Minneapolis transportation plan addresses climate, pandemic

The City of Minneapolis has released a draft of its Transportation Action Plan (TAP), as a companion to its 2040 Comprehensive Plan. In the latest ITE Journal, Transportation Planning Manager Kathleen Mayell outlines details of the plan, which sets out to respond to the declared climate emergency by prioritizing low-carbon means of transportation, while focusing on additional city goals.

Existing plans and relationships allowed for quick response to pandemic and are critical to city’s climate plan

Having plans and partner work groups in place allowed Minneapolis city agencies to be nimble when reconfiguring street space opened by a reduction in car traffic due to the pandemic. This enabled agencies to quickly accommodate cyclists and pedestrians desiring more space in which to be active while social distancing, provide more curb space for pick-ups, and automate the pedestrian cycle at many signalized intersections.

The TAP calls for a balancing of the transportation system in order to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It calls for a shift of priorities toward active modes, and away from high-carbon users, specifically car trips, and especially single-occupancy trips. The TAP seeks to unify the approach to projects on the networks and facilities controlled by agencies including MnDOT, Hennepin County, the University of Minnesota, City Parks and Recreation, and the City itself.

Prioritizing biking, walking, transit

The plan encourages travelers to leave cars behind by increasing access to transit, making streets and crossings safer, using design to make routes more comfortable, and increasing the mileage of networks for users of all abilities. The plan also calls for efforts to reduce the number of fatal and severe crashes, which disproportionately involve pedestrians and cyclists, through continued implementation of Vision Zero and Complete Streets policies.

Increasing the mileage of low traffic stress networks for active mode travelers can be accomplished by focusing on areas where people currently walk or cycle, as in this plan. Other agencies, such as the Boston Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, are piloting approaches to find areas of latent demand. These are routes pedestrians and cyclists would likely use if conditions were less dangerous. This approach can increase pedestrian and cyclist accessibility, enabling the less bold to shift more of their trips away from driving.

Concern for the safety of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people

Recently there have been renewed calls for more focus on the safety of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people while they use a variety of transportation modes. Many of the changes suggested in the report may reduce the dangerous interactions between vehicles and active mode travelers, as well as have the potential to reduce traffic stops (the most common way Americans interact with police). However, they may also increase the visibility on the roadway of people of color, which can lead to an increased number of dangerous interactions with police. These are nuanced concerns that require cities, states, and transportation agencies to find holistic solutions outside of traditional transportation silos.

The TAP is not fiscally constrained, and many of the proposed strategies will require additional funding. However, the city says it is “adjusting our existing delivery of capital projects and programs to reflect the strategies and actions outlined and to capitalize on opportunities to value-engineer and creatively finance initiatives.”