Route 54 Ridership and Why We Cannot Skip the Route to the Airport

Recently, posts about the Riverview Corridor have been generating a LOT of comments on streets.mn. One of these posts suggested that, in order to ensure the old Ford factory in Highland Park develops in a way that would not be thoroughly suburban, that the Riverview Corridor should be rerouted through Highland Park on the old freight line which served the factory. This in and of itself was not the worst idea, but several commenters started remarking about why the line should even go to the airport? Some have declared that the only reason the goal is the airport is because the bourgeois who are planning this line would never see themselves on transit unless they were trying to skip out on a cab fare to or from the airport. This is a horribly inaccurate sentiment. The reason for serving the MSP Airport and the Mall of America is that transit dependent, lower income ($10/hr) and existing riders have jobs in these locations, go shopping in these locations and commute from lower income housing along West Seventh, especially those JUST across the river, such as West 7that Maynard or Madison.

Gold bars show the combined number of boardings and alightings at each stop.

These are eastbound boardings for each stop, ranked from highest to lowest. MOA and the airport are busier than any of the downtown stops.

The next map shows the low and moderate income housing surrounding the Sibley Plaza shopping center at West 7th and Maynard Drive.

A horrendous mashup of Microsoft Paint and Google Maps. Pretty much, just across the river from the Airport, in Saint Paul there's a LOT of low income housing.

Red Hashed Area = Low income housing, Yellow = Single family, but still not expensive housing, White = W. 7th, Purple-y/Blue = Bill’s routing along CP tracks, and yes I used paint… just because.

These lower income apartments house a lot of people, and these bus stops always have people waiting at them. When I was commuting home from teaching swim lessons at the nearby JCC at 6 on a Sunday I would get on with invariably 5 other people or more, who were headed to the airport for evening or night shifts. And when I would take the 54 to get to the JCC at noon? Someone who had been working since midnight sorting packages for some freight company, or cleaning bathrooms, or SOMETHING was getting off work and got off just across the river.

A bar chart shows how many people ride the bus between each stop on the 54's route, a slow increase from MOA, a jump at the airport, some variability, then once the bus reaches downtown people disembark rapidly and the last 6 stops have seemingly no one riding.

This chart shows the number of people actually on the bus at each stop, subtracting the ones that got off and adding the ones that got on.

Going from the Mall of America towards Downtown Saint Paul, the chart shows there are about 1450 riders who need to get from south of the river across to Saint Paul. There’s some major turnover at each stop, so this number is beat by a few segments around Grand Avenue and Saint Clair. But it’s pretty clear from looking here that if we want to avoid serving an area, let’s not run to Union Depot. Once the bus passes Minnesota Street there is no one riding it anymore, but we cannot avoid running to the Airport and MOA.

If we want to run to the Ford site, it will be an extra 7 minutes (that number is from thin air) or so for workers to get to the airport from Saint Paul. Maybe the Ford site redeveloping densely is worth it. But when all is said and done, the line MUST continue south to serve the riders who already rely on the 54. Let’s amplify their service, not go chasing other markets. Let’s serve those who actually need transit. Those of us with the means to not ride it can make it work when we decide to do so.


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50 Responses to Route 54 Ridership and Why We Cannot Skip the Route to the Airport

  1. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary January 30, 2016 at 9:35 am #

    I agree that airport (and MOA) access for employees is too easily overlooked. Bicycle access to the airport is similarly brushed aside — “well I’m not going to bike there with two big suitcases for a three-month trip to Europe” — with little consideration for the many folks of limited means who need to get there daily.

    The standing plan is that the route would detour northwest to connect to 46th St, and then run along the existing Hiawatha tracks to airport and MOA, right? That’s not terrible, but not really an improvement over existing access on the 54th. I would rather see it follow Fort Rd/TH 5 and connect at the airport, terminating at MOA with no need to transfer.

    As for just the general idea of detouring a new transit investment to serve theoretical TOD: see the seven-minute detour for the Red Line to serve Cedar Grove station. So far there’s some decent apartments on the far side of the area, but the immediate station vicinity is brand-new “transit-oriented” outlet mall parking lots. Transit is no guarantee of good development.

