By Ron Williams, Land Use and Transportation Committee
Citizen testifiers and from representatives from Sierra Club and Transit for Livable Communities: Kathleen, Joshua, Ron and Bill.
“The transportation system must be accessible and safe for users of all abilities and income.”
– Draft Statewide Multimodal Plan’s guiding principle, p. 59
The MN Department of Transportation (MnDOT) recently held a public hearing to solicit comments on its 93 page draft Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan. Only a handful of citizens testified, which means MnDOT needs to hear from more of us about how important it is to set clear, measurable goals to move Minnesota beyond dirty oil.
The Multimodal Plan is designed to take in account all aspects of transportation. It considers many important issues of the day: Energy shifts, shift to urban concentration; persistent budget challenges; health issues of obesity and transportation air pollution; global competition; telecommunication changes and access to services; and weather changes over time.
Among those who testified was a bus rider and Bill Neuendorf of Transit for Livable Communities. I testified on behalf of myself and Joshua Houdek testified for the Sierra Club.
We praised MnDOT vision in its plan but faulted it for lacking specifics and recognizable steps in implementation. Bill offered some specific improvements:
First, the plan should be for people, not cars. “The Plan must be revised to emphasize that people—pedestrians, drivers, bicyclists and pilots– have equal footing as users of the system.” MnDOT should shed its old image of being just the Highway Department.
For example, although the first chapter of the plan describes Minnesota’s aging population and changing travel preferences, the goals and preferred outcomes do not appear to be affected by these anticipated changes. The plan also fails to change the alarming fact that Minnesotans-of-color suffer from gross disparities in income, employment and affordable access to opportunities.
Next, it was stressed that MnDOT needs to set clear priorities to guide the difficult choices to be made so that Minnesotans can be provided with the best system with the limited funds available. For decades, Minnesota has prioritized wider and faster roads for private cars. It is time to move beyond dirty oil and invest in transitways such as Southwest LRT and rapid bus so that more people can get to work and school via clean, affordable transportation without being stuck on congested roads.
Finally, the plan must set ambitious goals and identify quantifiable and meaningful performance measures. The fundamental measures currently assessed by MnDOT are a good start, but in order to promote efficient and timely action, the plan must also measure additional signs of progress and shifting conditions, such as:
● pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities besides just those from vehicles
● lengths of roads that have safe sidewalks, in addition to miles of highways
● the ability for people to cross busy roads on their way to school and other destinations reached on foot or by bicycle.
● the number of Minnesotans that have access to transit that operates seven days a week with moderate or high frequency
So now it’s time to hear from you! Please take a moment to tell MnDOT what you think about the Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan. Please feel free to use any of the talking points above. Comments will be accepted through July 31 and should be submitted to: Kirby.Becker@state.mn.us