Design of a Framework for Measuring Sustainable Regional Development

Principal Investigator(s):

Laurie McGinnis, Former Director, Center for Transportation Studies


  • Edward Goetz, Professor, CURA Director, Urban & Regional Affairs
  • Robert Johns, Former Director, Center for Transportation Studies

Project summary:

Patterns of growth and development impact our environmental, social, economic, and cultural quality of life. In order to take steps toward sustainable development that will have a positive impact on these effects, a research team collaborated with the McKnight Foundation to identify a framework for an indicator system to measure sustainable regional development in the Twin Cities metropolitan region. The proposed framework included a set of sustainability principles, indicators, measures, and accompanying data sources. The McKnight Foundation anticipated using this sustainability framework for internal organizational purposes with the possibility of the system being considered by other local geographies in the future, and it was also thought that this framework could serve as a tool to compare sustainability between the Twin Cities seven-county region and other comparable regions. The study team began by examining the "livability principles" established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT): 1) provide more transportation choices; 2) promote equitable, affordable housing; 3) enhance economic competitiveness; 4) support existing communities; 5) coordinate and leverage government policies and investment; and 6) value communities and neighborhoods. Using these sustainability principles, the project developed a list of performance indicators and measures, taking into account the need for measures that are valid, reliable, replicable, and that operate at different scales. Using input from a focus group event, the research team assessed the quality, reliability, validity, scale, and availability of the identified data sources and proposed an analysis plan for future development of baseline measures. An advisory group of stakeholders and regional planning professionals provided input and guidance throughout the duration of the project. The report provides a summary of the research, presents a final recommended set of performance measures for the indicators, makes suggestions for the selection of tier 1 and tier 2 indicators, and proposes a plan for next steps.


Project details:

  • Project number: 2010038
  • Start date: 09/2009
  • Project status: Completed
  • Research area: Environment and Energy
  • Topics: Economics, Environment, Planning