Getting There Together

The lack of convenient modern rapid transit is an urgent threat to the economic competitiveness of the Twin Cities region, according to a recent report from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

According to the report, traffic congestion cost residents in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region approximately $975 million in 2003. That's sixteen times more than it cost in 1983. The availability of mass transit and other options that lessen dependence on the automobile increasingly is viewed as a legitimate strategy to combat congestion and its many social and economic costs.

Perhaps even more important to the sustainability of a healthy economy, the report details how four of the Twin Cities competitors - Denver, Dallas, Phoenix, and San Diego - already are building fast, convenient, and safe public transit. The movement is part of the growing recognition about the limits of the auto-dependent lifestyle. It's also driven by the idea that a city's ability modernize the economy, generate jobs, nurture healthy people, promote energy independence, and stem traffic congestion and sprawl depends on the extent of choices people have to move around.

"Transit plays a critical role in the growth and success of other regions," the report notes, "but a substantial gap exists between the realities of the Twin Cities' transit system and the potential for enriching the region's social, economic, and environmental conditions."

With the exception of Chicago, that gaps extends to every major city in the greater Great Lakes region.