After making the initial push earlier this decade, Minneapolis officials are now moving to ban new drive-throughs in an effort to cut down on vehicle traffic and meet the city’s sustainability goals.
At a meeting Thursday afternoon, the city’s Planning Commission was supportive of an amendment to the zoning code that would prohibit new drive-throughs citywide. Existing drive-throughs would not be affected by the amendment, which was brought forth by City Council President Lisa Bender.
“We know that we need to reduce our emissions significantly,” Planning Commission President Sam Rockwell said. “Reducing that infrastructure that encourages driving is important.”
In the proposed amendment, city staff cited “noise, extended idling, proliferation of curb cuts, conflicts with pedestrians and traffic generation” as some of the problems stemming from the long lines sometimes seen in drive-throughs at fast-food restaurants, pharmacies and other businesses.
Bender and Council Member Lisa Goodman worked to restrict where drive-throughs could be placed in 2016, arguing that the lines of cars were unsafe for pedestrians.
The city now allows drive-throughs in six of its zoning districts, senior city planner Mei-Ling Smith said Thursday.
Planning commissioners saw the change as relatively minimal, as they had approved only a handful of drive-throughs since 2015, including at banks and Starbucks coffee shops.
“On the surface, this seems like it is something that would seem controversial,” Commissioner Matthew Brown said. “But when you look at the small number of applications for new drive-throughs … it’s actually quite small.”
Because the amendment would not affect existing drive-throughs, Commissioner Alissa Luepke-Pier said, “Part of me feels that this won’t have the great impact that we think it will.”
“It sounds really dramatically different, but in reality I don’t think people will even notice the difference in the streetscape for the next 20 years,” she said, adding that she was interested in learning the total number of drive-throughs in the city.
The Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which was passed by the City Council last year but has yet to be formally adopted, stated the city would ban new drive-throughs and gas stations.
The plan placed a strong emphasis on improving walking, cycling and public transportation options.
The city is also developing its guiding document for the next 10 years of transportation projects, with the goal of significantly cutting down miles traveled by vehicle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“A lot of what we’re trying to do in the city right now kind of requires us to do this,” Rockwell said.
Residents have told the city there is a convenience factor that comes with using drive-throughs, Smith said.
However, commissioners believe the benefits would outweigh the loss.
The amendment will go back to the planning commission for a vote June 3 before going in front of the City Council.
Staff writer Eric Roper contributed to this report.