Transportation System Performance Evaluation

Screengrab of the report cover.This report is a comprehensive review of the Twin Cities transportation system. The Minnesota State Legislature adopted statutes in 1996 requiring the Metropolitan Council to produce this report (previously called the Transportation System Audit). This report informed the 2020 update to the region’s long-range transportation plan, the 2040 Transportation Policy Plan.

This analysis reviews the changing demographics of the region, focusing on population and employment changes from 2013 to 2018. The demographic review includes 2000 and 2010 US Census data, as well as 2017 American Community Survey data. The various modes of transportation — highways, transit, freight, bicycle and pedestrian, and aviation — are reviewed within their own chapters.

Comparisons to peer regions are made where relevant. Each modal chapter includes an existing system description, a review of the system performance where data is available, and a discussion of issues and trends for that system.

How the region moves

Travel increased from 2010 to 2019 in conjunction with the economic recovery. One example shows the total number of vehicle trips increasing from 6.3 million per weekday in 2010 to 7.8 million in 2019, slightly more than the number of vehicle trips made prior to the recession, in 2000.

In keeping with previous results, driving remains the most common way of getting around: 85 percent of trips in 2019 were made in a private vehicle, with another 0.3 percent representing for-hire vehicles. Non-driving modes of transportation accounted for 14.9 percent of trips, which has increased from 11.2 percent in 2010.

Contributing factors to travel changes

Gas prices went through a period of extreme ups and downs between 2005 and 2013. Since 2013, average gas prices have declined to between $2 and $3 per gallon, similar to prices seen in 2007.

Employment levels in the Twin Cities region went through a period of significant decline during the recession in the early 2010s; the employment in the region in 2010 was the lowest it had been in more than a decade. Regional employment has rebounded since then, contributing to growth in travel compared to the years during the recession.

Not only did the economic slump result in fewer jobs, and fewer trips to and from work, but also prompted concerns around job security and personal income. This resulted in households typically reducing their discretionary spending, leading to fewer and shorter trips. It also encouraged the conversion from car to transit trips.

While many trends returned to something closer to normal in 2019, the travel trends were still not following the same trends in growth that the region experienced in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

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