By Tim Lillehaugen, TLC Intern
Are top destinations making it easy for people who can’t drive, don’t own a car, or simply want to leave the car at home?
Everyone in the Twin Cities notices the effects of heavy traffic, whether during rush-hour, the post ballgame exodus from downtown, or on beautiful summer days at the parks and zoos. Recent traffic data suggests that even a small reduction in the number of people driving can lead to large reductions in traffic congestion. As the League of American Bicyclists pointed out in its blog, this means that a shift from driving to other transportation modes benefits everyone, both those making the shift and those still making the drive. Recognizing and acting on a benefit such as this for visitors and customers is an easy change that area businesses and attractions can make.
As part of my internship at Transit for Livable Communities (TLC), I checked some entertainment destinations to see what type of directions they provide. Please see the end of this blog for recommended multimodal directions for all destinations.
Existing Directions: Target Field’s directions give a great picture of what can be done to help people leave their cars at home. Their web site provides links to Metro Transit for bus, the Hiawatha Light Rail, or the Northstar Commuter Rail, as well asspecial Twins Express bus shuttles from area park-and-ride garages. For bicyclists, there’s a map showing the trails, bike lanes, bike parking, and Nice Ride kiosks in the area. For people walking, they provide a close up map of recommended sidewalks and skyways, though the skyway link to a City of Minneapolis webpage no longer works.
Suggestions: I found two things on other web sites that Target Field could provide. First, it should add a multimodal online map tool, such as Google Maps, to help visitors plan their trip beforehand. And second, it should include a list of bus routes that run nearby. While you could argue this is not necessary because of the Metro Transit link, a list of bus routes encourages visitors to use routes with which they are already familiar.
Existing Directions: Compared with Target Field, Midway Stadium is less comprehensive, yet it does cover the two things I targeted as lacking at Target Field: an interactive map and a link to Google Maps so visitors can get directions for driving, transit, walking, or biking. There is also a link to Metro Transit’s trip planner and a helpful list of nearby bus routes.
Suggestions: Unfortunately the Midway Stadium directions page does not mention biking or walking directly. There is no prompt to walk or bike, nor does it say whether bike parking is available. I would suggest, at the least, mentioning both of these as transportation possibilities and linking to Google Maps so that visitors can find directions. Advertising bike parking is also important (though it is not clear if they have any).
Existing Directions: The Minnesota State Fair is working hard to be accessible for all modes of transportation, as a way to help ease traffic during peak visiting times. The web site has three pages dedicated to bus options:
- regular routes, with a link to the Metro Transit Trip Planner; .
- special fair-only express bus service from locations throughout the metro area such as malls, with a map locations;
- free Park and Ride shuttles from nearby neighborhood parking to the fairgrounds, with a map of the parking areas.
A link for biking to the fair explains options for bike parking at the fairgrounds, including a map of bike corrals.
Suggestions: The way the links are set up on the Minnesota State Fair web site directs people to driving directions before it gives other options. On the dropdown menu for General Information there is a link for “directions and map” before one called “getting to the fair.” The “directions and maps” page doesn’t even have a link to the info for other modes of transportation. Since there is a link to “directions and map” from the “getting to the fair,” drop down menu, how about simply eliminating the first link? The State Fair could also do more to encourage bicycling, by including a link to Google Maps or Cyclopath.
Existing Directions: The Renaissance Festival is located in Shakopee and unfortunately it appears that there are no good means of multimodal transportation to the festival. There is no information about shuttles or buses to the festival grounds on the website. While bus service does exist from Shakopee into Minneapolis/St. Paul, it is mostly weekday? commuter service. For biking and walking, there are no nearby trails and all of the roads in the area are country roads and not considered biker friendly by Google Maps.
Suggestions: The Renaissance Festival could make an effort to improve the transportation options. The Festival does an excellent job providing extensive free parking for visitors but this still excludes those without a car from attending. Though its location makes biking, walking and bussing difficult, that alone should not exclude the possibility. It might be possible to explore something similar to the system for the State Fair.
