In Minnesota, we're dependent on the automobile to get us where we need to go. Compared to buses and trains, cars are enormously inefficient in their use of fossil fuels. With transportation responsible for 25% of Minnesota's greenhouse gas emissions, the stakes are high.
Furthermore, as our state's population continues to age, a growing number of Minnesotans will require alternatives to driving but will have few options.
To address the challenges of global warming and our state’s shifting demographics, we need to rethink the way we get around. By providing Minnesotans with new green transportation options, we will not only protect Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and streams; we will create new and innovative ways for people to live their lives without relying so heavily on automobiles.
What MPIRG is doing statewide
Currently, most of Minnesota's transportation infrastructure is built to meet the needs of automobiles, first and foremost. Other modes of transportation – walking, biking, buses, and light rail – are often an afterthought, if they are considered at all. As a result, it can be inconvenient, unpleasant, slow, and often downright dangerous to try to get from Point A to Point B by any means other than driving.
We are working to enact Complete Streets legislation on a statewide level. This policy would require transportation planners to take into account the needs of all local users, whether they travel by foot, by bike, by car, or by mass transit.
In practical terms, that means more bike lanes, wider and more attractive sidewalks, and dedicated lanes for bus transit. Complete Streets doesn't necessarily mean that every road will have every one of those facilities. But it does require a more comprehensive approach to street design, providing safe and convenient access to alternative modes of transportation where the demand exists.
It's better for people and better for the environment.
What we're doing on campus
This fall, our Environmental Task Force worked with the Northfield Grassroots Transit Initiative, a citizen organization dedicated to expanding transportation options in our region, to develop an improved rideshare system for the City of Northfield.
Ridesharing allows people who are traveling to the same destination – whether it's an occasional trip to the grocery store, a regular commute to Minneapolis, or a weekend getaway to Chicago – to ride in the same car, cutting the cost of gas and the associated greenhouse gas emissions. Ridesharing also improves accessibility for people who cannot drive or do not own an automobile.
Currently, both Carleton and St. Olaf have their own rideshare boards, but they are not widely used, particularly among residents of Northfield not associated with the colleges.
We researched more than 15 existing internet rideshare databases to determine which one offered the best combination of features at the most competitive price for the City of Northfield. We presented our report and our recommendations at the November meeting of the Northfield Grassroots Transit Initiative.
Once a rideshare database is chosen and a funding source is identified, we will work to promote the use of the rideshare site on campus and in town. We will aim to develop a critical mass of users, so that the site becomes a reliable source of rideshare opportunities.
For more information
Visit the National Complete Streets Coalition to learn more about Complete Streets.
Visit MPIRG's Moving Forward campaign website to read more about our position on green transportation.
Contact Nina Whitney, Carleton MPIRG's Environmental Task Force Leader, to learn how you can get involved in improving transportation options in Northfield and across the state.