By Barb Thoman, Executive Director
Photo credit: Metro Transit
The Metropolitan Council’s draft 2040 Transportation Policy Plan (draft TPP), wisely calls for greatly expanding transit, bicycling, and walking options across the region and focusing on more compact, pedestrian-friendly development patterns. The draft TPP, an update of the plan developed in 2009, is out for public comment through Wednesday, October 1, at 5 p.m. TLC urges our members to send comment letters or e-mails to the Met. Council, offering their support for this proposed shift (see our sample comment letter at the bottom of this post). The Council is hearing pretty significant push back from proponents of the spread out, auto-focused, and costly development patterns of the last 50 years.
Demand for travel in the region is undergoing historic change. Young people are driving less and the Baby Boomer generation is starting to retire, both leading to fewer driving trips during peak periods. Ridership on transit is growing even as households in the region make fewer daily trips. Rates of bicycling are up, evidenced from data in the Met. Council’s Travel Behavior Inventory and from TLC’s 2013 Bike/Walk Count Report. The Council’s proposed approach in the draft TPP responds to these trends.
At more than 300 pages, the draft TPP is a long document. Here, we boil it down into thoughts on major topics. If you don’t have a day (!) to read the full plan, we suggest focusing on pages 67-125, which includes Vision and Strategies. Here goes:
• Land use – There is good language in this section (pages 126-148) that calls on cities and counties to prioritize walkable development, better connected streets, a mix of uses, development along transit, and more. This makes good economic and environmental sense and promotes equitable development and access for everyone. In coming years, cities in the metro will be required to update their comprehensive plans to be consistent with the TPPand other Met. Council plans. TLC believes that cities that want to access the funding streams available through the Met. Council (federal transportation, Livable Communities, and others) should be required to plan, zone, and invest in ways consistent with Met. Council plans. The region can no longer afford to subsidize expensive low-density development on farmland and open space at the edge of the region.
• Bicycle and pedestrian system – For ten years TLC has been calling for the identification of a regional bike system (pages 261-273) and it’s included in this plan! We applaud the statement on page 272 that “any new state transportation funding package should include additional funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure…”This is a foundation of the Move MN platform. We would like to see more attention to pedestrian access with a focus on major transit corridors, concentrated areas of poverty, access to schools, and access for seniors.
• Transit – The draft TPP acknowledges the transitway projects that can be completed with the current ¼-cent metro sales tax for transit (Southwest, Bottineau, Gateway, plus Orange Line bus rapid transit (BRT) on 35W). We have concerns about the region’s ability to also maintain existing transit infrastructure, including bus garages and already aging Blue Line rail stations. We also have concerns about counting on larger federal grant awards and expecting state motor-vehicle sales tax revenues for transit to remain steady, given the trend toward less driving.
The increased revenue scenario is on par with what Seattle, Denver, and other peer cities are doing as they continue a rapid build-out of bus and rail across their regions. Additional revenue is essential for: bus system expansion (this requires more than the 1 percent per year proposed on page 234), construction of all arterial BRT lines, building a regional system of transitways in a timely fashion, and a better customer experience (via bus stop safety, comfort, access, and more information). We support the existing Transit Market Area approach to getting the most from regional transit investments by focusing those investments on areas with higher population and employment densities and demand for transit service. We were happy to see the transit chapter acknowledge the state legislative goal to increase the percentage of trips taken on transit—a goal TLC successfully worked on years ago.
• Highway system– The draft TPP notes that the Twin Cities region has the eighth largest roadway system in the country and wisely proposes more attention to maintenance and preservation. We would spend even more on maintenance, plus increase the investment percentage for safety projects—including Complete Streets and treatments compliant with the Americans for Disabilities Act—on state, county, and local roads. In addition, we would carefully review the list of 50 proposed “spot capacity expansion” projects to ensure that these projects won’t just move congestion down the road. We support the proposal to add back the bus shoulder lane on I-94 between Minneapolis and Saint Paul (page 183).
Dave Van Hattum, TLC’s Advocacy Director, continues to call for all Met. Council and MnDOT plans—including this one—to have clear and measurable outcomes.
Don’t miss this opportunity to show your support for a new direction at the Council. Comments on the draft TPP are due Wednesday, October 1, at 5 p.m. Submit your comments by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAMPLE COMMENT LETTER:
Subject: Comment on draft Transportation Policy Plan
I’m emailing to express my support for the direction the Met. Council has taken in the draft Transportation Policy Plan.
I was very happy to see the call for greatly expanding transit, bicycling, and walking options across the region, as well as a focus on more compact, pedestrian-friendly development patterns. This makes good economic and environmental sense.
Please continue to work on clear and measurable outcomes, but most importantly: Please don’t buckle to the proponents of the status quo who want to continue the inequitable and costly policies of the last 50 years. The shift you have proposed will do much more to ensure we have a thriving metro region going forward, with better quality of life and access to opportunity.