With inauguration of ‘A Line,’ BRT comes to MSP

MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
The high-capacity bus route will travel from the Rosedale Mall in Roseville to the 46th Street Blue Line station in Minneapolis.

Metro Transit is having a party this weekend.

Nearly two years to the day that it celebrated the opening of the Green Line light rail route, the regional transit agency will christen its first edition of another transit mode that could become more-familiar in the coming years: bus rapid transit.

Designated as the ‘A Line,’ the high-capacity bus route will travel from the Rosedale Mall in Roseville to the 46th Street Blue Line station in Minneapolis. It will travel mostly through St. Paul on Snelling Avenue and Ford Parkway. The 10-mile, 20-station route cost $27 million, including construction and purchase of specialized buses.

On Saturday morning, in the the parking lot of the Midway Shopping Center in St. Paul (and within earshot of the Green Line), Metro Transit officials will hold a ceremonial ribbon cutting starting at 9:25 a.m. The first bus will depart at 10 a.m., and every 10 minutes thereafter. Rides will be free on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Also on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at University and Snelling avenues (as well as sites in Roseville and Highland Park) Metro Transit will also feature attractions such as music, food trucks, face painting and transit trip planners to help potential riders plan routes on the new line

The Met Council is counting on bus rapid transit to build out the regional mass transit system — at less cost and with less lead time than light rail. The next two light rail lines — the Southwest LRT extension of the Green Line to Eden Prairie and the Bottineau extension of the Blue Line to Brooklyn Park — are the last currently being planned.

Metro Transit planners note that a dozen local bus routes carry 90,000 daily riders, one third of the agency’s daily ridership. They say that in high-volume corridors, buses make up less than 3 percent of traffic but carry a third of the travelers.

Those high-use corridors are being eyed for conversion from traditional bus routes to BRT. Next will come the ‘C Line,’ which will travel from the Brooklyn Center Transit Center to downtown Minneapolis, mostly along Brooklyn Boulevard, Penn Avenue and Olson Highway.

So where’s the ‘B Line?’ It’s on hold while Ramsey County conducts a study of the route, which is set to run between downtown St. Paul and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The study could result in a recommendation that light rail or streetcar be the preferred mode on what is designated as the Riverview Corridor.

Also in planning: a series of highway bus rapid transit lines designated by colors: the Orange Line (from Burnsville to downtown Minneapolis via I-35-W); and the Gold Line (from Woodbury to downtown St. Paul along the I-94 corridor).

Like light rail, but not

Bus rapid transit takes some of the advantages of light rail and applies them to rubber-tired vehicles. Stations are spaced at half-mile intervals, saving time with less-frequent starts and stops. The stations also have light-rail-type features, including lighting, heating and security cameras. Most importantly, to speed up boarding the stations will have ticketing machines similar to those used at light rail stations.

Metro Transit

The dozen new buses used on the ‘A line’ are also different; they have wider doors and floors nearly level with station platforms. And since they don’t pay fares on board, passengers can board and exit from either set of wider doors. The buses also have some ability to control stop lights, again speeding up the trip. And many of the stations are flush with the right traffic lane, allowing the vehicles to avoid merging into traffic after stopping for passengers. 

Planners think the slightly increased speed — about 20 percent faster on average — and more-frequent service (buses will arrive every 10 minutes) will boost ridership from the 4,000 daily riders who travel via the current bus route to 8,000 by 2030. The current bus route, No. 84, with more-numerous bus stops, will continue to run at 30-minute intervals.

Ultimately the transit agency would like to build 20 rapid transitways by 2040, with 16 being BRT. Active studies are looking at the Midtown Corridor, West Broadway, Nicollet-Central Corridor, the Red Rock Corridor, Robert Street and Rush Line. 

Transit advocates have had some fun with a cartoon route-map/poster created for the opening celebration. While there are light rail trains, BRT buses and even a bike-riding parent with child, there are no cars featured. Also missing? Interstate 94. And while there is a football at Hamline University and a gold ball at Highland, there is no soccer ball near the Midway Shopping Center. At least not yet.

Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by William Lindeke on 06/10/2016 - 03:37 pm.

    20% is meaningful!

    I’m looking forward to seeing this in practice, but a 20% cut in travel times is a pretty big deal.

    • Submitted by Richard Callahan on 06/11/2016 - 08:19 am.

      The article said a 20% increase in SPEED. Today’s Strib said it would result in a 6-8 minute decrease in TIME from one end to the other.

    • Submitted by CJ Camp on 06/11/2016 - 12:01 pm.

      um.

      Simply numbers, so as to stay out of trouble with my employer and hopefully some people I like.

      $27 million
      10 miles
      6-8 minutes saved vs. the 84

      best-case scenario savings: 48 seconds/mile

      Also:

      The bus schedules are notoriously optimistic as written.

  2. Submitted by Ray J Wallin on 06/10/2016 - 04:04 pm.

    Great idea, especially for getting fans to soccer games.

    But I didn’t see a stated need for the route. Is there a reason so many people need to go from Rosedale to Minnehaha falls(or the blue line)?

    • Submitted by Beth Daniels on 06/11/2016 - 11:59 am.

