It may not occur to you, when you walk from the bus stop to your office, that you are taking part in a form of “multimodal” transportation. Again, if you get off the train in Minneapolis and pick up a Nice Ride (bicycle) for a tour of Nicollet Island with visiting friends, you are taking part in multimodal transportation. Almost every trip we take requires multiple forms of transportation; car, transit, carpooling, biking and walking.

Leveraging multimodal transportation in the development arena was the focus of one of two panels sponsored recently by Larkin Hoffman and the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. Panelists included Lucy Galbraith, transit oriented development director at Metro Transit, Mark Fabel, executive vice president at McGough Construction, and Jaci Bell, director of development for Kraus-Anderson Realty.

Until the 1980s, most developers viewed transit as the way people got to work in the central cities. Planners and designers changed all that by creating incentives to partner on transit oriented development (TOD), locating transit stops in or around private offices, shopping centers and multifamily sites. Green space, parks, bike sharing and other public amenities were added to many TOD projects more recently. TOD has created some of the most vibrant urban environments here in the Twin Cities and around the country.

Take a look at Bloomington Central Station (BCS), a 45-acre campus developed around a transit station and public park. Planned by McGough, the project combines the headquarters for Health Partners, with condos, apartments, a new Hyatt hotel and structured parking facilities. BCS is just two station stops from Mall of America, a pioneer in transit-oriented development, which was constructed more than 25 years ago with a transit station built into its east parking deck. More than 10 years ago the last station for the blue line added light rail transit (LRT) to Mall of America and what is now the busiest transit station in the state.

Panelists also pointed to more than $2 billion of commercial development along the green line which runs in the center of University Avenue between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul. Adult bookstores and movie houses have been pushed out by successful ethnic restaurants and groceries, student housing, senior housing and new employers, all connected by LRT.

Galbraith noted that 40 percent of employees don’t drive to work, so good transit and multimodal facilities are essential to attracting employees from an increasingly tight labor pool. Sometimes employee incentives take the form of free- or reduced-price transit passes. Other employers offer bike racks, showers or preferred parking for carpools. Today’s smart phone apps, like ZAP, even create opportunities for friendly competition among coworkers who uses transit or bike to work. The entire environment for TOD has improved dramatically in 30 years.

For a complete review of the TOD panel, follow this link to the Q&A published by the Business Journal.