Upcoming Metro Transit Meetings

Big changes are coming up at Metro Transit, which in Minnesota means big meetings.  Next week will be the first meetings on the new Rapid Bus concept, aka Baby BRT.  I wrote about this last fall on streets.mn’s predecessor site, TC Streets for People, and twice on my personal blog.  The following week will see the first meetings on bus route restructuring around Central LRT.  Specific meeting dates and times are at the bottom of this post; I’ll take a moment first to summarize each issue and throw in an opinion or two.

Throw Rapid under the Bus?

Looks so good you could just move in

When last we left Rapid Bus, there were 11 routes that were candidates for enhancements, and the twin goals of the study were to determine (a) which routes were viable for enhancement and (b) what those enhancements would be.  Around the middle of January, the results of the study were presented to the Met Council’s Transportation Committee and published on Metro Transit’s website.  As someone who was hoping that Rapid Bus would be transformational for transit in the Twin Cities, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed.

To be fair, they have gone full-force with the concept, committing to such appealing features as:

  • Transit signal prioritization where possible (approximately half of all signals overall on the 11 corridors studied)
  • Ticket vending machines in at least one direction at every stop
  • Bump-outs at stations where parking is present
  • Switch to far-side stations where possible
  • Enhanced static signage, including destination info and possibly area maps
  • Real-time dynamic signage, possibly at “each directional stop” (this was included in operating cost estimates, but does not seem to have been included in capital cost estimates, perhaps because the latter was less detailed than the former)

(This info comes from Technical Memo #3, which provides much more detail for those who are interested.)

All that sounds great, except the study also whittled 11 candidate corridors down to just two finalists: Snelling, which the study claims could be implemented as soon as this year, and West 7th, which the study suggests delaying until 2014, or whenever Bloomington finishes its MOA-area road construction.  (These timing predictions are from Technical Memo #4.)

Last routes standing

The study had two phases of screening: the first was quantitative and balanced things like ridership gains against capital costs and increased operating costs.  The second was called “readiness criteria” and understandably recommended holding off on building those corridors that are under alternatives analysis and may be rebuilt with other transit technologies in the next decade or two.  More dubiously, though, it also axed corridors that “depend on (or benefit from) connections to an unfunded transitway investment”, which was used to drop American Blvd but also Hennepin, the corridor that stood to gain the most riders from rapid bus improvements.  While Hennepin also had a somewhat higher per-mile cost, it is hard to argue that this heavily-used transit corridor needs Southwest LRT to stand on its own two feet.  Similarly, the Chicago corridor was held to allow for study of Rapid Bus in the Emerson/Fremont corridor.  Certainly it’s understandable to study that Hi Frequency corridor for these improvements also, especially since it contributes to more than half of Route 5’s current ridership, but why does that preclude investment in the Chicago corridor?  Wouldn’t this be a good time to implement an East-West Downtown Free Ride bus using the two halves of Route 5?

Perhaps I’ve made it sound more dire than it is.  With the exception of American Blvd, none of the corridors were found to be unpromising for Rapid Bus.  Basically they’re just recommending most of the corridors be held pending further study.  That’s cold comfort in a region that averages 30 years of study on transitways before dirt starts to move.  See the list of meeting dates and times at the bottom to find one that works for you to show up and tell them you’re tired of waiting for quality transit.

Feeding time for LRT

The second study for which we’ll soon be meeting is related to the Central LRT currently undergoing installation.  Metro Transit is taking a look at all the bus routes around the line to see if they can be tweaked to “maximize effectiveness and efficiency.”

East-West=EW

The affected chunk of St Paul – and especially its lower half – is in some respects low-hanging fruit for new ridership.  Residential densities in the area are comparable to areas of south Minneapolis that see much higher transit use.  The bus routes in this area are still archaically oriented towards Downtown St Paul, which has become a less important destination for St Paulies as its share of regional jobs has declined.  Central LRT and, to a lesser extent, the rapid bus planned for West 7th, will become a much better way for residents to access a wider variety of regional destinations.  For that to happen, though, it has to be easier to access Central and West 7th, which will need to involve a shift from the east-west emphasis of the existing network to a north-south emphasis (which in part is recommended by the Central EIS in its plan for a route on Lexington).

