News about communities, transit, parks, water issues, regional planning

Posted In: Communities,Housing,Planning
Date: 5/4/2015 4:00 PM -
Metropolitan Council, Chambers
390 Robert Street North
Saint Paul, MN 55101

Housing Policy Plan Amendment Public Hearing is May 4, 2015

The Council will hold a public hearing May 4 during its Community Development Committee meeting to receive comments on a proposed amendment to the 2040 Housing Policy Plan.  The amendment would add the methodology for calculating the 2021-2030 Allocation of Affordable Housing Need and annual Housing Performance Scores, as well as the review criteria for the housing element of Comprehensive Plan updates.

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Media coverage of the Met Council and the Twin Cities region

Chart of the Day: Data for Every City in the Metro, April 29, 2015

Hats off to the Met Council! When they’re not busy with pedestrian bridges and light rail planning, they provide amazing amounts of easily digestible data about Twin Cities communities. Check out the interface, which generates charts for different cities at the click of a button.


Explore the Green Line Between Minneapolis and Saint Paul

Park the car and hop on the Green Line. The Twin Cities’ sleek new light-rail line offers an easy tour of the metro

Midwest Living, April 2015

Six dollars and a spirit of discovery are all you need to explore the Twin Cities, thanks to the new Metro Green Line light-rail addition. Connecting the hearts of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, this train makes it easy for visitors to enjoy a weekend’s worth of museums, sports, music and food without ever touching the car keys. The $900 million, 1-year-old project represents the state’s largest public works initiative to date.

For residents, the line inspired some $2.5 billion worth of housing, retail and office developments, as well as renovations to destinations like the 1920s Union Depot in downtown Saint Paul. For visitors, the line provides easy access to the classic Twin Cities attractions, like Minneapolis’ Nicollet Mall, plus an invitation to explore off-the-radar neighborhoods.

Ten suburban mayors: A growing, prosperous Twin Cities area needs transit
Businesses in our suburban communities need to access a workforce that lives beyond the borders of their cities.

Star Tribune Opinion, April 20, 2015

As suburban mayors, we aspire to see our cities thrive. We know that hard work and careful investment are essential to realizing those goals.

Through a challenging recession, public and private partnerships began to help our region prosper. Thanks to comprehensive planning and to the success of individual Minnesotans, our metropolitan area came roaring out of the Great Recession and is now touted as having one of the most successful regional economies in the country.

As our economy improves, our population continues to expand. By 2040, our state is projected to add more than 1 million residents, with 800,000 of those new arrivals living in the metro area. To accommodate this growth and reach our full potential, we need to make smart public investments to ensure continued private-sector success. We must invest in a first-rate education system, in research and development to help companies succeed and, just as important, in a world-class transportation system.


Today’s arguments about the Met Council were had at the time of its formation.

Star Tribune Opinions, April 10, 2015

Back when the Metropolitan Council was formed, nearly 50 years ago, some of the same arguments about its members’ selection were raised as those in the letters on April 9. Appointments by the governor, elections by districts and other methods all were all discussed. In the end, the gubernatorial appointment option was approved.

One rationale was that another layer of campaigning and campaign spending would prove excessive, draining and perhaps confusing for voters who already faced choosing among candidates for state, legislative district, county, city and special district offices.

GOP transportation bill would derail buses, too

Flatlining tax support isn’t “harmless” for Metro Transit

Editorial Board, Star Tribune, March 31, 2015

Opposition to light-rail transit was standard fare for Minnesota Republican candidates in the 2014 campaign. But among metro-area candidates, that position was often followed in the next breath by support for better bus service. In fact, GOP gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson quipped — we hoped not fully in jest — that he considered light rail a DFL plot to get Republicans to favor more spending on buses.

That’s why we were disappointed to learn from Metro Transit analysts the implications of the House GOP transportation proposal released March 23. As expected, it would make further expansion of light rail nearly impossible. It would deprive the Counties Transit Improvement Board of about $28 million per year in state funds now used for light-rail operations. The board, which is funded by a 0.25 percent five-county sales tax, would be obliged to pick up those operational costs, leaving it short of funds needed to finance new rail lines.

But contrary to last fall’s professions of GOP support for buses, the House plan would also lead to a reduction in Metro Transit bus service of at least 15 percent by 2018, said Arlene McCarthy, director of metropolitan transportation services for the Metropolitan Council. It does so by cutting state general funds by the amount of each year’s projected inflationary growth in transit’s share of motor vehicle sales taxes, until by 2018 the general fund stream of about $47 million would run dry.

Reduce affordable housing need in 3 steps, March 31, 2015

I’ve dedicated the last 15 years of my life working on affordable housing policy. Mostly, I’ve worked where some sort of subsidy helps make it (more) affordable.

In this post, informed by what I’ve learned about the scope of our problem and the inadequacy of existing subsidy programs, I’ll share actions and policies that I think could ameliorate our affordable housing problems.

The American Dream is alive in the Twin Cities, but not for everyone

PBS Newhour - March 18, 2015

In a report on the PBS NewsHour this week, anchor and correspondent Judy Woodruff visited the Twin Cities to find out why it is a national destination for millenials – but one also battling a sharp racial inequality gap.