    • Monte Castleman
      Monte Castleman January 30, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

      Well, right now the Cedar Grove detour is a known problem, and they’re spending money to fix it. Why build Riverview with a known problem? (unless it turns out that adding a new bridge next to or rebuilding the Fort Road bridge is not practical, and taking two traffic lanes on the existing Ford Road bridge is.)

    • Joseph Totten
      Joseph Totten January 30, 2016 at 9:54 pm #

      No proposed plan yet. Bill Lindeke suggested what you describe, which is okay but is time-worse than the current 54. The Fort Road/TH 5 alignment is still being considered by the actual Riverview Committee.

  2. Mplsjaromir January 30, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    What’s the cost the cost of LRT bridge across the Mississippi? That has to be answered before declaring it critical.

    I’m only saying this because we live in a world where we put serious and I would say unfair limitations on our public transit infrastructure spending. If adding LRT to the existing TH5 bridge can be retrofitted for $50 million (figure out of thin air) then it makes sense to me. If LRT requires a brand new $400 million bridge then I am skeptical. I haven’t seen good numbers on this yet.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have a close family member who rides the 54 regularly. I think a 9 digit investment would need to serve more than current 1450 riders plus whoever you can gain from overcoming rail bias. If a new bridge is what it takes to placate Eastside pols to continue support of the CTIB it may be worth it as well. I do think at current and realistic future ridership estimates high feature BRT would be sufficient.

    • Mike Hicks January 30, 2016 at 4:50 pm #

      Since the outward appearance didn’t change much, it’s easy to forget that the Washington Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River was heavily modified in order to support the weight of trains (also expanding its lifespan and making it so it was no longer “fracture critical”). According to the Met Council, it cost $21 million to do the retrofit, estimated to be $80 to $100 million less than building a new bridge. The TH-5 bridge is slightly shorter than the WAB, while the Ford Parkway bridge is slightly longer.

      • Cameron Slick February 10, 2016 at 5:51 pm #

        Not weight so much, but vibrations.

  3. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke January 30, 2016 at 10:38 am #

    Fair enough. The line should absolutely serve this community. I think you can have it both ways, though. A lot depends on the details of the river bridge.

    BRT won’t cut it, if you want to get high-quality TOD and significant mode share shifts in Saint Paul, which is one of my personal goals., and I think really important. Also the business community wants equality with Minneapolis and will not be happy with BRT from the airport.

    • mplsjaromir January 30, 2016 at 10:55 am #

      I do not see how a bus route that isn’t even in Metro Transit’s top 10 for ridership is being considered for an LRT upgrade. http://streets.mn/2015/01/28/chart-of-the-day-top-10-metro-transit-bus-routes-by-ridership-2014/

      From my personal observation St. Paul is reflexively against increased density so TOD seems to be a long shot. The business community needs to realize that population and economic activity are not evenly split east to west.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke January 30, 2016 at 11:13 am #

        That last point isn’t all that true any more. The conversation in Highland is very encouraging and this project, with the Ford site, will be a game changer for the city. That’s why I’m so into the idea of combining them. If we don’t, nothing will change.

        • mplsjaromir January 30, 2016 at 12:18 pm #

          The center of the Metro continues to move further west every year. I am only going by publicly available housing and employment statistics, you may have other criteria.

          The problem with St. Paul leadership is that they are either reactionaries, or if they are progressive in terms of land use, they are scared of their own shadows.

          Unless somehow transit oriented increased residential density was a tourist gimmick meant to entice suburbanites to visit St. Paul, I do not see how it happens. We all know that St. Paul only gets serious about doing anything if somehow it attracts tourists (NHL Hockey, minor league baseball, soccer, River Balcony). Crying shame really, St. Paul leadership has no idea how great of a city they have.

      • Monte Castleman
        Monte Castleman January 30, 2016 at 12:42 pm #

        Well, you can make decisions based on existing ridership. Or decisions based on building a coherent system. From the viewpoint of a coherent system, Riverview is an obvious gap, probably the 3rd most important line, and we shouldn’t settle for just a bus, even if it’s cheaper and makes it easy to solve some hard issues.

        • Sean Hayford Oleary
          Sean Hayford Oleary January 30, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

          To be fair, it does seem that the 18, 21, or 5 going to some sort of rail could also be part of a coherent system. (Particularly the 5, which also terminates at MOA.)