N-S=Never Slow (someone stop me before I use Paint again)

In case you can’t tell, I’m editorializing here; the Central restructuring study doesn’t seem to include  routes 70 and 74, which help provide that overemphasis to Downtown St Paul.  The scheduled meetings promise to include information about “potential changes”, but it’s unknown how many details there will be.  For now, the study page only includes an analysis of existing conditions (reams and reams of it!).  I guess we’ll just have to go to the meetings to see what the plans might be…

Meeting Dates and Times

Rapid Bus Study

Tuesday, Feb. 28
6-8 p.m.
Mississippi Market
Community room
1500 W. 7th St., St. Paul
Served by Route 54

Wednesday, Feb. 29
6-8 p.m.
Richfield City Hall
Bartholomew room
6700 Portland Ave., Richfield
Served by routes 5, 515

Thursday, March 1
11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Central Library
Doty Board Room
300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis
Served by many routes

Wednesday, March 7
6-7:30 p.m.
Hamline Midway Library
Meeting Room
1558 W. Minnehaha Ave., St. Paul
Served by routes 67, 84

Central Corridor Transit Service Study

Tuesday, March 6, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
University of Minnesota
Coffman Memorial Union – lower level near Marketplace dining
300 Washington Ave. SE, Minneapolis
Served by routes 231650 and Campus Shuttle

Thursday, March 8, 5 – 7 p.m.
Rondo Library, Multipurpose Room
461 N. Dale St., St. Paul
Served by routes 1650 and 65

Tuesday, March 20, 5 – 7 p.m.
J.J. Hill Magnet School, Media Center
998 Selby Ave., St. Paul
Served by Route 21

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5 Responses to Upcoming Metro Transit Meetings

  1. Reuben Collins
    Reuben Collins February 24, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    Have you heard the old joke about the consulting business? Make sure every study recommends further study.

  2. Mike Hicks February 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Thanks for the writeup, Alex — you managed to put words to a number of concerns that were still fairly amorphous blobs in my head.

    I guess I'm not so sure about reorienting the bus network in Saint Paul to be focused on the Central Corridor rather than downtown. For instance, if you want to get to Snelling and Como Ave from one of the downtowns right now, you're usually better off taking the 3 rather than taking the 94 express to Snelling and then transferring to the 84. Things may change with the Central Corridor running every 10 minutes, however.

    • Alex February 27, 2012 at 3:48 am #

      I should have been more clear that I support both east-west and north-south bus routes in the area; what I was suggesting is that the current east-west priority, with 8 or 9 routes, should be shifted to a north-south priority, which direction currently has 4 or 5 routes. It would not be acceptable to do so at the expense of existing heavily-used east-west routes such as the 3, 21, or 63. I'm assuming it is a zero sum situation, though; Metro Transit will only be able to add so much service, so a shift to north-south could be accomplished at the expense of service on the 67, 70 and possibly the 74 if necessary.

  3. Tcmetro February 27, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    We will be seeing a number of new service hours from the elimination of the 50, non-peak 94, and most 16 service. Considering Green Line service will be getting a lot of money from CTIB (and IIRC, the state) for operations, there will be a good amount of money for better bus service.

    However the report states that service on routes 8, 65, 67, and 87 don't meet requirements as it is, it may be difficult to see a good number of new routes. If Snelling Rapid Bus goes through as well, some more service would need to be added to that route, which further deminishes the potential for new routes.

    A few ideas that come to mind would be to add the 83 on Lexington, as the DEIS recommends. I would also like to see the 3A sent across town along Maryland (perhaps to Arcade where connections could be made to the 61, 64, and future E 7th Rapid Bus); the 62 on Rice St upgraded to hi-frequency standards; the 70 only running from W 7th to Highland Village; better service on the 8, 65, 67, and 87; new Hamline, Victoria, and Western buses (and not that poorly-designed Route 60 found in the DEIS.) Perhaps the 3B could run along Kasota and Energy Park (with no Como service) during peak-hours only, however, there may be some issues with that.

    Anyways, it will be interesting to see what comes of this study and where the money will come from for real improvements.

  4. Matt Brillhart February 29, 2012 at 6:44 am #

    I've heard that the 16 will run at 20-minute frequency during peak hours and 30-minute off-peak. That, plus the elimination of Rt.50 and service reduction on Rt.94 should free up a lot of buses and drivers to do other work.

    A big question that hasn't been answered yet, is where the will the "new 16" terminate? Driving it all the way through the U of M and downtown Minneapolis doesn't make sense. I suspect that it will probably terminate/turn around at Stadium Village station.

    If you are looking to improve service on Franklin Avenue (current Route 8 is weekday only, infrequent) and establish another connection between Blue & Green lines, I have an idea. I'd like to see the "new 16" (westbound) turn on Franklin after stopping near the Westgate Station area. This would improve service on the current Route 8 segment of Franklin and free up even more resources.

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