Throwing Minneapolis Under the Bus

The Metropolitan Council and the 2040 Plan

By Dennis Paulaha Ph.D. - May 9, 2019 -

So, after all this time, the truth behind the Metropolitan Council’s mandated 2040 Plan is finally beginning to seep out.

It was never about the goals and policies presented to the public by the Metropolitan Council, or in the Minneapolis 2040 Plan, or in the Plans of other cities under the Metropolitan Council’s jurisdiction.

It was always about justifying and expanding mass transit.

And at its core is the old “if you build it, they will come” idea.

They call it Transit Oriented Development.

And it is based on the idea that a city developed around mass transit (and bike

lanes) is better than a city based primarily on roads and private automobiles.

As it is now, Minneapolis, like every other city in the country (world), is a mixture of private automobiles and mass transit. And it is easy to make an honest and logical argument that says moving more people to mass transit will provide benefits that outweigh the costs, given the construction and maintenance costs and environmental issues of highways and freeways and private automobiles. On paper, it is easy to argue that the more people use mass transit, the better.

But somewhere along the line, the honest and logical argument was lost in a

numbers game.

The governor is allotting $1.5 billion to buy more busses.

And the Metropolitan Council is spending over $2 billion on a new 17.5 Mile light rail southwest of Minneapolis (with about half the funds coming from the federal government).

So the question is: If the Transit Oriented Development people at the top want more buses and more light rail tracks to make the City of Minneapolis and the Metropolitan area better, where are they going to get more people to ride all the new buses and trains?

The answer is in the up-zoning policy in the Minneapolis 2040 Plan and the

industrial development along bus and light rail lines in St. Paul’s 2040 Plan.

In other words, up-zoning is not about solving the racial inequity problem in

Minneapolis, it is not about solving the affordable housing problem, it is not about reducing the city’s carbon footprint, it is about one simple objective, which is to increase dramatically and unnecessarily the population of Minneapolis and to center the increase on mass transit routes in order to get more people riding busses and light rail.

To help cover up the real objective, the Minneapolis 2040 Plan uses a fake

population forecast that is written so that it appears to be a real forecast city planners and officials must accommodate in the future. But that is not the case. The number is the goal. And the number is a lie. And the reason for the lie is to help justify the expansion of the mass transit system.

Again, expanding and improving mass transit in order to make it easier for an

existing population to use, with the hope of making a city better off, is an honest and logical plan.

Intentionally and unnecessarily increasing the population of a city simply to get

more people to use mass transit is bad for everyone, other than those who profit from the demolition of single-family homes and the construction and rental of small apartment buildings. It also means there is no longer an honest, logical, fact-based argument to support Transit Oriented Development.

The bottom line is simple: The Transit Oriented Development people behind the 2040 Plan that will be using taxpayer money to buy more buses and build more light rail routes need more people in the city and they need more people riding their buses and light rail trains.

And they figured out that the way to get more people into the city and more people using mass transit is with-up zoning.

By letting developers tear down single-family homes and replace them with three to six unit apartment buildings, they have more people.

By letting developers build apartment buildings with more units on mass transit

routes and within a block of mass transit routes, they have more people closer to their transit routes.

By not requiring developers to provide off-street parking, they will be making it

more convenient for many people to walk to a bus stop than to a car parked a block or two away on the street. Also, as more and more people move into the new apartment buildings, cars will begin to fill up the streets, and many people will not want to drive to work for fear of not finding a somewhat convenient parking space when they return; others, as the planners hope, may find it too difficult, expensive, and inconvenient to own a car at all.

What about the fact that up-zoning will lead to the gutting of North Minneapolis and force many black families out of the city or into homelessness? That’s good for the Transit Oriented Development guys, because every time a single-family house is replaced with a three to six unit apartment building, a family will move out and a bunch of younger people who are more likely to use busses or the new light rail line to go to jobs downtown or in western suburbs will move in.

What about the fact that up-zoning is likely to lower single-family property values and lead many middle and upper middle class people to move out of the city? That’s good too, for the mass transit guys, because middle- and upper-middle class residents do not use mass transit, and the younger people who will replace them are more likely to do so.

In other words, neither the entire 2040 Plan required by the Met Council, nor the up-zoning policy in the Minneapolis 2040 Plan, was ever about trying to solve the affordable housing problem.

