Emerging Trends

What we need and how we use transportation changes over time. Those changes influence the plans and recommendations made by the Metropolitan Council about the future of our region’s transportation system.

The Metropolitan Council studies the outcomes of these changes and monitors trends so it can contribute to and shape the conversation as transportation planning evolves.


Technology is a major player in our region’s transportation system. Vehicles today are technology-rich, including anti-collision warning features, hybrid and electric engine options, digital diagnostics, and navigation tools. One of the more anticipated technological changes is the arrival of self-driving, or autonomous vehicles.

Transit, both buses and rail, are managed and operated using sophisticated technologies that support safety, efficiency, clean fuel consumption, and routing. Highway technology determines traffic management, updates signage and information, increases safety, and manages the region’s high-occupancy toll MnPASS lanes.

Over the last decade, technology has developed new shared mobility options such as application-enabled ridesharing like Lyft and Uber and the Nice Ride network of shared bicycles. Metro Transit uses a smart phone application to provide easier access and use of transit.
Technology has also had a notable impact on moving freight as automated distribution of goods, and online, delivery-based shopping increases.

Growth, land use, development

Our region continues to grow – both in the core cities and throughout developed and developing suburbs. By 2040, the metropolitan area will add 803,000 new residents and 472,000 new jobs. Over time, this growth will affect transportation patterns and the development of our transportation system.

To a large extent, regional development has focused on multi-family housing in urban communities, particularly along transitways. At the same time, growth is forecasted in communities throughout the region. With that growth, all communities will have varying land use, development and transportation needs.

There has also been expansion in commercial facilities in the region that support warehousing, shipping, and manufacturing. Many of these developments have cropped up in some of the more affordable land in the region, found on the suburban edge. This calls into question how these facilities can attract and retain employees, who need transportation and a reliable way to reach work.

The expected increase in population over the next 20 years will also have an impact on congestion in the region. Reducing highway congestion has no easy fix, a range of strategies must be used, including reducing travel demand through improved land use planning, and creating walkable and bikeable communities; supporting and encouraging telecommuting and the use of flexible work hours; and investing in transit and other alternative travel modes.