,” said Heather Worthington, director of long-range planning for Minneapolis. “It would be very easy for me to walk to Target. I rarely do.”
Changing how people interact with their city is not an easy job. Right now, 90 percent of trips in Minneapolis are taken by car, according to city data.
The first draft of the comprehensive plan provides some broad-stroke guidance on how to change that. This includes making it easier for businesses to open in places easily accessible by public transportation, allowing for increased housing density near commercial areas and designating parts of the city so retailers can open up shop in buildings near highly populated corridors.
“I’m not saying that Minneapolis will be New York, but parts of Minneapolis could be more accessible to people who choose not to drive,” said Worthington.
Lisa McDonald, a member of Minneapolis for Everyone, a group opposing the fourplex proposal and other elements of the comprehensive plan, said the climate change measures go too far in accommodating bicyclists and transit riders.
“It has no room for cars. They don’t mention cars,” said McDonald, a former City Council member. “They want to get rid of cars.”
The City Council will vote on final language later this year. Starting in 2019, city staff will begin the process of figuring out how to implement these policies, including updating the city’s Climate Action Plan. That will include land use, as well as educating the public and encouraging bicycle commuting and carpooling to fulfill the 2050 goal.
“This has to be an all-in strategy to achieve this,” said Kim Havey, manager of the city’s sustainability division. “But I believe it’s possible.”