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The Metro Transit Green Line LRT opens on Saturday, June 14th. This $957 million transit project, which began in 2010, runs from Target Field in Minneapolis through the heart of the University of Minnesota campus to Union Depot in St. Paul. The U of M is a major destination along the new line. Along with several new construction and redevelopment projects, Washington Avenue on the East Bank has been transformed into a transit-pedestrian mall reserved for trains, buses, pedestrians, and cyclists.

The following University of Minnesota researchers are available to provide a variety of perspectives on this major transit project and what it means for the Twin Cities:

  • Transit and economic development: Yingling Fan, assistant professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and a leading researcher for the Transitway Impacts Research Program
  • Transit and accessibility: Andrew Owen, director of the Accessibility Observatory
  • Transit and traffic flow: John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory
  • Transit and multimodal travel: Greg Lindsey, professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs

To schedule an interview with any of these experts, please contact: Michael McCarthy, Center for Transportation Studies, mpmccarthy@umn.edu, 612-624-3645.

streetcars.jpg

New streetcar lines are in the planning stages in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Proponents cite not only the lines’ ability to strengthen the transit system, but also their potential as catalysts for development. Estimating the impacts of streetcars is challenging, however, as most U.S. lines operate in downtown areas with many interrelated factors at play. A recent U of M research project examined the issue through the prism of one city’s experience: post-Katrina New Orleans.

The team—research fellow Andrew Guthrie and Assistant Professor Yingling Fan of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs—analyzed building permits near streetcar stops in the downtown business district and in several urban neighborhoods.

“Hurricane Katrina allowed—or required—more redevelopment to occur at a faster pace than 
normal, potentially allowing existing streetcar lines’ latent development impacts to appear,” Guthrie says. “This created an unfortunate yet rare opportunity for study.”

The researchers estimated how the frequency of commercial and residential permits changed with distance from streetcar stops, controlling for hurricane damage, proximity to existing commercial areas, and pre-Katrina demographics.

They found that throughout the system, building permits strongly reflect the distance to stops—and that commercial and residential permits move in opposite directions within the first 750 feet.

Commercial permits declined the further away the location was from a stop. In residential areas, commercial permits show variation depending on neighborhood characteristics. The number of neighborhood residential permits rose about 24 percent with every 100 feet from a stop.

Based on their results, Guthrie and Fan conclude that traditional streetcar lines can help increase commercial development not just in downtown business districts, but in other urban areas as well. The findings also indicate that streetcars shape development in urban neighborhoods in a fundamentally different fashion than light rail.

Read the full article in the January issue of Catalyst.

Spring research seminars begin February 6

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The spring series of CTS research seminars kicks off next Thursday, February 6. This year's topics will include bridge scour monitoring technology, roundabout signing and striping, and transit-oriented jobs-housing balance.

Seminars will be held from 3 to 4 p.m. each Thursday during February (except Feb. 20) on the U of M campus in Minneapolis. You can either attend in person or watch the live webcast of each seminar.

Additional information is available on the CTS website.

Seminar schedule:


synthesis_cover_large.jpgLandmark regional investments such as the transit expansion underway in the greater Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area have the potential to significantly change long-term land-use patterns and travel behavior. They also raise important questions for policymakers and elected officials regarding the potential return on investment.

A new synthesis report from the Transitway Impacts Research Program (TIRP) pulls together seven years of research conducted by University of Minnesota researchers to help answer these questions. The report summarizes the actual and projected impacts of transitways on the Twin Cities region, offering lessons learned to help guide the build-out of the rest of the network most effectively. It concludes with a set of implications for policymakers.

The Twin Cities metro region is in the midst of a transit build-out. The Metro Blue Line (formerly known as Hiawatha), Red Line (Cedar Avenue Bus Rapid Transit), and Northstar Commuter Rail are in operation, and the Green Line (Central Corridor) opens next year. All are part of an expanding regional transit network.

Under the TIRP program, which was launched in 2006, University of Minnesota researchers provide an objective analysis of data, public perceptions, and complex impacts resulting from transitway investments. Their research is unique in its breadth, scope, and ability to provide real-time analysis of the changes experienced when a region introduces high-quality transit service.

"This body of research and objective analysis confirm the many positive ways that expanding our transit network supports economic competitiveness, greater accessibility to jobs, opportunities for populations with low incomes, and enhanced livability for our whole region," says Kate Wolford, president of The McKnight Foundation, the synthesis sponsor. "This report undergirds why the accelerated build-out of our transit system is so important for the future prosperity of our region and its residents."

More information about the synthesis and key findings

New report: NEMT Coordinators in Minnesota

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Under Minnesota's fee-for-service Medical Assistance (MA) program, Minnesota counties are responsible for providing transportation assistance to MA recipients so they can obtain health-care services. This assistance is commonly referred to as non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT).

NEMT_cover_screenshot.jpgA new report, NEMT Coordinators in Minnesota: A Survey of How Minnesota Counties Use Coordinators to Deliver Non-Emergency Medical Transportation, published by the Minnesota Council on Transportation Access based on research conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs documents how select Minnesota counties use transportation coordinators in providing and administering NEMT under the state's fee-for-service MA program. In the surveyed counties, the use of a coordinator generally made the delivery of NEMT more efficient and streamlined than it had been with previous approaches. Coordinators have increased efficiency principally by centralizing both transportation expertise and the ride arrangement processes, either internally within the county government or externally with an outside coordinator.


