The Central Minnesota Sustainable Development Plan (CMSDP) is a federally funded project designed to kick-start central Minnesota's economy and sustainable housing and transportation. In partnership with Staples-based Region Five Development Commission, the CMSDP taps experts from throughout the University in such areas of transportation, housing, and land use, while relying on the guidance and input of Minnesotans from Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd, and Wadena counties.
Transportation researcher Frank Douma has worked on a CMSDP project that advances his vision for central Minnesota that includes creative alternatives to private car ownership and accommodation of those alternatives through implementation of "Complete Streets.”
Douma spoke at last fall’s CMSDP Collage of
Sustainability conference on economically smart and environmentally
sound transit options designed to move the region toward sustainable
As associate director of the Humphrey School's State and Local Policy Program, Douma has conducted groundbreaking work that includes a study investigating options for increasing mobility of seniors, low-income workers and students in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and work for the Minnesota Department of Transportation looking at how some of this information might support implementation of Complete Streets in that city.
“Urban transit options overlaid on rural communities don’t work,” says Douma. “It’s not economically feasible to build light rail in small towns. To be blunt, conventional rural transit is expensive, which is why we need to be creative.” Creative options include things like car sharing—shared ownership or community ownership of cars—or company-owned ride-share services like Zimride.
And because his own studies show that rural roads are less safe than urban roads, Douma believes making rural roads safer and more accessible to pedal power and foot traffic is key to rural mobility.
“Roads in rural areas were built to move goods to market, not people to their daily destinations,” says Douma. “The key to mobility in many smaller communities involves creative thinking combined with safer, more pedestrian and non-motorized-friendly roads.”
Douma’s a proponent of Complete Streets, multipurpose thoroughfares that many experts believe can improve safety, save energy costs, help the environment by reducing air pollution, create a sense of place and even improve property values.