Quarterly Transit Report – June 2016

An A Line Preview

The big news is the June 11 opening of the A Line, the first urban BRT. I’ll do a separate report on it after it’s been running a couple of weeks and the initial bugs are worked out. The basics have already been well publicized—off-board fare collection, large heated shelters, limited stops, some signal priority, distinctive buses. Here are some things you may not know:


For starters, there’s a big increase in the number of daily bus trips connecting Rosedale with the Blue Line 46th Street Station. The frequency is every 10 minutes. Weekdays increase 40% from 72 round trips to 101; Saturdays 52% from 66 to 100, and Sundays 37% from 71 to 97. The span of service, meaning when the service day starts and end, is basically unchanged, about 4:00 AM to 12:30 AM seven days a week.

On top of that service increase, a slimmed-down Route 84 will offer 31 daily local (makes all stops) round trips on Snelling Avenue between Rosedale and Montreal Avenue in Highland Park. The 84 is slower than the A Line, but if an 84 shows up first, take it.

The reduction in end-to-end travel time varies by time of day and day of week, depending on traffic conditions. One-way running time ranges from 26 minutes on a Sunday morning to 36 minutes during a PM rush hour. Time savings range from 5 to 10 minutes, or 13% to 22%. That’s because the A Line runs mostly in mixed traffic, except for bus-only shoulders from Hewitt Avenue to Como Avenue, and from Hoyt Street to County Road B, and those shoulders have been available to the regular Route 84 Snelling Avenue buses for years. The time savings comes from three factors:

  1. Fewer stops.
  2. Off-bus fare collection. However, the Route 84 is seldom slowed by large boarding groups, except at University Avenue.
  3. Traffic signal priority for buses. This is tricky to do and time savings are expected to be modest.

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It should be noted that an additional 3 minutes will be saved on the roughly 40 percent of the Route 84 trips that currently make an indirect jog via Montreal Avenue between Fairview and Snelling Avenues. Those have been assigned to the surviving Route 84, which originates down by Sibley Plaza on West 7th Street and will continue to provide half-hourly local service on Snelling Avenue, essentially what it does today.

I’ve been told the running time is scheduled aggressively, so it will be interesting to see if the A Line can reliably keep the schedule or it will have to be relaxed. It helps greatly that the A Line won’t emulate the Red Line BRT, which comes to a complete stop and “docks” at every station, regardless whether anyone wants to get on or off. Docking means carefully snugging both bus doors up against a floor-height curb, and it’s a slow, careful maneuver. That’s taking LRT practice a step too far. Like regular buses, A Line buses will only stop if someone actually wants to board or get off.

Other schedule changes worth noting

Route 30, the experimental Broadway Crosstown that connects north and northeast Minneapolis with the Green Line Westgate Station in the Midway, is getting Saturday and Sunday service for the first time.

All night “owl” service is being added to Route 10 Central Avenue from downtown to Columbia Heights, and Route 18 Nicollet Avenue from downtown to 46th Street.

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.

23 thoughts on “Quarterly Transit Report – June 2016

  1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    Great summary of the “A” line. I hope this really becomes an exciting template for the region’s major bus lines. I’d love to see this done yesterday on the 18 and 5.

    One area I’d like to see improvement on for BRT is managing wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Although it varies on route, this can cause significant delays, and has to be awkward and embarrassing for the person in the wheelchair. The process of kneeling the bus, lowering the ramp, getting the driver out of their seat, getting the seats that block the wheelchair area folded up and the passengers relocated, then getting the wheelchair user strapped in and the ramp back in — it’s breathtakingly tedious. On the other hand, on LRT, wheelchair users roll right on, move to the appropriate spot, and lock their wheels.

    I assume because the curbs are still not floor height, most of this process will be left intact. Is there any way to have it work as well as LRT?

    1. Joey SenkyrJoey Senkyr

      It doesn’t seem like it. The Red Line is set up for level boarding, but it takes a long time for the drivers to carefully pull right up to the curb at each and every stop. Seems like it might be more time than just kneeling the bus when necessary.

    1. Mike Hicks

      This varies depending on which direction you’re going. By my count, the southbound direction has the most far-side stops, with 13. There are 5 near-side stops, plus the endpoints are stations that don’t fit into near-/far-side categories.

