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The Quarterly Transit Report–June 2019

C Line Starts June 8

The big news on June 8 is the startup of the C Line BRT between downtown Minneapolis and the Brooklyn Center Transit Center (BCTC) via Penn Avenue N. It will largely replace the Route 19, which ran every 10 minutes and will continue to serve local stops with half-hourly service seven days a week. The C Line will run every 10 minutes and stop about every half mile.

Like the A Line, the C Line will feature off-board fare collection to speed boarding through all doors, large heated waiting shelters with real-time schedule displays and traffic signal priority for buses (though not at every intersection).

Some of the C Line buses are battery powered, a big experiment. The buses are charged up overnight at the garage. During the 8-12 minute layovers at the ends of the line, the bus raises an LRT-like pantograph to take electricity from an overhead power source. The battery is still depleted by the end of the day, but the short recharges extend the bus’s range. The big question is how viable the electric buses will be in cold weather, which reduces battery output. If it works as hoped, you’ll see more EB’s in the future.

Travel time savings range from 11-21 percent, depending on the direction and time of day. For example, BCTC to 6th & Nicollet currently takes 36-39 minutes on Route 19 and will be 29-32 minutes on the C Line. Expect that to get fine-tuned after some real-life operating experience.

Besides being reduced to 30-minute service, Route 19 will lose a pair of low-service branches. The 19Y to 36th & Victory Drive was a rush hour-only remnant of the old all-day Route 7 and is disappearing. The 19H left Penn at Dowling and ended at 42nd & Victory Drive via Dowling, York and 42nd Avenue. It had 30-minute rush hour and 60-minute midday service. Now Route 19 will divert southbound AM and northbound PM rush hour trips via Thomas Avenue* between Dowling and 42nd, and the rest of the 19H service will disappear.

Future Items of Note

  1. Will the electric buses work, especially in winter?
  2. Off-board fare collection requires transit police to do fare checks on the buses, which means a higher police presence than ever before. Given past community-police tensions, will this lead to confrontations and controversy?
  3. Will low Route 19 ridership cause further trimming? That’s what happened to Route 16 because of the Green Line, which diverted so many passengers from the remaining local bus that the 16 was first reduced from every 20 to every 30 minutes, then shortened from 27th Ave. SE in Minneapolis to Fairview Avenue in St.Paul. The same thing happened with the A Line and the downgraded Route 84 Snelling Avenue local. The 84 was cut back from Rosedale to Midway Parkway. Will Route 19 still have enough passengers to justify running it to BCTC?

The viability of the local bus services that supplement BRT will be an issue to watch as the other arterial BRT’s are implemented.

Other June Service Updates
Because of low ridership, Metro Transit is cutting 15 I-35W express trips that were added on the fringes of the rush hours to offer alternatives during the freeway reconstruction. Also cut was the weekend half-hourly service on Route 535 that serves the I-35W corridor, which makes one wonder about the weekend viability of the Orange Line BRT, which will replace the 535.

Routes 4, 6, 12, 61 and 141 are on long-term detour via Nicollet Mall due to the Hennepin Avenue downtown reconstruction. It was unfortunate that the detour started in the spring but the schedules couldn’t be changed until June 8. Because the Mall is so much slower than Hennepin through downtown, the result has been late buses all day long, which can’t be good for retaining ridership. In the case of Route 6 this was compounded by additional detours in Edina and Uptown. I was on a bus the other day that was running 25 minutes late. Ouch.

*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post stated Route 19 buses would run on York Avenue. The error has been corrected.

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.