Existing Directions: Struggling from similar issues as the Renaissance Festival, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is located on the western side of Chanhassen and far from abundant multimodal transportation options. The web site provides driving directions, tips for avoiding road construction, and link to MapQuest to find directions. Unfortunately, the only nearby Metro Transit bus is a peak-hour downtown commuter bus that would not work for day trips. The Arboretum web site also fails to mention any opportunity for visitors to bike or walk.
Suggestions: The Arboretum could take advantage of the network of trails that comes within a short distance of the entrance, such as the trails along Aster Trail and Minnetonka Parkway. Mentioning the proximity to these trails and switching to Google Maps, which provides biking and trail functions, could help to promote this option. With the possible construction of the Southwest light rail in the years to come, the Arboretum should try to open the conversation about new options for reaching the entrance.
Existing Directions: On the opposite side of the spectrum is the readily accessible Walker Art Center. Located by Loring Park, the Walker is just outside of downtown Minneapolis, and quite close to the lakes area of South Minneapolis. The Walker web site briefly mentions the availability of bike parking and provides a link to the Nice Ride bike homepage. The Walker also does well with providing a list of bus routes that stop nearby, along with a link to the Metro Transit Trip Planner.
Suggestions: While making a good effort, the Walker could promote not only the availability of bike parking and Nice Ride stations, but also nearby bike trails and bike friendly roads. A link to Google Maps or Cyclopath would be helpful with this trip planning.
Existing Directions: Four theaters make up the Hennepin Theater Trust in downtown Minneapolis: the Orpheum, State, Pantages, and New Century. While the web site focuses on driving and parking directions, public transit is also highlighted as a good option for theater goers. The website provides an interactive map with the location of the Hiawatha Light Rail and instructions about which stops to use for both the light rail and various bus routes.
Suggestions: First, while the theaters do highlight the option of public transit, I think that providing a link to the Metro Transit Trip Planner would be beneficial. Second, bicycling and walking are not mentioned at all. Visitors who use the many trails and bike friendly roads in close proximity could avoid the hassle and fees of downtown parking. The site should include a link to Google Maps or Cyclopath to help visitors plan for bicycling or walking.
Existing Directions: The Como Zoo in Saint Paul prominently displays a suggestion to “go green” and bike or use transit to visit. They include external links to the Metro Transit Trip Planner and Cyclopath to assist bus riders and bicyclists respectively. The Zoo also lets visitors know about parking restrictions in surrounding neighborhoods and the free shuttle to and from parking at the state fairgrounds.
Suggestions: The Como Zoo could explain more about the alternative transportation options. For transit especially, a list of nearby bus routes would be very helpful, as would an explanation of the many bus routes that go past the state fairgrounds, where visitors can catch the free shuttle over to the zoo. Also, for bicyclists, a list of bike parking locations and nearby bike routes would be very beneficial.
Existing Directions: I chose the Saint Paul RiverCentre because its directions can serve not only for the convention center itself but also for the Xcel Energy Center, the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, the Science Museum, and the Ordway Center for Performing Arts. The web page for the RiverCentre provides many good resources, including a map for navigating the area, and links to bike parking, electric car parking, and skyway walking. The webpage also has an external link to the Metro Transit Trip Planner for finding bus directions.
Suggestions: The RiverCentre basically relies on maps and does not include descriptions or written directions. More text, such as a list of nearby bus routes and information about bicycle routes (such as the Samuel Morgan Trail along the Mississippi River) would make the directions more user-friendly. The RiverCenter should add Google Maps or Cyclopath to promote the use of area biking paths and roads.
Good multimodal directions include a brief description of available options and links or maps to help visitors plan their travels. Here’s a simple template that can easily be personalized and posted for every business and location in the area.
Go green, save money, and cut down on the hassle of traffic and parking!
- Include links to Metro Transit Trip Planner, Google Maps, and Cyclopath. Include an interactive Google map if possible.
- Provide information about nearby bus routes and mention high-frequency bus routes and light rail and commuter rail options if available nearby.
- Describe options for bicycling and walking, including nearby trails, Nice Ride stations, and the location of nearby bike parking.