Hot Take: MnDOT's Pathways to Decarbonizing Transportation

MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) is hosting public meetings around the state to talk with the public about how we can fight the climate crisis and reduce emissions from transportation by 80% (or even 100%!) by 2050. These meetings are part of a project called Pathways to Decarbonizing Transportation. As part of this project, MnDOT is meeting with local community members and stakeholders. Our Streets Minneapolis is one of the stakeholders that participated in this engagement process from the start.  

I attended the Twin Cities public meeting on Tuesday night at the Minneapolis Urban League in North Minneapolis. Despite the heavy rain and thunderstorm, there were nearly 100 people in the room and good energy. Staff from the Great Plains Institute shared their models of how we can dramatically reduce emissions through mode shift, vehicle electrification, and other strategies.

Here are my takeaways, and a few graphics from a live survey taken at the public meeting:

Leaders at our public agencies get it: the climate crisis is happening, and cutting emissions from transportation is essential to meeting our state’s goals.

At the meeting, MnDOT Deputy Commissioner Sue Mulvihill and Minneapolis Public Works Director Robin Hutcheson both spoke about their agencies’ commitment to tackling the climate crisis. Elected officials participated in the meeting as well--I spotted Hennepin County Commissioner Irene Fernando, Minneapolis Council Member Steve Fletcher, and Representative Ray Dehn. I’m encouraged by the support for cutting transportation emissions across multiple levels of government that I saw at the meeting, but I also know that in order for real change to happen, they need us to back them up, and to hold them accountable when their actions fall short.

Members of the public see decarbonizing transportation as an opportunity to shift away from car culture and to bolster transit, biking, and walking as real options.

Over 60% of attendees reported using a personal vehicle as their most frequent mode of transportation, but clearly wished they had other options. Transit, biking, and walking consistently had high levels of support in all poll questions. Attendees voiced concerns that, while vehicle electrification will help reduce emissions, it won’t solve the safety, equity, health, economic and other societal problems caused by designing cities for cars.

Survey results showing folks support requirements to include multi-modal transportation options in community design & transportation projects

Survey results showing attendees strongly report walkable & bikeable communities

Survey results indicating opportunities to achieving a low carbon transportation system including more bike lanes, ending subsidies for cars, and safe & free transit

We need an equitable approach to cutting emissions that centers environmental justice.

94% of meeting attendees said that it is important or very important that environmental justice shapes emissions reduction strategies. From an equity standpoint, I was glad to see that MnDOT hosted the meeting in an area where there are numerous environmental injustices, many of which MnDOT is directly responsible for creating. However, there were not many people in attendance from the surrounding neighborhood (the 55411 zip code). Many voices were not at the table for this discussion, and I wonder what ideas and perspectives we missed out on hearing.

Survey results showing most attendees are from 55105, 55406, 55106, 55408, 55104

We need to push hard, and fast.

In the Next Generation Energy Act, our state set a target of a 30% reduction in emissions from transportation by 2025, and a 80% reduction by 2050 (with 2005 as the baseline). We’re currently not on track to meet our target in 2025; we’re only at 8% below 2005 emissions levels. That means we need to quickly ramp up our work. Our Streets Minneapolis’s work to encourage biking, walking and rolling is more essential now than ever.

You can learn more about the project and contribute your thoughts by visiting http://www.dot.state.mn.us/sustainability/pathways.html


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