Can You Imagine One Day a Week Without a Car?

John Barobs lives in Hopkins, offices in downtown Minneapolis and has been working a hybrid schedule since the pandemic. When he does go to the office, his favorite way to commute — especially during the warm months — is to haul his bike on the bus to downtown and then cycle back home.

“I’m in my 50s, and I don’t need to arrive at work all sweaty,” says Barobs, who likes to dress in “office wear” and bring shorts and a T-shirt for his ride home. It helps that a couple of breweries are on his route back, he jokes.

As outreach manager at Move Minneapolis, Barobs is both a key organizer of this month’s Car-Free MSP 2022 activities and a key part of the target demographic. Why? He owns a car.

That is not so unlikely as it sounds. Unlike the 76 percent of U.S. commuters who use a car to get to and from work, Barobs often chooses not to drive — either for his commute or his nearby weekly errands. Car-Free MSP aims to shift more car owners into that category.

Through social media stories (#carfreemsp) and several weeks’ worth of events leading up to World Car-Free Day on Thursday, September 22, organizers hope to persuade drivers to try a day or two of getting around a different way. “Choose one trip that you’d usually take by car and go car-free,” says Theresa Nelson, a program manager at Move Minnesota, one of four transportation management organizations (including Metro Transit) that has joined Move Minneapolis for this year’s Car-Free MSP events.

“We’re not asking people who rely on transit as their means of transportation to go car-free,” explains Nelson, who keeps one bike in the office and another at home and reduces her own car use by combining all errands into one weekly trip. “We’re asking people who usually use a car to imagine going a day a week without one.”

In a season when Pakistan is drowning, California is overheating and the mainstream media are featuring climate change stories like never before, a car-free initiative that encompasses 1,500 cities and more than 40 countries could not be better timed.

Think Global, Act Local

Barobs launched Car-Free MSP a decade after World Car-Free Day began in Spain back in 1996. A co-worker read about the initiative, which had grown popular in Asia and Europe and in some U.S. and Canadian cities. Move Minneapolis (founded as Commuter Connections) decided to try it.

From what Barobs calls the program’s “modest beginnings” focusing on workers and employers in downtown Minneapolis, Car-Free MSP has blossomed this year into a five-partner initiative that includes St. Paul and several suburbs.

Five organizations are collaborating on a bigger, metro-wide car-free celebration, with events leading up to World Car-Free Day on Thursday, September 22.
  • Commuter Services, an outreach program of the I-494 Corridor Commission, is offering prizes to participants who pledge to do a car-free commute on any day between September 1–22.
  • Commute Solutions in Anoka County is celebrating Car-Free MSP with a free “Ghost Walking Tour” of downtown Anoka the evening of September 20, two days before World Car-Free Day.
  • Metro Transit is offering free ads inside buses and on bus sides, according to Max Singer, transportation demand management coordinator at Move Minnesota, a new and enthusiastic partner in the 2022 program.

“We’re working with organizations across the metro, from Anoka County to Bloomington,” Singer says. “It’s a really good push.” And it all leads to day-of celebrations on September 22 such as World Car-Free Day on Peavey Plaza in downtown Minneapolis, where commuters can get free coffee and breakfast treats from 8 to 10 a.m., and an opportunity to share stories and celebrate at Dual-Citizen Brewing in St. Paul from 5 to 7 p.m.

What You Can Do

Taking a commuter pledge is the backbone of Car-Free MSP. Singer is also promoting #carfreemsp, an effort to get participants to share their car-free stories and photos across social media.

At Move Minneapolis, originator of the local program, activities will include the usual “friendly competition” among employers to see which are the most successful in encouraging car-free commuting — including the “new ways to move” that Move Minneapolis advocates, such as e-bikes, car-sharing, walking and the Nice Ride for All program that makes bike-sharing and scooters more affordable.

Metro Transit is offering free bus ads (and bus rides!) for Car-Free MSP events on September 22.

Participation in the suburbs will look different from in the city, where options for walking, cycling and transit are much more plentiful, says Nelson of Move Minnesota. Penn Fest in Richfield on Sunday, September 18 will close portions of Penn Avenue for an afternoon of walking, biking, music, food vendors, dancing and more.

