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Why is Minneapolis considering a ban on drive-thrus?

It would prevent any new drive-thrus being built in the city.
Drive through

The drive-thru window could become a thing of the past in Minneapolis, if the city pushes ahead with a proposal to ban the likes of fast-food restaurants, banks and pharmacies from building them within city limits.

Now that doesn't mean that your local McDonald's drive-thru is going to disappear anytime soon, as existing drive-thrus wouldn't be affected by the proposed ordinance.

But the city council is considering a proposal that would prevent any more being built in Minneapolis in the future.

Drive-thrus have faced calls for increased restrictions in recent years, with a similar push to ban them coming in 2016 after safety concerns were expressed over the placement of drive-thrus in pedestrian-heavy areas.

They are currently only allowed to be built in 6 commercial and industrial zoning districts, out of a total 23 zoning districts in the city. 

Part of the reason for preventing more drive-thrus can be found in the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan, the focus of which has so far mainly centered on the loosening of residential zoning to allow for multiple units to be built on all housing plots.

But also contained within the 2040 plan is language that would prohibit "the establishment of new drive-throughs and gas stations," amid a wider drive for city residents to use transit, bike, and walk more often.

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There are environmental reasons for scrapping drive-thrus, as emission-generating vehicles idle as drivers wait to reach the window.

A report presented to the Planning Commission this week cites "extended idling" among the "undesirable impacts" of drive-thrus, with the others including "noise ... proliferation of curb cuts, conflicts with pedestrians and traffic generation."

The impact on future business development may not be that significant. Since 2015, only 7 drive-thru developments have been constructed in the city by a mixture of banks, drugstores, fast-food restaurants and coffee shops.

Speaking at Thursday, per the Star Tribune, planning commissioner Matthew Brown saisd that while the proposal seems controversial "on the surface," the actual impact would be "quite small" given how few applications for drive-thrus the city receives.

The Planning Commission will vote on the ordinance next month, before it goes before the full city council.

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