Metro Transit Service Improvement Plan Comment Window Ends November 30th

The map of the draft Service Improvement Plan

The map of the draft Service Improvement Plan

Amid all the clamor over the Southwest LRT, and the high profile planning for Bottineau LRT and various BRT projects, a big transit system game changer has been quietly progressing under the radar. It’s Metro Transit’s Service Improvement Plan.

For decades the funding for bus service improvements has been stagnant, sometimes keeping up with inflation, and sometimes falling short of that. There has been new money for rail thanks to the quarter cent sales tax that goes to the counties, but when it comes to buses, Metro Transit has had to squeeze new service out of existing dollars. That means trimming the least productive services and reallocating those bus miles. This is a big reason why Metro Transit ranks so high in every cost effectiveness index compared to peer cities. But the actual size of the bus system has barely grown since 1980.

Depending on the election outcome, the 2015 legislative session may finally increase the transit sales tax and might even let Metro Transit administer it rather than the counties. If the stars align and that actually happens (we’re been disappointed over and over), there needs to be a transit plan for spending that money. That’s the Service Improvement Plan.

It’s a highly detailed list of higher frequencies, greater spans of service, routes changes and new routes. It doesn’t include the rail lines and BRT’s, just the regular old buses. It was developed with considerable citizen input. The draft plan just showed up on the Metro Transit website. To see it, go to

Plan Highlights

The plan is extremely detailed, which may deter some from reading through it. However, some trends are apparent.

  1. Within Minneapolis and St. Paul, the local route frequencies will be beefed up. Most of the 30-minute routes go to 20 minutes, 20 minutes to 15 minutes and so on.
  2. Hourly service, so long the standard for low ridership routes in the suburbs, is almost entirely upgraded to half-hourly. Although not great service by urban standards, if you’re transit dependent in the suburbs, this is a huge improvement.
  3. The remaining holes in the downtown commuter express network are being filled in. This includes such links as Stillwater-Minneapolis, and Minnetonka-St. Paul. There are also a couple of missing links to the U of M.
  4. Most routes that lacked weekend or evening service get it, recognizing that we’re a 7 day a week metro area now.

One surprise is that the plan includes the feeder buses to the Southwest LRT and the Bottineau LRT.

Note that this plan doesn’t include the opt outs, only Metro Transit.

Your input is being solicited between now and November 30, so get your comments in.

Aaron Isaacs

About Aaron Isaacs

Aaron retired in 2006 after 33 years as a planner and manager for Metro Transit, where he worked in route and schedule planning, operations, maintenance, transit facilities, light rail and traffic advantages for buses. He's an historian of transit, as a 40+ year volunteer with the Minnesota Streetcar Museum. He's co-author of Twin Cities by Trolley, The Streetcar Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and author of Twin Ports by Trolley on Duluth-Superior.

4 thoughts on “Metro Transit Service Improvement Plan Comment Window Ends November 30th

  1. Steven Prince

    Thanks for the link, a lot of information here. The details provide a useful test of how Metro Transit views the new SWLRT integrating with the bus system. Several quick observations:

    1) A new N Minneapolis circulator route running at 30 minute intervals will connect with the Penn Avenue and Van White stops (Route 26). Does anyone know its route? Is 30 minute frequency often enough? I doubt it.

    2) The bus hub at Hennepin/Lake is going to be largly replaced by a hub at the new West Lake LRT stop (at Calhoun Village) so many SW buses that presently come to Lake and Hennepin will now terminate well west of Uptown. The 21 route on Lake Street will be extended west to this new hub to provide a connection between the new western terminus of these routes and the rest of (non downtown) Minneapolis.

    3) No bus connections to the W. 21st stop on SWLRT, putting to rest one of the more ridiculous “equity” argument advanced as part of the defense of the SW LRT alignment.

    4) Although Uptown routes on Hennepin get service upgrades (good) the loss of transfer-free bus service to the west (bad) creates an increase in travel time for those traveling from the west of the new W Lake LRT stop to the Lake/Hennepin node (where there is considerable focus on adding daytime jobs). Accordingly, the resulting shifts in bus service accompanying SWLRT may increase auto traffic in Uptown, not reduce it.

  2. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    Looking at a map, it makes me realize how odd it is that arterial BRT is planned for American Blvd, rather than 77th/76th. The 77th/76th corridor has more transit-oriented/ped-scale buildings, and much better access to the Southdale District. It also sustains existing transit service at a higher frequency than American. I realize American goes farther east, but it seems it would make perfect sense to just switch to American at 12th Ave.

    Realize aBRT is a different set of plans, though. In general, I’m happy with this plan.

  3. Rebecca AirmetRebecca Airmet

    Looks like Metro Transit is also having a number of open houses during November as well, starting with next Wed., Nov 5, at the Hennepin County Central Library from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm. Check the events calendar for other times and locations.

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