          Arguably the Orange Line is equivalent to converting the 18 to LRT, at least through Mpls.

        • mplsjaromir January 30, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

          What is not coherent is building an LRT with less than 5,000 per day.

          • Sean Hayford Oleary
            Sean Hayford Oleary January 30, 2016 at 2:53 pm #

            What was the ridership of the Hiawatha corridor prior to construction of LRT? Was there even bus service on that route? I actually have no idea, but I assume there was vastly less service and ridership. But it made for a great piece of the network, even prior to the Green Line.

            • mplsjaromir January 30, 2016 at 3:04 pm #

              The 55 was in the top 10 metro transit routes.

            • Adam Froehlig
              Adam Froehlig January 30, 2016 at 3:25 pm #

              No, there wasn’t. There were express bus routes from downtown to the airport, but these ran along 35W and the Crosstown. The 5, of course, has served MOA since MOA opened. But there wasn’t a specific route along the Hiawatha corridor that extended even half the length of today’s Blue Line, let alone the entire length.

              • Sam Newberg
                Sam Newberg February 1, 2016 at 10:29 am #

                This is fascinating to me, because we have two very successful LRT lines that come from very different origins. The Blue Line follows a route that essentially had no service prior – before 2004, you couldn’t walk to Hiawatha Avenue and catch a bus (although you could and still can catch a freight train). Before the Green Line, bus service was very well established along University Avenue.

                I can’t say what this tells us, but based on what happened to the Blue Line, I’m willing to bet that if LRT could replace the 54 bus service, ridership would see a really big bump.

                How much greater is ridership on the Green Line versus bus service prior to 2014? What is the “LRT bump?”

                • Adam Froehlig
                  Adam Froehlig February 1, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

                  According to a 6 month anniversary post, combined ridership on the “University Corridor” (Green Line plus remaining Route 16 plus Route 94) 6 months after Green Line opening was double what it was 6 months before opening (Routes 16/50/94).

                  A Met Council Transportation Committee presentation from 2 months ago also has some “University Corridor” numbers (go to page 7)…not quite double, but still a significant bump after the Green Line opened.

            • Cameron Slick February 10, 2016 at 5:54 pm #

              The Minnehaha route had much more robust service, Cedar Avenue buses went all the way to the mall, and there was a pretty frequent express bus to the mall.

              But I’m not sure if there was a fast route from downtown to the airport?

          • Mike Hicks January 30, 2016 at 4:00 pm #

            We get a bit of a skewed perspective on what an appropriate ridership threshold is, since our first two lines have been among the best LRT corridors in the country. Our current system’s ridership per mile is comparable to lines in New York City’s “sixth borough” — New Jersey across the Hudson river from Manhattan.

            In 2009, the 54 got just over 4,000 riders daily, although 2009 was a bad year. Considering that the Green Line almost doubled ridership over previous Central Corridor routes, this could go up pretty significantly.

            The overall corridor from downtown St. Paul to the MOA is about 11 miles, but since we already have some light rail in place, only about 6.5 to 7 miles needs to be added. Riverview should be cheaper in real dollars than the Green Line was, though inflation may bump it up to or beyond that level.

            The distance and ridership reminds me of The Tide in Norfolk, Virginia. That 7.4-mile line averaged 5,800 daily riders in the last quarter of 2014. That’s at or near the bottom of what the FTA is willing to fund, but proves that Riverview is within the realm of possibility.

            • Joseph Totten
              Joseph Totten January 30, 2016 at 9:58 pm #

              No build projections are about 6,000 daily riders for 2030.

          • Joseph Totten
            Joseph Totten January 30, 2016 at 10:04 pm #

            Can we let the study finish and get projections before we throw out numbers? 5,000 is the 54’s existing ridership, not 2030 projections, and not including rail biases or system cohesion. I’m saying here, that since the study is happening, it HAS to get to the airport and MOA in the study. If it turns out that this isn’t worth it, fine, but the study needs to end at MOA.

      • Mike Hicks January 30, 2016 at 5:33 pm #

        The ridership for Metro Transit’s top 10 routes can be a bit skewed by how long they are. Metro Transit seems to like extending the length of routes that have good ridership in core areas. The full Route 5 is about 18 miles long, though many individual runs are a bit shorter at about 13 miles. The full extent of Route 4 goes nearly 21 miles. By comparison, the 54 goes about 12 miles today, and the Riverview Corridor could shave off up to a mile by using the Blue Line tunnel instead of using the 54’s route around the edge of the airport and having to double-back on the access road (Glumack Drive) to the transit center on every trip.

