Smart Regions Spotlight: Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

In the 1960s, a prominent University of Minnesota oceanographer proposed and helped develop plans for an experimental city in Minnesota that would contain innovations including automated transportation and sustainable energy production. Despite gaining the support of NASA engineers, corporate giants, and even Hubert Humphrey, the city never came to fruition, but that same forward-thinking spirit lives on in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area today.

With a public transit system that's outclassed in the U.S. by very few cities relative to its size, Minneapolis-St. Paul is serious about smart transportation. The current flagship of Minneapolis-St. Paul's Metro Transit system is the Green Line. Opened in 2015, the 11-mile light rail is open 24/7 and connects the central business districts of both cities in addition to running through the University of Minnesota campus. 

The University of Minnesota received a $2.5 million grant in 2017 from the National Science Foundation to work on making cities smarter. The University of Minnesota is also the leader of a $12 million NSF-funded research network focused on bringing together stakeholders and experts in order to reimagine the infrastructure of cities. 

Just prior to the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Department of Transportation offered free rides on an autonomous shuttle bus that MnDOT tested itself. The project is one small piece of the Downtown 2025 plan for Minneapolis, a blueprint that includes leading the nation in transportation options and creating a green infrastructure. When one considers the ambition of the Downtown 2025 Plan, the uniqueness of the Twin Cities, and the significance of building serious mass transit in a Midwestern city that isn't Chicago, it becomes clear that Minneapolis-St. Paul has a smart future. 

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Daniel O'Leary