The Quarterly Transit Report–August 2016

Service Improvements

As funding is available, Metro Transit is implementing the Service Improvement Plan (SIP) that was approved last year. Looking beyond the high profile improvements like LRT and Arterial BRT, the plan calls for increasing frequencies on the urban local bus routes that have always been the backbone of the system. This recognizes the reality that regular transit riders, especially those without an automobile, deserve service that is more convenient.

The August 20 service change brings greater frequency to two more routes.

Most people probably don’t know it, but for years Route 2 Franklin Crosstown has been in the top five for ridership per bus hour. It feeds the U of M, Augsburg College and Riverside Medical Center from southeast Minneapolis and Franklin Avenue, is a classic crosstown across south Minneapolis and connects with both the Blue and Green Lines. It serves a large transit dependent population. Now it’s finally getting the frequency it deserves. The frequency improves from every 15 minutes on weekdays and every 20 minutes on weekends to every 10 minutes 7 days a week.

The frequency is doubling on much of Route 62 Rice Street-Smith Avenue in St. Paul, one of the Green Line’s feeders. On weekdays and Saturdays the Rice Street end of the line improves from every 30 minutes to every 15 minutes. On Sundays Rice Street improves from every 30 minutes to every 20 minutes.

On Saturdays the service on Smith Avenue to West St. Paul doubles from hourly to half hourly.

Better Bus Stop Signs

By the end of 2017, Metro Transit expects to have replaced all of its 12,300 bus stop signs with new ones that provide much more information. The process started in 2015, with 2,300 being replaced. 5,000 more are underway this year, with the final 5,000 in 2017.


They are being installed route by route. Earlier this year Route 84 was completed to coincide with the June opening of the A Line. The rest of this year’s work started in August.

  • Phase 1 routes (installation began in August): 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 14, 17, 18, 21, 22, 74
  • Phase 2 routes (installation will begin in the fall): 7, 11, 12, 16, 23, 25, 61, 62, 65, 68, 71, 94, 250, 270, 535, 675, 768, 850

Bus stops vary greatly in activity. Metro Transit has divided theirs into four categories.

Low Boarding Stops: According to a 2015 inventory (see table), 4,487 of them (36 percent) have no boarding passengers. How can that be? Those are mostly the stops for outbound express buses and the outbound stops near the ends of local lines. They need signs, but not departure information.

Another 4991 stops (41 percent of the total) have only 1-10 boardings per day. That means 77 percent of the stops have 10 or fewer boardings per day. Given the limited resources available to update signs, the decision was made to give these stops route numbers, the bus stop number, the Transit Information phone number and the info to access schedule info by smart phone.

Avg. Daily Total Mpls-St. Paul Suburbs
Boardings No. of stops No. of stops No. of stops
0 4,487 530 3,957
1 1,560 397 1,163
2 889 264 625
3 605 233 372
4 471 208 263
5 368 185 183
6-10 1,098 604 494
11-15 564 365 199
16-19 295 195 100
20-29 477 329 148
30-39 294 213 81
40-49 189 143 46
50-59 130 96 34
60-69 115 96 19
70-79 92 71 21
80-89 77 60 17
90-99 64 49 15
100-124 97 76 21
125-150 85 70 15
151-199 90 74 16
200-299 88 77 11
300-499 68 55 13
500-1,000 66 55 11
>1,000 28 25 3
Total 12,297 4,470 7,827

Medium/High Boarding Stops Without Shelters: There are about 2,000 of these and this is where the new signs will have the greatest impact. In addition to the basic sign described above, these stops will have summaries of bus frequency by time of day and day of week, route maps and a listing of terminal letter destinations, as illustrated above.

Medium/High Boarding Stops With Shelters: Full schedule information, including lists of departure times has always been displayed in the approximately 1,000 bus shelters. That will continue with the addition of route maps. The stops themselves will receive new metal signs.

Transit Stations and Transit Centers: These include all the LRT and BRT stations, plus all the transit centers. These locations already have the full complement of information, including maps and lists of departure times. Many are now getting NextTrip real time departure displays, as are a number of the busy downtown stops and park-ride lots. The number of real time displays will continue to increase.

A Line Update

The A Line at the Blue Line 46th Street Station.

The A Line at the Blue Line 46th Street Station.

The A Line BRT on Snelling Avenue has settled into normal operation and the initial get-acquainted ridership is over. For the average weekday in July, the A Line (4,250 passengers) and the downsized Route 84 (775 passengers) are hauling 40 percent more passengers than the old Route 84 they replaced.

Bear in mind that ridership should increase when school starts at Hamline, Macalester  and Highland Park High School, all located on the A Line or the 84. It will also be interesting to watch State Fair ridership.

On time performance, defined as zero minutes early to 5 minutes late, is running in the mid-90 percent range. That’s quite good, considering the A Line gets stuck in heavy traffic approaching the I-94/University Avenue area, and westbound at Hiawatha.

While there is anecdotal evidence that traffic signal priority for the buses is working, project manager Charles Carlson tells me they don’t yet have a system reporting tool that quantifies the number of priority calls. You can watch it happen. If an A Line bus is approaching an intersection and the light stays green after the count down clock gets to zero, that was bus priority being granted. For the record, buses receive signal priority at the following intersections:

Snelling at:
Co Rd B2 W Ramp
Har Mar Mall
Hoyt Ave.
Midway Pkwy.
Hewitt Ave.
Minnehaha Ave.
Thomas Ave.
Selby Ave.
St. ClairAve.
Jefferson Ave.
Randolph Ave.
Highland Pkwy.
Ford Pkwy.

Ford Pkwy. at:
Fairview St.
Kenneth St.
Finn St.

46th St. at:
46th Ave.
42nd Ave.
Minnehaha Ave.
36th Ave.

A number of major intersections get no priority, including Co. Rd. B, Roselawn Ave., Larpenteur  Ave., University Avenue, Spruce Tree Dr., St. Anthony Ave. (I-94), Concordia Ave. (I-94), Marshall Ave., Summit Ave., Grand Ave., Cleveland Ave., Cretin Ave., and Hiawatha Ave. In case you’re counting, 61 percent of the intersections have priority. Priority only works when GPS detects that the bus is late.

The buses also get to use bus-only shoulders between Hewitt and Como Avenues, and between Hoyt Street and County Road B.

The A Line at Rosedale Transit Center.

The A Line at Rosedale Transit Center.


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.