Manager of Technical Planning Support, Metropolitan Council
An Interview with
8301 Creekside Circle #920, Bloomington, MN 55437
May 18, 2012
Notes of the
Verne Johnson (chair), Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Clarence Shallbetter, Tim
McDonald, Dan Olson, Jim Olson
Introduction of interviewee
- As Manager of Technical Planning Support for the Metropolitan Council,
Mark Filipi's work focuses on travel demand forecasting and air quality
Joined the Council in 1990 as a Transportation Planner. Among the
Metropolitan Council projects he has worked on over the years have been
the Dual-Track Airport Planning Process; the 1990, 2000 and 2010 Travel
Behavior Inventories; multiple Transportation System Performance
Evaluations; highway and transit studies; the Northstar Commuter Rail
studies; the Central Corridor studies; the SW Corridor Studies. Recently,
he was a member of the team preparing the Council's risk assessment of the
Vikings stadium proposal for the Arden Hills Twin Cities Army Ammunition
joining the Council, he worked as a planner for the City of
the City of Springfield, MO, and
MO. He has also been an insurance salesman and an oilfield geologic
a master's degree in City and Regional Planning from Southern Illinois
University-Edwardsville; and a BA in Geology from
College, Northfield, MN.
Congestion will grow as the region's population, households and employment
biggest "problem" in transportation is that people are continually
deciding they want to travel more, Filipi said. The growth rates both in
the number of trips people make and in the number of trips a household
makes continue to increase. Since roadways are limited in capacity this
means congestion will worsen.
alternative ways to manage congestion.
more road building, as a solution to this problem, is not enough.
Certainly we can build more, but studies of what we would need to build to
eliminate congestion during the peak hours conclude that that approach is
simply not feasible. There is no way people could conceivably accept the
consequences of building enough roads to result in no congestion. So the
region needs to look for alternatives to increased highway construction.
And with tightening budgets as background, the Met Council is looking for
lower-cost, high-benefit solutions.
the planning process.
to deal with the critical aspects of congestion with limited resources,
Filipi said, begins with understanding, as best we can, why we have
congestion and, even more basically, where people are trying to go.
ten years the Metropolitan Council performs a Travel Behavior Inventory (TBI),
capturing the driving habits of one percent of households, which, it turns
out, is a statistically significant sample.
accomplish this, the household residents are asked to keep a diary of all
trips they make on a given weekday. Where they start and stop, when they
were made, why they were made, and how they were made. Unfortunately,
people don't always accurately record all their trips. In the 2010 TBI, a
subset of the surveyed households were asked to carry
units to learn exactly when people started a trip, where they went and at
details of driving behaviors on trips are important, he explained. People
stop to get coffee, for example, which sounds like an insignificant thing;
but from a transportation-planning viewpoint, you can't often serve a
coffee stop with mass transit. So these small details can have
considerable influence on the analysis of transportation needs.
Travel characteristics analyzed.
highways handle a majority of vehicle miles.
In 2007, total Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) in the state was 57.4 billion
based on approximately 141,000 miles of roadway. The state highway system
carries 58 percent of total VMT, while representing 8 percent of all
trip rates by households have been steadily rising
over the past 50 years, from an average of 7.5 daily trips in 1958, to 8.9
in 1970, 9.1 in 1982, 10.1 in 1990, and 10.3 in 2000. In recent years the
trend has decreased slightly, likely due to the economic contraction,
Single occupant vehicles account for a large percentage of all trips.
71.5 percent of all vehicle trips in the Metropolitan region are made in
single-occupant vehicles. The vast majority of work commute trips, 83.5
percent, are made by solitary drivers as well. In 5 percent of trips,
there were other car passengers, and in 5 percent of trips travelers used
public transit. In 2007 6.7 percent of
Minnesota households had no vehicle available to them down from 7.7
percent with no vehicle available in 2000.
are taken throughout the metro, he added, not concentrated in any
particular region (though the two downtowns do focus much traffic), and
traffic between the downtowns is a small percentage of total trips.
Congestion is limited in duration and is a function of the economy.
congestion in the metropolitan area occurs only for a couple of hours each
day. The straight commuting trips are almost all in the morning; the trips
in the second half of the day appear to include many more trips for
statistic Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) as reported by TBI survey
respondents has increased steadily from 41 million in 1991 to a high of 56
million in 2008. The observed VMT as reported by the Minnesota Department
of Transportation for the same period shows a similar pattern, growing
from 51 million daily VMT in 1991 to a high of 74 million daily VMT in
2008, tapering off a few million in years since. The difference in the two
sets of number is that the TBI reported data includes only VMT produced by
residents of the region, while the MnDOT data also includes VMT from
commercial vehicles and trips made in the region by people who live
outside the 7-county region.
things were equal and VMT were decreasing, it would be great, Filipi said,
but it appears that the cause of the decline in VMT is that people are
making fewer trips. This decline in miles traveled is a likely a result of
the economic slowdown, he believes, and will probably reverse as the
economy picks up.
planning process for transit is not coherent.
the Legislative Auditor released an evaluation report stating that
transit-planning processes in the state - including planning for rail,
bus, and cars - is "less than ideal." (http://tinyurl.com/cs37q6s)The
report found that more than 25 organizations are involved with transit
planning or operations in the Twin Cities. And, "the lack of an
agreed-upon vision and priorities for transit in the region has
contributed to the transit governance challenges."
participant asked whether the process for establishing transit considers a
cost-benefit analysis, and who performs it.
said that throughout the process of creating a large project like rail
transit, various organizations and agencies perform cost benefit
calculations. However, there is no single office or organization
accountable for the quality and outcome of the planning, including its
sometimes the planning is not necessarily realized as originally intended.
The Hiawatha light rail line was originally proposed as a bus rapid
transit line, Filipi said. Studies had called for a six lane divided
highway; so the government bought a huge swath of land but ended up
building only four lanes.
initial steps for the development of rail projects are often in the hands
of the counties by virtue of their status as Regional Railroad Authorities
and their powers in that role to acquire railroad right-of-way if and when
it is abandoned by a railroad.
several studies (such as feasibility analysis, alternatives analysis,
draft environmental impact statement), the process likely moves to a
funding proposal to the federal government, while coordinating among
pertinent local and state government agencies and community organizations.
Congestion may be a natural product of a good system.
Part of the challenge might be that there is no solution to congestion, a
participant observed. Drivers will always go first to the route that
offers the fastest way to their destination. As long as the freeways offer
that benefit, they will always be full at peak demand hours.
One effect of improvements to the freeways is the unloading of the
parallel surface streets. As a result, some people may drive those surface
streets as a preferable alternative to the freeways.
- The Met Council is identifying those corridors most in need of
improvement, Filipi said. The council has stated for years that we can't
build ourselves out of congestion, Filipi said. Presently 80 percent of
money for roads goes toward maintenance. Only 20 percent goes toward
improvements in capacity and the related additional maintenance. In the
planning process it must always be noted that every time a lane is added,
funding must also be earmarked to maintain that lane in the future. The
process will continue to be complicated by the involvement of so many
interested stakeholders, changing demographics and the vagaries of the
chair thanked Mr. Filipi for the interview.