      Northbound, the line has fewer far-side stops, with just 8. It has 3 stops which I’d call “mid-block”, though that’s open to interpretation a bit, and 7 near-side stops.

      Far-side stops make up the largest number in each case, but just barely for northbound service.

  2. Aaron

    I wonder if it would be feasible to use this connection to cut out the jog through Midway on the 21. That jog adds about 10 minutes to any east-west trip through Snelling Avenue and keeps the 21 from being an efficient route from Minneapolis to downtown Saint Paul/Cathedral Hill.

    1. Scott

      The only problem with the jog…is that’s where all the people are either going, or from where they are returning. Eliminate the jog, and you just eliminated the riders.

    2. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

      I hate the jog! It was an accidental jog that came from a Selby / Ayd Mill bridge being reconstructed. Now that there’s a large housing and grocery complex at Selby and Snelling, you’d think you could put the bus back. It keeps the #21 from being an efficient route from Minneapolis to Saint Paul / Cathedral Hill / Central High School.

      Imagine if the #21 AND the A-Line both served the Vintage?

      People that want to take the bus to shop on University can simply take the A-Line or any of the new Green Line connections.

      1. Jaron McNamara

        …or we could not assume people will gladly shop at Hole Foods instead of Walmart and Cub, or happily spend an extra 5-10 minutes transferring with a few bags of goodies, if the jog is eliminated, and instead push for all day service on the 53.

        1. Mike

          Bill noted above that the issue there is that the 53 does not serve Selby. I would instead propose making all 21D (St. Thomas) into 21C (Snelling & University) instead. Then have the 21A skip the University jog. St. Thomas riders might object, but they have the 87 and 63 to fall back on. It would probably require some additional cost though extending today’s 21D should be somewhat offset by shortening the 21A.

  3. Aaron IsaacsAaron Isaacs

    Scott’s right. I’m pretty sure there are more people on the jog than through riders. The jog is where the retail is located, along with plenty of jobs. The transfer to the Green Line is an important connection and generates considerable ridership. During the rush hours the Route 53 limited stop bus handles the through commuters to downtown St. Paul.

    1. Aaron

      Got it. I’m not a regular 21 rider, but when I do it is for through trips. I’ll gladly leave it to people who know where the boardings and alightings actually happen.

        1. Aaron

          I’m not usually touched by comments sections, but when I am it’s because somebody turned me into a meme.

    2. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

      The #53 does not serve Cathedral Hill or Selby Avenue either. And it only runs for limited hours one-way during some parts of the day.

      What’s the point of making fast North-South connections to a fast and frequent light rail line if you’re still going to run buses North and South and along the light rail line? Saying “but that’s where people are riding” because that’s where the bus conveniently goes is a tautology. Maybe if the #21 actually was direct and made sense, more people would ride it along its historical route?

      1. Janne


        I wanted this bus Uptown-Selby/Dale for years. I’ve not applied for jobs because of this jog and the painfully slow bus connections.

      2. John Charles Wilson

        The 1970s-1990s route or the pre-1970 route?

        Originally, the route was (westbound) Selby to Fairview to Marshall/Lake.

        Then, because of weight issues on the Selby bridge it became Selby to Hamline to Marshall to Snelling to Selby to Fairview to Marshall/Lake.

        There was also a 21 Express via Marshall to Lexington non-stop, then to the regular route with limited stops.

        This got renumbered 94L and changed to I-94 to Cretin to Marshall/Lake.

        Then it was renumbered 53 and changed to I-94 to Snelling to Marshall/Lake to take advantage of new rules defining the difference between a Limited and an Express (the Express fare allegedly was deterring ridership).

  4. Jaron McNamara

    I’m looking forward to seeing how the A Line runs in real service. Those buses are already a familiar sight on Snelling and Ford with all the operator training, run time testing, and route simulations they’ve been doing the past six months. As long as they don’t get bunched and maintain the ‘bus every 10’ thing it should be good. Although from my experience as a regular rider Metro Transit can’t even run the Blue or Green lines on schedule or at consistent 10 minute frequencies, so we’ll see…

    My one peeve so far is the poor connections between some late night northbound Blue Line and A Line trips at 46th. (A transfer I make multiple times a week.)

