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Transportation: A guide to civic action
New Normal 2012: Get Connected!
Understand the Challenges
Cheap gas in the mid‐20th century led to a car‐ centered lifestyle in the U.S. Streetcars disap‐ peared. Many people fled cities for suburbs.
Now, there’s a “new normal.” With gas prices higher and in flux, and longer commutes a common daily reality, how people get around is the second highest household expense, next to the cost of housing. It surpasses what Americans spend on health care and education.
Transportation costs have become a huge concern at a time when employment and financial situations are less stable.
Besides hitting people’s wallets, there’s grow‐ ing recognition that reliance on driving alone (one person per car and driving as the only mode) exacerbates a number of problems, in‐ cluding the increasing environmental cost of trying to maintain a steady flow of energy, air quality issues associated with transportation pollution, and obesity arising from inactivity. As a result, alternatives are now being more seri‐ ously entertained.
(Transit for Livable Communities)
“We want access to more options, to make ends meet and to be healthier as individuals, as a community, and as citizens of an increasingly resource‐strapped planet.” —Hilary Reeves, Transit for Livable Communities
“For communities to successfully grow, they need a comprehensive and coordinated transportation system that includes a vari‐ ety of alternatives that address concerns over traffic congestion, safety, air quality and the high price of gas.”
Last year’s New Normal: Deciding Community Priorities in a Downsized Economy examined which transportation policies might best serve Minnesotans.
Cars, cars, cars. Even with the expense, long commutes, and congestion, Minnesotans still travel by car far more than they do by any other mode of transportation. Because of this, many argue that investing in infrastructure to ensure the safety of Minnesota’s highways, roads, and bridges, not alternative modes of transportation, should be a top priority.
AND YET, trends are pointing to a different sense of mobility.
Annual rates of driving are going down while annual rates of transit use, bicycling, and walking are going up.
Fewer young people are getting drivers licenses.
- Increasingly, corporate site selectors rank a good transit system as one of the factors in deciding where to locate. They want employees at all levels to be able to get to work reliably. They also want to attract and keep top talent.
Pedaling forward. The Twin Cities metro is one of four in the nation participating in the Department of Transportation’s “Non‐motorized Transportation Pilot Program.” It’s designed to demonstrate how im‐ proved walking and bicycling networks increase the numbers of walkers and cyclists. New bicycle advo‐ cacy organizations offer innovative programs to make bicycling affordable, accessible, and attractive for populations that may not have biked in the past.
Buses and trains. Bus and rail ridership is up in the Twin Cities metro area, and more communities are campaigning for light rail trains. Even so, only about 25 percent of metro residents have convenient access to transit, i.e. they live a walkable distance (1/4 mile) from moderate frequency service. Demand for public transit in Greater Minnesota is up, too. Demands statewide are expected to grow as the baby boom generation ages.
Government subsidizes all forms of transportation. In Minnesota, 44 percent of funding for local roads comes from property taxes. The state gasoline tax is constitutionally dedicated to roadways. (Source: MnDOT)
At the federal level, 80 percent of transportation funding goes toward building highways and improving road infra‐ structures, and approximately 20 percent goes to public transit and vehicle safety programs. (Source: U.S. Depart‐ ment of Transportation Federal Highway Administration)
Every dollar spent on transit creates more than four dollars in economic benefits. (Source: MnDOT)
Transit projects create 30 percent more jobs than roadway projects. (Univ. of Utah Metropolitan Research Center)
Of the nearly 1.5 million residents of the Twin Cities who work, three out of four drove to work alone in 2009, 5.6 percent used public transportation, including bus or rail, 3.5 percent bicycled or walked, and 4.5 percent worked at home. More than 96,000 Minnesotans walked or biked to work in 2009. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey)
Bicycling in Minneapolis increased 33 percent from 2007 to 2010, while walking increased 17 percent during that period. (Source: BikeWalk Twin Cities)
Residents of the 13‐county Twin Cities area spent, on average, 12 percent of their income on transportation in 2009. (Source: Transit for Livable Communities)
Automobiles are responsible for 40 percent of U.S. oil use and 20 percent of air pollution. Transit uses half the en‐ ergy per mile and emits a quarter of the air pollution of driving alone. (Natural Resources Defense Council)
Households able to downsize their number of cars or go car‐free save up to $8,000 per year per car. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
A growing number of Greater Minnesota residents depend on public transit. Ridership is up 38 percent since 2005 in counties with service. (Source: Minnesota 2020)
There are lots of resources to help ground you in facts. Here are some places to start online:
Smart Investments in Transportation for Minnesota/Growth and Justice
MN Compass: Transportation/Minnesota Compass
Bike.Walk.MOVE infographic (highlights biking, walking in the Twin Cities)/Bike Walk Twin Cities
Twin Cities Transportation Regional Transitway Decision‐Making/Alliance for Metropolitan Stability
Context Sensitive Solutions & Complete Streets Toolkit/U of M Center for Transportation Studies & MnDOT
Public Transit Facts/Minnesota Public Transit Association
An Overview of Transportation and Environmental Justice/U.S. Dept. of Transportation FHWA
“Critical decisions about transportation policy are often made without the input of underserved communities who most rely on public transportation. It’s not surprising, then, that transporta‐ tion decisions and spending do not benefit all populations equally.”
—Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Confer‐ ence on Civil and Human Rights
“For some workers, the availability of public transportation may be essential to access jobs and participate in the labor force.”
—MN Dept. of Employment and Economic Development
These are just a few organizations that provide opportunities for civic engagement on transportation:
Alliance for Metropolitan Stability: A coalition of grassroots organizations that work together to pro‐ mote racial, economic and environmental justice in growth and development decisions.
Bike Walk Twin Cities: An all‐out effort to increase biking and walking, and decrease driving; part of a federal initiative, the Non‐Motorized Transportation Pilot Program.
District Councils Collaborative: Facilitates neighborhood participation in the development of the Cen‐ tral Corridor Light Rail Transit to ensure that the needs and interests of residents and businesses are represented.
Minnesota Public Transit Association Keeps the public informed about budget decisions that will im‐ pact transit service, and tells people what steps they can take, through updates, information about elected officials, and action alerts.
Transit for Livable Communities: a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to reform Minnesota’s transportation system. Through research, advocacy, and community organizing TLC promotes a bal‐ anced transportation system.
Twin Cities Media Alliance offers several ways to stay informed, connected, and engaged through the Twin Cities Daily Planet, including:
>Citizen journalism classes
>Social media classes
>Social media clinics
>An annual fall media forum
For more information, contact Marcos Lopez-Carlson: marcos [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net
Take a few minutes to identify a challenge that you or your organization faces in respect to using your social networks. Stay focused on identifying challenges and opportunities at this point, not moving into solutions.
- We are unable to connect with new people outside our networks.
- It’s easy to get people excited, but hard to maintain that energy.
- It’s been difficult to get people to share our message with their networks.
- Not enough people understand the background, or context, of our focus issues.
- People only think of our issues a few times a year. It’s hard to “stay on their radar.”
- With so many worthwhile organizations and causes, it’s challenging to stand out.
- It’s a challenge to give our followers the type of content they can share with others.
- In a 24-hour news cycle, it’s increasingly challenging to stay relevant.
- We have been unable to form a real connection between our stakeholders and our donors.
Add your own unique challenge:
New Normal 2012 is a project of the Twin Cities Media Alliance and Twin Cities Daily Planet, supported by a generous grant from the Bush Foundation.
For More Information: Contact Bruce Johansen: brucejohansen [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net
Follow Us on Twitter: #newnormal2012
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