15  Increase the availability and attractiveness of transit, bicycling, and walking

Increase the availability and attractiveness of transit, bicycling, and walking to encourage healthy communities through the use of active transportation options.

15.1 The Regional Bicycle Transportation Network (RBTN)

The Regional Bicycle Transportation Network (RBTN) is the official regional bikeway network that sets the region’s priority vision for planning and investment. The network was established in 2014 based on a Regional Bicycle System Study analysis and prioritization of potential corridors. This analysis was based on factors like bicycle trip demand, network connectivity, social equity, population and employment density, and connections to transit.

15.1.1 RBTN Corridors and Alignments

The RBTN consists of a series of corridors and general alignments. The corridors are established where there is existing or potentially high bicycle trip demand between regional destinations and activity centers, and reflect where alignments have not yet been identified. Alignments are defined where there are existing or planned bikeways, or in the absence of these, a general consensus of which road or roadways would most efficiently meet the regional corridor’s intent. Corridors and alignments are classified as Tier 1 or Tier 2 priorities, with Tier 1 representing the region’s highest priorities for bikeway planning and investment. Figure 15.1 is an online interactive map of the current RBTN corridors and alignments by priority tier.

Figure 15.1: Regional Bike Transportation Network (RBTN) corridors and alignments. Source: Metropolitan Council, 2020

The RBTN has provided the backbone arterial network vision to accommodate daily bicycle trips since 2014 and the region continues to monitor progress on its implementation. Figure 15.2 shows the regional network’s implementation status by existing and planned bikeway miles. Figure 15.3 displays the shares of total RBTN centerline miles for existing and planned bikeways.

Figure 15.2: RBTN centerline miles by bikeway planning status. Source: Metropolitan Council, 2020

Figure 15.3: Share of total RBTN centerline miles by planning status. Source: Metropolitan Council, 2020

15.2 Bicycle and pedestrian miles traveled

This section shows how the total amount of bicycle and pedestrian travel has changed over time, using the Travel Behavior Inventory (TBI) household survey. An increase in the total distance and/or the total number of trips made by walking and biking is one indicator that the transportation system is working to support increased active travel in the region. Increased walking and biking can also reflect how the region is developing and where people are living, working, and recreating. Because of differing data collection methods over time, some increases in bicycle and pedestrian travel metrics is likely attributable to better data collection.

15.2.1 Results

Results from the TBI 1 suggest that total walk miles traveled has increased since 2010. Walk miles traveled in 2019 was 1.7 times greater than that of 2010; and grew again by 58% from 2019 and 2021. The black lines indicate the standard error.

In contrast, bike miles traveled remained steady from 2010 to 2019, then decreased 17% from 2019 to 2021.

Figure 15.4: Total miles traveled by walking (2010, 2019 and 2021)

The increase in walk miles traveled from 2010 was primarily driven by an increase in the number of walk trips, which almost quadrupled from 2010 to 2019. This trend is explainable in part by the use of smartphone-based survey data collection in 2019, which likely improved reporting of short trips and walk trips. The black lines indicate the standard error.

Figure 15.5: Total trips made by walking or biking, 2010, 2019 and 2021. Restricted to trips that start or end within the MPO. Data weighted at the trip level.

From 2019 to 2021, walk miles traveled grew by 58%, even while the total number of walk trips decreased. During this two-year interval, the increase in walk miles traveled was driven primarily by an increase in the typical length of walk trips. Median walk trip distance increased from 0.4 miles per trip in 2019 to 0.6 miles per trip in 2021. Walk trip distance increased the most for trips to school and work. Figure 15.6 shows the median walk trip distance over time. The black lines indicate the standard error.

Figure 15.6: Median walk trip distance by trip purpose type, 2010, 2019 and 2021. Restricted to trips that start or end within the MPO, with trips exceeding the 99th percentile of distance by mode excluded (14.4 miles by bike; 8.4 miles by foot). Data weighted at the trip level.

Figure 15.7: Median bike distance by trip purpose type, 2010, 2019 and 2021. Restricted to trips that start or end within the MPO, with trips exceeding the 99th percentile of distance by mode excluded (14.4 miles by bike; 8.4 miles by foot). Data weighted at the trip level.

The reasons for an increase in walk trip length from 2019 to 2021 are unclear. One potential explanation is a reduction in transit service from 2019 to 2021, which could have shifted some walk-to-transit trips to walking alone. Improved capture of children’s trips to school in the 2021 survey may also be a contributing factor. Future iterations of the TBI will reveal if this is a lasting trend.

The Travel Behavior Inventory survey suggests that residents are doing more walking, and slightly less bicycling in 2021 than in previous years (2010, 2019). Residents seem to be making slightly fewer, but longer, walk trips.

It is important to note that the uncertainties of survey data – especially for these modes where the sample size is significantly smaller than for dominant auto/driving modes – meaning that these findings should be taken not as a definitive answer, but rather one piece of evidence of increased active travel in the region. Additional years of survey data collection, as well as research by Met Council staff into alternative sources of information surrounding active travel, are crucial to determining whether these data points form a real trend.

15.3 High frequency transit accessibility

Increasing the availability of transit across the region - especially high-frequency transit - is one way to support active travel in the region. Here, we assess transit availability in the region as both the amount of geographic area within a ten-minute walk of transit, and as the population served by transit within a ten-minute walk of home.

We focus on high-frequency transit service, as defined by Metro Transit:

  • stops served by routes that depart every 15 minutes or better,
  • with at least three stops per hour,
  • on weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

An index of the number of stops served by high-frequency routes and which routes are considered high-frequency can be found in Section C.4.

Our data comprise walkshed information from all regional transit agencies except Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA), which does not provide high-frequency transit.

Figure 15.8 shows the areas served by high-frequency transit in 2016 (yellow) and 2022 (green). You can choose different years to view by clicking on the check boxes in the legend. High-frequency service is clustered in the downtown areas of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, as well as along the I-94 corridor between these two cities. A handful of areas in the north and south suburbs also appear, where transit service stations are located.