Downtown areas often provide great opportunities for transit-orient development (TOD), as is the case in Minneapolis, Minnesota. With limited space for personal vehicle parking and persistent traffic congestion, many locations downtown can benefit from the robust metropolitan transit system already in place, including bus lines and light rail train (LRT) lines. Having recently been involved in planning for several downtown projects, Westwood is seeing increasing opportunities and attention paid to creating better, more livable, downtown communities.

One of the ways we support the planning process for urban development projects is by creating a Travel Demand Management Plan (TDMP). Westwood’s traffic engineering team pulls together TDMPs to describe existing travel options for residents and/or employees of a new development as well as strategies to promote alternative modes of transportation to and from the site. For areas of regular high congestion, like downtown locations, a detailed and well-thought-out TDMP is necessary in obtaining approval for a project. Westwood has a great relationship with City of Minneapolis staff and we worked with them recently to analyze the percentages of visitors who will use various modes of transportation for three projects in the works.

Ritz Block

In the heart of downtown Minneapolis, along Nicollet Mall, sits the 2.5-acre Ritz Block development site. This project plans for a mix of residential units, retail space, and office space. Space has been allocated for over 900 parking slots with the intention that 40% of visitors will be traveling by personal car to and from the location. The other 60% of intended visitors will make use of other modes of transportation, such as mass-transit. The Ritz Block is in a prime location for access to transit. The METRO Blue and Green LRT Lines are just one block east, and the MARQ2 Bus Line runs along the block. Additionally, the Block is situated along the route of the proposed downtown streetcar line. 

Kraus-Anderson Block

Also in downtown Minneapolis, along Portland Ave, is the Kraus-Anderson Block redevelopment. Like the Ritz Block, the site is in close proximity to LRT and bus lines, and so the proposed redevelopment is transit-oriented, as well. This mixed-use project will include over 300 residential units, a hotel and restaurant, 107,000 square feet of office space, a brewery, and an event center. The variety of venues included will attract visitors making use of multiple transit options, including personal vehicles. The TDMP assumes 40% of visitors will come by car, 50% will use the METRO LRT or bus lines, and 10% will either bike or walk to the location. The project proposal met the needs of all these modes of transportation and was approved by the Minneapolis City Council on February 12, 2016.

The Hub on Campus

Across the street from the University of Minnesota, along Washington Avenue’s Transit/Bike/Pedestrian Mall, is the site of the proposed Hub on Campus. The Transit Mall is served by the METRO Green Line LRT and several Metro Transit bus routes.  The Hub will provide over 400 units for University employees and alumni, medical staff, students, and downtown employees as well as ground floor retail space. By virtue of the development’s unique campus environment, it is assumed that bikers and walkers will make up 40% of the regular traffic to and from the site. An additional 40% will make use of the transit options, especially taking the METRO Green Line into downtown Minneapolis, while the last 20% of traffic will be personal vehicles.

Through the analysis done by the TDMPs, the variety of transportation modes that visitors might use to get to and from the sites is considered early in the conceptual design, and thus sites can be designed to facilitate more transportation options than just personal vehicles. Westwood has successfully prepared TDMPs to define travel demand management strategies that are workable for the development but also meet the modal shift and parking guidelines imposed by the local jurisdictions.

TDMPs are becoming a requirement of development in some cities – Minneapolis and Saint Paul included. They become officially binding documents to be signed by the developer, who in turn must abide by the strategies presented in the TDMP. Other cities require that the TDMP spell out a two-year budget of travel demand management measures to be performed that the developer must put in escrow to ensure compliance. When proposing mixed-use developments in locations well situated to make use of mass-transit options, a TDMP will help develop sites that will foster a vibrant culture and a sense of community by offering access to a variety of venues to a diversity of people. 

Tom Goodrum