In previous posts, I talked about the role of the Metropolitan Council in planning for regional infrastructure like wastewater treatment plans, surface and drinking water, highways, roads and transit, regional parks and other regional assets. I also talked about how planning for these regional assets is passed from the Metropolitan Council to cities through system statements. Cities do long-range planning and then submit their plans to the Metropolitan Council for review to ensure they are in conformance with the regional plan.
Is the proposed Minneapolis 2040 Plan in conformance with the Metropolitan Council’s plan? That is a great question. The short answer is “no.” There are at least three places that it would appear that the City’s plan is out of conformance with the Region’s plan.
First, the up-zoning of the City means that the City is planning for substantially more population growth than the Metropolitan Council says it needs. The Metropolitan Council says that the City needs to plan for about 12% growth over the next 20 years. This is about the same rate of growth that the City has experienced in the last 20 years, about 40,000 people. The City can easily continue to grow at the same rate that it has been within existing rules with no problem. Minneapolis has about 415,000 people. By up-zoning, the City could accommodate over two million people, substantially beyond what the Metropolitan Council is asking the City to accommodate. This is not what the regional plan requires. In fact, if Minneapolis grew the way that the Comp Plan proposes, the region would not have sewer capacity where it needs it and the transportation system would be even more overburdened than it is today.
Second, the City’s transportation planning presumes that there will be a huge increase in the number of people walking, biking and taking transit. The transportation plan literally has chapters for walking, biking and taking transit but has no chapters for travel by automobile. The problem is that the Metropolitan Council’s plan states that there is no increase in the base bus system planned for in the next 20 years. All new funds will go to operating new light rail and bus rapid transit lines and Metro Mobility, the transit service for persons with disabilities. This is a clear mis-match between the region’s plan and the City’s plan. The City is building for transportation that simply will not be there.
Third, the Metropolitan Council’s regional plan discusses the need to put new development near transit to leverage existing transit service. Even if the transit system is not going to expand, the region can put new housing near transit to better use existing transit service. The City’s plan to shift development from transit nodes to triplexes and fourplexes reduces the usage of transit as people will live further from transit. In fact, the language is starkly different. The regional system statement says: “Minneapolis should also identify potential stations along planned transitways and adopt guiding land use policies, station-area plans, and associated zoning, infrastructure, and implementation tools that support future growth around transit stations.” Fourplexes and triplexes do not do this.
What do we need to do? Simple. We need a scalpel, not a sledgehammer to guide growth. We do not need to up-zone the whole city. We need to put new housing in transit nodes, not scattered through dozens of square miles of lower density housing. We need to build a transportation system that is based on the reality of how people travel and not a transit system that will never exist. These are simple ideas but important for Minneapolis to function in a thriving region.