Accomplishments from 2010-2018

Over the course of the past eight years, the Metropolitan Council has made significant contributions to the region’s prosperity, livability and sustainability. These successes are all the result of partnerships and regional collaboration.

Thrive MSP 2040

In 2014, the Council adopted Thrive MSP 2040, which is the region’s 30-year vision. Under state law, the Council prepares a long-range plan for the Twin Cities region every 10 years, which sets the policy foundation for systems and policy plans developed by the Council. These include the Transportation Policy Plan, Water Resources Policy Plan, Regional Parks Policy Plan and Housing Policy Plan. The 2014 adoption was the end of a nearly four-year process that involved input from partners and community members all across the region.

Thrive MSP identifies the region’s growing and changing population and establishes five outcomes to guide the vision for the region: stewardship, prosperity, equity, livability and sustainability. It also identified three principles to ground and guide the Council’s work: integration, collaboration and accountability. Thrive MSP set the foundation for many accomplishments in the following years and was an accomplishment itself, including:

  • The establishment of equity as a key outcome for the first time, underscoring the importance of shared prosperity among all living in the region.

  • The introduction of critical issues like climate change, water supply and housing segregation.

As part of the equity outcome, Thrive MSP called for a new and more inclusive approach to community engagement, including the creation of a new policy document to guide the Council, called the Public Engagement Plan. The Council collaboratively created the plan over 18 months with community organizations, residents of the region and other stakeholders. Adopted in late 2015, the plan calls for an engagement process that places the needs of people affected by regional decisions at the center of Council engagement efforts.

Equity

The establishment of equity as one of five key regional outcomes contributed to a region-wide focus on eliminating racial and ethnic disparities. The Council played a key leadership role in elevating the importance of equity as a component of all regional issues and providing a lens for decision-making by:

  • Creating an Equity Advisory Committee, which advises the Council in its work to advance equity in the region, ensuring that residents and communities are full partners in making decisions that affect them.

  • Creating the Metropolitan Council Underutilized Business Program, a robust small business program developed to create a level playing field for minority-, women-, disabled-, and veteran-owned businesses. The program increases business opportunities and provides development resources. In 2018, it expanded to include a sheltered market and increased the pool of eligible firms from 1,500 to nearly 2,500.

  • Launching a successful new training program at Metro Transit focused on putting job-seekers on a path toward full-time employment as mechanic-technicians. The partnership allowed for career and college readiness programming, support toward earning and a technical degree, and a paid internship. Since 2015, more than 100 participants have participated in the program.

  • Hiring to create one of the state’s most diversified police departments at Metro Transit.

  • Establishing Community Choice, a mobility counseling program designed to assist families in finding housing in areas of opportunity.

  • Creating a Parks Ambassador position to strengthen outreach to communities of color and people with low incomes and/or disabilities to increase their visitation to regional parks.

  • Increasing the diversity of its own workforce. In 2011, 27% of all employees were people of color; that number increased to 34% in 2018. At the manager level, in 2011, the Council had 12% managers of color; in 2018, the Council had 17% managers of color.

Local partnerships

The Council focused significant energy on strengthening relationships with local governments. In January 2015, Adam Duininck became the first full-time chair, which allowed for more time collaborating with local elected officials, visiting communities across the region, and deepening relationships with community partners. Both he and his successor, Alene Tchourumoff, completed seven-week, seven-county tours of the region, following their appointments in January 2015 and July 2017, respectively.

The Council significantly increased its engagement activities with communities. Examples include:

  • Engaging local organizations to hire ambassadors for efforts to improve bus stops and deal with the disruption of light rail construction.

  • Engaging communities of color to identify barriers to their full use of regional parks and how those barriers could be reduced or eliminated.

  • Reaching out to organizations that support small business start-ups to learn how to make the Sewer Availability Charge easier for entrepreneurs to understand and make a part of their business plans.

In January 2018, the Council celebrated its 50th anniversary with a celebration of partnerships, featuring a panel discussion with former Chairs, remarks from Chair Tchourumoff, and the publication of stories of partnerships over the Council’s history.

