By 2030, the people of Minneapolis could take more trips on foot, bike and bus than by car, if the city achieves its goal detailed in its 10-year transportation plan.
The guiding document, presented to the City Council’s transportation and public works committee, seeks to make other forms of transportation more accessible and appealing than driving. By doing so, city officials hope to reduce the number of vehicles on the road and lower greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
Committee members on Monday lauded the 252-page plan, which is in its draft stage and open for public comment. But to meet those goals, they will have to reverse falling ridership in a bus system that’s not under their control and change habits in a city where driving is still often the easiest way to get around.
“What we’re really doing here is opening up true choice,” City Council President Lisa Bender said. “When you have a choice between a 10-minute car ride versus a 45-minute bus ride, that isn’t really a choice for a lot of people.”
A 2010 travel behavior study by the Metropolitan Council showed 68% of trips in the city were taken by car, a majority of which were by people driving alone. By 2030, transportation officials want to bring that down to 40%, according to the plan.
“In order to realize this vision, we have to invite people to walk, to bicycle and take transit,” Bender said. “It doesn’t mean that every single trip will be by those modes; we know that people will continue to drive.”
City officials are already seeing ways in which reliance on cars is going down. The number of miles traveled by car has stayed relatively constant even as the city’s population has grown, one of the few urban areas following that trend, Public Works Director Robin Hutcheson said.
It also looks to expand the number of places people can reach by bike or bus. While putting the plan together, transportation officials heard from residents that improving transit was the most important factor, said Kathleen Mayell, the city’s transportation planning manager.
That expansion will require collaboration with Metro Transit, which operates public transportation across the Twin Cities. It would also have to reverse a decline in local bus ridership seen as part of a nationwide trend.
As of 2018, 47% of people in the city lived within a five-minute walk of high-frequency transit and 68% lived within a 10-minute walk. By 2030, city officials hope to bring that up to 75% and 90%, respectively.
Metro Transit adjusts its bus service every three months, spokesman Howie Padilla said. While local bus ridership has gone down, he said, it has seen success in its newer bus rapid transit lines.
“If you make it easier for people and you make it frequent for them to catch a ride, people will catch on to that,” Padilla said.
The city can also make its own changes to improve bus service, Mayell said, such as by designating bus-only lanes that can speed up trips. It created three lanes last year and will paint three more this year.
“I think it’s really important that the city define for itself what’s most important for transit,” Hutcheson said. “We have a regional plan that we support and now we also have a more local-scale plan that will help us have a better conversation with our partners.”
Others were skeptical the plan would lead to the changes the city wants to make. Council Member Linea Palmisano, who sits on the transportation committee, said she was concerned that bus service would not be expanded to her southwest Minneapolis ward, leaving people with no options but to continue using cars.
“They need to have these kinds of options to make different choices” than driving themselves, Palmisano said, adding that without them “it’s going to be increasingly difficult to get into the city center with those cars.”
The transportation sector is responsible for 24% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the city. By decreasing reliance on vehicles, the city hopes to go from 1.02 metric tons of greenhouse emissions to 0.7 metric tons by 2030.
Other major goals of the plan are to make low-cost safety improvements to roads, such as by converting four-lane roads to three lanes, and to have more public charging stations for electric vehicles.
Developed over the last 18 months, the transportation plan was one of the first initiatives the city took to supplement the 2040 comprehensive plan.