Envision a scenario consisting of a strong urban core with dispersing traffic; mixed-income housing; new construction; streets, and building scale meant to reinforce a village-like atmosphere. With the help of zoning and regulations; subdivision ordinances; and transportation services, more and more cities nowadays are seeking to recreate. The Twin Cities are doing just that by means of an important economic driving force: multi-modal transportation system.
Once home to the first urban transportation network: the streetcar, Minneapolis is embarking on various transportation projects. Currently, the Hiawatha Light Rail and Northstar Commuter Rail Lines serve as connecting routes between major tourist points, sports arenas, and northern suburbs. In addition to only serving a minor population, the Light Rail Transportation (LRT) system is expensive and costly to maintain, especially at a time of cut backs. LRT can diminish funding for other forms of transportation, while increasing bus fares for those who rely on public transportation the most: the low-income. To mitigate this, the Twin Cities are developing solutions through various on-going projects set to create pedestrian-friendly environments & increase ridership:
- In 2012, Minneapolis was named #1 biking city in the country by Bicycling magazine website. In addition to 84 miles of dedicated bike paths and 44 miles of designated bike lanes on streets, the city plans to add another 40 miles;
- Transit Oriented Development (T.O.D.): The Mall project set to link public spaces, trails, major street corridors, and transit stations;
- Central Light Rail Corridor, currently under construction between downtown Saint Paul and downtown Minneapolis and the planning of the Southwest Light Rail Corridor;
- Bus Rapid Transit (B.R.T) along major city highways, which will provide faster and more efficient service;
- Proposed Streetcar system along central city corridors;
- Redevelopment of the Union Depot in Saint Paul. A future hub for major rail and a bus station, as well as a community place housed with businesses and public art.
Transportation is an essential element in establishing sustainable communities and the creation of a dense urban core. Most importantly, it has to generate ridership by providing equitable services to various populations. Based on current projects and previous precedents, will these efforts generate and encourage dense and walkable environments or will some of these modes fail due to lack of ridership and demand?
Most importantly, who do you think would most benefit from these services and how will that affect the inner-city population and those who depend on public transit the most?
Credits: Data linked to sources. Images by author and Frankie Adams.