Reconnecting America People * Places * Possibility

Books & ReportsBooks & Reports Home

Making The Twin Cities More Walkable

New CTOD report provides methodology for assessing and boosting the walkability of a place

Changing demographics and housing preferences as well as concerns about quality of life are boosting the demand for walkable urbanism and transit-oriented development in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region as elsewhere in the U.S. The Twin Cities’ real estate market must be able to provide for this demand in order to preserve the region’s economic competitiveness, but a recent study by the Brookings Institution found the Twin Cities ranked below average in the number of “regionally significant walkable places.” Brookings found only two such existing places – the downtowns in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

As part of an effort to promote walkable, transit-oriented places in the Twin Cities, the Center for Transit Oriented Development has just completed a study outlining an approach for transforming existing activity centers into walkable places. This study was done in partnership with the Urban Land Institute in Minnesota and the ULI/Curtis Regional Infrastructure Project and called the Connecting Transportation and Land Use Systems Initiative. The initiative was funded by the McKnight Foundation.

In defining a “walkable urban place” the CTOD considered several measures:

  • whether a place has a multi-modal transportation system and how well it performs

  • the “employment gravity” of job clusters and the mix of uses – to determine how many hours out of the day people actively use a place

  • the intensity of uses -- how many people use the area

  • the area’s "walkscore" – a measure of the amenities within walking distance

  • a connectivity index that measures the connectedness or “permeability” of the street network – because connected street networks support increased walking and biking as well as other benefits

  • block sizes and intersection density

  • origin mode split and destination mode split

  • land opportunity and the potential for walkability

Notes the report: "Where there are good transportation options and workers choose to take alternatives to the car, fewer parking spaces are needed, and less public space overall is devoted to the car. This becomes a positive feedback loop, in which public space is used by pedestrians walking to work, transit, lunch, and/or home, and more resources and space can then be allocated to improving the pedestrian realm."