Transportation is a means of gaining access to the goods and services. Access can be provided by trains, planes, buses, bicycles, private automobiles, taxi cabs, or just by walking. The most environmentally-friendly forms of transportation are walking and bicycling. Unfortunately, government spends little on these two forms of transportation in comparison with what it spends on roads and parking. Many of our new communities aren’t even built with sidewalks today!
In the Twin Cities region, individuals and government spend about $25 billion dollars annually on transportation. Most of this money is spent by individuals on car ownership and maintenance. Some of the money government spends on transportation is raised through fuel taxes and license tab fees, but a large percentage of it comes from property taxes.
The Twin Cities region is very auto-dependent and local residents have limited alternatives to driving. The regional transit system is small compared to similar size regions – on average comparable regions invest 70% more on transit than we do. Despite its size, Metro Transit is consistently ranked as one of the most efficient large bus systems in the nation.
Light rail is coming to the Twin Cities. The Hiawatha Corridor LRT line will connect downtown Minneapolis with the U of M West Bank campus, the Airport and the Mall of America. Light rail will be quieter, more comfortable, more reliable, and faster than the buses. It will also provide opportunities for new development at the station stops. If the $675 million cost of the project is considered as a one year investment, not as the 20 – 40 year investment it is, the cost would be only three percent of annual transportation spending in our region.
Many Twin Cities municipalities are making investments to encourage walking and biking. Minneapolis has built bike paths, on-street bike lanes, and bike parking. St. Paul has made street design changes and done public education to make walking safer and more pleasant. Unfortunately, spending on biking and walking is dwarfed by spending on roads and parking. Here are a few things that you can do to support green transportation:
- Locate your home or business in a location where you can commute easily without a car.
- Be the resource person on transit or biking at your workplace.
- Drive courteously. Give pedestrians, bikes, and buses the right of way.
- Support construction of sidewalks, bike lanes and bike parking.
- Don’t let usable buildings be torn down for the construction of parking lots.
Editors: Jennifer Peterson, Blooming Prairie Natural Foods & Yuichiro Onishi, U of M Graduate Student in American History