History of the Metropolitan Council

50 years of partnerships give our region a competitive advantage


The Metropolitan Council has been serving the region for 50 years.  The Council is recognized nationally for its unique role, and its award-winning services. Here's how the Council came to be, and how it has evolved over time.

Major regional problems

In 1967, the region faced major challenges: inadequately treated wastewater, a failing privately-owned bus company, development on sensitive natural areas, and fiscal disparities that left some  communities unable to provide essential services and intensified competition for development."This Council was created to do a job which has proved too big for any single community." Gov. Harold LeVander

At the urging of many local government, business and civic leaders, the Minnesota Legislature created the Metropolitan Council to deal with regional issues that transcended boundaries.

The Council was directed to plan for the orderly and economical development of the seven‑county metro area, and coordinate the delivery of services that couldn't be provided by any one city or county.

Between 1967 and 1974, additional legislation created the Metropolitan Transit Commission (now Metro Transit); a regional sewer system; a unique tax-base sharing system; the regional park system and the Metro HRA.


 

Transit

1950s-era busWhen the Legislature created the MTC in 1967, the agency acquired an aging and declining bus system, and embarked on an ambitious improvement program to purchase 500 new buses, install 135 bus shelters and bus stop signs, and establish a 24-hour bus information center.  Adding Metro Mobility and Transit Link services enabled the agency to provide transit for people unable to use regular route bus and train service. Over time, it's grown into the modern, efficient Metro Transit system we know today, providing an extensive network of convenient and reliable bus and light-rail service throughout the region.  

In 2016, Metro Transit was honored as Transit System of the Year by the American Public Transportation Association.  Metro Transit’s ridership topped 82.6 million rides in 2016. 
The Council's policies and strategies in support of transit-oriented development are stimulating new additional investments in housing and businesses along transit routes, bolstering the impact of transit investments, increasing regional competitiveness, and advancing equity.  More about Transit services and transportation planning.

Water and wastewater

1960s-era sewage treatment plantIn 1969, the wastewater systems operated by the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Sanitary District and suburban communities were inadequate to meet the needs of developing suburbs.  Groundwater was being contaminated by failing septic systems, and inadequately-treated wastewater was being discharged into the Mississippi River and local lakes.  The Legislature created the Metropolitan Sewer Board to develop a modern regional wastewater collection and treatment system, and within a decade 20 old plants were closed, 4 new plants built, and others upgraded.

Today, 2.7 million residents in the seven-county Twin Cities region are served by eight award-winning regional treatment plants operated by the Council's Environmental Services group (MCES).  In 2016 the National Association of Clean Water Agencies recognized our integrated, “One Water” approach by designating the division a “Water Utility of the Future Now. At the direction of the legislature, the Council is working to ensure the sustainability of our water supply, developing a Water Supply Plan, and providing guidance and tools, outreach and technical assistance to communities to help them conserve water.  More about Wastewater and Water services.

Parks

Lake Elmo and fields circa 1960s.The Legislature created the Regional Parks system in 1974, encompassing existing city and county parks, and committing $40 million in bonds to acquire land to develop parks. At the time, many of the proposed park sites were being eyed for other purposes, such as shopping malls or landfills.  The Council's stewardship and efforts to identify and purchase natural areas have resulted in a large and vibrant Regional Park System that includes 54 parks and park reserves, 40 regional trails totaling more than 360 miles, and 8 special recreation areas, such as the Como Park zoo and conservatory. 

Residents love the region's parks and natural areas and cite them as contributing significantly to our high quality of life; there were more than 47.3 million visits to regional parks and trails in 2015.  Future plans focus on expanding the system, enhancing access to parks, and strengthening the equtable use of parks by all residents.  More about the Regional Parks system.

Planning

1967 planners at desk.The Metropolitan Land Planning Act of 1976 directed the Council to prepare a long-range development plan for the region every 10 years, as well as "system plans" for transportation, wastewater and water.  The law also requires all local governments to adopt their own comprehensive plans consistent with the regional plan, and to share their plans with neighboring communities to facilitate regional cooperation. Since the law's enactment, the Council has reviewed more than 2,200 local plans and plan amendments, requesting modifications in only 24. 

In 1995, the Legislature created the Livable Communities Act (LCA) grant program, to assist communities in implementing their local plans.These funds help communities throughout the region clean contaminated lands for redevelopment, improve transportation options, expand affordable housing and develop thriving neighborhoods.  More about Planning and the Livable Communities program.

Housing

When the federal Section 8 voucher program began in 1974, the legislature directed the Council to administer the rent subsidy program for smaller suburban communities. In it's first year, Metro HRA provided 550 vouchers in 13 communities.  Today, it administers 6,502 vouchers in 96 communities, winning the highest rankings for efficient program operations for 13 straight years.

In 2015, the Council adopted a new Housing Policy Plan, the first in nearly 30 years, to assist local communities plan for an create housing options that give people of all incomes and life stages viable choices for safe, stable and affordable homes.  More about Housing services.