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Walking, biking, transit: A beefed-up Minneapolis TAP will deliver on strong community values

We are heartened by the breadth of the city’s Transportation Action Plan and its vision for the future. We strongly urge the City of Minneapolis to set higher goals for reducing car trips in the city.

Minneapolis bicyclist
MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson

The coronavirus has upended our way of life. It has emptied those public spaces that reflect and shape who we are. Yet it is important to remember that on the other side of this crisis — during our recovery and in the society we raise up — our public plazas, streets, and sidewalks will again serve as our constitutionally guaranteed places to assemble, will again be where the American “melting pot” brings together CEOs and service workers, artists and entrepreneurs.

Sam Rockwell
Sam Rockwell
A critical component of how these public spaces serve our community is how we travel to and through them. A city with comprehensive transportation options connects us to opportunity and to each other. A city with equitable transportation options ensures everyone has this access, regardless of their race, age, ability, or the thickness of their wallet. And a city with common sense and sustainable transportation options makes it possible to accomplish all this without blithely destroying human and natural environments in our wake.

Our recovery must deliver on these values if we wish to succeed at achieving a just and sustainable community once the coronavirus has passed.

The Minneapolis Transportation Action Plan (TAP) paints a picture of a city where, in the plan’s own words, “our streets will reflect our city values.” Streets take up 22% of city’s land area, so achieving city values on the streets is critical. The plan celebrates the central role that transit, walking, and biking should — and must — play in Minneapolis’s future. We enthusiastically applaud the direction of the plan.

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A hundred years of car-centric planning have created the car-centric landscape we have today. In wonderful contrast, the TAP begins by establishing a goal to have three of every five trips in Minneapolis taken by transit, on foot, or on bicycle. The TAP then describes in 200 detailed pages how the city can achieve this goal by 2030.

Ashwat Narayanan
Ashwat Narayanan
First, the plan focuses on ensuring that all of us can safely walk through our neighborhoods or use a wheelchair in our daily lives without the fear of being hit by a car. The TAP commits the city to better street crossings, better lighting, and better walking and rolling, among other actions.

Next, the TAP details how Minneapolis can continue its positive momentum to become a true biking city. The draft plan establishes a goal to complete the city’s “All Ages and Abilities Network,” which includes protected bike lanes, trails, and neighborhood greenways. It focuses on building connections through the network and prioritizes action to ensure year-round bicycling access.

Finally, the TAP contains a chapter fully dedicated to the city transit network. The plan sets a goal that 75 percent of Minneapolis residents live within a five-minute walk of high-frequency transit lines and sets a similarly strong goal of employing a range of strategies to speed up those lines.

It is clear that city officials understand that they cannot expect community members to drive fewer miles unless alternatives to driving — including transit, walking, and biking — are easier, faster, and more convenient and welcoming.

Joshua Houdek
Joshua Houdek
The changes outlined in the TAP cannot come fast enough, nor can the city do too much, given the extreme urgency of climate action. Climate change is already undermining our state and national economy, our neighbors’ health, and our communities’ stability. We risk losing even our state bird, the common loon, a central plank of Minnesota’s identity.

In the current draft, the TAP sets a goal to reduce Minneapolis’ transportation-related carbon pollution by 35 percent by 2030. But experts with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) say we need to reduce carbon pollution by 45 percent by 2030 if we want to head off extraordinary hardship for hundreds of millions of people. We strongly urge the City of Minneapolis to set higher goals for reducing car trips in the city, at absolute minimum in line with the scientifically determined recommendations of the IPCC, and ideally higher than those recommendations given Minnesota’s strong economy and Minneapolis’ position as a national leader.

We are heartened by the breadth of Minneapolis’ Transportation Action Plan and its vision for the future. We look forward to working with Minneapolis leaders to maximize this tremendous opportunity to meet our communities’ challenges and advance mobility, equity, and climate action. We hope you get involved too: The TAP is open for online public comment until May 22.

Sam Rockwell is the executive director of Move Minnesota. Ashwat Narayanan is the executive director of Our Streets Minneapolis. Joshua Houdek is the land use and transportation manager for the Sierra Club North Star Chapter.

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