        It’s definitely true that there are some corridors that are better candidates for conversion to rail, ridership-wise, but the 54 isn’t a total slouch, and it will provide good regional connections. It’s taking a lot longer than I ever hoped, but we’ll eventually see more use of the Union Depot. Projects to connect the Twin Cities to Rochester by rail might go to either SPUD or the airport (or the MOA, I guess), so it’s good to have a strong local link available regardless of where that ends up.

        • Sam Newberg
          Sam Newberg February 1, 2016 at 10:23 am #

          It would be interesting to see the shape of the graphs shown in this post when applied to Route 5, 21, etc. I’m guessing that whereas the 55 and 54 connect very major destinations (each downtown with the airport and MOA), there are routes that likely have a much greater proportion of passengers starting and ending their journeys in the middle.

    • Joseph Totten
      Joseph Totten January 30, 2016 at 9:56 pm #

      Bill,

      Your original idea of continuing down to the Airport is a decent discussion to have, but in the comment section people were saying that this line finishing at the airport/mall is unimportant. Those comments are what I am trying to cut off here.

  4. David January 30, 2016 at 11:00 am #

    i ride the 54 from Lowertown to MSP mostly westbound about 2x a month, with luggage. Baby strollers far outnumber those with luggage. my observations are anecdotal, but yes the airport workforce is a (perhaps THE) major ridership. Parking at MSP is pricey for workers. But MAO bound workforce is a major rider base too.

    as a traveler, the 54 service is great. it is frequent, nearly as quick as a taxi on Shepard Rd. but only $1.75-$2.25 (vs. $30+ in a taxi). The fact it is one-seat from DT to MSP or MOA is appealing; routing thru Highland park despite the appeal of LRT might not be as desirable if it slowed the trip much or required a transfer.

    • Mike Hicks January 30, 2016 at 10:03 pm #

      One drawback to using the 54 for flying out of the airport is that it just uses normal buses that don’t accommodate luggage very well. A single suitcase usually isn’t too bad, but if a couple people get on with multiple pieces, it can cause some trouble. I haven’t seen many real problems pop up because of this, but it’s one of those things that could easily discourage anyone from taking the bus in the first place or make them swear off ever using it again. If the 54 had a proportion of air travelers similar to the Blue Line, the aisle would probably get choked off pretty often.

      Yes, I think the people taking the 54 to/from the airport are mostly workers there rather than travelers. There are also some folks like me who regularly use it to transfer to/from the Blue Line to Minneapolis (I typically do that a few times per month).

  5. Evan Roberts
    Evan Roberts January 30, 2016 at 11:01 pm #

    I agree that the TH5 bridge is a more direct route to the airport (just a fact really), but if routing through the Ford site and Ford bridge costs 7 minutes it also comes with some benefits
    * One seat ride to the VA hospital which is also a major employer (and therefore 1 seat ride from DT Saint Paul to the VA).
    * I’m no engineer, but looking at the map it seems like it would be easier (but not easy) to do a full wye at 46th St than at the Fort Snelling station. Maybe I’m wrong. A full wye opens up a lot more possibilities for better service on existing tracks.
    * Routing via Ford makes more destinations accessible: St Catherine’s University, Highland Village itself, and Minnehaha Park which hosts a lot of regional events that people in Saint Paul go to.

    • Adam Froehlig
      Adam Froehlig January 31, 2016 at 6:05 pm #

      It would require modification of the LRT bridge over the 55/62 interchange, but there’s enough of a gap between the GSA building and the satellite parking lot next to the interchange to put a full wye in, if following my Riverview concept.

      • Monte Castleman
        Monte Castleman January 31, 2016 at 7:16 pm #

        Is a new Fort Road Bridge (either LRT only next to the freeway or rebuilding the freeway bridge with LRT) even going to be remotely feasible? That alone might push it to the Ford Bridge (which should operate fine with two lanes)

        • Stu February 1, 2016 at 9:38 am #

          I would argue that adding a bridge would not be feasible on the Fort side of the river. The current bridge tunnels under the fort, but not under any structure. A new bridge would require a new tunnel without an obvious landing spot on the west side.

