Downtown Minneapolis named one of 17 best commuting districts

Minneapolis gives parking discounts for registered car pools in municipal lots

Cati Vanden Breul

Advertising senior Anastasia Viray takes a bus from her Uptown home to her job in downtown Minneapolis at 8 a.m. every day.

The ride takes only 20 minutes and she arrives at her job with Briol & Associates by 8:30 a.m.

“I’ve never even thought of driving, because it’s just so easy to ride a bus,” she said.

Viray is one of 160,000 people who commute to work in downtown Minneapolis, according to the Downtown Minneapolis Transportation Management Organization.

And the federal government thinks many of them have the right idea.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently named downtown Minneapolis one of the 17 best districts to commute to work in the country.

To qualify, districts must provide at least one primary and at least three supporting benefits to commuters in the area.

For the primary benefit, Minneapolis gives substantial parking discounts to registered car pools or van pools that park in municipal ramps or lots, said Teresa Wernecke, executive director of the Downtown Minneapolis Transportation Management Organization.

The city also supports commuters by offering rideshare and car pool matching services, subscription programs like the U-pass or Metropass and secure bicycle parking around downtown.

“In downtown Minneapolis we have a lot of commuting options, and that’s what sets us apart from other areas of Minneapolis and from other cities,” Wernecke said.

Sixty percent of downtown commuters get to work some way other than driving alone, she said. They can take the bus or light rail, set up car pools, walk or bike.

Viray said riding the bus is faster than driving and much cheaper than parking in a ramp for $15 a day. Commuting is especially nice in the winter.

“You don’t have to worry about the whole car issue, starting up the car, warming it up; the buses are pretty consistent,” she said.

Because downtown Minneapolis doesn’t have a subway system, Viray said, she was a little surprised it ranked so high.

“Since we mainly only use the bus system, you would initially think it might not be as efficient,” she said.

But since the buses are efficient and easy to navigate, Viray said, she could see why the downtown district would be considered a good place for commuters.

Although Minneapolis doesn’t have a subway, the recent addition of a light rail system to the city proves just as beneficial to some.

University sophomore Katy Theisen works downtown at The Marshall Group, and said she doesn’t know what she would do without the light rail system.

“It only takes seven minutes to get from Lake Street to downtown. I really hope they add an extra one going to St. Paul, because it would be so convenient,” Theisen said.

By recognizing districts with the best public transportation systems, the EPA is trying to reduce the number of cars on the road, Wernecke said.

She said downtown Minneapolis could serve as a model to other districts, and will receive benefits from the recognition.

“This is really going to help a lot of employers downtown as they recruit and retain employees,” she said.