Maybe some residents will so enjoy experiencing a street without cars that they will re-examine their habits and drive a bit less. “Active transportation is easy and readily accessible to people in the Twin Cities,” says Barobs, noting the bike lane network and park system throughout the metro area. “We are really rich in that regard. This is one way to help people utilize that.”

Photo at top courtesy of Metro Transit

Amy Gage

About Amy Gage

Amy Gage is managing editor of Streets.mn. A former journalist, she writes a blog about women and aging (themiddlestages.com) and recently was named executive director of Friends of the Parks & Trails (of St. Paul & Ramsey County).

11 thoughts on “Can You Imagine One Day a Week Without a Car?

  1. Lexie N.

    Love this! Reading Streets has been such a big motivator for me to really embrace multimodalism. I appreciate hearing about these accessible, kind of low-hanging-fruit opportunities to try things out and get more comfortable with different transport options.

    Reply
  2. Sheldon Gitis

    Amy,

    Isn’t it a bit odd for you to be publishing Move MN stories on the Streets.mn site when you admit to having a professional relationship with Move MN through your PR job at the University of St. Thomas?
    https://streets.mn/2022/08/12/walk-the-talk-active-events/#comment-199228

    Is Streets.mn a platform for Move MN booster-ism?

    According to Charles Marohn, a Civil Engineer who has managed Minnesota road construction projects, Move MN is:

    “a coalition largely consisting of contractors, engineering firms, unions, local governments and professional lobbying organizations – who benefit from the one-dimensional conversation. Do you want more jobs or less? More mobility or less? More growth or less?”

    As far as I know, no one disputes Mr. Marohn’s description of the lobbying organization and its funders.

    How can Streets.mn have a policy that prohibits publishing public records of Met Council email correspondence while it permits publishing propaganda from Move MN?

    Reply
    1. Amy GageAmy Gage Moderator   Post author

      I no longer work at the University of St. Thomas. But yes, I did get to know the organization while I was employed at the university; we were one of five colleges/universities that worked with Move Minnesota to convince college students to try walking, biking and busing — multi-modal habits. I’ll happily concede to being a “booster” for less driving.

      Reply
    2. zyudhishthu

      Ultimately, this article is about a far more general discussion about making multimodal transportation decisions. Surely that’s the relevant thing to focus on, right?

      Reply
      1. Sheldon Gitis

        The article is Move MN propaganda masquerading as journalism. If you’re not following the money, your focus is not most relevant.

        If the a choice is between getting and spending huge amounts of money for new and expanded roads or not getting and spending the money, you can bet Move MN will be lobbying for the new and expanded roads, not against them.
        https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2015/5/13/why-i-do-not-support-move-mn

        One need look no further than the Move MN parking lot-facing suite in the Jimmy John’s building at Franklin and University to see how wonderful Move MN is making life for those who don’t drive, and for those who do. If the Franklin-University area is your concept of a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly multi-modal wonderland, I’d hate to see what your motorway hellhole looks like. When a billion dollars gets spent doing a 100 million-dollar road rebuild, we all get screwed, unless of course, you’re the Move MN “contractors, engineering firms, unions, local governments and professional lobbying organizations” scarfing up the billion dollars.
        https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2015/5/13/why-i-do-not-support-move-mn

        Lots of lip service for bicycling, transit, and pedestrian-friendliness. Lots of money for road construction. That’s the Move MN agenda as I see it.

        As I see it, Move MN is a front group for the contractors, engineering firms, government agencies, lobbyists and other vested interests getting the money for pork barrel, “roads and bridges”, concrete projects.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXmhg5MCn78

        Reply
        1. Tim BrackettModerator  

          Car-Free MSP is an event put on by multiple partners, so grinding your axe against one of those partners here in the comments section is inappropriate. If you have comments about Car-Free MSP, please share. If not, then I encourage you to write a post about your feelings instead of coming here to attack the author of this post.