          Beyond that, to the north there is the Fort Snelling Chapel and to the south there is a bluff. Not impossible but not cheap.

          Using the existing bridge and eating a lane of traffic would likely be the best course, if the bridge could support it (http://www.dot.state.mn.us/metro/projects/hwy5/) Though the back ups from last summer’s redecking project looked to be very unpleasant.

          • Sean Hayford Oleary
            Sean Hayford Oleary February 1, 2016 at 9:46 am #

            Is it possible it could just cross onto the grade above the tunnel? (onto the land bridge)

            A quiet electric train every 10 minutes is a lot less disruptive to the area than 55,000 cars at freeway speeds would be.

            • Stu February 1, 2016 at 11:16 am #

              That might work.

              But to avoid bridging over the already less than ideal interchange it would need to make a sharp right between the chapel (itself on an island surrounded by freeway ramps) and the fort buildings.

              From there to avoid NPS, GSA and DOD federal properties it could head under MN55 on Bloomington Rd but would have to stick pretty closely to the existing roads and through the current park and ride lot and MNDOT garage to get to the airport tunnel. Though one could condemn some of the Boy Scouts and Tennis Club property to ease the corners.

              Though depending on the width of the state trail/HWY 55 right of way, perhaps there would be room to head north along 55 and tie into the existing MN55/62 bridge using the northern park and ride lot without impacting, directly at least, NPS lands.

              The federal lands in this area really complicates things from my view. Though GSA has greater authority to deal on lands, DOD and NPS would be a hard no I would guess. On top of that you have state, county and city properties as well.

              I am not an engineer though.

              • Adam Froehlig
                Adam Froehlig February 1, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

                Look at the map link I posted upthread (4 before yours). That’s one potentially feasible route the LRT could take through the area. Looking at county tax property data, as best as I can tell the jurisdictions involved on the Hennepin County side are Minnesota DNR (land along the river), Minnesota Historical Society (Fort Snelling area), MnDOT (Hwy 55 right-of-way), DOD, and GSA. GSA may not even be directly impacted if there’s enough right-of-way width along the freeway. I do not believe NPS would be involved, unless they have some regulatory approval due directly to the river itself and the national recreation area designated along it.

                • Stu February 1, 2016 at 1:53 pm #

                  I see that now. Sorry I missed that earlier. I think that is the best route. The route in my head assumed heading heading up the east side of MN55, which would implicate NPS’s Cold Water Spring site (the former Bureau of Mines property).

          • Monte Castleman
            Monte Castleman February 1, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

            Taking lanes away from motorists on a 55,000 AADT freeway isn’t going to happen.
            So we’re left with the remaining options- figure out how to do it without taking lanes or taking lanes on Ford Road.

            • Stu February 2, 2016 at 8:20 am #

              I agree with you. I don’t think it is likely that they would take a lane on the HWY 5 bridge.

              But, while I also agree with you that it is a freeway, it is also a freeway that runs straight into a city street, a busy and fast one, but still. So if you are going to slow from 55 to 35 anyway, it isn’t THAT much of a change to do so 1000 feet earlier than before (assuming west to east travel). The very short on/off ramps from MN 55/62 to MN 5 don’t exactly support the current speeds on MN 5 as it is.

              This guard rail has been replaced about 3 times a year for the decade I have lived in this area and not just in the winter. https://goo.gl/maps/cYKQ8iyXLJ52

              But the road construction backups last summer, where the bridge was reduced to one lane in each direction, were quite horrible. Though it did get better as the summer wore on as people adapted and changed their routes.

            • Joseph Totten
              Joseph Totten February 3, 2016 at 10:20 pm #

              Honestly, LRT will need to have some amount of tunneling, elevating, or strange compromises. I still think that the cost could be kept lower than University, but I doubt that removing lanes would happen.

  6. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller January 31, 2016 at 2:23 pm #

    Yeah, you’ve convinced me. If it’s a choice between the airport and Highland Park, it should be the airport.

  7. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg February 1, 2016 at 10:38 am #

    This is all very interesting. Right now, the 54 could take me from Union Depot to MSP Airport in 31 minutes. I have to wait 8 minutes for it to leave, as service is every 15 minutes. That’s only four minutes slower than Target Field to the airport, and those are 10 minute headways.

