3  Reduce vulnerability

Reduce the transportation system’s vulnerability to natural and human-caused incidents and threats, including climate change and terrorism.

3.1 Metro Transit workforce

Transit providers need to have a certain number of drivers, maintenance crew, and administrative staff to reliably provide services. A deficit in workforce can result in service reliability issues in the short-term and service cuts in the longer-term. Metro Transit reduced its platform hours, a common measure of how much transit service provided, from 44,451 platform hours to 30,973 platform hours between March 2020 and December 2022 largely due to loss of the operator workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic (Harrington 2023). As of March 2023, Metro Transit was able to begin increasing platform hours as it recruited and trained enough new operators to increase the total number in its workforce.

Learn more about the Metro Transit workforce on the Metro Transit website

Figure 3.1: Metro Transit operations workforce. Source: Metro Transit Facts, December 2022

Learn more about the Metro Transit Police Department workforce, including full-time officers and community service officers (CSOs) on the Metro Transit website.

Figure 3.2: Metro Transit Police workforce. Source: Metro Transit Facts, December 2022

3.2 Climate change vulnerability

Evidence is mounting that Minnesota’s climate is changing, including in the seven-county metro region. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is urging bold action across the state to address climate change: “Climate change threatens the very things that make Minnesota a great place to live, from our magnificent 10,000 lakes to our farmable land and clean air… we are taking action to reduce carbon emissions, protect public health, create jobs, and ensure our state is at the forefront of the Green Economy.” (“Governor Tim Walz Announces Clean Car Standards in Minnesota 2019)

With the aim of enhancing the lifespan of Met Council assets through a strategic and proactive planning approach, the Sustainability and Equity outcomes (PDF) within Thrive MSP 2040 (PDF), as well as the Building in Resilience land use policy (PDF), directed staff to produce a regional Climate Vulnerability Assessment.

The most recent National Climate Assessment (NCA), produced by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (2018), synthesizes climate change impacts by sector and by region. The Midwest regional chapter of the NCA report highlights current and future impacts related to climate change within Minnesota.

As shown in Table 3.1 below, state climatologists are confident that Minnesota’s warming temperatures and increasingly severe flood events will trend upwards in the coming decades. For this reason, the Met Council’s Climate Vulnerability Assessment (CVA) focuses on regional climate hazards related to localized flooding and extreme heat.

Climate hazards can take a toll on regional investments, from transit infrastructure to our wastewater assets. As an agency, the Met Council is responsible for maintaining regional assets and managing investments with climate change in mind. The CVA is a tool that can assist in Met Council and community planning efforts to prepare and adapt to climate change because the CVA can reveal system vulnerabilities to currently occurring and, to some extent, expected climatic changes.

3.2.1 Flooding

A changing Minnesota climate has shown that more energy and more moisture in the atmosphere has the potential to create more rainfall.

Precipitation has been increasing in Minnesota over the last century, as shown in Figure 3.3, which illustrates historic annual precipitation, from 1895-2021.

Figure 3.3: Annual precipitation in Minnesota, 1895 to 2021

The blue trend line in Figure 3.3 shows that annual precipitation amounts have been steadily increasing, which is compounded by increasing rainfall totals for specific, isolated storms. The green line shows the average annual precipitation.

These extreme rainfall trends put a strain on stormwater infrastructure and other surface water conveyance or retention efforts. Given the fact that much of the stormwater infrastructure within the Twin Cities metro region was designed to convey surface water based on technical standards and rainfall estimations adopted in 1960, the increasingly short, intense rainfalls present a challenge for communities and for the Met Council.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment states that precipitation in the Midwest is projected to increase by 30% by the end of this century. Between 1958 and 2012, the Midwest had already experienced a 37% increase in larger rain events of 2.5 inches or greater. (USGCRP et al. 2018)

3.2.2 Extreme heat

Minnesota is already getting warmer and state climatologists are highly confident that heat waves are likely to trend upwards in future summers in the state, from 2025 onwards (MPCA 2022).

To create strategies to address extreme heat, researchers seek to identify the factors that exacerbate extreme heat. This research has shown that higher temperatures are amplified in areas with higher concentrations of pavement and other artificial surfaces that are covered by water-resistant materials. These areas tend to absorb residual heat and hold that heat longer than vegetation would. This effect is called the urban heat island effect, or UHI. Buildings can block the wind, reducing a mitigating effect on the extreme heat. The four components that make up the UHI are lack of vegetation, a high percentage of water-resistant surfaces, residual heat from cars and mechanical cooling, and building shape and size.

Using remote sensing and satellite imagery, the Met Council has mapped an extreme heat event in the region, showing the land surface temperature during a three-day heat wave, at noon on July 22, 2016. The map shows areas of extreme heat within the urban core area of the metro, while it also shows that areas near parks and water bodies are significantly cooler. It is important to emphasize that the data consists of land surface temperature, as opposed to air temperature. Air temperature data can provide a better measure of potential extreme heat impacts on human health. The use of land surface temperature has ensured that this analysis has full metro region coverage. In addition, the use of land surface temperature can be helpful in identifying land use and built environment strategies to mitigate extreme heat in specific locations through a variety of site-specific interventions.

The extreme heat map tool shows land surface temperature data for the Twin Cities metro region. The tool allows users the opportunity to toggle on/off the Land Surface Temperature data, land use, and land cover data. Users can also set transparency, use a swipe tool, and the map includes the same data displayed by standard deviation temperature range, both as a layer and by clicking on a specific location.

Additionally, the Met Council published a companion StoryMap Keeping Our Cool: Extreme Heat in the Twin Cities Region.