Aug 29, 2012 at 7:52 am
ST. PAUL, MN (KNSI) - Fewer than 1 percent of workers in central Minnesota take a bus or train to work each day -- almost all the rest pile into their cars and drive solo to where they work. But what can the state do to help entice more Minnesotans to ditch their cars and give public transit a try?
The Minnesota Department of Transportation commissioned a study to look at that very issue for central Minnesota and that study came up with some eye-opening possibilities.
In a phone-book sized 400 page report research firm Nelson Nygaard Associates compiled findings from hundreds of interviews. Changing minds is key, the report finds -- most people don't consider public transportation a priority -- they have cars and no trouble finding routes to work or places to park once they get there. So the report says that mindset will be the greatest hurdle in getting any alternative commuting systems to flourish.
What could make that happen?
Gas prices for one. Respondents said that'll make a huge difference in whether they continue as a solo driver or consider rideshares and other options. Another potential answer is already around -- that's the Northstar rail line -- in fact, the survey finds expanding the line to St. Cloud could be an attractive option to boost commute ridership in the next decade.
St. Cloud to Minneapolis is one of four key transit corridors MnDOT should focus on, the report says - the others are Cold Spring to St. Cloud and both Buffalo and St. Michael-Albertville to Minneapolis. The report says MnDOT can do a lot more with park-and-rides -- expanding locations and making the service more attractive to commuters.
Part of the problem, though, is how many rural commuters live in central Minnesota. 20 percent of folks have commutes of 30 minutes or more -- in those cases, vanpools coordinated with employers to take long-distance commuters to work could be a good option. Managing those commuter programs is another challenge.
The study recommends a transit coordinating council -- possibly led by Stearns or Wright counties or another lead agency like St. Cloud Metro Bus or the St. Cloud APO -- would help develop and better define new service options.
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