2012 Best Trend (Hint: It’s not the Apocalypse)

I put off writing about the 2012 Streets.MN best trend until this morning in case all the raining fire and brimstone would surpass the other “best trend” candidates. But since we dodged that fate, it’s time to unveil the 2012 Best Trend results!
Bar chart of 2012 Best Trend Survey Results

Nice Ride Minnesota is the clear winner with 44.2% of the vote.  I have a special interest in Nice Ride, so I was pleased to see that it won the affections of Streets.MN readers.  Nice Ride has been growing every year since it started in 2010.  The system size has more than doubled since Nice Ride’s starting network of 65 stations.

2010 2011 2012
(by end of season)
65 116 145
  100,817   217,530   274,045
Trips per day
(adjusted for length of season)
672 1,026 1,269

Bar chart of bike share systems in the US from 2008 to 2013
Bike share in general is growing across the US. The chart to the right shows the number of systems in the US since 2008 (source).  Nice Ride started in 2010, clearly ahead of the curve.  We’re also second in the nation by number of bikes: only 340 behind Washington, DC.

Open Streets Minneapolis was a close second, with 30.1%.  Open Streets is modeled after Ciclovía, which originated in Bogotá, Colombia in the 1970’s.  Streets are closed off to car traffic, and the space is given to the people to walk, bike, skate, and play.  The movement has spread to countries around the world, including  many US cities.

Legend for Google Trends report

Legend for Google Trends Report

Open Streets Minneapolis is definitely the trend to watch.  The first local event in 2011 reclaimed 20 blocks along Lyndale Avenue.  In 2012, Open Streets expanded to include Lowry Avenue in North Minneapolis.  Since the world didn’t end today, we can look forward to four more events next year thanks to a grant from the Partnership for Healthier America and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

When you add in write-in responses like sharrows, carless, and complete streets, the total “bike” vote was a solid 79.0%.  Further evidence that we love our bikes!  Context Sensitive Solutions, Northern Spark, and the Jazz Man were also mentioned in the write-in responses.

One thing that concerns me is what exactly we mean by identifying these as “trends”. Nice Ride and Open Streets are experiencing an upward trajectory right now. But are they going to go the way of jeggings? (That trend is over, right?) Hopefully not, and exploring some of the lower-ranked trends in the survey provides reassurance.

MnPASS placed fifth with only 3.5% of the vote, but it used to be quite the trend setter.  A search of Google Trends* revealed that MnPASS was almost as popular as Nice Ride when the program launched in 2005 with the conversion of the I-394 HOV lanes.  It received another popularity spike toward the end of 2009 when the I-35W HOT lanes opened.

Google Trends Report of the 2012 Best Trend Survey Results

Google Trends Report of the 2012 Best Trend Survey Results

More importantly, MnPASS is still an essential part of our transportation network that people use every day.  A 2012 report about MnPASS’s first five years of operations said:

The results of this analysis indicate that the lanes are performing efficiently, are continuing to ensure free-flow speeds for all users, and are enhancing vehicle and person throughput. In addition, the lanes generate sufficient revenue to cover operational costs. A recent survey indicates that MnPASS Express Lanes are providing users with value for their money in time savings and overall customer satisfaction.

The Google trends for Nice Ride and Open Streets are similar to the MnPASS trend in that they have strong fluctuations, spiking around the Open Streets events and during the Nice Ride season.  Robocars (8.0%) and Car Sharing (1.8%) fared poorly with our voters, and they don’t have the same trend peaks as Open Streets, MnPASS, or Nice Ride.  Notably, they also don’t have the same low points as the other trends.  Autonomous vehicles and roundabouts maintain a much more consistent presence on the Google Trends report from about 2007 onward.  I expected this from driverless cars: there is a constant hum about them around the news, but no big breakthroughs that have changed the way the average person gets around.  Sure, newer cars can parallel park for you, and Nevada and California have already made them street legal, but until more of the actual driving task is automated in cars that we can actually buy, I suspect the trend will stay slow but steady.

*Google Trends provides popularity relative to the peak popularity in your set.  So in this case, all the results show popularity relative to Nice Ride in June 2010.  These results are for the state of Minnesota from 2004 to present (12/21/2012).

Jessica Schoner

About Jessica Schoner

Jessica Schoner is a masters candidate at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Minnesota.