What could $6.5 million mean to Metro Transit?


$6.5 million could extend Route 6’s hi-frequency service all the way to the University of Minnesota.

If you haven’t heard, the Vikings and the Met Council looking at partnering to build a pedestrian bridge that would lead directly from the new Vikings stadium to the Track 1 platform of Downtown East station. The reason this bridge is being constructed is that on event days (let’s be real, they mean Vikings game days), a lot of people will be leaving the stadium and, without a pedestrian bridge, will have to cross the light rail tracks. With trains coming every two minutes, that wouldn’t exactly be an ideal situation. However, it will really only be in use for about 20 days per year.

Currently, the Vikings have capped their contribution to the bridge at $3.5 million, while the Met Council is expecting to pay about $6.5 million after costs recently jumped. Now, in comparison to a $1 billion stadium and four light rail lines that each cost between $700 million and $1.774 billion, $6.5 million seems like chump change.

But this tweet puts that in perspective:

That got me thinking: if $6.5 million is enough to fund a quarter of an aBRT line, how much regular bus service could it fund? I decided to find out.

Going off the numbers in their Service Improvement Plan, I calculated that a bus service hour costs about $113. Do a little math and you’ll see that $6.5 million equals 57,522 bus service hours for Metro Transit. Wow, that seems like a pretty big number! But it’s still pretty abstract. So, I went through the Service Improvement Plan and looked at what proposed improvements could be funded with that money and for how long. Here’s some examples:

Route # Improvement # of years
2 Add to the Hi-Frequency Network between Franklin/Hennepin and Oak/Washington. 4
3 Increase frequency on the Maryland (3A) and Front (3B) branches between Snelling and Downtown St. Paul to every 20 minutes on weekdays. 10
6 Extend all NB trips to Stadium Village Station, increasing frequency on University Ave to every 10-15 minutes. 12.5
13 Create a new route with 30 minute weekday service from Columbia Heights Transit Center to Stadium Village Station via University Ave. 7.5
19 Make the entire route part of the Hi-Frequency Network. 130
22 Add to the Hi-Frequency Network between 42nd St N/Lyndale and VA Medical Center Station 10.5
23 Add to the Hi-Frequency Network. 5
32 Improve weekday frequency to 20 min and add 30 minute Sunday Service. 14
54 Extend to Maplewood Mall as a limited stop alternative to routes 74 and 64. 14
61 Improve rush hour frequencies to 15 min, Saturday frequencies to 30 min, and add 30 minute Sunday service. 4
62 Add to the Hi-Frequency Network. 8.5
68 Add to the Hi-Frequency Network between Regions and 5th Ave S/South St 8
83 Improve frequency to every 20 minutes most of the day. 9.5
94 Add 30-60 min service on weekday evenings and weekends. 8

I encourage you to go through all the proposed improvements and see how far $6.5 million could go toward improving bus service, rather than toward subsidizing a bridge that will be used for 20 Vikings games per year.

Oh and also, here’s where you can find contact info for the Metropolitan Council members. Just putting that out there.

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24 Responses to What could $6.5 million mean to Metro Transit?

  1. David Markle
    David Markle October 24, 2015 at 11:07 am #

    Here’s one way that Metro transit dollars could get more bang for the buck, and this strikes me as potentially game-changing information. I posted a comment on October 22 that included this, with no reaction:

    Did readers hear the NPR item this morning about the city in China that’s installing streetcars run by onboard stored electric power (in big capacitors) that are very quickly automatically recharged along the lines? These installations are said to be far cheaper to put in than ordinary streetcar iines, let alone LRT lines (including expensive LRT’s used as half-assed streetcars, like the Green Line).

    • Joey Senkyr
      Joey Senkyr October 24, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

      I did read that article. I haven’t seen any actual cost breakdowns for that technology, or our own stuff, so I’m mostly guessing here, but:

      It seems to me that the majority of the cost of the streetcars we’re considering is tearing up the streets to lay track, rerouting utilities underneath those streets, etc. I just don’t think (though I could be wrong) that the pylons and catenary are that expensive, relative to the track work, that cutting them out would really change the cost equation vs. enhanced bus. So, unless I’m way off base, I’m still on the bus side of that debate.

      That being said, if we do decide to go with streetcars over enhanced bus on Nicollet or West Broadway or whatever, supercaps seem to absolutely be the way to go over catenary.

    • Peter Bajurny October 24, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

      Reading the article, it says the street cars where 1/4 to 1/7th cheaper than… a subway. And who knows how the cost of a subway in Guangzhou, China compares to the cost of a subway in Minneapolis. So if the capacitor streetcars are truly cheaper than cantenary streetcars in this city, then cool. But we don’t have nearly enough information to make that determination.

  2. g bernard hughes October 24, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

    how abt just increasing service on all bus routes to every 20 minutes? currently, unless its rush hour, many routes only run every 30 minutes. so any transfer means up to an extra 1/2 an hour that you need to add into your schedule in case your bus is just pulling away from the curb.

    • Keith Morris October 24, 2015 at 8:32 pm #

      I think there should be a Metro Transit policy that if you’re driving a route that only shows up every 30 min or more that you have to wait for potential passengers if another connecting bus is pulling up. This would work better in tandem with the removal of bus stops within one block of each other

      • Rosa October 24, 2015 at 11:30 pm #

        They should be able to trip streetlights to red, too, so people who are just across the street can catch the bus without risking death.

  3. Wayne October 26, 2015 at 8:50 am #

    Woah woah woah, where’s the calculation for how many free parking spots for suburban riders at park&rides this could buy? We need to know how far it will *really* go with their priorities.

