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Chapter 6 – Strategic Direction

One of the key purposes of this plan is to provide a defined set of investment strategies. This chapter presents investment strategies based on the stated priorities of the community, transit operators and plan committees. The strategies also aim to meet the assessed transit needs throughout Greater Minnesota and achieve the mission of the MnDOT Office of Transit.

Office of Transit Mission: To help people and communities meet their mobility needs by supporting safe, responsive, efficient, and environmentally sound transit services and by safely accommodating bicycles and pedestrians to help everyone move smarter, safer and more efficiently.

Investment Goals and Strategies

GOAL 1: ENHANCE TRANSIT SERVICE TO BE AN ATTRACTIVE AND VIABLE TRANSPORTATION OPTION FOR GREATER MINNESOTA

People in Greater Minnesota need viable transportation options to access jobs, services, education and recreation. Driving is the most common form of transportation in Greater Minnesota. It offers flexibility when making decisions and is generally available when needed. When asked how to make transit a viable option, transit users and non-users stated that transit services need to be reliable, predictable and available when and where needed. A viable transit system enables the rider to make decisions with the confidence that transit will be available during the scheduled times.

Another component of a viable transit network is improving travel opportunities within and between communities. Improving travel within communities means promoting bicycle and pedestrian connections with transit service and improving access. Investing in regional connections gives more people the opportunity to travel between communities and reach goods and services available in larger communities.

Part of making transit a viable transportation option is also about providing the right type of information for passengers as they navigate the system. Maps, fare information, schedules, stops and reservation policies are all necessary pieces when choosing to use transit. Additional rider benefits such as benches and electronic fare systems improve the rider experience.

Strategies: The Office of Transit will support a transit network that responds to customer needs for high quality and customer based service. MnDOT will work with transit systems to:

1.1 Implement transit span of service standards and guidelines for all systems

1.2 Improve reliability of rural service through schedule adherence

1.3 Increase frequency of routes, particularly in urban areas and rural areas when warranted

1.4 Expand coverage of transit services to under-served and unserved communities

1.5 Invest in regional connections and cross-county service where there is a high level of travel between population and employment-rich centers

1.6 Develop clear, comprehensive and accessible public information about transit services

1.7 Invest in customer amenities that improve the transit experience, such as new vehicles, automatic vehicle locators, electronic fare systems, waiting shelters and benches as appropriate

1.8 Encourage bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure to improve accessibility

GOAL 2: IMPROVE COORDINATION OF SERVICES TO MEET TRANSPORTATION NEEDS

A well-coordinated approach to transportation makes the network stronger, more efficient and improves the mobility options for riders. Coordination benefits riders and partners. Coordinated transit systems provide rides to more people and riders benefit by having access to multiple transportation options. Coordinating partners also benefit by becoming invested in the transportation system and profit from collaboration of ideas and resources. Coordination between transportation partners can also increase funding opportunities by serving a larger range of riders and needs.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) and MnDOT, in collaboration with other agencies, are working to create Regional Transportation Coordinating Councils (RTCC). Coordination between transportation providers and service agencies has been a long-term goal and strategy to fill transportation gaps, provide more service with the same or fewer resources, streamline access to transportation and provide customers more options of where and when to travel.

Strategies: Implement and use the RTCCs to increase communication and coordination with transportation partners using the following actions:

2.1 Encourage the transit systems to coordinate with social service agencies to develop transportation options for health and human service clients

2.2 Encourage coordination with non-emergency medical transportation providers that provide access to health services

2.3 Collaborate with, and among volunteer driver programs to highlight the need and value of volunteer drivers as vital components of Greater Minnesota transportation service

2.4 Partner with organizations to provide high-quality transportation service

2.5 Collaborate with state partners to address transit needs and regulatory issues in Greater Minnesota through the Minnesota Council on Transportation Access (MCOTA)

GOAL 3: INCREASE TRANSIT USAGE ACROSS THE TRANSPORTATION NETWORK

Increasing ridership is a core element of the GMTIP. Not only will increasing ridership respond to the legislature’s directive to meet unmet transit needs, it will also show that Greater Minnesota transit service is a valuable, efficient and effective public good.

Increasing ridership in Greater Minnesota requires multiple, coordinated efforts. For example, statewide marketing campaigns will develop information about available transit services around the state and highlight the role of transit systems. Renewed efforts will appeal to potential riders who have a choice between using transit or a personal vehicle. Examples include more frequent service during commute times and increased service availability for nontraditional commute times.

Greater Minnesota transit must also reflect trends in TNCs (e.g. Uber and Lyft) and increasing reliance on platforms such as Google Transit to travel in the state by investing in technology and developing new partnerships.