Community Development

The Council played a leadership role in the creation and preservation of affordable housing in the region, provided award-winning planning support to local governments, generated valuable research and data, and contributed to the creation of livable communities.

  • In 2014, the Council adopted a new regional Housing Policy Plan, its first in nearly 30 years. The plan establishes the Council’s broad housing policy direction for the coming decades. It focuses on creating housing options that give all people viable choices for safe, stable, and affordable homes.

  • In 2017, the Council’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (Metro HRA) earned the highest ranking possible for program operation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the 14th straight year. This ranking notes the effective and efficient service provided, which allows the Council to maximize the number of households served with rent assistance.

  • The Council adopted the 2040 Regional Parks Policy Plan and is on track to adopt an update later this year.

  • Continued expanding the regional parks system and saw a record-breaking number of visits to regional parks, hitting 58 million in 2017.

  • Received a national award from the American Planning Association for its Planning Assistance for Thriving Communities initiative, an effort to assist local agencies with their comprehensive planning efforts.

  • The Local Planning Handbook and PlanIt education series provided a range of resources and tools on planning topics such as economic development, land use, transportation, natural resources, urban design, and more. The tools were a central component of the award-winning Planning Assistance initiative.

  • In 2018, the Council reviewed more than half of the region’s preliminary comprehensive plans, setting up counties, cities and townships for a smoother official review process in 2019.

  • Awarded more than $83 million since 2011 to redevelopment projects through the Livable Communities Program, assisting in the creation of more than 2,000 units of affordable housing.

  • Made a $250,000 pilot grant to defray the costs of connecting one manufactured home park to the regional wastewater treatment system, an effort to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing.

  • Prioritized sustainability and efforts to fight climate change, including the development of a Climate Vulnerability Assessment. The assessment helps local communities plan for and manage public infrastructure to increase its lifespan and reduce costs.

Environmental Services

The Council’s Environmental Services division collects and treats about 250 million gallons of wastewater each day from 109 communities, serving 2.8 million people. The Council operates more than 600 miles of large regional wastewater sewer pipes and eight wastewater treatment plants.

  • Retail rates for sewer service to households in our region are 41% lower than the national average of our peer agencies across the U.S.

  • The Council is a leader in sustainable and renewable energy use. In the last decade, efforts to conserve and recover energy in wastewater operations have yielded an annual savings of more than $3.5 million for our customers. In 2018, we began a new partnership with Xcel Energy to make all of our electricity purchases 100% renewable by 2040.

  • At the Blue Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant in Shakopee, a combined total of 1.25 megawatts of solar power went operational in 2016. We have more than 17 megawatts of solar energy under contract.

  • The Council subscribed to Community Solar Gardens on and off Council land and led an initiative with 31 government partners to create a subscriber collaborative, which saved money and allowed more participation among local governments.

  • The Council partnered with the City of Saint Paul and Saint Paul Saints to recycle rainwater for human use, including irrigation and toilets at CHS Field.

  • The 2040 Water Resources Policy Plan focused on how to take an integrated approach to water supply, water quality and wastewater collection and treatment; and doing so in collaboration with local government and other partners.

  • In 2015, the Council approved an updated Metropolitan Area Master Water Supply Plan, which charts a path to ensure the metro area has adequate water supplies now and into the future.

  • Six of the Council’s seven regional wastewater treatment plants that discharge to an area river have received Platinum Awards from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) for more than 5 consecutive years of full compliance with clean water discharge permits. Two plants, Hastings and St. Croix Valley, have 27 and 26 years, respectively, of full compliance.

  • In 2016, NACWA bestowed Environmental Services with a Utility of the Future Today award for its vision and operations.

  • The Council created a community task force to look at outdoor seating and other issues related to the sewer availability charge (SAC). The resulting recommendations were adopted with significant support from local partners, streamlining and simplifying a complex mechanism for financing capacity in the wastewater system needed to accommodate future growth.

  • Working with local government partners, the Council reduced the amount of stormwater leaking and flowing into publicly owned wastewater pipes.

