Best Practice

GreenStep City Best Practices: Transportation
Mobility Options {BP No. 12}

Increase active transportation and alternatives to single-occupancy car travel.

Step 3 Recognition Best Practice for Category A cities

Category A cities: implement this best practice by completing any two actions.

Category B and C cities: implement this best practice by completing any one action.

Optional Metric for Step 4 Recognition


41% of U.S. auto trips are less than 2 miles, and 28% are less than 1 mile - a healthful, walkable distance for many people much of the year in Minnesota - yet most of these trips are taken by car. Cities - through what they directly administer and in what they influence - can provide more transportation options to their residents, businesses and employees. And how we get around in our cities helps shape the evolving physical form of our cities, which reinforces getting around via different modes.

Other trip modes - walking, biking, and shared mobility options (transit, ridesharing, carsharing, bike and scooter sharing, anticipated shared autonomous vehicles [SAVs]) - deliver and contribute to numerous benefits:

  • improved physical and mental health
  • fewer carbon and toxic emissions
  • reduced dependence on foreign oil
  • decreased health and transportation costs
  • more street activity, resulting in safer streets
  • improved public transit
  • more people-to-people connections than is facilitated by auto-only travel
  • adaptability, resilience, redundancy, reliability, and robustness in the local transportation system

Transportation options are essential for 40% of Minnesotans who do not have a driver's license, who cannot afford a car, and who are either too young or old or too disabled to drive a car. For example, in 2010, about 70% of transit riders in the most rural parts of Minnesota either did not have a car or a driver’s license. And thinking about access to people, services and products as the goal, as opposed to mobility, puts a focus on web-based communication/commerce options.

This best practice focuses mostly on helping community members modify their travel routines. Several other GreenStep best practices in the transportation and land use categories focus on changing the physical environment of a city in ways that make it easier for individuals to take advantage of the actions in this Mobility Options best practice.

Greenstep Advisor

Caroline Ketcham, Principal Active Transportation Planner, MN Dept. of Transportation: 

Connection to State Policy

The MN Dept. of Transportation has, among its legislatively delegated authorities and purposes, the goals of: (1) promoting and increasing bicycling and walking as a percentage of all trips as energy-efficient, nonpolluting, and healthy forms of transportation, and; (2) reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the state's transportation sector.

MnDOT set a preliminary goal in 2021 of a 20% reduction to Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) statewide by 2050, among other recommendations made by the Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council. 

The Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) distributes funding to Community Health Boards and tribal governments across Minnesota to increase active transportation in communities and work sites.

MnDOT’s Active Transportation Program and Safe Routes to Schools Program offers infrastructure and planning assistance grants to local communities through an annual solicitation process.


Major Benefit

  • To compete for the types of business we want, we need transit, high-speed broadband, walkable connections between housing, work, shopping and entertainment, and options for active fitness. (Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland, Apple Valley: 2012)
  • The MN Dept. of Health estimates that $495 million was spent in MN during 2000 treating medical conditions that could have been prevented by regular physical activity -- at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week. 60% of adult Minnesotans are overweight or obese and if left unchecked, obesity will add an additional $3.7 billion in health care expenses for Minnesotans by 2020 (Blue Cross/Blue Shield of MN: 2010).
  • Once a roadway reaches capacity, even a small reduction in car volumes can significantly reduce delays. For example, a 5% reduction in peak-hour traffic volumes on a road at 90% capacity can reduce delay by 20% or more. In 2016 the Met Council calculated that at rush hour, buses move the equivalent of 1.5 lanes of traffic on Interstate 35W. And at peak commuting hours along Minneapolis' congested Uptown arterial, buses carry almost half the people traveling Hennepin Avenue, in just 2-3% of the total vehicles. (Notable is that parents driving their children to school are estimated to contribute, on average throughout the U.S., 20%-30% of morning rush hour traffic.) Thus small mode-shifting to transit and walking/biking in congested corridors can provide significant congestion reduction benefits. Understanding the three different types of traffic problems helps a city focus on effective and fiscally prudent mitigation measures. 
  • Mobility options and supportive city infrastructure that allow a household to eliminate one of two cars saves, for a new car, between $6,300 and $10,100 per year (depending on type of vehicle, according to a 2017 study from AAA ). Instead of spending $7,000/yr. on a depreciating asset - a car - $7,000/yr. invested in paying off a home mortgage or home equity loan could finance $108,000 (assuming a 30-yr. fixed 5% mortgage) in an appreciating asset - one's home. Living closer to one's work has similarly large benefits (using this article's calculator), allowing a person to buy a house priced in the range of $15,000 more for each mile the house is closer to work.
  • Among the findings in Assessing the Economic Impact and Health Benefits of Bicycling in Minnesota (MnDOT: 2016) were health savings up to $500 million/year, a $778 million/year bike industry (supporting 5,519 employees and generating $209 million/year in wages/benefits), and 50,200 bike event participants and tourists across the state in 2015.
  • The trajectory of GHG emissions in Minnesota is more sensitive to the number of miles Minnesotans drive than it is to the amount of electricity they use. See also Greenhouse gas emissions per household in Minnesota cities from household auto use.
  • On average, people are willing to walk up to 3/4 mile to access a transit stop with at least hourly transit service. Studies show that very high levels of walking are facilitated in neighborhoods/mixed use areas with about 20 housing units per acre. Minnesota Walks identified the top 5 walking destinations - grocery store, bus/transit, home, parks, schools - and the top 5 elements that contribute to a positive walking experience: (1) other people present, (2) quiet street & low traffic volume, (3) good snow & ice removal, (4) good sidewalks or trails, (5) shade.
  • Minnesotans, residents of the Twin Cities metro area, and Americans are, since 2003, driving about the same vehicle-miles per person, reversing a century-long pattern of ever-increasing auto use. In Minnesota, due to population growth, total vehicle-miles traveled has increased very slowly (under 1% per year. See MnDOT data and details and read AARP's analysis, written by a Minnesotan, of what's driving the trend toward car-free and car-lite living.
  • As of June 2011, 48 employers were participating in eWorkPlace and 4,200 of their employees were teleworking 1-2 days each week. Collectively, these workers eliminated an estimated 150,000 vehicle miles each week on metro area roads. Yearly savings for each Carver County teleworker are estimated at $1,000+ a year in auto expenses and close to $6,500 on office space, parking, and other infrastructure costs.