My latest at streets.mn does the carbon accounting which should have been part of the Draft 2040 Transportation Policy Plan developed by the Met Council.
Thrive MSP 2040, the new regional plan for the 7-county metro adopted by the Metropolitan Council, includes moderately strong language about addressing climate change. But the main implementation tool we’ve seen so far from the Council, the Draft 2040 Transportation Policy Plan, doesn’t go nearly far enough. In fact, it doesn’t even start where it should, with a baseline of emissions.
In this and future posts, I’ll try to do what I think the Draft Transportation Policy Plan should have done – identify where we’re starting from and where we need to go in terms of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s got charts, so you’ll want to read the rest.
The Metropolitan Council held a public hearing tonight on their draft Transportation Policy Plan. If you care about transit or transportation issues in the region, you should comment (you can do so through October 1). Here are four comments I have on the plan:
- Our urban areas are significantly underserved by this plan. Even under the “increased revenue scenario”, we will spend $5 on transit to serve suburban commuters for every $1 we spend on transit improvements to places where transit makes economic sense (see here for my attempt at a geographic breakdown of projects). The Met Council, in the Thrive 2040 plan, has said they want to match transit service to the number of riders and intensity of land use. This plan does not do that.
- The plan currently prioritizes projects like Gateway BRT (9,000 riders at $50,000 per rider) over projects like Hennepin Ave BRT (23,000 riders at $896 per rider). This is an example of how our urban areas (that are expected to grow significantly) are underrepresented in this plan.
- The Transportation Policy Plan, as an implementation plan of Thrive 2040, should identify how our transportation system will be planned to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (another goal of Thrive). While the plan mentions “reducing vehicle trips”, there is no analysis in the plan of whether the scenarios presented will increase or decrease emissions from our regional transportation system. We can’t wait another 10 years for the next update of the regional plan to take significant action on climate change.
- It’s definitely not all bad. The Met Council for the first time has identified regional priorities for a bicycle network, which will give communities the ability to apply for funds to upgrade their local network if it matches the regional plan. Many of the transit projects identified are much needed improvements (Hennepin, Chicago, West Broadway), but are simply not adequately prioritized.
Over at streets.mn, I ask some questions about the Met Council’s new northeast metro water supply plan. Here is a big one:
Where is the conservation alternative? The cost and feasibility of reducing water use are not analyzed as part of the report. Building nothing and simply asking/incentivizing/requiring people to use less may be the cheapest option. According to the report, water use in 2010 was 92 gallons per person, per day in these communities. The ratio of peak day demand to average day demand ranges from 1.7:1 in Forest Lake to 5.9:1 in Lexington. The report hints that this is “mainly attributed to irrigation and outdoor water use needs”. Sprinkling lawns in other words. Many options exist for conserving (potable) water – from retrofitting toilets, sinks and showers, to using captured rainwater to irrigate, to simply paying people to remove lawns and replacing them with low-water alternatives. For the cost of the alternatives to serve all northeast communities with new water supply (~$600 million), you could pay every household over $1,400 to remove lawn, and keep paying them $40 every year after that. Without an analysis of conservation alternatives, this report seems inadequate.
My latest at streets.mn is a review of how the draft version of Thrive MSP 2040, the new regional plan for the Twin Cities, addresses climate change.
Our region certainly can’t address this issue alone, but we have a responsibility to do our part. The science also says we can’t wait another ten years to start addressing the problem. However, as this plan is currently written, the specifics on climate response are too ambiguous, and risk being watered down during implementation.The regional plan is one of the state’s most significant pieces of land use and transportation policy. By fully embracing state goals and calling for strong response, this could be a document that makes Minnesota a national leader in climate change response.
Read the rest.
Over at streets.mn I have a new post on the importance of water supply planning for the next regional plan.
