By Dave Van Hattum, Senior Policy Advocate, Transit for Livable Communities
The Metropolitan Council’s new regional development plan, Thrive MSP 2040, will set the framework for how the Twin Cities metro area will grow over the next 30 years. It will influence the footprint of the developed area, including how much land will be converted from farmland and open space to housing and employment sites. It will set targets for affordable housing and establish goals for parks and water quality. And Thrive MSP will also influence our region’s future mix of transportation options: Will we invest in more highway lanes and new interchanges? Or will our region shift investments to additional public transit, bike routes, and sidewalks along with the repair of existing roads?
You Have the Power to Influence this Plan
This spring, the Metropolitan Council is seeking input on the plan. We strongly encourage you to tell the Council what investments matter most to you, and what kind of community you want to live in going forward. Your ideas matter! Share them online, or participate at an upcoming Thrive MSP Roundtable Discussion near you. These roundtables will focus on four issue areas: 1) Regionally significant economic places, 2) land use and transit, 3) affordable housing priority, location and need, and 4) water supply and a thriving region.
Upcoming Thrive MSP Roundtable Discussions:
- Tuesday, April 30, 6:30-8:30 PM, Eagan
- Saturday, May 4, 10 AM-Noon, Saint Paul
- Thursday, May 9, 6-8 PM, Shoreview
- Thursday, May 16, 6-8 PM, Minneapolis
Setting Goals for Land Use and Transit
With regard to land use and transit, here are three key points to keep an eye on when you comment on Thrive MSP:
** Affordability = Opportunity. Thrive MSP should make sure the entire region has convenient access to transit and safe, accessible bicycling and walking options.
The Thrive MSP Transportation Goal should include the word “affordably.” Today’s transportation system works pretty well for people who can afford to drive a car, largely connecting motorists with destinations safely and reliably. But it nearly requires owning a car—a huge cost to families in the region. For young adults, the elderly, people with a disability, or others without the means for car ownership, this burden limits opportunity and makes home ownership, educational advancement, and personal health harder to achieve. We can advance Thrive MSP’s equity principle by prioritizing affordable transportation options. For example, materials for the Thrive MSP Roundtable discussions ask, “How could transit investment decisions enhance access to opportunity for low-income and people of color. . . . ?” We think the best way to enhance access to opportunity is to increase investment in transit, bicycling, and walking – affordable options.
** Connect the Dots to Climate Change. Thrive MSP should help achieve Minnesota’s goal to reduce climate change by setting and measuring goals for the percent of trips by transit, bicycling, and walking in our region.
If our region is to dramatically reduce emissions that contribute to climate change, Thrive MSP needs to include a specific goal (as is already in state statute) for the share of trips made by public transit, bicycling, and walking that will help to achieve the state climate goals. To make progress toward those goals, the Met Council needs to explicitly advocate for the funding and policy change necessary to expand the availability of these transportation options. Transit emits a fraction of the pollution of driving alone, and bicycling and walking are emissions free.
** Transit-Supportive Land Use. Thrive MSP should encourage most new development inside the I-494/I-694 beltway and along transitways or near high-frequency transit.
As Thrive MSP Roundtable materials state, “Over the last 60 years, our rapidly expanding region built a network of highways and grew outward around them. This new development provided jobs, homes, schools, and recreation for the region’s residents. However, this development pattern is not sustainable.” We agree with the Metropolitan Council. Planning for the majority of new growth (housing and employment sites) to occur where there is current infrastructure (roads, utilities, schools, etc.) in place, along major bus corridors and transitways, and inside the I-494/694 beltway where density levels are favorable for providing efficient transit makes good economic and environmental sense.
These materials also ask, “How could local land-use decisions improve the future viability of transit?” The Council can do this by ensuring that Thrive MSP is more specific, with clear goals, identified growth areas, and by channeling incentive funding into investments that help to achieve the plan’s goals.
Stay Informed, Get Involved
The Metropolitan Council will be working on Thrive MSP through the end of 2013, with adoption planned for February 2014. Because this plan will provide a strategic vision for the Twin Cities for decades to come, we encourage you to get involved, online or in person, throughout the process.
For more on this topic, don’t miss our other recent blogs in the Thrive MSP series:
Top Ten Elements in Regional Plans: Our Peers Have Set a High Bar