It was never about helping black communities.

It was never about helping other minority communities.

It was never about being environmentally responsible.

It was, from the beginning, a plan intended to intentionally, and unnecessarily, move thousands of people into the city in ways that make it difficult to own cars so they will be forced into using mass transit, whether it’s city buses or light rail.

That’s why the mayor, city council members, city planners, and Metropolitan

Council Members lied about the population numbers, and made their false numbers sound like an honest forecast that must be addressed.

It’s why, when it was explained to them how up-zoning will increase, not decrease, house prices, they ignored the facts and dismissed the concerns of residents.

It’s why, when it was made clear to them that intentionally moving more people into the city will increase, not decrease, the city’s carbon footprint, and that it was common knowledge they had lied about the scientific studies used to support their false environmental claims, they didn’t care.

It’s why, when it was made clear to them that up-zoning will lead to gentrification on steroids as developers gut North Minneapolis and force many black families out of the city and others into homelessness, they didn’t care.

It’s why the mayor, city council members, city planners, and Metropolitan Council Members refused to even listen when they were confronted with the fact that up-zoning will make every problem worse while guaranteeing that none of the Plan’s stated goals can be reached. They didn’t listen, because they never cared about the Plan’s goals or solving real problems. Because it was always about mass transit.

The 2040 Plan is simply a cover to let developers tear down the city’s

neighborhoods, destroy the environment, destroy the economy, destroy people‘s lives, and destroy families, in order to justify and prop up a poorly planned and even more poorly executed mass transit system.

The new $2.1 billion light rail line that will run southwest of the city for 17.5 miles has been approved by the Met Council and has already been promised federal funding, even though the Metropolitan Council has not conducted even one study that can show even one person will ride the new rails. (Some will, of course, but how many?)

They based their entire argument on how many jobs there are within 1/2 mile of the 16 new stations and how many new jobs are “expected” to be added in downtown Minneapolis within 15 years.

Here are the Met Council’s numbers:

In 2014, there were approximately 64,300 jobs within ½ mile of the proposed stations and 126,800 jobs in downtown Minneapolis. By 2035, employment is expected to grow to 80,900 within ½ mile of the proposed stations and 145,300 in downtown Minneapolis – a 18% increase in employment In 2014, there were about 35,800 people within ½ mile of the proposed stations and 16,400 residents with access to the 5 shared stations in downtown Minneapolis. By 2035, the population within ½ mile of the proposed stations is expected to grow by 56 percent to 55,800, and the population of downtown Minneapolis is expected to grow by 117 percent increase to 35,600

Of course, none of those numbers has anything to do with whether or not the rail system can or will be used by people to get to jobs that are within a half-mile of the new stations, which would require them to walk up to half-a-mile in business clothes in Minnesota weather.

In order for most people to walk from a light rail station to a job, the job would

pretty much have to be less than a few blocks away. The same is true for getting on the train from home, because not many people are going to walk more than a few blocks to a light rail station in business clothes in Minnesota weather to take a train to work.

And because the Metropolitan Council knows that is true, they avoided doing any studies that would make that truth public.

Which is why the numbers are not only meaningless, they support the argument

that the Met Council knows the new track, like the existing tracks, cannot live up to its promises and that the benefits to the city and the region will be far less than the economic and environmental costs.

The Met Council saying the SWLRT will eventually be good for everyone is not a substitute for an honest benefit-cost study or a real environmental impact statement.

Neither is the Met Council’s “promise” that the new stations will spur positive


Which is why using up-zoning in Minneapolis to destroy neighborhoods, families, and home values, and to force black families out of the city or into homelessness, and to increase the city’s carbon footprint by encouraging developers to tear down single-family homes and replace them with three to six unit apartment buildings with no grass, no trees, and no off-street parking, just to get more people to ride busses, is a far cry from transit oriented development that puts the best interests of the city’s economy, natural environment, and residents ahead of special interests.

The conclusion is simple: Is the Metropolitan Council so intent on justifying its mass transit failures and more than questionable expansion that it is willing to let developers destroy the city of Minneapolis in order to do so? If so, the questions that should be asked are:

  • Who else, besides developers and investors, stands to profit from a transit oriented development plan based on up-zoning the entire city of Minneapolis?

  • And how do the governor and the DFL fit in?

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