I have lived in several cities in the past five years including Lubbock, Texas, Rochester and Columbia Heights, Minnesota, and most recently Minneapolis. Each city has imparted some lasting impressions and I taught me invaluable lessons about how cities function. But of all the cities, Minneapolis has taught me the most. Before I moved to the Twin Cities metro, I had never taken public transit as a commuter, biked to work regardless of the weather, composted, or installed a rain barrel.
Despite my short tenure, it drastically changed my perspective on how cities can and should function to better serve its residents and contribute to reducing each persons impact on the environment we rely on for daily life. Recently, while I was running the streets of Lincoln, Nebraska I thought about how a well funded and highly used transit system would severely cut down on the high amount of traffic that crams the streets on a daily basis. My temporary vehicular commute also has me wondering if the interstate leading into Omaha would not benefit from a system like the Twin Cities, busing people in from the surrounding suburbs. There are rumblings of an Omaha Trolley system, a great idea to help alleviate single occupancy vehicle trips, but will it ever happen? I was definitely spoiled living in the Twin Cities metro area where I could bike or bus as far out as the first ring suburbs within 45 minutes or less, not to mention my 20 minute bike commute to work.
When I lived in Rochester, I could have biked to work on a flat trail in just over a mile, but for some reason it never crossed my mind to try it. In Columbia Heights, I made the hilly five mile trek most days, but quickly moved to Northeast to cut out the hills that terrorized my last two miles. My current move to Omaha has unfortunately brought the hills back into my future bike commute. But living in Northeast, I biked every day to and from work from May through October, except one day lightening threatened my commute. Otherwise no amount of heat or rain stopped me from biking (although the ice and snow was enough to force me onto the bus). A lot of that was due to the fact that the city has a great network of bike boulevards, lanes, and trails. With a network that great, a little rain does not deter many of the daily commuters.
Speaking of water, the Master Water Stewards, a program unmatched anywhere else teaches average citizens the basics of stormwater and best management practices they can use in their own yards, neighborhoods, and larger watershed to improve the quality of water in lakes, streams, and rivers. Because of this program I have installed two rain gardens and three rain barrels, which I hope the future owners of my former homes enjoy and continue to use.
I am lucky to have had the opportunity to live and work in Minneapolis. I have learned so much and grown as a person, which I hope to carry forward with me in my future as an urban planner in Omaha, Nebraska. When I think about the future of this region and the similarities it has with the metro area in Minnesota, I see proper public transit, connected and effective bike infrastructure, a city supported compost program, and water wise principles integrated into daily life. I see the next great Midwest metro.