The Twin Cities area fares well when it comes to the number of jobs people can get to by driving, biking or taking mass transit.

But how easy is it to get to other key destinations such as health care and education? And how well does the area's transportation system perform for those who are not going to work? The next phase in the University of Minnesota's groundbreaking "Access Across America" research attempts to answer those questions.

"There are a lot of other types of travel," said Andrew Owen, director of the Accessibility Observatory at the U. "Commuting makes up a minority of trips. Most trips taken are for purposes other than getting to work."

From 2014 to 2019, the U's Center for Transportation Studies looked exclusively at how easy — or hard — it was for workers in the nation's 50 largest metropolitan areas to get to jobs depending on their mode of transportation. Annual reports ranked cities based on the number of jobs commuters could get to in a given travel time.

In 2019, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area ranked sixth in the nation for the number of jobs workers could drive to in less than an hour. The area came in 12th for those who ride public transportation to work, and landed in the Top 10 for those commuting by bicycle.

Over the next four years, using data from 2020 through 2024, the U will expand its study to include popular destinations such as hospitals and colleges and universities.

"A city may be No. 1 when it comes to getting to jobs, but it might be worst when it comes to education," Owen said. "We can see how they stack up for different destination types."

Unlike jobs that are distributed across the Twin Cities, there are fewer hospitals and educational institutions, so "location matters quite a bit more," he said.

Owen said the expanded study will help land and transportation planners decide what types of investments to make and where to make them.

"How easy is it for people to get where they need to go? Let's think of that in the planning process," Owen said. We need to look at how are they going to get there, and put [new development] in a place people will have an easy time accessing."

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768