Two Cities That Reduced Driving Over a Decade

Minneapolis and Seattle bucked national trends by increasing active transportation and use of public transit in recent years.

February 19, 2019, 7:00 AM PST

By Elana Eden


Protected Bike Lane

joshua_putnam / Flickr

As cities across the U.S. struggle to sustain transit ridership, Minneapolis and Seattle have distinguished themselves with high rates of non-car commuting, according to a recent report from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

Streetsblog's Angie Schmitt reports that despite gaining 30,000 residents between 2007 and 2016, Minneapolis reduced vehicle miles traveled by 2 percent over that time. In Seattle, average daily traffic fell 5 percent between 2006 and 2017.

"Believe it or not, this is a rare feat," Schmitt writes, noting that low gas prices, population growth, and the rise of ride-hailing services have made reducing driving "one of the hardest codes [to crack] in city planning."

The strategies that led to these results won't be surprising to many transportation planners. They fell along three major lines:

  • Investment in public transit, both bus and rail. Both Seattle and Minneapolis are in the midst of building or expanding their BRT networks, and both have opened new rail lines in recent years. Seattle voters in particular have shown willingness to fund transportation.
  • Investment in bike infrastructure. Both cities are "famously bike friendly," with Seattle being named Bicycling Magazine's Top Biking City in America in 2018.
  • Urban infill and dense, walkable development. Seattle recently launched a program to build affordable apartments on public land adjacent to light rail, while Minneapolis saw nearly $1 billion in downtown development in 2017 and eliminated parking requirements in 2018.

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