  4. Mary G October 26, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    The $6.5 million is capital funding. This funding can’t be used for operations. I’m not saying I agree with the bridge project but you couldn’t reallocate it to bus service.

    • Wayne October 26, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

      So, parking it is, then!

      • Mary G October 26, 2015 at 1:51 pm #

        How about heat and light at shelters in North Minneapolis and East St. Paul. This project is currently being federally funded and, therefore, obstructed by federal rules. Or the C Line ABRT which will run down Penn Avenue. Or more bus garage space for more buses for more service. (You can’t have more buses without some place to store them.) Metro Transit doesn’t just invest in P&R’s for the suburbs. But until the State allows the metropolitan area to tax itself for its own transit projects, we are going to have to continue relying on onerous federal funding for the “easy” and “cheap” projects (like a P&R).

        • Wayne October 26, 2015 at 2:31 pm #

          They don’t *just* invest in Park and Rides, but they do *heavily* (and probably over-) invest in them.

          I really wish we could tax locally too ):
          We really aren’t so poor that we need to wait for matching federal funds and jump through all the ridiculous hoops to get them.

        • Nick October 26, 2015 at 2:51 pm #

          Taxing ourselves would only be beneficial if we find a better way to distribute it. The CTIB model is broken, that’s how we got the red (and soon to be) gold lines that serve areas that don’t use transit while denser urban/suburban neighborhoods go under-served. We need a transit funding models that looks at the the equity impacts and efficiency of investments first, not the political score-keeping that we see right now.

          • Wayne October 26, 2015 at 5:35 pm #

            The CTIB is absolutely a broken mess. If anything we need to go down to Hennepin/Ramsey or even allow an opt in on the city level or something. The seven county definition of the metro does not work for transit.

    • Peter Bajurny October 26, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

      That money could go to building out some ABRT though (right?). But regardeless, the limitation of it being capital funding is a political one. Those dollars are just as capable of paying drivers as they are of buying concrete, it’s just that we choose to only buy concrete and not pay drivers with them.

      • Mary G October 26, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

        Actually, the Regional Transit Capital bond funding being used for the Vikings bridge can only be used for capital projects due to the nature of the funding. It isn’t political.

  5. Ben October 26, 2015 at 4:15 pm #

    I was thinking about the whole bridge thing and wondered about the Cedar-Riverside station? It’s not that far from the stadium and fans could easily be sent out the 11 ave doors and directed toward the Hiawatha Trail and the station. Yes it’s a walk, but so is parking your car to look for cheap parking. The trail is wide and cordoned away from the LRT and roads. You could compensate the cyclists for the game day closure of the trail by building a cycletrack somewhere with some of the $6 million in savings.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller October 26, 2015 at 4:41 pm #

      Why would the trail need to be closed?

      • Ben October 26, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

        Actually, you could bypass the trail given that the former I94 ramp into 5th street is being repurposed as a connector between Cedar Riverside and Downtown. You simply could send people up/down the repurposed 5th street/94 ramp almost directly to the stadium.

      • Rosa October 26, 2015 at 7:29 pm #

        it would be de facto closed if game day people used it. Did you ever try to go anywhere around the Metrodome before or after a football game? It’s a pretty short time period but sidewalks and streets were all full & blocked pretty well, and the light rail got full too after it was built.

        • Wayne October 27, 2015 at 8:14 am #

          It’s really fun trying to get off a northbound blue line train with a bicycle on a baseball game day during the pm rush hour if your station is anywhere before the stadium. You have to hit sports fans in the face with your tire to get them to move and listen to half of them talk about how they were just so confused about where to pay that they didn’t.

          • Rosa October 27, 2015 at 8:30 am #

            One time. Just once, in six years, I asked someone in a car to pick me up from work at the Strib on a Sunday afternoon. We made a block in a half in about 45 minutes of “driving” (DON’T BLOCK THE BOX!) and then just parked and went and had dinner on the West Bank.

            Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great when football people take the train. You could have funded the whole stadium just by checking/ticketing drunk drivers around the old stadium after games, and they’re not rolling down the windows to shout or throw shit at you on your bike when they’re on the train. But there’s really nothing else that blocks movement in an area like a football game. Not even similarly-sized groups of people going to a concert. Actually, not even the Zombie Pub Crawl, which has an even higher alcohol content. Football is some magical combination of numbers, time concentration, alcohol, and people who don’t usually come downtown.

            Hopefully the higher number of restaurants & bars near the new stadium will help when it opens. The scarcity of places to go around the Metrodome didn’t do anything to slow or spread out the stampede of football fans back home directly after the game.

            • Wayne October 27, 2015 at 10:13 am #

              I’m not confident it will be any better, especially since the city signed complete control of like half of downtown over to the Vikings as part of the wonderful stadium deal. Sometimes I wonder if they signed the agreement in blood and made a sacrifice when they were done.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller October 27, 2015 at 10:25 am #

          I’m okay with it being too busy to use as normal. I’m not okay with closing public infrastructure off for private use when it’s not strictly necessary.

          Someone keeps putting barriers across the Dinkytown Greenway on Gopher and Vikings gamedays for no apparent reason. It’s not something to be encouraged/tolerated.

          • Wayne October 27, 2015 at 11:04 am #

            Hey, this is the city where it’s A-OK to block the entire sidewalk with a road construction sign for construction that’s not even taking place (for weeks at a time). There is zero respect for anyone not in a motor vehicle of some sort (although there’s also very little respect for anyone who rides the bus), so why expect things to change? I mean the only time they seem to care about pedestrians are when they’re people who are almost never pedestrians attending some kind of event who need to get to their cars from a venue.

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