Transit Potential: Arsenal vs. Ford Plant

The Ford Plant and the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (the Arsenal) offer rare opportunities to design new neighborhoods from the ground up. Both will feature a mix of commercial and residential, will be pedestrian friendly, and will incorporate public transit. In terms of transit potential, however, the two could hardly be more different. Transit to the Arsenal will be relatively expensive to implement and the ridership potential is modest at best. The Ford Plant requires no additional expenditure at all. There is very good service already in place to numerous destinations and any new ridership will be gravy.

Let’s take them one at a time.

The Arsenal


The plan for the Arsenal is to extend the A Line BRT north from Rosedale, with a detour via County Road E and Lexington Avenue to serve existing intermediate development.


It should probably replace Route 225, the short circulator which duplicates the southern half of the A Line extension once an hour. It’s hard to imagine keeping the 225 in place–there’s simply not enough ridership.

I doubt that the A Line will run every 10 minutes, as it does south of Rosedale. Once again, the ridership simply isn’t there to justify such a frequency. More likely it will run every 20 or 30 minutes. In terms of ridership, it will probably resemble the Red Line from Mall of America to Apple Valley. Even though it seems close-in when compared to other suburbs, the remoteness of the site is a problem for transit. Travel time from the Arsenal to Rosedale will be around 25 minutes. Although there are good connecting services at Rosedale, a half hour will have been invested just to get there, and ridership starts to fall off pretty steeply after 30 minutes, especially if a transfer is required. It will take about 36 minutes to reach the Green Line.

Interestingly, nonstop park-ride express service to the downtowns is already in place at the I-35W & County Road H and adjacent Mermaid park-ride lots, located just west of the Arsenal.

Plan for rebuilding the County Road H interchange. The existing park-ride lot would remain and would serve the redeveloped Arsenal.

Plan for rebuilding the County Road H interchange. The existing park-ride lot would remain and would serve the redeveloped Arsenal.

It’s 25 minutes to Minneapolis via Route 250 and just under an hour to downtown St. Paul on Route 860. Also, Route 250 has a reverse commute service from downtown Minneapolis that could be diverted to serve Arsenal employers.

The best outcome I can see for the Arsenal is decent express bus ridership to downtown Minneapolis and modest ridership on the A Line extension.

The Ford Plant


In marked contrast to the Arsenal, the Ford Plant site is already served by seven bus routes radiating out in eight different directions. Five serve the Ford Parkway side of the site, and three run on the Cleveland side. Both streets are within reasonable walking distance of the entire site, but it would be easy and cheap to divert one or more of them through the site via the to-be-extended Cretin and Montreal Avenues. Let’s take the routes one at a time.

The A Line runs every 10 minutes all day long to Macalester College, the Green Line, Hamline University and Rosedale in one direction and to the Blue Line 46th Street Station in the other. It should be noted that Routes 46 and 74 also serve the 46th Street Station every 30 and 20 minutes respectively. That means there are 11 buses an hour to the Blue Line and it’s only a 5-minute ride to get there. That means the Blue Line effectively serves the Ford Plant site.

Route 23 runs hourly across south Minneapolis on 38th Street to Uptown.

Route 46 runs every 30 minutes across south Minneapolis on 46th Street to Edina, and also down to West 7th Street in lower Highland Park.

Route 70 runs hourly (every 30 minutes peak) to downtown St. Paul and the East Side via St. Clair Avenue.

Route 74 runs every 20 minutes to downtown St. Paul and the East Side via Randolph Avenue.

Route 84 runs every 30 minutes up Snelling Avenue to Rosedale, serving local stops, and also to West 7th Street in lower Highland Park.

Route 87 is the Cleveland Avenue Crosstown running every 20 minutes to the University of St. Thomas, Green Line, St. Anthony Park, the U of M St. Paul Campus and Rosedale.

Route 134 is a rush hour express to downtown Minneapolis via Cleveland Avenue.

Travel times are reasonable. It’s 25 minutes to downtown Minneapolis via the A Line/Blue Line or 34 minutes via Route 134. To downtown St. Paul via Route 74 is 28 minutes. To the U of M Minneapolis Campus, including a transfer to the Green Line is 28 minutes. It’s 19 minutes to the Airport and 32 to Mall of America.

To sum up the Ford Plant site, there is so much service that car-free living would be a reasonable alternative.

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.

6 thoughts on “Transit Potential: Arsenal vs. Ford Plant

  1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Thanks for this Aaron. The 30 minute time for TCAAP to Rosedale is interesting. That’s how long Google says it would take to ride a bicycle on existing (and quite dangerous) roads. This could likely be shortened to 20-25 minutes with some good bikeways for which there are some good alternatives in this area. Driving is 14 minutes according to Google. Is that time estimate assuming riders pay at the stops and not on the bus so stops/unloading/loading are fairly fast?

    Something I’d really like to see is that all of the stations, park&rides in particular, have good protected bikeways web out from them in to local neighborhoods and shopping areas to give people an option to ride bicycles to the stations instead of drive.

    1. Aaron IsaacsAaron Isaacs

      I assumed 25 minutes plus 5 for a transfer at Rosedale. It might be a few minutes less, but that doesn’t change the fact that busing somewhere beyond Rosedale pushes the trip beyond a half hour. That automatically reduces potential ridership.

      1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

        Thanks. Perhaps we need a program to Make Transit Pleasant Again. 🙂

        Realistically you’d need to add xport to/from the stations on to that time as well. And perhaps parking and walking across a parking lot on a car trip.

        With good bikeways I’d definitely choose riding a bicycle over a bus in relatively good weather. It’d be faster and easier. In cold, snow, or heavy rain I’d ride (assuming good bikeways) to the bus stop and take a bus.

        Realistically a car is easier, faster and seemingly to most people has no cost difference. I and many others would still choose to ride a bicycle given good protected bikeways though. OTOH, when people realize the true cost to them of each mile they drive I wonder how many would begin to value a bicycle or bus more?

  2. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

    Also, look at the site plans: How will people access the sites? That Arsenal site has one stroad in and out on each side, two entrances total. You’d think we’d be past awful hierarchical road networks after three generations of failure with them, but I guess not. Woof.

    While I have my concerns about the Ford Site (should be a “neighborhood of developments” rather than a “development” in construct) at least it has a functioning extension of an existing urban grid.

  3. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    Surprised you didn’t mention Riverview corridor and the potential for a new downtown St Paul to MSP rail connection. If we built it, Highland and the Ford site could have the metro’s best transit service outside of downtown Minneapolis, with good (30 min or so) rail links to MOA, MSP, and both downtowns plus the buses you mention. The CP rail corridor is a gold opportunity to invest in high-quality transit. It’s also likely the best currently-existing transit corridor on the table.

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