The A Line Works, Let’s Build More

I was out last Friday making a video about people’s experience with the A Line. Now, I knew about the 30% increase in ridership in this corridor since the A Line opened. But the numbers did not quite prepare me for people’s enthusiasm.

“It’s just really easy.”

“The A Line has helped me by taking 10 to 15 minutes off my commute every day.”

“I like riding the A Line because it’s very fast.”

“I really love the fact that it comes so often.”

The A Line works so well because it’s “arterial Bus Rapid Transit” (aBRT). If you want to brush up on what “arterial Bus Rapid Transit” is, you can check out; and while you’re there, you can watch the video and judge people’s enthusiasm for yourself. Streets.MN has also had several useful posts about aBRT.

My goal with this post is to let you know about the proposal to accelerate the construction of aBRT lines, and how you can support that acceleration if you wish.

Governor Dayton has proposed bonding for $50 million to fund more aBRT. The proposal itself does not specify which routes the funds should be used on. $35 million would almost certainly go to fully fund construction of the D Line along the route of Metro Transit’s #5 bus, the busiest bus line in Minnesota. Substantial additional money would go to advancing the B Line, aka Lake-Marshall between Minneapolis and Saint Paul. There’s a nice summary of how the rest would be spent in the April 15 Pioneer Press editorial supporting the investment, here: (The link title gives away the conclusion, but it’s worth a read anyway.)

Would you like to see more fast, comfortable, reliable buses in the Cities? The two regional Chambers of Commerce and East Metro Strong have set up a way to make it easy to say so to decision-makers. The site will automatically find your legislators and help you let them know of your support.

(In the interests of full disclosure, and keeping with the Streets.MN editorial guidelines: I’m the Executive Director of East Metro Strong, but writing as myself. And this post doesn’t take a position on a specific piece of legislation, largely because the Governor’s proposal hasn’t been formally introduced legislatively yet. A supporter might see that as all the more reason to let legislators know that one wants to see such.)

17 thoughts on “The A Line Works, Let’s Build More

  1. UrbanLite

    “I like riding the A Line because it’s very fast.”

    “I really love the fact that it comes so often.”

    So often I see transit nerds and geeks talk about how the above doesn’t matter. It absolutely does, and when you address those issues, people take transit more often.

    1. Daniel Herriges

      “It comes so often” is usually more important than any other factor. Jarrett Walker does a wonderful job of explaining this:

      “If you live in a single family house with a driveway and usually get around by car, imagine that there were an automated gate at the end of your driveway that only opened once an hour, on the hour. When it’s closed, you can’t get your car in or out. If that were your situation, your biggest transportation problem would not be traffic congestion, or how fast you can go on the freeway; it would be how to get this frigging gate to open more often. That’s how low frequency feels to a potential transit customer, and why frequency often swamps other factors, like speed, in determining whether transit is actually useful.”

    2. David Burrow

      As an Iowan who visits the Twin Cities frequently, this is the best thing about the A-line. It’s much more frequent than the buses it replaced and much more frequent than the red line, which seems to feature only the world’s most overpriced bus stops. Not all transit needs to be rail, but it does need to have the frequency of ral to be effective.

  2. GlowBoy

    Yes! I’ve ridden the A Line enough times to experience how much more convenient it is, not only in terms of speed but in frequency. I also frequently ride the #54, which provides aBRT speed and frequency if not the other amenities. Either way, I’d like to see a lot more of the same. I’d use Metro Transit buses a lot more than I currently do if they worked like either the A or the 54.

    Fortunately I live near the #5 line in Diamond Lake, which means I’ll be living near the D-line when it starts up in a couple years. I would ride that line a lot more often if it didn’t take 35 dang minutes to get downtown, not coincidentally the exact same amount of time it takes me to get there on a bike. Similar parallel routes – #18, #11, #14 – are absolutely terribly slow once they get north of Lake Street, most of them taking nearly 20 minutes to get into downtown from Lake.

