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Central Corridor LRT will bring bus service changes

Metro Transit will seek public input beginning this week on plans to restructure bus service along University Avenue.

Metro Transit is considering changes to its bus schedules to take advantage of the new Central Corridor light-rail.

Metro Transit will seek public input beginning this week on plans to restructure bus service along University Avenue to take full advantage of the $957 million Central Corridor light-rail transit (LRT) line now under construction.

The plans, still in their formative stages, could include:

  • Reducing the frequency of buses on Route 16 on University Avenue but maintaining service 24 hours a day, since LRT most likely will not operate between 1 and 5 a.m.
  • Cutting express bus service on I-94 to peak hours only.
  • Eliminating the existing Route 50 limited-stop service on University Avenue.
  • Providing new or improved bus service on major north-south streets, providing direct connections to LRT.

John Levin, director of service development for Metro Transit, says most of these changes were discussed during the preliminary engineering process for LRT and were included in the ridership projections for the line.

Now, Levin says, Metro Transit needs to work with the community to develop a more specific service plan that meets public needs while making the most effective use of the region’s rail investment. “This is really an effort to finalize some of that initial thinking,” he says.

Central Corridor Route Map
Courtesy of Metro TransitRoute map for the Central Corridor light-rail

Unlike the Hiawatha LRT line and many others around the country, the Central Corridor line (now dubbed “the Green Line”) will operate exclusively in urban neighborhoods in St. Paul and Minneapolis, with no park-and-ride lots. Transit planners estimate that 40 percent of the LRT riders will be transferring from a bus.

The population of the study area is about 246,000, with racial and ethnic minorities comprising about 35 percent. As of 2008, there were about 358,000 jobs in the study area. In addition, there are more than 91,000 students who attend post-secondary institutions in or near the area.

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Levin says one of the problems that must be addressed is significant gaps” in north-south bus service along the LRT line. Currently, there is bus service on Dale Street and Snelling and Cleveland avenues. But service is lacking on Fairview and Hamline avenues, Lexington Parkway and Victoria Street.

The goal, he says, would be to provide north-south service every half-mile so “no one would have no more than a quarter-mile walk” to transit service.

Since Metro Transit has no funding to expand bus service, Levin says, the agency hopes to trim bus service that would duplicate the LRT line and “reinvest” the savings in new routes and improved service on existing routes that complement LRT.

Metro Transit, an operating arm of the Metropolitan Council, will hold three open houses this month to seek public input for their service plan. The meetings will be Tuesday at the University of Minnesota and Thursday at the Rondo Library in St. Paul, with the final session March 20 at the J.J. Hill Magnet School in St. Paul.

The agency is working closely with the District Councils Collaborative, which received foundation support to hire nine “trusted advocates” to assist with the public engagement process and reach out to minority and immigrant communities.

Levin says Metro Transit hopes to complete its service plan by June, hold public hearings and make any refinements before delivering the final product to the Met Council for its consideration before the end of the year.

Met Council officials say the Central Corridor line will be about 75 percent complete by the end of the year. They hope to complete construction by the end of 2013, conduct test runs on the line and launch passenger service in 2014.