      A Line route

      Well, it happens to work for me since I live near the 46th Street Station and used to enjoy going to Rosedale! But seriously… One huge benefit to the A Line is that it connects the Blue Line and Green Line in a new way. That’s got to benefit a lot of riders. It also provides a route from South Minneapolis to the State Fair. I don’t think that this route was planned with the expectation that people would ride from one end to the other, but rather that it offers more-efficient trips and better connections in various neighborhoods along the way.

    • Submitted by Pat Brady on 06/13/2016 - 09:02 pm.

      Rode the A line

      I rode the A line on Saturday from Highalnd Park to Rosedale and back.
      Stopped at lunch at O’Gara’s, did some shopping at this intersection.
      Got to Rosedale, did some more shopping , ahd dinner, and rode back to Highland Park.
      it was faster than a regular bus, nice to be able to get on or off from either door.
      We had a persosn in a wheelchair, guys with bikes loaded on front and families all riding the A line.
      I am now sold on this means of transportation.
      Driving a car to Rosedale is a nightmare along Snelling and then finding place to park etc.
      Cannot wait for the C line along W 7th st to airport.
      Plan to take my grandchildren to Minnehaha Park using the A line.

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/14/2016 - 09:34 am.

        Wait till winter

        I am pessimistic that such efficiency will be seen once the snow flies. I would like to see the “benefits” revisited then.

  3. Submitted by Jim Million on 06/10/2016 - 04:19 pm.

    Relative Rapidity

    Good idea here, finally adopted after a couple decades of State Fair BRT.

    Remembering past MinnPost articles on prior “rapid transit” — horse cars, street cars, TCRT…
    Please reprint them as fun sidebars.

  4. Submitted by Barbara Lofquist on 06/11/2016 - 09:58 am.

    BET not LRT

    BET should be implemented rather than any further LRT lines. The cost savings would be significant, and BRT is flexible. Win. Win.

    • Submitted by Joseph Totten on 06/13/2016 - 12:06 am.

      Flexibility is a BIG Negative

      A few comments

      1 – For lines like this, lines which don’t connect huge workplaces to homes, this BRT is a great step forward. This doesn’t mean having this be the Green Line would be effective.

      2 – BRT was considered for planned LRT lines, and continues to be considered for all new transitway routes. Not only is there a plan for Arterial Bus Rapid Transit expansion throughout the metro, where local buses are being overloaded, but also a base study for Highway Bus Rapid Transit to connect disparate locations and serve areas which might not have the demand for LRT/

      3 – BRT is not flexible, it has expensive stations it will continue to serve. To sell it as a flexible technology/use of transit monies is not very realistic. Further, one of the biggest benefits to this service is the permanence the stations provide. We see this with local bus service, all but the best services have little to no impact on property values, or people’s decisions to live there, it is hoped that this quasi-BRT has the sense of permanence that allows people to invest into buying a home near the line specifically because it won’t change.

      Please do forward your comments on how to improve services to MetroTransit. Seriously, how can they best serve the public without knowing the ideas of the public.

  5. Submitted by Britter Ritter on 06/11/2016 - 02:28 pm.

    What?

    It’s pretty shocking that the MTA continues with its foolish policy of giving color names to transit routes. They have no relationship to their routes, and require an abstract association, rather than using the logical destination name or main streets names. For visitors, it’s a disaster. For people with memory problems, it’s a handicap. This should be called the Ford-Snelling-Rosedale or Roseville Line.
    It’s the same problem in Boston, and copying this was a bad idea from the get-go. Unless the geographical description is paired with the colors, it’s the worst kind of communication. This line could at least have been called FuSchia Rose to relate the color to the route.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 06/13/2016 - 07:06 am.

      Completely Agree

      I liked “Capitol Line.” Made sense to locals and to visitors. Think of various colors that just won’t meet the p/c codes: Yellow Line, Red Line, Black Line, for examples. I guess black and white are not “colors,” technically speaking. Wouldn’t compass bearings be more useful?

      I do rather like “Indigo Line,” however, but definitely not “Puce Line.” I should be dead before they get to that one. In the meantime, I refer to the SW Corridor as the “Betting Line.”

  6. Submitted by Craig Jones on 06/13/2016 - 03:36 pm.

    This is NOT BRT

    Sorry, but once again in a US city, this is NOT BRT and it is incorrect, and in fact misleading, to call it such. The only one that comes (slightly) close in the US is the Healthline in Cleveland but even that is far from true BRT. True BRT has dedicated lanes in the middle of the road with barriers to keep cars out, stations are fully enclosed and have screen doors that automatically open when the bus stops at the station and has completely level boarding. These stations are merely normal bus stations with a ticket machine, most other developed countries have bus countdown clocks at any normal bus station anyway. Yes it is an improvement somewhat to what is there but it is not even close to BRT and cities need to stop pretending it is.

    • Submitted by Joseph Totten on 06/15/2016 - 10:08 am.

      Pittsburgh

      There are several BRTs in the US actually… the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy rated Cleveland as a “Silver BRT”, Eugene Oregon, LA and Pittsburgh as having “Bronze BRT” and Pittsburgh (2 more routes) and Vegas as having “Basic BRT” (although they were all high scoring for Basic BRT designation).

      I’d love to see a new list put out, as the first was before a recent update to the scorecard.

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