    So yes, let’s build more. Let’s build rail too, but that’s a slower process with a lot of opposition – which we can leverage into support for the much more cost-effective aBRT lines.

    1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

      “Leveraging” opposition is easier said than done. IMO the “but buses” argument is usually a fig leaf for a more general opposition to transit and change.

      1. GlowBoy

        True, but it does still require the opponents of transit to backpedal, negotiate backwards, and in some cases even be forced to explain their change of position. It’s harder to justify opposition to buses if you’ve already been caught advocating for buses as an alternative to rail.

  3. Scott

    Is there a reason that the Hennepin and Ramsey County sales taxes for transit are not being used to fund ABRT? They seem like such a bargain compared to the Blue & Green LRT line extensions, Gold line BRT, etc. How does the cost- benefit analysis support spending millions and billions on those lines to generally un-walkable, car-dependent places, while a modest ABRT investment would help so many people who live in dense, urban places?

    1. Jeanette

      There has ever been a cost-benefit analysis that asks, “For X investment, what are the best transit choices we could make across the Metro area?” If there had been, we would have lots more aBRT and other advances in bus service long before we would have the rail expansions now being planned. The very successful A Line is testament to that, serving many more happy people for a fraction of the cost of rail.

        1. Jeanette

          There are different funding streams because our representatives design it that way. Just last year, for example, Hennepin County raised the sales tax to support rail — not buses or any other transit alternative. There was no cost-benefit analysis done related to that tax increase.

  4. John L.

    The real improvement of the A Line is the speed, and what I will call “flow”.

    The frequency of service on the A Line isn’t really better. For most of the route, the A Line does not come any more often than Route 84 did before: every 10 minutes. And the Green Line doesn’t come any more often than Route 16 did.

    But the speed of service and sense of consistent movement are totally different between the new BRT and LRT services and the regular bus services they replaced. This is the result of longer stop spacing, off-vehicle fare collection, and stations “in-line” with the traffic lane. Those are the key features that make these new services better, and that need to be replicated as much as possible, both on BRT/LRT service and on regular bus service where possible.

    Don’t get me wrong: frequency is important. A prerequisite. But the real winner for making transit awesome is to improve the speed and reliability of the service.

    1. Joe

      Maybe not as much during rush hour, but the ALine runs every 10 minutes all day, and the 84 still exists too, so Snelling has 8 buses per hour instead of 4-6.

  5. Karen Nelson

    I don’t know waht the stats on this are, but a big part of appeal to me of LRT and also BRT, is little thought needs to go into any of it…it is frequent enough you just walk to it and know wait won’t be long.

    Also the BRT buses are nice,, comfortable, much more so than traditional buses.

    I don’t know what we pay for LRT, but if you took money being spent on SW line and went instead to busy corridors like Snelling ALine and many others in MSP, put in BRT with nice buses that ran every say, 7 minutes, I think ridership would be much higher for money spent that LRT.

    Plus BRT is more easily adaptable, I worry what will happen to transit when fleets of driveless single use vehicles get cheap…using BRT like routes for frequent smaller shuttles at least at off peak times that covered our city in convenient grid could offset the congestion..

  6. Matt SteeleMatt

    It would be great to see the state fulfill this bonding request.

    But let’s also add on these additional funding sources:
    – The new additional 0.25% Hennepin and Ramsey sales taxes after the breakup of CTIB.
    – Local funds such as the Parks & Streets dollars coming online in Minneapolis.

    We can’t let our city and county elected officials claim that this is *only* a state responsibility to fund.

  7. William Schroeer

    Hi all,

    Great discussion.

    The House released its Capital Investment proposal this week, and aBRT was not included. The Senate is expected to release its proposal next week. Then they’ll negotiate with each other and the Governor.

    In other words, NOW is the time when all three of those need to hear from you. sends your note to all three at once. It’s almost as fast and convenient as aBRT itself.

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