    Considering the lower ridership of the route, and the relative efficiency, it seems to me the best option is to go the A-BRT route – get new buses that accommodate luggage better, enhanced stations and platforms with fareboxes, etc., and maybe increase headways to every 10 or 12 minutes.

    Or 15 minute nonstop airport express between Union Depot and MSP Airport via Shepard Road.

    Alas, I am not a transit planner….

  8. Guy February 2, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

    A few things I’m trying to understand about these comments…

    How does anyone think we can take lanes of traffic from the Highway 5 bridge with 55,000 daily vehicles when we can’t even take lanes of traffic from West 7th further up the corridor?

    Even if we use the existing bridge, where do we go once we cross the river?

    How do we interline with Blue Line at 46th Street? I’d like to know what that looks like. Even if we do that, the time penalty for anyone travelling to the airport would be a strong deterrent. Likely would keep the Route 54 and terminate the service at Ford Plant or at 46th Street Station. There are potential issues with running more frequent train service on the Blue Line tracks and it’s not guarantee that it’s even possible.

    Riverview to the airport and MOA, if it is even possible to interline on Blue Line tracks, will have 17,000 daily riders. I’m calling it. But it’ll cost $2 billion. I don’t have any answers beyond that. I agree that the airport and MOA should be a bigger focus than Highland Park. Highland can be connected by some very nice local bus service and A Line already serves the area. Maybe a streetcar spur that connects to Riverview someday. All that being said, this corridor has issues that are going to cost some serious dollars to address.

    • Mike Hicks February 2, 2016 at 9:34 pm #

      Personally, I think we could actually get rid of two lanes and end up watching traffic volumes drop on the bridge. There’s some evidence that people changed their behaviors when it was brought down to two lanes earlier this year. The Ford Parkway and I-35E bridges aren’t all that far away when going by car, so they would alleviate the problem somewhat. A better transit option across the bridge would attract some people who go that way regularly. And there could be some improvement to bike/pedestrian connectivity mixed in with that.

      However, adding a second level to the bridge is also a good potential option. If it can go above the roadbed, it could perfectly match the “ground” level for the land bridge that connects the historic fort area to the interpretive center and other buildings.

      There was formerly a streetcar that ran down West 7th on a higher bridge, and it even cut through the historic fort area before meeting other tracks that followed Minnehaha Avenue southeastward from central Minneapolis.

      There’s no reason for this to cost $2 billion. With the miles of existing infrastructure in place, it doesn’t even need to be as expensive as the Central Corridor ($957m). In 2014, the number $779 million had been passed around.

  9. GlowBoy February 2, 2016 at 4:53 pm #

    I agree with several others above that the MSP/MoA connection is really critical. In addition to the many mall and airport workers, it serves a lot of people across the south metro. MoA is a major transit hub linking up a bunch of routes in Bloomington, Richfield, Edina and across the Minnesota river, including the Hi-Frequency #515, the Red Line and the #5 (busiest bus line in the MT system).

    #54 currently provides a critical connection from all these into St Paul. At 30 minutes from MoA to downtown St Paul, this must be one of the fastest non-express buses in MT’s system. It is the ideal third leg of the “Iron Triangle” mentioned in other posts on this topic, and I think a primary routing to Ford/46th would substantially hurt service for a lot of people. I don’t see how the full MoA to downtown St Paul trip could be done in less than 45 minutes with that routing.

    Living at the far south edge of Minneapolis, I find myself #5-MoA-#54 to be a faster route to downtown St Paul than taking #5-downtown Minneapolis-#94.

    As suggested above, I think a fast, high-frequency spur to serve Ford would be a better solution. Or, for more money, split the future Riverview line near Sibley Plaza, with one branch going to MSP/MoA and another branch to Ford/46th. MT has – to me, a newcomer used to other transit systems – an *amazing* number of routes that split into multiple branches to serve different areas using the same route number. I think it’s worth considering doing that on Riverview too.

    At an absolute minimum, I would hope that if a Ford/46th alignment is chosen, the #54 be preserved for those needing to cover the longer trip more quickly. Much as the #94 is faster than the Green Line for those making the full trip. But I fear that the new corridor would take enough riders from the 54 to drop it below hi-frequency service. If, like the #94, it runs at half-hour frequency outside rush hour that would be a major loss.

