In the coming months, Minneapolis plans to start adding more bus-only lanes and protected bike infrastructure and to begin converting large, undivided streets from four lanes to three lanes in an effort to improve safety and mitigate climate change
City officials want Minneapolitans to make 60% of their trips by transit, walking or biking by 2030, and on March 9 the city released a plan aimed at making that goal a reality.
The Transportation Action Plan (TAP), a 10-year endeavor that reimagines the way people and goods move around Minneapolis, is the transportation sequel to the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan. But the changes under the TAP will be recognizable more quickly, officials say.
City Council President Lisa Bender (Ward 10) said right now many residents can choose between a 10-minute drive or a 45-minute bus ride, and they understand- ably choose to drive.
“In order to realize this vision, we have to invite people to walk, bike or take transit,” she said.
The city wants 25% of all trips in Minneapolis to be via transit by 2030, compared with 13% of trips from a 2010 baseline. City officials want 75% of Minneapolitans to live within a quarter mile of a high-frequency transit network by 2030; today, only 47% of residents live a quarter mile from high- frequency transit.
Minneapolis streets represent 22% of the city, and officials want to leverage that space to accomplish policy goals around climate, equity and safety.
“What we do in that right-of-way means so much to people’s daily lives,” Public Works Director Robin Hutcheson said.
The draft plan lays out 55 strategies and 283 actions to accomplish city goals across seven categories: walking, biking, transit, technology, freight, street operations and design. The city has not put a price tag on the plan, and officials don’t intend to do so. Funding from the state and federal government and other agencies will likely contribute to the implementation.
“A good plan thinks big,” Hutcheson said. “Our climate goals won’t be met without boldness.”
Ashwat Narayanan, executive director of the pedestrian and cycling advocacy group Our Streets Minneapolis, said the organization is impressed by the scope and detail of the plan.
“We really like that there’s a specific mode share goal,” he said, referring to targets to shift people from driving to transit, biking and walking.
The TAP does have some shortcomings from Our Streets’ perspective, Narayanan said. The organization opposes traffic enforcement, by traditional police or auto- mated cameras, for fear poor and minority communities will be disproportionately fined and stopped. Our Streets is also pushing for the city to include municipal winter sidewalk clearing in the TAP. Currently the TAP only lays out proposals to continue a pilot program to clear side- walks at intersections.
“If the city really wants Minneapolis to be a place people are walking and rolling throughout the year, it really needs to clear ice and snow from our sidewalks,” Narayanan said.
Minneapolis has set a goal of reducing green- house gas emissions by 80% from 2006 levels. Emissions from on-road transportation account for 24% of greenhouse gas emissions in the city. TAP sets a goal of reducing vehicle miles traveled within the city from 2.37 billion in 2018 to 1.87 billion by 2030.
“We’re looking to reshape the transportation system to address climate change,” said Kathleen Mayell, Minneapolis’ transportation planning manager.
That will rely on under-construction projects, like Southwest Light Rail Transit and Orange Line bus rapid transit (BRT) on Interstate 35W, and planned projects, like the B, D and E Line arterial BRT routes.
While Metro Transit has seen ridership drop on local bus routes, there has been growing use of light-rail and bus rapid transit. The Metropolitan Council’s March ridership report showed local bus ridership dropped 8% from 2018 to 2019 even as the Green Line and A Line BRT route each saw annual ridership increase 3%. The C Line BRT, which opened in June 2019, had 1.2 million rides in its first six months in operation.
The plan also lays out desires for high- frequency transit routes along the Midtown Greenway (connecting the Lake Street stations of the Blue and Green light-rail lines), along the Nicollet-Central corridor and along the West Broadway corridor (connecting Downtown Minneapolis to northwest suburbs). What form those
lines take is still to be determined, though Hutcheson said nothing has changed in regard to the city’s desire for a streetcar on the Nicollet-Central corridor.
The plan also calls for a large expansion of a low-stress protected bike network for cyclists and scooter-riders, with a goal of adding 136 miles of protected bike lanes on city streets, on new separated trails and on neighborhood greenways.
All four-lane undivided streets in Minne- apolis will be evaluated for three-lane conversions, which officials say have the potential to greatly reduce traffic crashes in those corridors.
To measure success, city officials plan to track statistics on safety, greenhouse gas emissions, vehicle miles traveled, the number of people switching from driving to transit and the number of people living near high-frequency transit. Those numbers will be updated in the yearly “Your City, Your Streets” report, and public works will submit a formal progress report every two years.
While the city wants to significantly decrease the amount of single-occupancy vehicle trips, officials know residents will still use cars. Their belief is that if people can travel by other means, it will decrease vehicle traffic.
“People drive today, and they will continue to drive,” Hutcheson said. “This plan is about choices.”
Bus-only lanes will be piloted on three new corridors in 2020, and at least one city street that is currently a four-lane undivided road will be converted to three lanes.
Protected bike lanes will be installed on 1st Avenue South, 2nd Avenue South and Grant Street West this year.
“We’re planning to act quickly to improve our streets and not always wait for a reconstruction project [by focusing] on paint and lower-cost improvement options to make change,” Mayell said.
City officials plan to develop an official curbside management policy that aims to reduce conflicts between drivers, pedestrians and cyclists at drop-off points in 2020 and will also update the complete streets strategy, which prioritizes street users from walkers, bikers, transit users and people in cars.
A draft of the action plan was presented to a City Council committee on March 9, which opened a 45-day public comment period. Residents can submit comments on specific actions and strategies at go.minneapolismn.gov. Four public open houses are planned, including a 5-7 p.m. March 24 event at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation Center in Kingfield. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Hutcheson said the city is developing the ability to host the open houses digitally.