The Transit Line No One Is Talking About

This post is months too late. The Metropolitan Council’s 2040 Transportation Policy Plan went through extensive design, writing, public comment period, and ultimately final adoption. Nevertheless, we can still hopefully improve upon corridors already decided on, help change priorities, et cetera. So, I present for your consideration a corridor that needs some major lovin’: Downtown Minneapolis-Uptown-Southdale. has covered the missed opportunity to serve Uptown by quality transit from downtown. No need to bring it up beyond that (and maybe it’s not a huge deal if we build the Midtown Corridor Dual Alternative, like, ASAP). But there’s a glaring missing link in our 25-year regional plan:


Image taken from Census OnTheMap tool

The Southdale/Centennial Lakes area is a huge job center, rivaling basically any other non-downtown/university area in the metro from a jobs/acre standpoint, but clearly much larger in land area than almost anywhere else. The Blue Line is anchored by the Mall of America and MSP Airport. The Green Line is killin’ it by connecting both downtowns, the U, and fairly walkable/urban places in between. We’ve planned SWLRT using jobs in the Golden Triangle and other Eden Prairie locations as end-point anchors. We have the Gateway Corridor running mostly along a freeway in corn fields but at least hitting the 3M campus. There’s Bottineau skirting mostly past residents of North Minneapolis but at least hitting some major job/educational centers along the way to (some more corn fields and) the Brooklyn Park Target campus.

I guess what I’m saying is that we seem to be chasing suburban jobs with transit, no matter how expensive the cost-per-rider. Yet, oddly, the TPP doesn’t even see it worth connecting downtown to Southdale (with all the dense, walkable neighborhoods in between) directly by anything but a local bus and some express buses:


This map shows where the vast majority of capital spending will go. Yes, folks in built-up urban areas are getting some better signage, and the governor’s proposed transportation bill improves transit shelter coverage plus local route frequency and operating hour span (if it passes). But there’s a lot of capital being thrown at areas not dark, or slightly-less-dark, blue in their own transit priority areas:


I digress. The current Route 6 bus line is very important in connecting people to opportunity in our region. It’s one of the highest used routes in the system:

Annual-Rides-2014According to 2010 figures the 6 was also one of the most productive from a rider per in-service hour:


There’s no question the routes above the 6 are important, especially when you consider social justice. However, each of the 5, 21, and 18 bus routes will receive full arterial bus treatments (if not more) in the TPP’s plan.

Perhaps more important than the endpoints, it runs through multiple important regional population and job areas, all of which happen to be highly walkable and/or connected to other transit routes: 50th & France, France & Sunnyside, Linden Hills, Uptown, and Loring Park.

Hennepin_aBRT_PlanThis is why it surprises me the proposed Hennepin aBRT line turns west after hitting the Uptown Transit Station. At the very least, we’re building the Lake Street aBRT line to connect to the West Lake station, to say nothing of the 17 and 12 which provide additional paths westward.

To me, it makes more sense to strengthen what is clearly a successful bus route through most of the line rather than cutting it short as a 4-mile stub of a rapid bus line.

Short-term, the Hennepin aBRT line should continue south on Hennepin and follow the 6 C/E/G/K path to Linden Hills, but jog west to France along 44th and meet up with the B/D/F branches to head down to Southdale.

Thinking Bigger

I said in the title of the post that no one was thinking about this line. I lied. Our own writer Adam Froehlig did the leg work in a fantasy transit map a while ago:


Thinking holistically about a transit network, a north-south subway through downtown makes a lot of sense. It can be a more general-use transit tunnel, alleviating the bus congestion on Nicollet Mall, as well as interlining other regional north-south-ish services we might concoct in the future.

The other benefit? We don’t need to end service downtown. Central Avenue happens to be served by the 10 (another notable line in the aforementioned ridership chart), with an arterial bus and (maybe?) a streetcar planned.

There’s a lot to like in one long transit line, with patches of grade separation, connecting the length of Northeast Minneapolis (and beyond, though maybe terminating at the Northtown Mall) to SW Minneapolis and Edina in a single-seat ride (plus connections to the Blue and Green Lines). Honestly, I can think of way worse ways to spend CTIB, state, and federal money.

So, poke holes in the idea, brainstorm ways to overcome political obstacles if you like it, and on. And, thanks for reading!

Alex Cecchini

About Alex Cecchini

Alex likes cities. He lives with his wife, two kids, and two poorly behaved dogs just south of Uptown (Minneapolis). Tweets found here: @alexcecchini and occasional personal blog posts at