Commuting to downtown Minneapolis has been easy and complicated since COVID

Catherine Windyk has been an outreach specialist for Move Minneapolis since the height of the pandemic in 2021. As more workers return to downtown offices and workplaces, she begins conversations with employers and commuters about the benefits of alternative commuting options that are especially readily available in downtown Minneapolis.

Catherine Wendyk of moving Minneapolis

“Sometimes you need to drive alone to commute, but it can be one of the many modes of travel you choose: carpooling, car sharing, telecommuting, biking, bus ride, train ride, scooter, walking, etc. Important,” Windyk said.

She believes that intermodal transport makes people happier, healthier and creates a more liveable city centre: reducing the need for parking, improving air quality and allowing people to experience the vibrancy of the city.

Move Minneapolis works with employers such as Thrivent, Hilton and Four Seasons to implement multimodal commuter benefits, such as Metro Pass issuance and increased bike storage and showers.

Still, the system faces challenges. “Employers cannot offer both transit passes and parking pre-tax deals. Commuters have to choose one or the other,” she explained. “It’s hard, especially with mixed jobs, because people are looking for flexibility.”

Move Minneapolis also works directly with employees who want to learn more about transportation options. For example, if someone wanted to start biking to work, Windyk and her colleagues would assess the person’s comfort level on the bike and help develop a route. They also help people learn to use a bus or train.

“If someone says, ‘Hey, I live in the suburbs,’ we’ll work with them to see what options are available. It’s also looking at a combo model: ride the bike to the bus, put the bike on the train, and when you need it Driving to work while doing things, and using a scooter between meetings,” explains Windyk.

Below are excerpts from an extensive conversation with Windyk about the possibilities and drawbacks of learning to commute in a more sustainable way.

On the post-COVID commute: “Hybrid schedules are both a challenge and an opportunity. Now is a good time to try new habits,” says Windyk.

Commuter buses once served nine-to-five suburban commuters. Mixed work makes schedules unpredictable. “Metro Transit is still evaluating their ridership and routes. Rapid commuter routes from the suburbs have changed the most and are paused at higher speeds. People are turning to us for how to navigate the new normal, and we want to encourage research into other modes.”

Windyk said bicycle ownership has increased during the pandemic, which bodes well for the future of intermodal transportation. “A lot of people bought bikes in 2020 and are riding more. Maybe they never thought of cycling to work before. Also, the popularity of electric bikes is a big deal for cycling to work, if people previously thought it was too much Far or too hilly. We are exploring these new technologies and options.”

About carpooling: Metro Transit’s driver shortage continues, reducing service and increasing uncertainty for riders. Carpooling or vans are two options that Move Minneapolis suggests.

“These are great when a lot of people work in the same company or even in the same region,” Windyk said. “They can share journeys and reduce costs. But again, with hybrid scheduling, this can be difficult because people may not have the same schedule every week, and [vanpools or carpools] Usually organized around a fairly solid schedule. “

Multiple people in a vehicle can significantly reduce congestion and air pollution. Also, since the Twin Cities Metro is car-oriented, carpooling makes sense.

Move Minneapolis is encouraging downtown workers to check out Metro Transit’s car-matching service, Carpool, to connect with others who want to carpool. Benefits include use of preferred parking spaces, free access to MnPass Express lanes, a guaranteed ride-home program and a “Ramp and Ride” Go-To Card for free city fares.

Cycling with a spouse or roommate to work or taking a child to a daycare in the city center also counts as carpooling, Windyk explained. “You can sign up for your own carpool or apply directly through Metro Transit or ABC Ramps.”

Move Minneapolis has partnered with the ABC Ramps Mobility Hub to offer discounted carpool parking at three ABC Ramps on the northwest fringe of downtown. “When the Minnesota Twins season started, we did see a significant increase in carpool registration levels,” Windyk said. “People who work at the concession stand and Twins Stadium have increased carpooling on the ABC ramp.”

About safety: Safety perceptions and realities in downtown Minneapolis influence how people choose to travel. If walking, crossing and biking feel unsafe, people will turn to cars because of their personal vehicles, creating protective barriers and reducing the distance people walk on streets they perceive as unsafe.

“There are many [safety concerns]whether it’s transit-related or downtown in general,” said Wendyk. Big downtown companies turned to moving Minneapolis to increase hiring for in-person jobs and help people feel safer.

“Over the past few years, a lot of cities have been experiencing the feeling of being abandoned in the city center, and no one is there. It’s both a reality and a perception of digital security.”

Katherine Wendyk

One focus is on those who work non-traditional hours. “We’ve had success enrolling employees in Metropass,” an employer-based unlimited ride pass. “We’ve raised awareness of carpooling options because with service cuts and reduced service, it can be difficult for people to get around if they’re working at 5pm or later.”

Rising crime and crime rates are not unique to Minneapolis. “Most, if not all, city centres are experiencing similar issues,” Windyk said. “In the past few years, a lot of cities have been experiencing the feeling of being abandoned in the city center and no one is there. It fits both the reality and the perception that the numbers are safe. When you go somewhere and you are there When you’re alone, you might feel like you’re more likely to experience something.”

Police reports show crime statistics vary, depending on the category and jurisdiction. News reports add to fears. “I’ve been flying downtown since last September and I haven’t seen anything exciting or controversial,” Windyk said. “There are many concerns [crime], that’s not to say it’s unreal or that it doesn’t feel safe is invalid. Our hope is that once people get to the city center, they will have a good experience and want to come back. “

individual can define Safety Varies by age, gender, race and physical ability. More police presence isn’t everyone’s solution, especially since the May 2020 murder of George Floyd. “What does it mean to feel safe on the street?” Feng Di asked. “Everyone has a different reaction to the word Safety and public safety. “

Downtown Improvement Districts (DIDs) offer alternative safety options, such as Mpls DID Ambassadors, who move Minneapolis through the streets each morning at 6 a.m. to help connect people to these resources. The ambassadors, Windyk said, “are all helpful, friendly faces. They provide more eyes on the street. DID also offers workshops on personal safety and street safety to help people prepare for their return to the city center.”

Metro Transit’s six-week experiment to switch to two-car trains aims to increase the number of people in light rail cars to increase safety awareness. Keeping the car clean is part of the experiment. “We know that a clean and well-maintained transport vehicle feels safer, even though you might think it has nothing to do with it,” Windyk said. “Hopefully getting more people to use public transport will make people feel safer in numbers.”

About future projects: Move Minneapolis plans to host this year’s annual Transportation Summit on November 30 from 8am-11:30am on the theme of Mobility Justice. The event is open to the public, but the main audience is employers. Location details have not been released. “We’re going to talk about different people’s security experiences,” Windyk said.

“We try to provide safety resources for all modes, whether you’re driving alone, and you’re afraid to walk to your car, or you bike to work, and you’re afraid of being hit by someone driving. We act as a connector between different organizations and entities.”

There are challenges in the city centre, she acknowledged, “We’re trying not to cover them up. But we’re trying to give people the knowledge and confidence to go into these areas.”

Collage image credits: Metro Transit Train, Metro Transit Bus, Flickr, Move Minneapolis, DriversEd, Wikipedia

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