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Minneapolis Reworks Its Transit Hubs for Better Mobility

The Minnesota city has launched a pilot to develop four “mobility hubs” in three regions. Officials hope the effort will put everything urban travelers need — be it information or alternative transportation — within reach.

Several bus stops in Minneapolis are part of a project to raise ridership and community engagement through the introduction of features well beyond a simple bench.

The city has launched a pilot to develop four “mobility hubs” in three regions of the city which will introduce not only new forms of micro-mobility like bikes and scooters, but also new signage and efforts to better engage residents and business owners.

“The intention was to really make it useful for people filling first-mile, last-mile gaps in transit, and then take it a step beyond that, to make it a place that is more comfortable, is more pleasant, had more appeal to people, more than just the traditional bus stop,” said Josh Johnson, advanced mobility manager at the Minneapolis Public Works Department.

The mobility hub pilots will run for three months and serve as a mechanism to gather information related to usage, bus ridership and other forms of feedback. A number of cities have explored the concept of the “mobility hub” as a sort of minor transit plaza where users can access not only bus or rail lines, but also bike, scooter or car-shares. Often, these are sites for newer forms of street furniture like kiosks, which can provide community information.

In Minneapolis, the city officials turned to data to learn where the trial hubs should be located, looking at access as it relates to not only transit, but jobs, health care, education and other community needs. The review also took into consideration demographic and “behavioral data,” gleaned through sources like the U.S. Census American Community Survey. 

“So we overlaid those to say, here’s some areas we want to focus on. And from there, we zoomed in further to what’s existing there already? What does the transit stop look like? What bus routes are already there? What does ridership look like in that area? What is the surrounding land use and infrastructure?” said Johnson.

Officials then began having conversations with neighborhood groups in the area, or other stakeholders to explain, “Here’s what we’re thinking of. Here’s the concept. What do you think? Is this useful to you?” Johnson explained.

The mobility hubs include planting and seating areas, signage and other features to engage the community.

“It’s not just the basics of adding bikes and scooters, and saying, we’ve got a mobility hub there,” said Johnson. “There’s some more elements like making it more comfortable and useful to people.

“The idea was to combine all those elements to make it more than just the space where you may be sitting for five or 10 minutes waiting for a bus, but actually where you kind of get a better understanding of the area, have better opportunities to connect beyond just the bus stop and fill those first-mile, last-mile gaps,” he added.

Officials in Columbus, Ohio, are involved in a project to develop six mobility hubs, with plans to install kiosks this fall and test in December. The hubs will go live in February 2020, said Jeff Kupko, assistant program manager with Michael Baker International, a consultant working on the project. Multimodal trip-planning will be a feature of the kiosks.

“That’s probably the most critical. And that’s the intent of the hubs, is to facilitate transportation. We’re leveraging the kiosks to do that,” Kupko told Government Technology recently in Columbus.

Serving and elevating transit is also the aim of the project in Minneapolis.

“Transit is the backbone of this whole effort,” said Johnson. “As we try to address our climate crisis, that’s not getting everybody on a bike or a scooter, that’s really continuing to elevate our transit system.”

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.