About the Council
The Minnesota Council on Transportation Access (MCOTA) serves as a clearinghouse to address transportation coordination topics from a statewide perspective. The Minnesota State Legislature established the group in 2010 (MN Statute 2010 174.285). The group includes member representatives from thirteen agencies. MCOTA's work focuses on increasing capacity to serve unmet transportation needs, improving quality of transit service, improving understanding and access to these services by the public, and achieving more cost-effective service delivery. In addition, fostering communication and cooperation between transportation agencies and social service organizations leads to the creation of new ideas and innovative strategies for transportation coordination and funding. Learn more at www.CoordinateMNTransit.org.

Congestion-reduction measures on I-35W: How well do they work?

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congestion.jpgIn an effort to combat congestion in our country’s urban areas, the United States Department of Transportation launched the Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA) program in 2007. The program infused nearly $900 million into transportation-related projects in four cities nationwide, including the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Minnesota’s projects—which include the installation of MnPASS dynamic toll lanes and variable message signs—focused on improving traffic flow in the I-35W corridor between Minneapolis and the city’s southern suburbs.

To understand the effectiveness of measures implemented under the UPA program, a team of University of Minnesota researchers examined three separate but related areas: the effects of a new variable speed limit (VSL) system, the impact of severe weather conditions on road safety, and the behavior and traffic impacts of bus rapid transit operations. Their work was funded by the Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute, a part of CTS.

Key findings included:

  • Drivers don't typically comply with advisory speed limits posted on VSL signs along the I-35W corridor during congested conditions, but they may use them to help gauge and prepare for downstream congestion—resulting in a smoother and possibly safer traffic flow
  • Some parts of the corridor's shoulder lanes—which are opened to traffic during specific times of the day as part of the UPA program—contain low areas that can flood during heavy rains
  • Buses traveling on the corridor underuse the MnPASS lane. In addition, bus lane changes (from stations located in the median to those located on the right side of the highway) can generate visible disturbances during moderate and heavy congestion, but they don't seem to contribute to the breakdown of traffic flow

For more information, read the full article in the September issue of Catalyst.


development.jpgA new research study is recommending ways to make it easier for developers and employers to select sites that encourage living-wage jobs and mixed-income housing near transit.

A key finding of the study, which was based on interviews with developers and business leaders, revealed a pent-up demand for transit access in the Twin Cities metropolitan region.

A team led by University of Minnesota researchers Yingling Fan and Andrew Guthrie found that providing a great work location is critical for employers in recruiting highly skilled young professionals who are likely to desire--or demand--urban living and access to transit.

They also found that multifamily residential developers, redevelopment specialists, and large corporate office tenants have a strong interest in transit-accessible sites, but regulatory barriers, cost issues, and uncertainty surrounding future development of transit often discourage both developers and businesses from selecting such sites.

More details about the study and key recommendations

photo of people getting tickets at light rail station

The Hiawatha light-rail transit (LRT) line began operations in 2004. How has the line affected transit ridership and walking among nearby residents? To get an understanding, U of M researchers conducted a case study of one section of the line in south Minneapolis.

The study, led by Jason Cao, assistant professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, focused on a four-station, 3.8-mile residential section in the middle of the 12-mile Hiawatha line. Cao and his research assistant, Jessica Schoner, compared the section with four control corridors (two urban, two suburban) with similar demographics. The urban corridors resemble the Hiawatha Corridor in terms of built environment and transit access (via comparable bus service); the suburban corridors have curvier roadways and typically require park-and-ride for transit access.

The researchers mailed 6,000 surveys to a random sample of residences in the four control corridors and to residences within a half-mile of the four stations in the Hiawatha Corridor. From their analysis, the researchers drew conclusions in three areas:

Residential preferences of Hiawatha residents


  • In choosing where to live, good transit service and job accessibility are important factors for residents of all areas--both urban and suburban--ranking behind only housing affordability and neighborhood safety and ahead of more than 20 other factors such as high-quality schools.

  • Hiawatha Corridor residents have a stronger preference for transit access and quality than residents of the urban control corridors.

Impacts of the Hiawatha line on transit use


  • Transit use among residents who already lived in the Hiawatha Corridor when the LRT line opened increased substantially for both work and non-work travel--a clear ridership bonus from the line.

  • Transit use by residents who moved into the Hiawatha Corridor after the line opened is similar to that of residents in the urban control areas.

  • Residents in the Hiawatha Corridor use transit three to four times more often than suburban residents do.

The Hiawatha line, the built environment, and pedestrian travel


  • Residents walk to stores more frequently if their homes are near commercial areas and their neighborhoods have adequate population density and a continuous street grid.

  • Residents walk for recreation more frequently if there is a continuous street grid, but population density and proximity to stores are not significant factors.

  • Residents along the Hiawatha line, which has a frequently interrupted street grid, walk for shopping or recreation at the same frequency as bus riders--LRT did not have a distinct measurable impact on walking.

"This study helps confirm the region's transitway investment plan, which seeks to better align transit and land-use planning with the development of sustainable communities," says Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb. "It also reinforces that people do make location choices based on transit-related characteristics."

The research was funded by the Transitway Impacts Research Program (TIRP).

Reprinted from the CTS Catalyst, May 2013.

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Center for Transportation Studies

University of Minnesota

200 Transportation & Safety Building

511 Washington Ave SE

Minneapolis, MN 55455

Phone: 612-626-1077

Fax: 612-625-6381

E-mail: cts@umn.edu

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