    46th St Stn Blue Line –> A Line (Xfer time minutes)
    10:07 > 10:09 (2)
    10:22 > 10:24 (2)
    10:37 > —— (17)
    10:52 > 10:54 (2)
    11:07 > 11:24 (17)
    11:25 > —— (29)
    11:46 > 11:54 (8)
    —— > 12:29 (-)
    12:37 > 1:09 (32)
    9:52 > 9:59 (7)
    10:07 > 10:14 (7)
    10:22 > —— (22)
    10:37 > 10:44 (7)
    10:52 > —— (22)
    11:07 > 11:14 (7)
    11:25 > 11:44 (19)
    11:45 > 12:14 (29)
    12:37 > 12:44 (7)
    Sunday – Holiday
    9:52 > 9:58 (6)
    10:07 > 10:14 (7)
    10:22 > —— (23)
    10:37 > 10:45 (8)
    10:52 > —— (23)
    11:07 > 11:15 (8)
    11:25 > 11:45 (20)
    11:45 > 12:15 (30)
    12:37 > 12:45 (8)

    For weekdays, in theory a two minute transfer may sound ideal, but in reality, the trains tend to run 1-5 minutes late, or if they are on time, you’ll have riders doing the mad dash in front of the train to get on the waiting bus. 17 minutes is getting a bit long, although if the train is 5 minutes late then it’s down to 12. And 29 and 32 will have you looking at other travel options.
    For weekends the connections are a bit better, although there are still some long waits for certain trips. In my case it’s not a huge deal as I can also take a 74 to my destination, or simply drive. For some of the others that make that connection with destinations further up the line, it’s probably going to be a good incentive to invest in a car or maybe a bike.
    I realize of course that Metro Transit could care less about those of us who have the audacity to not work a standard M-F 9-5 job, or actually expect decent service at night for leisure outings. Still it would’ve been nice if they could’ve paid some more attention to that connection. I remember leaving multiple comments and input about this at various A Line planning meetings and in surveys. Not to mention they’ve already been having struggles over the past 6-12 months with holding 74’s and 84’s at 46th for late running NB and SB Blue Line trips.

    1. John Charles Wilson

      This looks bad. I often get stuck at 46th St. Station at night with a long wait (up to 30 minutes) for a connexion. In nice weather it’s ok but in foul or cold weather I often take whatever’s leaving first just to get out of the weather.

      My ideal is from there is usually 46 -> 18 as I live near the 18. But thanks to long waits and bad weather I often get the luxury of a late night tour consisting of:

      Blue -> 18 (via downtown)
      9 -> 18 (via downtown)
      7 -> 18 (via downtown)

      Or the ultimate doozy:

      Blue -> 515 -> 18 (via MOA and Richfield)

      All of which beat freezing at 46th St.

      There is supposed to be a retail space in the apartment building at 46th St. Station but it’s never been rented AFAIK. (It’s behind the bus stop for the 84.) I believe this could be turned into a profitable 24-hour (or almost 24-hour*) coffee shop catering to people stuck waiting for buses and trains.

      *I would close it from the last train/bus of the night to the first one of the morning to keep it from becoming a homeless hangout. However, the closing time would be quite brief: 70 minutes (2:27-3:37 AM) Mon.-Fri., 19 minutes (3:18-3:37 AM) Saturday, and 16 minutes (3:21-3:37 AM) Sunday.

    2. Joe

      All my jobs I work non traditional hours,Metro Transit are clueless about connecting buses.In St Paul the94 late buses would call and have them hold the buses at times in downtown.
      The Blue is consistently late causing the buses to leave late at night from MoA.My coworker can never make his connection at Chicago from the 23 because the Blue line is always late so the 23 have to wait.

  5. JOE

    THE 21 is too slow almost 70 mins for the entire trip.The transit center off Lake St adds 4 mins plus another 5 mins to Univ Ave..Make 21 A a limited stops on Lake St .segment .21D become E for local stops.Like 54 on W 7th .

    A LINEwill do a poor job connecting to local routes at nightThe 84 used to be a good back when I miss the 74.
    I FIND apaulling that the deadheading 53 can’t be put into service running express St Paul /Uptown this will save over 25 mins.

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