The December 12 service change is a small one. The biggest news is the addition of first time Sunday/Holiday service on Route 32 Lowry Crosstown that connects Robbinsdale, north and northeast Minneapolis and Rosedale. Buses will run every half hour 7:30 AM to 8:00 PM.
Making buses go away
The only other change of note is an unfortunate concession to people who don’t like buses running in front of their houses. In this case the complainers were located on Bryant Avenue S. between 46th and 50th Streets in south Minneapolis. This street segment has had streetcar and later Route 4 bus service since 1911. Route 4 runs every 15 minutes all day long. Then in 2005, a major study of south Minneapolis bus service created Route 46, the first 46th Street crosstown since a short-lived experiment in 1947.
Besides creating a new crosstown link between 38th and 66th Streets, Route 46 was designed to feed the Blue Line, and to a lesser extent the new I-35W 46th Street bus station. Originating in Edina, it follows 50th to Bryant to 46th Street. It runs every 30 minutes and that increased the number of hourly buses on Bryant from 8 to 12. Some residents (not sure how many) began agitating for a reduction in bus service.
They complained to City Council Member Linea Palmisano, who went to Metro Transit asking for options. There were several available, including telling the residents to live with it. Route 46 could run via 50th Street to Nicollet Avenue, a route variation it already does twice a day for the convenience of Washburn High School students. Or it could divert Route 46 via Lyndale Avenue.
Metro Transit decided to leave Route 46 alone and detoured half of Route 4 instead. Until now, Route 4 split at 50th and Bryant into two branches. One takes Penn Avenue to Richfield and Bloomington. The other takes Lyndale Avenue, also to Richfield and Bloomington. Now the Lyndale branch will diverge at 46th Street. This returns Bryant to 8 hourly trips between 46th and 50th. Route 4 service in those four blocks goes from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes.
The complainers may be happy, but what about the residents who took the bus at those stops? According to the latest boarding checks I have from 2015, here are the northbound weekday Route 4 boardings on Bryant Avenue.
32 50th Street
7 49th Street
8 48th Street
5 47th Street
52 Total per weekday
It’s not a huge number, but it must be several times larger than the number who complained. Who is being inconvenienced more? The bus riders will now have to consult the schedule and choose where to walk to catch the bus. This runs counter to Metro Transit’s successful policy of consolidating service on fewer streets instead of spreading it out, because consolidation attracts more riders. It also sets a bad precedent and may empower other anti-transit types to push for service removals.
Automated stop announcing
It has been under test on several routes since June 2014. Now automated stop announcing has been rolled out system wide, with the exception of the older high-floor buses that lack the hardware, but will cycle out of the fleet in a couple of years. The test buses called every stop. Perhaps that increased the difficulty of programming, because the systemwide rollout announces only stops with stoplights or stop signs, as well as the first stop after turning onto a different street. This conforms to ADA requirements and is close to what bus drivers have been required to announce manually.
Along with stops, transfer points are announced. Connecting routes are given, except at large transit centers with multiple connecting routes, and in downtown. Personally, I believe the transit center routes should be listed. It’s done on LRT and seems to work, even at 46th Street where the Blue Line connects with seven bus routes. In downtown it’s more challenging because of the huge number of peak-only express routes, but why not announce the all-day services. That number is very manageable.
Important landmarks and traffic generators will also be announced.
While we’re talking about automated transit information, Metro Transit continues to install NextTrip real-time electronic signs at major transit stops. First implemented along the Marquette and 2nd Avenue S. bus lanes in Minneapolis, they next appeared at all LRT stations, then the Mall of America transit center. They have recently been installed at the South Bloomington, Uptown, Brooklyn Center, Columbia Heights, Maplewood, Robbinsdale and Rosedale transit centers, as well as the 35W & 46th Street transit station, and three of the four bus stops that comprise the downtown St. Paul transit center (5th Street at Minnesota, 6th Street at Cedar, Cedar at 5th Street).