In her introduction to the piece, Woodruff says, “It might surprise you to hear that one of the hot destination cities, especially for young so-called millennials, is the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. I traveled there recently as part of our partnership with The Atlantic to explore the findings in a recent article in the magazine, and to try to find out whether the so-called Minneapolis Miracle is really paying off for everyone.”


What happens when a metropolitan area has way too many governments?

Washington Post, Feb. 18, 2015

Since last summer, the St. Louis area has been a national poster child for the problem of fragmented government. In the 1870s, the city of St. Louis broke off from the surrounding county with the same name, in what's widely recognized now as an ill-fated decision. In the years since then, little municipalities within the county proliferated, too, with increasingly tiny communities trying to carve out control — or, rather, avoid sharing it — over their services, taxes, schools and housing.

The Miracle of Minneapolis
The Atlantic, Feb. 2015

No other place mixes affordability, opportunity, and wealth so well. What’s its secret?

If the American dream has not quite shattered as the Millennial generation has come of age, it has certainly scattered. Living affordably and trying to climb higher than your parents did were once considered complementary ambitions. Today, young Americans increasingly have to choose one or the other—they can either settle in affordable but stagnant metros or live in economically vibrant cities whose housing prices eat much of their paychecks unless they hit it big.

3M sees Gateway route as recruitment tool

Finance and Commerce, Feb. 9, 2015

Maplewood-based 3M Co. is touting a bus rapid transit line between St. Paul and Woodbury — known as the Gateway Corridor — as a potential recruitment tool. During the next five years, the Fortune 500 company is expected to lose about 30 percent of its workforce due to retirement, Doug Stang, 3M’s government affairs director, said during a stop of a tour of the corridor last Friday.

Duininck a good Met Council choice: but burden will be on him, and Dayton, to bridge political divides

Star Tribune Opinion - January 19, 2015

The Metropolitan Council, which exists to transcend political, geographic and philosophical divisions, is increasingly embroiled in debates over issues that are, well, political, geographic and philosophical. It’s imperative that the agency work through these problems, because its work is vital for the region and the state.
With about 4,200 employees and a $935.8 million budget, the Met Council is the region’s planning agency, tasked with assessing needs and implementing many aspects of transportation, housing, water management and parks in the seven-county metropolitan area. The council’s efforts have a direct impact on millions of Minnesotans as well as on the region’s economic competitiveness.
The council, in short, should not be dismantled, as some suggest. But the debate over the 17-member body’s unelected status is legitimate, and should be part of a conversation about how to increase public confidence that the council is responsive to citizens’ needs.

Take the long view on transportation in Minnesota

Star Tribune Editorial -January 9, 2015

It will take new money to “get real” about roads, bridges and transit.

Can the decay and neglect that afflict transportation systems in Minnesota be corrected by a one-time infusion of cash, a drawdown of uncommitted funds and a tighter operation at the Department of Transportation (MnDOT)? Or will a fix require enlarging the state’s transportation revenue stream with increased taxes?

Those questions roughly outline the debate that took shape last week as the 2015 legislative session convened. To their credit, both sides voiced openness to other ideas. But the opening bids by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the new state House GOP majority reveal markedly differing notions about what will be required to end the deterioration of the state’s transportation systems, let alone upgrade them to serve a growing population.

Met Council weighs in on protecting water supplies

Star Tribune - December 29, 2014

A final report on protecting water supplies in the northeast metro area confirms a price tag that could exceed $600 million. But it also cautions that lots of unknowns remain.

“This evaluation of alternatives stops short of identifying the best way forward,” the Metropolitan Council said in a study released Monday, adding: “The best option for moving forward may be a hybrid of the examples considered in this study, and could involve approaches that were not considered in this study.”

The study is just one in a sequence, from multiple sources, examining ways to deal with water problems in the area. The poster child is lake levels on White Bear Lake, which has lost a quarter of its contents in a decade.

Despite Cheaper Gas, Public Transit Ridership is Up, Trade Group Reports

New York Times, Dec. 21, 1024
David Needham thought he would need to buy a car when he moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul from San Francisco in February 2013, but was pleasantly surprised to find that his adopted city has an extended transit system that meets all of his business and social needs, allowing him and his family to remain car-free.

Mr. Needham, 29, a website developer for nonprofits and small businesses, lives a five-minute walk from a new light-rail system that runs every 10 minutes and takes him into downtown Minneapolis in about 30 minutes for a fare of about $2.

As diversity grows, disparities plague Twin Cities

Too many are being left behind as metro area becomes less white.

Star Tribune (Opinion) November 6, 2014
A new report from the Metropolitan Council describes something that’s probably obvious: Our complexion is changing. The Twin Cities metro area is gradually looking more like the rest of America.
Fifty years ago we were outliers — 98 percent white. Now, one of every four residents of the seven inner-ring metro counties is “of color.” Latinos, blacks and Asians have accounted for 92 percent of the region’s growth since 2000. By 2040, they are expected to make up 40 percent of our population.
The Met Council report shows that, from 2000-2013, Anoka, Scott and Washington counties more than doubled their shares of nonwhite population, while Hennepin and Ramsey counties lost white population. And different racial and ethnic populations are driving our “of color” diversity: Latinos in Minneapolis; blacks inBrooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center; Asians in Woodbury andShakopee; blacks and Latinos in Bloomington and Burnsville, and Asians and blacks in St. Paul.

