The Livability Initiative
Transportation influences the livability of neighborhoods. The design of a transportation system impacts the quality of our lives, from how clean the air we breathe is to whether we can get to our jobs efficiently. MnDOT Metro District’s Livability Initiative works with partners and community members to deliver projects that not only fix pavement issues but also address broader community goals.
The Livability Initiative is a Metro District wide Initiative. Rethinking I-94 inspired and informed the Livability Initiative, but the Initiative will apply to projects throughout the Metro District. The Livability Framework is currently guiding the development of Rethinking I-94, Highway 252 and I-94, and I-494: Airport to Highway 169. MnDOT will identify a set of Livability Pilot projects in 2025.
The Livability Initiative developed Guiding Commitments and the Livability Framework to help us deliver more livable projects. The Guiding Commitments steer how we engage with communities to best understand challenges, opportunities, and visions related to livability. The Livability Framework helps us determine if and how a project can improve the livability of a neighborhood. These guideposts help the Livability Initiative to use the quality, location, and type of transportation facilities and services available to help achieve broader community goals.
The Livability team developed the Livability Framework based on community input from public outreach efforts in Phase 1 (2016-2018) of Rethinking I-94, a long-term effort to develop a new vision for I-94 between Minneapolis and St. Paul. After that first round of input, the team held specific Livability workshops held in 2021 that further informed the Livability Framework. The Livability team also used Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Livability resources to develop the Framework.
While Rethinking I-94 stakeholders played an important role in shaping the Framework, we distilled it to apply broadly to all projects in the Metro District.
The Pillars of the Livability Framework are broad and cover the wide range of community issues that are linked to transportation. The Livability Framework consists of seven Livability Pillars: Health and the Environment, Economic Vitality, Sense of Place, Safety, Connectivity, Equity, and Trust.
Health and environment: Transportation systems and investments that bolster the health and well-being of people who live work and play near system corridors. Investments that prioritize delivering benefits to Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and low-income communities who disproportionately endure the most severe health-related transportation burdens.
Economics: Transportation systems and investments that connect people to jobs, boost local economies, and create wealth-building opportunities for communities, especially in under-resourced communities.
Sense of place: A livable transportation system supports each neighborhood’s unique sense of place. A strong sense of place makes people feel at home in their community and connected to their neighbors and culture.
Safety: A livable transportation system ensures that everyone, regardless of their mode of transportation, can travel safely and without risk to their well-being. This goes beyond the prevention of physical accidents; it also includes the protection of personal security and the preservation of people’s well-being, keeping them safe from danger, harm or threats while using the transportation system. A livable system invests in mitigating safety issues that disproportionately affect low-income and Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) communities.
Connectivity: Transportation systems and investments that make it safe, efficient, and affordable to use all modes of travel to access places of social, economic, natural, and cultural significance.
Equity: Transportation investments that ensure the distribution of benefits and burdens of transportation systems and services are fair and just, which historically has not been fair. Transportation equity requires ensuring that underserved communities, especially Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), share in the power of decision-making.
Trust: Transportation authorities that build and retain stakeholders’ trust through fostering long-term, good-faith relationships.
Enhanced engagement with stakeholders is an essential component of creating livable projects. The following set of Guiding Commitments was developed from ideas, input, and surveys completed by community members.
These statements will guide how we work with communities in the future:
- Vision: Understanding a community’s underlying values and issues of importance, now and into the future, to articulate common ground; building toward that vision with each project and demonstrating that commitment to communities over time.
- Co-power: Cultivating joint ownership of each stage of the process; acknowledging that local knowledge is valid and valuable expertise; including communities in identifying criteria for prioritizing decisions and being partners in problem-solving.
- Authenticity and respect: Providing timely, accessible information as well as multiple options for participation; acknowledging issues and constraints communicated by stakeholders.
- Transparency: Communicating realistic timelines, participation impact, funding realities, decision-making processes, and levels of authority; making visible the context of the whole process at each step.
- Inclusivity: Creating inclusive partnerships and teams from vision to construction; ensuring multiple voices are engaged and reflected in decision making.