          Reply
          1. Sheldon Gitis

            Tim,

            Thanks for pointing out my error. I mistook Move MSP for Move MN. I suspect the same contractors, lobbyists, government agencies and other vested interests fund both organizations.

            Call my response to the article “axe grinding” if you like. If it looks like astroturfing, and it smells like astroturfing, and it tastes like astroturfing, the article, that appears to have been generated by the “multiple partners”, probably is astroturfing.

            Reply
            1. Sam

              Sheldon, Move Minnesota (where I am executive director) is not the same thing as the Move MN campaign referenced on Strong Towns — our organization did not exist under this name in 2015 (we formed in 2018). Perhaps you should visit our website or reach out directly (my contact info is right there on the staff list) so you can learn what we do. It sounds like — after all that disparagement — you might actually support us! You’ll see that I’m right there on the website saying “highway expansions divide and pollute our towns and neighborhoods and undermine climate stability.” And consistent with this stance, Move Minnesota is actively advocating to reduce vehicle miles traveled in Minnesota, actively advocating to replace car lanes with bus lanes, actively advocating that Minnesota double investments in transit, actively advocating for expanding our BRT network… and so on. Our website also features links to our 990s so you can peruse our financials… where you will see we are hardly in the pocket of engineering firms, contractors, or lobbyists, as none of them give us any money (even though they should — because transit investments produce more jobs and work per dollar than highway investments!).

              And yes, our office has a big surface parking lot. But we chose this location because it is off of the train, off of several bus lines, off of a protected bike lane that connects to the River Road bike path, and within walking distance of many of our non-profit partners. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find office space that doesn’t have significant parking associated with it — because significant parking was required until Move Minnesota helped eliminate parking minimums in Minneapolis and St. Paul (you can check out our studies and blog posts about that too!).

              If you want to critique Move Minnesota, you are certainly free to do so. But I ask that you know what we actually do and who we actually are before trolling us in a comment section. Again, my contact info is on our website if you wish to communicate constructive feedback.

              Reply
              1. Sheldon Gitis

                Mr. Rockwell,

                You say: “our organization did not exist under this name in 2015 (we formed in 2018).” If I understand you correctly, you’re saying the 2015 legislation that funded a 10-year highway expansion plan, and the Move MN campaign that promoted it, predates the formation of your organization in 2018. Is that correct? If so, why did your organization choose the name and web address of the earlier Move MN organization?

                You say: “highway expansions divide and pollute our towns and neighborhoods and undermine climate stability.” Yet, your organization goes by the same name (or a very close Move Minnesota proximity) and has the same web address as the 2015 Move MN campaign to expand highways. Is that not rather strange?

                I presume you are familiar with an organization called the Minnesota Transportation Alliance. While the funding sources for Move Minnesota are obscure, to say the least, and may be or may not be buried somewhere in the outdated IRS Form I managed to locate with a Google search after finding no link to the form on your website, the Minnesota Transportation Alliance prominently displays the logos of its Gold-Level Sponsors on its website.

                Is the Minnesota Transportation Alliance the organization of engineering firms, lobbyists, government agencies etc. that Charles Morohn referred to in his 2015 Strong Towns article? Does Move Minnesota have any connection to, or relationship with, the Minnesota Transportation Alliance?

                Reply
                1. Sam

                  Sheldon – I’m still happy to talk and I still direct you to our website (You cannot have looked very closely if you didn’t locate our 990s and annual reports). I’m not going to get into some endless back and forth in a comment section with someone who seems to want to argue for the sake of it.

                  Reply
                  1. Sheldon Gitis

                    Mr. Rockwell,

                    I agree, it’s pointless to continue to ask you to publicly respond to my questions, when apparently, you’d rather simply disparage the questions as “trolling” “endless back and forth” and “argue(ment) for the sake of it.” Apparently, you would rather not publicly name government agencies and other vested interests that fund Move MN.

                    Judging from your 2020 IRS Form 990, Move MN seems to be precisely the government contractor-lobbyist organization Charles Morohn described in his 2015 article, funded by vested interests that get and spend large sums of money on concrete projects of dubious benefit.

                    Reply

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