Strategies: Foster connections between transit systems and customers to increase transit ridership using the following actions:

3.1 Implement statewide, and encourage regional marketing campaigns to promote Greater Minnesota transit services

3.2 Invest in technology to engage transportation network companies and implement scheduling apps CHAPTER 6 STRATEGIC DIRECTION DRAFT MARCH 2017 PAGE 65

3.3 Include a greater percentage of riders who have a choice between transit and autos for their trips, such as investing in transportation services that provide reliable options for commuters and rides for workers with nontraditional commute times

3.4 Develop new and enhanced partnerships with private providers (taxis, health care, etc.) to meet customer needs

GOAL 4: ENSURE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY AS A TRANSIT FUNDING AGENCY

Transit in Greater Minnesota is a publically funded service. MnDOT uses several strategies to ensure that it is a fiscally responsible funding source. For example, MnDOT uses a competitive program funding application each year to allocate resources to the transit systems based on their performance. Decision support software is used to critically analyze transit systems during the review. In addition, MnDOT has elevated the role of system performance in funding decisions in the past several years. Systems that exceed performance standards in areas such as efficiency and effectiveness are more likely to be funded in times of limited available funds. Under performing systems are subject to annual evaluations of service including operations, service planning and design and capital uses.

Strategies: Remain good stewards of public dollars through the following actions:

4.1 Stress the importance of local partnerships in supporting transit service

4.2 Invest in peer-tested strategies that provide high performing, efficient and effective transit service that meet performance standards

4.3 Use decision support software to evaluate and assess transit

GOAL 5: SUPPORT THE MINNESOTA GO VISION FOR AN INTEGRATED MULTIMODAL TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM

MnDOT’s vision of a multimodal transportation system maximizes the health of the people, the environment and the economy. Greater Minnesota transit supports the vision by connecting people to jobs, goods, services and recreation. As a modal and investment plan, this plan aligns to the vison’s eight guiding principles such as ensuring accessibility, regional connections, coordination across sectors and jurisdictions, and leveraging investments to serve multiple purposes.

Transit is also a core element of reducing the reliance on single occupancy vehicles and reducing vehicle miles traveled. By promoting and encouraging the use of transit in addition to walking and biking, Greater Minnesota transit is an important part of the integrated multimodal transportation system.

This meets MnDOT’s Complete Streets goal of a balanced transportation system that integrates all modes and includes transportation users of all types, ages and abilities. This goal also works to minimize network gaps and barriers to transportation of all users. This plan also connects to the Minnesota Department of Health’s initiative of advancing health equity and strengthening community relationships.

Strategies: Support Greater Minnesota transit’s role in planning, managing and elevating the multimodal transportation system through the following actions:

5.1 Work with transit systems to develop strategies for “first-mile, last-mile” rider needs with strategies identified in Minnesota Walks and the Minnesota Bicycle System Plan

5.2 Increase usage of the transit network to replace single-occupancy vehicles and support an environmentally sustainable future

5.3 Promote linkages between transit systems to other transportation modes, i.e connections through inter-state travel such as Jefferson Lines, Amtrack, Greyhound and commuter rail

5.4 Actively plan for and adapt to changes in travel options such as car-share, ride-share and autonomous vehicles

GOAL 6: ELEVATE PUBLIC INFORMATION AND OUTREACH

Insufficient information and lack of knowledge and understanding about transit service is one of the greatest barriers to using the service. Potential and regular riders need basic information to navigate the system including maps, fare information, schedules, stop locations, reservation policies and tips on how to ride the service. Improving information and providing clear and comprehensive material for riders is a key to increasing ridership and improving the customer experience.

Advances in technology have changed how people access information. Developing content for smartphones, tablets and computers are major pieces of the communication puzzle, yet ensuring paper materials are also kept up-to-date, accurate and easily accessible. Transit systems need to make this information available for riders and visitors about the variety of transportation options available to them.

The role of public outreach is a critical component of transit system operations. Systems need to engage the public through multiple channels and use innovative and smart approaches for public input for decisions such as fare and route changes.

Strategies: Support projects that enhance the customer experience of navigating transit service using the following actions:

6.1 Increase MnDOT investment in transit provider marketing and public outreach

6.2 Guide transit systems in developing appropriate, accessible and easy to understand information for their websites and all writen materials

6.3 Encourage transit systems to provide information across multiple platforms such as smart-phone travel apps, social media, print materials, etc.

6.4 Encourage transit systems to use innovative approaches to public outreach and marketing

6.5 Encourage transit systems to conduct robust public outreach when undertaking fare changes, large capital projects and service planning, etc.

6.6 Ensure transit systems are providing culturally specific marketing and program material in response to their limited english proficiency plans

SUMMARY

The strategies listed in this chapter are the direct results of public outreach, and input from the plan committees, transit systems and other stakeholders. These strategies will guide transit investments and activities undertaken by MnDOT. Transit services developed based on these strategies need to fulfill the local match funding requirement and are also subject to the performance measures and provider performance standards.