    • Reilly February 3, 2016 at 12:54 am #

      Not familiar with transit schedules on the St. Paul side… but do the train schedules allow for a dedicated bus connector between the train routes & through the Highland Park area, closely synced to the trains’ arrival times? Say, up Edgcumbe to St. Paul Ave to Cleveland?

      • Mike Hicks February 3, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

        There’s quite a bit of service in the area already, though it’s more concentrated as east-west travel on Ford Parkway. Route 46, 74, and 84 all cross between 46th Street station and the main commercial node of Highland Park at Ford Parkway and Cleveland Ave. Not all trips make it across the bridge for those services, but it’s still pretty frequent. When the new “A Line” starts up later this year, mostly (but not entirely) replacing route 84, it will be running with 10-minute headways each direction and presumably the 46 and 74 will still overlay on that to some extent.

        Service south of Ford Parkway is less frequent. The 84 has a branch (which is expected to remain) which runs half-hourly down St. Paul Ave to West 7th. The 46 also runs on a half-hourly basis down Cleveland, Sheridan and Edgecumbe to end up on St. Paul Ave. There’s also route 134 which is a limited-stop route operating during rush hours.

        Hopefully the service in this southern area can be somewhat consolidated yet bumped up a bit in frequency.

  10. Cameron Slick February 10, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

    While I initially did pose to Bill Lindeke that Highland Park & 4th Street should be directly served in a streetcar-esque fashion, I do see where a new bridge could be built without using MN5.

    Look near Worcester Avenue where a stub track exists on the defunct Fortson spur.

    With the taking of @at least two, but not more than five single family homes, a new bridge could be constructed and run somewhat diagonally to the north side of Fort Snelling, with a conjunction total the blue line on the west side of the GSA building.

    • Adam Froehlig
      Adam Froehlig February 10, 2016 at 6:43 pm #

      Such a crossing can’t be ruled out entirely, but I see four things that would make it difficult:

      – Requires crossing not just the river, but the river floodplain on the west side…about a third of a mile total between the two. Not insurmountable, but involves more than just crossing the river itself.

      – Such a crossing would impact a high-tension power line crossing of the river just south of your proposed location.

      – Depending on where it would be routed on the Hennepin County side, there are potential impacts to the Camp Coldwater spring.

      – Would likely require at-grade crossings of both Cleveland Ave and Mississippi River Blvd. Because of their similar elevations and close proximity to each other, it would be impossible to grade separate one but not the other. Elevating the rail line to pass over both would also impact the neighborhood.

      • Cameron Slick February 10, 2016 at 11:28 pm #

        I completely agree with three of your four points. The Junction I imagine would be extremely close to GSA, and approach at a height comparable to the elevated section as the blue line crosses the Crosstown highway, and shouldn’t have any impact on the springs.

        Crossing further north requires cutting through a huge swath of Minnehaha Park, and using the existing MN-5 bridge requires taking lanes and, either taking several buildings at Fort Snelling or building a vast elevated segment that needs to make a U Turnstiles properly serve the existing Fort Snelling station.

        • Adam Froehlig
          Adam Froehlig February 11, 2016 at 8:45 am #

          Out of curiosity, which point did you not agree with?

          Regarding using the Fort Rd Bridge crossing, I conceptualized a routing that would likely require a new Fort Rd Bridge, but otherwise doesn’t directly impact Fort buildings or require a lot of elevated segments near the Fort. The elevated segments would effectively be limited to crossing the Hwy 55/Fort Snelling interchange and crossing the river (extending up to Edgcumbe Rd).

          • Cameron Slick February 11, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

            The springs really shouldn’t be an issue because the line would be elevated in this segment, that is the point I disagree with, though no doubt it would be researched in an environmental study, and I am not an expert on infrastructure.

            You proposal is the absolute best I’ve seen or conceived up using the existing Fort Road route.

            From Fort Snelling station north, where your line curves to follow Crosstown/MN-55 my bridge would go northeast.

            The problem I really have with using the existing Fort Road/MN-5 route has more to do with the junction with MN-55. If there was a long-term goal of downgrading this junction it might be more doable.