“Minneapolis Needs a Subway” – Comments on the Metropolitan Council’s Transportation Policy Plan

“Minneapolis is the largest CBD in the United States without a subway.” I don’t know if that claim is true, or relevant, but it very well might be, since by some measures it has the fifth densest CBD in the US. More to the point, there is no CBD in the US that has more transit commuters that doesn’t have a subway (except Seattle, which has a bus tunnel with LRT, which sort of counts). (Table 7 here, and list of US subway systems here). This of course does not mean that more transit growth cannot come without a subway. It does mean that I should expect to hear the usual gong-bangers about transit investment pushing for a true Metro for the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, at least in the long term plan. A vision from a transit agency should note the need for more north-south and east-west transit capacity in the center, and the time savings from a grade-separated rapid transit system that did not get trapped at traffic lights. These time savings would both benefit current riders and induce more transit riders, and with the positive feedback mechanism between accessibility and development, lead to more intense land development at stations.  Yet this discussion is so far beyond the pale in the MSP region that it is barely even mentioned on the UrbanMSP forums.

(For the record, I don’t actually support or oppose a subway at this time, but I do think it should be seriously considered given changing population totals, demographic mix, technologies, and so on.)

Where this discussion should show up is in regional visions.

The 2040 Transportation Policy Plan: Connecting communities, fostering regional prosperity is the draft version of the official regional vision.  It claims to be “advancing a bold regional vision.” There is of course a vision here. It is not my vision. It is not an urbanist vision. It is, unfortunately,  not a bold vision.

It is a fiscally constrained vision. It is a vision of an organization whose leadership is entirely appointed by a governor representing seven mostly suburban counties. It is a vision of an organization that thinks the metro area has “nearly 3 million people” rather than the Census recognized 3.8 million people in the Minneapolis–St. Paul–St. Cloud, MN-WI region. These are just spatial definitions, and in some respects a smaller area is better than a larger one, but it illustrates parochialism of the official outlook.

The Policy Plan is critique-able on a variety of grounds. I have not compiled a complete list, but will throw some things out for discussion.

  1. So many resources are aimed at areas that are not transit serviceable except by park and ride. Look especially at the amount of purple lines in the exurban east metro. This is not surprising given the spatial make-up of the organization, just disappointing.
  2. Little is even proposed for the urban core cities and some first ring suburbs. Arterial BRT is an improvement of course, but there is so little of it.
  3. “Access to destinations” is one of the key transportation goals. I like the words of course, since I authored some of the 14 reports in the CTS series “Access to Destinations.” Sadly, accessibility (such as number of jobs or stores that can be reached in a given time (e.g. 30 minutes)) is not actually one of the performance measures. (page 30)
  4. The maps focus on lines rather than stations. Yet nodes of activity are at least as important, it is where all the positive benefits of service accrue. The lines themselves generally are the nuisance of train noise or pollution.
  5. The maps give equal weight to all areas, rather than focusing on areas with more people. Zoom in and the service provided per person is not as great in the center as at the edges.
  6. I don’t see any discussion of road pricing, even vehicle mileage taxes, which will likely be in place by 2040, as electrification or other power-train technology obsoletes the gas tax.
  7. I don’t see any serious discussion of changing transportation (and other) technologies. 26 years ago was 1988. There wasn’t even a World Wide Web yet.
  8. This should be scenario based, considering alternative futures, and responses to them. We know forecasts are bad. We should use alternative tools.
  9. Everything I said here: Framing Regional Development.

Add more to the comments section below. Of course to be officially heard: Testify. Submit your comments. Attend and discuss at the public hearing. Schedule below:

DRAFT 2040 TRANSPORTATION POLICY PLAN WORKSHOPS AUG. 26 – SEPT. 25

Public hearing is September 17 at 5 p.m.

The public hearing on the draft TPP is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 17, in the Metropolitan Council Chambers, 390 Robert St. N., Saint Paul.

Comment by October 1

The Council is accepting comments on the plan August 14 through October 1.  Once comments are received, the plan is revised to address comments and a final plan is presented to the Council for adoption.  The Council is expected to adopt the plan in December 2014.

  • Comment forms can be filled out at a workshop or the public hearing or mailed in.

  • Phone Public Information at 651-602-1500.
  • E-mail public.info@metc.state.mn.us.

  • Testify at the public hearing at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 17, in the Metropolitan Council Chambers, 390 Robert St. N., Saint Paul.

Workshop dates and locations

At each workshop, a very brief presentation will give an overview of the plan.  Afterwards, participants can engage with planners on a variety of topics. Note: Staff will be available to discuss the Council’s draft Housing Policy Plan as well.

RAMSEY COUNTY

Tuesday, August 26, 5 – 7 pm
Roseville Library
Community Program Room
2180 North Hamline Ave
Roseville, MN 55113

CARVER COUNTY

Wednesday, August 27, 5 – 7 pm
Chanhassen Library
Wilder Room
7711 Kerber Blvd.
Chanhassen, MN 55317

SCOTT COUNTY

Wednesday, September 3, 4:30 – 6:30 pm
Marschall Road Transit Station
1615 Weston Court
Shakopee, MN 55379

HENNEPIN COUNTY

Thursday, September 4, 12 – 2 pm
Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, 55401

ANOKA COUNTY

Tuesday, September 9 , 5 – 7 pm
Anoka County Sheriff’s Office
Community Room
13301 Hanson Blvd NW
Andover, MN 55304

HENNEPIN COUNTY

Wednesday, September 10, 5 – 7 pm
Brookdale Library
6125 Shingle Creek Pkwy
Brooklyn Center, 55430

RAMSEY COUNTY

Thursday, September 11, 12 – 2 pm
Amherst H. Wilder Foundation
Auditorium A
451 Lexington Parkway North
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55104

DAKOTA COUNTY

Tuesday, September 16, 5 – 7 pm
Eagan Community Center
1501 Central Pkwy
Eagan, MN 55121

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Thursday, September 18, 5 – 7 pm
Washington County Government Center
Room LL13-14
14949 62nd Street North
Stillwater, MN 55082

WRIGHT-SHERBURNE COUNTIES

Thursday, September 25, 5-7
Sherburne County Board Room
Government Center
13880 Business Center Dr.
Elk River, MN 55330