What does all this have to do with Minnesota? We have tons of water, right? Well, on the surface yes, but we’re using our groundwater much faster than it’s being replaced, and that’s a problem. That was one of the main topics at a Thrive MSP 2040 Roundtable discussion I attended a number of weeks ago, and have been meaning to post about since. The 7-county region now gets70 percent of our water from groundwater sources, up from 15 percent in the 50′s. In some places this means we’re reducing groundwater levels by over a foot a year.
Today at streets.mn,, I review models from other regional governments that have addressed climate change in their efforts. The Met Council could use these as models for the forthcoming ThriveMSP 2040 plan.
Over at streets.mn, I wrote a piece about the mostly unknown requirement that cities in the metro address solar access in their comprehensive plans, and how we could improve to address the purpose of the requirement.
By law, every community in the seven-county metro is supposed to adopt a comprehensive plan that includes “an element for protection and development of access to direct sunlight for solar energy systems”. This requirement dates back to 1978, when there was anoil crisis and gasoline was $1.30 per gallon (or, close to what it was in 2011inflation-adjusted). In 1979, Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House. Reagan took down the solar panels in ’86 and oil got a lot cheaperthrough the late 90′s.
The requirement remains however, even if few communities have ever done anything related to solar after they developed some language for their comprehensive plan. As we enter this season of plan updates, perhaps it’s time for another look at how solar access, land use, energy and other issues are interrelated, and what are vision is for our energy systems. Solar power is cheaper than ever, and the message is pretty clear on the need to start decarbonizing our energy system.
The Metropolitan Council has officially kicked off their public engagement campaign for the 2040 regional plan – called Thrive MSP 2040. I know you don’t like the name, but pay attention because this plan will eventually shape all the regional policy plans (growth, transportation, housing, natural resources) and set the requirements for individual community comprehensive plans.
No modern planning process is complete without some an interactive “ideas” website, and Met Council has theirs. I submitted some ideas, which I think you should vote for.
The Legislative Auditor has released a report, Governance of Transit in the Twin Cities Region, that recommends the Metropolitan Council be restructured to include both appointed members and local elected officials serving staggered terms. According to the report, local electeds would provide accountability, while staggered terms would provide institutional knowledge and “stability in strategic vision”.
Having a combination of local elected and appointed officials would provide the Council with an effective mix of regional and local perspectives. Additionally, having local elected officials on the Council would increase its credibility and accountability with transit stakeholders in the region. Option 2 would also enable the Council to implement regional priorities and provide continuity among its membership for ongoing initiatives.
I find the report to be a little too negative about directly electing Met Council representatives, claiming that it would not “promote consideration of regional perspectives”. Of course, this only applies if all members are elected from small districts, rather than at-large. I also fail to see how local elected officials can be seen to be less parochial than at-large elected members. The report notes that the Portland Metro is composed entirely of directly elected members, and we all know how poorly they do transit governance out there.
The good news from the report:
When compared with 11 peer regions around the country, transit in the Twin Cities region performed favorably. For example, in 2008, the Twin Cities region’s transit system performed better than most of its peers on efficiency measures, including subsidy per passenger and operating costs per passenger. The Twin Cities region also compared favorably when evaluating service-use measures, such as passengers per hour and passenger miles per mile of service.
The new chair of the Metropolitan Council was sworn in last week, and her first week on the job was accompanied by a flurry of suggestions about how to improve the Met Council and it’s policies. Commentary by Dave Van Hattum and Jim Erkel is particularly persuasive to me, calling for focusing more growth along transit corridors and maintaining a focus on building and enhancing transitways.
Many critiques of the Council include some variation on the idea that the current composition, only individuals appointed by the Governor, is not adequate. Many think the Council would be more transparent or responsive if it’s members were elected. This seems to be a perennial issue, and was argued about even during the formation of the Council in 1967. A Minneapolis proposal suggests the a majority of the Council members should be local elected officials, like mayors, council members, and county commissioners. Continue reading An Elected Met Council? A Met Council Of Electeds?