Car-free Commute to the Suburbs

Like many Americans, I work in a traditional office. This means I commute to work every day.

I also have kids. My oldest goes to daycare in downtown Minneapolis and I have drop-off and pick-up duty.

Unlike the prototypical American I do not own a car, although I have access to ride share vehicles and borrow a car from time to time. Car-free and car-lite living is becoming more common as Millennials choose city living over car ownership. This is an encouraging trend because both urban living and car-free lifestyles tend to have significantly lower carbon emissions than their inverses.

Our regional land use is still largely stuck in post-war suburban flight patterns, however. This means many employers, in addition to many residents, are still out in largely auto-centric suburbs. It is a pain, or in some cases impossible, to reach these employment centers without owning a car. Meanwhile, the average annual cost of owning a car is $8558 according to AAA (a six-year low), which does not provide many opportunities to build serious workforce economic diversity in suburban companies.

I live in Minneapolis, two blocks from a north-south high frequency bus line and five blocks from an east-west high frequency line (both routes are on the long-term streetcar map). I work in Eagan at a 3000-person corporate campus off Highway 13. My employer moved to Eagan in 1970, abandoning offices on Nicollet Ave in Minneapolis and University Ave in St. Paul’s Midway.

I use a combination of biking and busing to get to work. I could bike the whole way but it would be around 16 miles each way — doable but not ideal for everyday purposes. I could bus the whole way but my “last mile” (more than two miles) bus in Eagan only runs five times a day in each direction. This gives me embarrassingly few options if I need to leave to go to a meeting off-site or pick up a sick kid.

So I use a combo of biking and busing. It takes me about 80 minutes to get to work — including daycare drop-off — assuming I catch my bus (being one minute late for my bus extends my commute time by 30 minutes minimum).

The most unusual part of my commute, at least for someone who has exclusively lived in cities except for a short stint in school, is the final 2.2 mile leg. I documented this trip on a recent nice day. My photos are shared below, in chronological order.

route map

The Legs of My Commute



Cedar Grove Transit Station; Construction of New Red Line Stop



Cedar Grove Transit Station Parking Lot; Construction of New Red Line Stop



Twin Cities Premium Outlets Parking Lot before 9:00AM


Entrance to outlet mall parking ramp.

Entrance to Outlet Mall Parking Ramp



Bus Stop and Trash/Recycling for Pickup at Outlet Mall



Another Entrance to Parking at Outlet Mall



Exterior of Outlet Mall Facing the Street



More Outlet Mall Parking



Restaurant Entrance and Parking Lot



New Residential Development



View of Highway 13 from New Residential Development






Speed Limit for Highway 13; Biking and Walking Trail



Handle Bars



More Signs



Where the Sidewalk Ends



One Story Building in the Trees



Biking on the Highway



Cutting Across the Highway to the Corporate Campus Entrance



A Fleeting View of Home



My Office Building



A Street Between Company Parking Lots; An Adjacent Company Building in the Distance



The Final Approach Through A Parking Lot



The View To My Left

Sam Rockwell

About Sam Rockwell

Sam works on transportation and land use issues in Minnesota.