  • With the help of a community task force, the Council developed policies to guide potential reuse of treated wastewater for nonpotable purposes like irrigation and industrial processes.

Transportation

As the region grows, the demand for transit continues to increase. The Metropolitan Transportation Services division and Metro Transit have made major progress in building out the region’s transit system, improving mobility across the region and collaborating with partners to plan for the region’s future transportation needs.

Both Metro Transit and Metro Mobility have made technological advances to improve customer experience and service. Metro Transit also featured prominently in the experience of thousands of riders during a number of high-profile events, including the Major League All-Star Game and NFL Super Bowl.

  • A restructuring of Metro Mobility and its contractor service model in 2015 resulted in improved customer service and reduced costs. Technology upgrades also improved performance, providing up-to-date schedule information to drivers, dispatchers and customers. Even as demand for Metro Mobility continues to grow, on-time performance continues to improve.

  • Metro Transit significantly improved the way it communicates and interacts with customers, introducing new bus stop signs with more information, providing real-time service alerts through text and e-mail as well as social media, and launching a mobile app that allows fares to be purchased and used in real-time. A service that customers can use to report suspicious or unwanted behavior using text messages was also introduced.

  • The Better Bus Stops program improved the waiting experience at bus stops. We installed shelters at dozens of locations where none had previously existed, replaced shelters and installed new bus stop signs with route numbers, maps and instructions. We also installed digital displays with real-time departure information at many busy bus boarding locations.

  • In 2016, American Public Transportation Association (APTA) named Metro Transit its System of the Year.

  • Since 2011, Metro Transit has provided more than 600 million rides on commuter rail, light rail and bus.

The Council made major progress in planning for and building out the region’s transportation and transit system:

  • Allocated nearly $1.4 billion in federal dollars since 2011 to local transportation projects in the metro area through the Regional Solicitation. These projects, nearly 200 of them, are locally matched.

  • The Council adopted the 2040 Transportation Policy Plan, as well as an update to that plan in 2018, to account for emerging and changing technology. The 2040 TPP identified for the first time a Regional Bicycle Transportation Network and provided a stronger emphasis on the relationship between local development decisions and transportation investment.

  • The Council continues to make progress on its regional arterial rapid bus plan, which brings faster, more frequent service, and enhanced stations to some of the region’s busiest and most-traveled corridors.

    • In 2016, the Council opened the A Line, the first of a dozen planned rapid bus lines. Since opening, the line has carried more than 3 million rides and corridor ridership increased by more than 30% in the first year of operations. The A Line is consistently on time at least 90% of the time and continues to receive rave reviews from customers.

    • In 2018, the Council began construction on C Line and continued planning efforts on D Line.

  • The METRO Green Line LRT opened in 2014 after several years of construction and many more of planning. The line enjoyed tremendous success during its first year of operation and has continued to exceed ridership projections and continually break new ridership records. National transit agencies frequently cite it as an example of ridership success, community engagement and transit-oriented development.

  • The Southwest LRT Line (METRO Green Line Extension) is preparing to enter construction, after receiving critical federal approval in November 2018. This comes after successfully completing two rounds of municipal consent, completing environmental review, securing all local funding and successfully negotiating critical railroad agreements.

  • The Bottineau LRT line (METRO Blue Line Extension) entered the FTA New Starts program and has since completed environmental review, secured all local funding, completed municipal consent, and achieved 90% design.

  • Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) completed planning and environmental work and secured all local funding. Two major components of the Orange Line are under construction in Minneapolis, led by MnDOT as part of the 35W@94 project. The Orange Line is poised to receive federal funding this winter, with the next phase of construction beginning in spring of 2019.

  • The Gold Line BRT was accepted into the FTA’s project development phase, selected the locally preferred alternative, and continues to advance design and engineering with local partners.

  • Transit development continues to spur economic development. At the start of 2018, Council planners tracked $8.4 billion in reported new investments along existing and future LRT lines in the Twin Cities region. These developments include those proposed, under construction or completed.