Suburbs lead in diversity growth

Populations of color have more than doubled in the five suburban counties since 2000.
Star Tribune - November 4, 2014

Over the past 13 years, populations of color in Hennepin and Ramsey counties grew about 40 to 50 percent. In each of the Twin Cities area’s five purely suburban counties, that number was more than 100 percent.

According to a new Metropolitan Council report, growth ranged from 114 percent in Dakota County to 229 percent in Scott County, compared with the 64 percent average across the Twin Cities region. Among the suburban communities with the most significant growth were Burnsville, Shakopee, Woodbury and Brooklyn Park, which all gained more than 8,000 residents of color between 2000 and 2013.

This mirrors what’s happening across the state. Between 2000 and 2010, all but two Minnesota counties saw growth in populations of color. According to the Met Council report, based on census data released in late October, two in five Twin Cities residents will be people of color by 2040.


How the Twin Cities got transit right: - October 14, 2014
Big projects often divide cities. But Minneapolis' light rail line is creating jobs and driving development in underserved areas.

The right way to renew a city.  When the Minneapolis metro region went to build a light rail line connecting downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, the initial reaction was not good. Several community groups from lower-income neighborhoods along the proposed route opposed the project. They'd been scarred from a previous highway project that cut right through the neighborhood, dividing homes from the retail district and resulting in hundreds of evictions. They were afraid the new rail line would do the same.

Yet many of the train's supporters wanted to run the line through the neighborhood. They saw it as not only a tool to move people but also one to drive economic development. The 11-mile, billion dollar Green Line opened in June. Not everyone loves it - the chief complaint is that it's too slow. But many are hailing it as a model urban project. Supporters successfully addressed many of the concerns of people along the route, and there are many benefits.

Mapped: How public transit changes your job prospects

Washington Post - October 7, 2014
Public transit dramatically changes the shape of a city for people who live near (and rely on) it. A job that may be five miles away feels much closer if it's on the other end of a subway line. A supermarket in the next neighborhood over may feel remote if there's no bus to get to it.

The amenities in a city, for many people, are only as accessible as its transit system. And the better that transit system — with broad coverage, short waits, easy transfers — the more accessible the city is. This is true in all kinds of ways, for all kinds of destinations, but it's particularly relevant for regional economies — and even social mobility — when it comes to talking about jobs.

Equity, empowerment: how community-driven TOD is transforming green line neighborhoods

The Line - October 1, 2014

In June, Twin Cities’ residents celebrated the Green Line's opening with free rides, performances, activities, and restaurant and brewery stops along the new railway. What many may not have known, however, is that in neighborhoods adjacent to Green Line, community-driven planning had been underway—for almost a decade.
In order to “get out ahead of” changes the new Green Line would bring to their neighborhoods—to forge, in other words, a powerful community-generated alternative to the transit-driven gentrification that often occurs in cities—area residents, business owners, neighborhood development associations, support organizations and planning authorities got together long before the tracks were laid.

Their goal was to transform Central Corridor communities from the inside out, by boosting prosperity and creating new economic opportunities for residents. They also wanted to ensure their neighborhoods’ unique cultural characteristics and institutions were preserved.


RailVolution showcases Minnesota transit successes

Crossroads - September 26, 2014

Before a national audience of 1,400 urban planners and transit enthusiasts, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin and others told the story of how the Twin Cities metropolitan area was transformed into a community that embraces “livability” and mass transit, including light rail.
“The growth was horizontal and there were lots of people who were saying it wouldn’t work in Minnesota,” said McLaughlin, during the opening plenary of the RailVolution conference in Minneapolis.
But the metro region bucked years of infighting and helped pass a transportation bill in 2008 that allows counties to tax for the expansion of transit in the metro area. Anoka, Ramsey, Hennepin, Dakota and Washington Counties decided to pool their resources from the quarter-cent transit sales tax, which is why the Southwest Light Rail Line is able to move forward.


Upcoming Events
  • Housing Policy Plan Amendment Public Hearing is May 4, 2015

    The Council will hold a public hearing May 4 during its Community Development Committee meeting to receive comments on a proposed amendment to the 2040 Housing Policy Plan.  The amendment would add the methodology for calculating the 2021-2030 Allocation of Affordable Housing Need and annual Housing Performance Scores, as well as the review criteria for the housing element of Comprehensive Plan updates.

    Date: 5/4/2015
    Time: 4:00 PM
    Metropolitan Council, Chambers
    390 Robert Street North
    Saint Paul, MN 55101

    More Details
  • Cedar Grove Transit Station Improvements Open House is May 14

    Learn about changes to enhance the station and travel time on the Metro Red LIne. 

    Date: 5/14/2015
    Time: 3:30 PM
    Location: Cedar Grove Transit Station,
    Nicols Road at Cedar Grove Parkway, Eagan

    More Details