Messages from the Council Chair

2023 Met Council Highlights

December 2023

Chair Charlie ZelleAs the Met Council’s leader, I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in 2023. We’re taking on complex challenges and working in partnership with local governments, community groups, businesses, and residents to solve them. I’d like to share a few highlights from the past year.

Clean water for future generations

Our Environmental Services division treats the wastewater produced by 111 cities in the seven-county metro region. Its mission is to ensure clean water for future generations. And we are accomplishing that mission by building, operating, and maintaining one of the most cost-effective and environmentally safe systems in the nation. Our nine wastewater treatment plants have a combined total of 135 years of perfect compliance with their clean-water-discharge permits.

Improving mobility and safety

Metro Transit has been developing and implementing new measures to improve safety and security on our region’s buses and trains. We’ve added security personnel at key light rail stations and have community service officers inspecting fares and assisting riders. We’re partnering with community-based agencies to work with riders who are experiencing homelessness and substance use disorders. We’ve hired hundreds of bus operators and are adding back service we cut due to our workforce shortages. Ridership is increasing and our customers are telling us that they feel safer and more comfortable.

Metro Mobility service is approaching pre-COVID ridership levels. This is a crucial means of transportation for certified riders who cannot use fixed-route buses. But for those who can for some trips, we initiated a free-fare pilot program that allows certified Metro Mobility riders to use fixed-route buses at no charge. It’s a less expensive service and creates more space for riders who rely on this service.

Even as ridership returns, we’re looking for new ways to improve transportation services for people across the region. On Minneapolis’ Northside we’ve been operating an experimental hyper-local transit service called Metro Transit micro. This is a dial-a-ride service that anyone in a five-square-mile test area can use. We’ve found it’s dramatically improved mobility for people. If you’ve ever had to carry a week’s worth of groceries six blocks from a bus stop, you’ll know how important a door-to-door service can be to a family without access to a car. We’re continuing this pilot program in 2024.

Helping families find affordable housing

The Met Council’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority helps more than 7,000 families and individuals obtain affordable housing every year. In 2023, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ranked our HRA as a High Performer, the Department’s highest rating, for the 19th year in a row.

Preparing for a changing climate

Every division of the Met Council is looking for ways to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impacts of more extreme weather events. From solar farms to satellite mapping that helps cities plan for extreme heat and flooding to native plantings that protect pollinators and absorb stormwater to phasing in electric buses , we are striving to be part of the solution.

Planning with a 30-year horizon

All this work follows a plan. When the Minnesota Legislature created the Met Council, it required us to develop a regional plan that looks 30 years into the future, and then revise that roadmap every 10 years. We are now developing the Imagine 2050 plan. So far, we’ve engaged with community groups, cities, and counties across the region, reaching more than 1,000 residents and dozens of local government and nonprofit representatives.

One of my favorite events was in June when leaders from six local youth organizations made a presentation to the Met Council to share their vision and recommendations for the future of the region. Historically, young people have been overlooked in regional planning, but these are the people we are making plans for.

As we look forward to 2024, we will continue to reach out and engage with people across our region about what our future should look like. We face big challenges: climate change, racial disparities, a shortage of affordable housing, and ensuring our economy continues to grow and benefit the people of our region. Imagining what 2050 will look like and setting the goals for measuring our success is a job that no one person or agency can do alone; it will take all of us. I’m looking forward to the discussion.