A Walkable, Transit-Oriented, Car-Free Thanksgiving Week

If you are like me, this year’s Thanksgiving has crept up a little quickly. The leaves may have been changing and falling, but with a high temperature of 69 degrees Fahrenheit the week before Thanksgiving, it hasn’t felt like turkey time just yet.

I am thankful this year that my Thanksgiving week will be mostly walkable, transit-oriented and car-free. This is possible because of a combination of urban city planning and major, multi-billion-dollar investments in transit.

I live in Downtown East, in one of Minneapolis’ top seven ZIP Codes for new residents in the past several years.

ariel view of Downtown East with lots of parking and open space
Ariel view of FMC Corporation and Minnesota Supercomputer Center in Downtown East on June 16, 1988. Source: Hennepin County Library, donation of City of Minneapolis.

My neighborhood didn’t always have housing. The above picture is from 1988, five years before I was born. The striped office tower and parking ramp are now what I see outside my apartment window. On the four blocks in this area, over 1,000 new homes have been built and opened for new residents in the past 10 years.

That new housing, a common story throughout downtown and the North Loop, has helped support new local businesses that are changing the nature of downtown Minneapolis. Downtown now has four grocery stores, dozens of coffee shops and other daily essentials for residents.

One key lesson I have learned as a downtown resident is that neighborhoods need a healthy ecosystem of residents and small, local businesses to thrive. Building acres of new apartment blocks without amenities and local enterprise makes an apartment feel like a place that isn’t the workplace, but also is not a real neighborhood. Downtown is struggling with that right now, where many residents commute to work by car and we miss out on the benefits of living in a dense urban neighborhood.

How a (Nearly) Car-Free Holiday Can Work

So how am I planning my walkable, transit-oriented, car-free Thanksgiving week?

Yesterday, on Monday, I worked from home. I love working from home with my own kitchen, peace and quiet, and saving on not having $15 salads for lunch every day. (I do treat myself on Tuesdays when I go to the office.) The pandemic made an impact, to be sure, but the improvements of Zoom and other video meeting software have permanently changed the nature of work.

Most of the people I work with do their work remotely most days. Many are fully remote but live in the Minneapolis area. The day that I am writing this, we had a tech seminar with a leader on analytics, and more than 50 people from across the enterprise tuned in. That simply wasn’t possible with a corporate campus before the pandemic, but now the momentum to more flexible workspaces is nearly unstoppable.

A Green Line train stops at East Bank station during the winter.
A METRO Green Line train to downtown Minneapolis stops at East Bank station a the University of Minnesota (photo by author).

Today, on Tuesday, I will commute into the office. I work at the University of Minnesota as a web content manager. I work in a windowless office in a secure building and have that $15 salad to reward myself for making the effort. My commute is easy, either one or two stops on the METRO Green Line, depending on whether I stop for a coffee on the way to work. I could also bike to work, but the university pays for Metro Transit for all students, faculty and staff, so with the convenience, I don’t mind taking light rail.

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I will work again from home. I imagine it will be a very slow day, so I may put together my breaks to stretch my legs and take a walk in the park or get a coffee. With modern smartphones, I can accomplish most everything I need to (with a little additional effort) on my iPhone. The world is truly at our fingertips!

Metro Transit bus at Trader Joes in Downtown
A Metro Transit 22H bus arrives at the bus stop in front of the Trader Joe’s in Downtown East, Minneapolis (photo by author).

For Thursday, Thanksgiving, I will be joining my mother at her downtown apartment with her partner and a best friend who lost her husband recently. Because we have the grocery store six blocks away, I am thinking of picking up butternut squash mac-and-cheese bites, cauliflower butternut squash risotto and maybe a rustic apple tart as my fun food contributions to the party.

Now, unfortunately on Friday, we do have to drive. The family gathering is in Eden Prairie, and Metro Transit service to Eden Prairie leaves much to be desired. In the future, in some number of years, we will be able to take the METRO Green Line to Eden Prairie Town Center and have family pick us up on their way there from elsewhere. We are making progress, my friends!

Happy Thanksgiving, from our family to yours. I am thankful for many things this year, including good health and the new job. I hope this season brings you joy and many blessings!

Conrad Zbikowski

About Conrad Zbikowski

Downtown Minneapolis resident covering local issues including parks, transportation, zoning, and development.

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