October 18 2013

Minneapolis’ Auto-Oriented Infrastructure Comes at A High Cost

Minneapolis traditionally has followed urban growth patterns similar to Manhattan’s strict grid system. However, in an urban planning effort to utilize the automobile, a system of freeways has been created over the past fifty years to support urban sprawl. Still, the question must be asked; besides the miles and emissions of our automobiles, what are the negative effects of urban sprawl?

Southbound I-35 Freeway; Main enterance into Minneapolis for Northeast suburbs

First, referring to the principles of Charles Marohn (of Strong Towns), current growth patters have, “left American towns financially insolvent, unable to pay even the maintenance costs of basic infrastructure.” Essentially, because of the high-scale costs that are associated with an auto-oriented infrastructure, these communities are unable to prosper because of a lack of return revenue to pay for their infrastructure.

Driving Distance for the Twin Cities Metro, Minneapolis, Minnesota

In addition to the financial instability, there is also a failed logic to residential-commercial divided cities. As stated in the 2001 Twin Cities Transportation and Regional Growth Study, by creating a system of freeways and highways, we are developing people who “want to live further from their job.” Besides the obvious effects of congestion and pollution, this also creates urban cores that no longer see the need for residential space. This in turn leads to ‘suburbs’ with no desire for business space of their own. This is dangerous territory; Cities are like ecosystems, they cannot live resiliently when missing a crucial component to their livelihood. By relying on other cities for vital proponents of living, we could be planning communities doomed to be ghost towns.

With Minneapolis predicted by the Metropolitan Council to grow by one million by 2030, over the past decade the city has taken decisive steps to avoid this ‘ghost town’ fate.  As set out by the 2011 Minneapolis Plan for Sustainable Growth, the city plans to take some of following steps to decrease the high amounts of current commercial land use (as seen below), and create strong, multi-use communities:

  • Strengthen the original grid system with infrastructure such as light rail;
  • Discourage new auto-oriented commercial nodes;
  • Allow for higher density housing, especially near transit stations;
  • Encourage small scale retail as a transition between neighborhoods; and
  • Encourage mixed-density residential areas, and commercial uses at nodes.

Existing Land Use of Downtown Minneapolis, Minneapolis, Minnesota Future Downtown Minneapolis Land Use, Minneapolis, Minnesota

What ways can Minneapolis effectively plan for the city’s future growth? What other lessons can we learn from past sprawl patterns?

Credits: Images by Abbey Seitz and linked to sources. Data linked to sources.

Abbey Seitz

Abbey Seitz is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Design of Art in Architecture and minor in Sustainability Studies from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Growing up in a small suburb of St Paul, Minnesota, she knew no different than cold snowy winters filled with snowball fights and summers spent swimming in one of Minnesota’s many lakes. It was there that she gained an interest for the urban environment. This interest brought her to study in Chicago, Honolulu, and now Minneapolis, where she has honed her studies; how we can design and repair our cities to be environmentally sustainable and livable. Specifically in Minneapolis, she is intrigued in investigating how livable communities can be created through complete streets, public transportation, and urban agriculture.

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This entry was posted on Friday, October 18th, 2013 at 9:13 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Environment, Infrastructure, Land Use, Transportation, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


3 Responses to “Minneapolis’ Auto-Oriented Infrastructure Comes at A High Cost”

  1. Gina Kiani Says:

    Great Points and an important topic to cover!!
    It’s good to hear about cities coming around one by one to center planning more around people and less around the automobile!

  2. Abbey Seitz Says:

    Gina, thanks for the comment! So glad to add to the discussion that must be had concerning the involvement of pedestrians in planning.

  3. Tjahjokartiko Gondokusumo Says:

    There should be sub- and supperstructure!

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