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Building A Network Of Rapid Buses — A Future Network

C Line Bus

C Line bus being tested.

If you take away anything from the first two of this series of articles, it should be that we need to know more. Only Metro Transit has the data and staff hours needed to do a thorough review of the options for aBRT expansion. But such a review is clearly needed. While my basic analysis completely supports the choice of corridors for the next three aBRT routes, it doesn’t support the routes remaining in the hopper from the 2012 aBRT study. Given the data available, only Nicollet and Central Avenues should be a clear priority for aBRT conversion, while Robert Street and West Broadway belong in a second tier of corridors and American Boulevard belongs in the dustbin.

The opening of the C Line and the advancing planning and engineering work on the B and E Lines are cues that Metro Transit’s aBRT program is graduating to a new stage. If better buses are to become the flagship transit service of the Twin Cities, as they easily could be, the work to develop a new list of priorities has to begin now.

Corridors, Comments, and a Crayon

What would that list ultimately look like? There’s so much more work that ought to go into answering that question. But since you’ve come so far in this series of articles and because this is the fun part, here’s are my proposed routes, in their proposed order, along with some comments about each route, and finally a nice crayon fantasy map to tie it all together. My goal for each was to order projects in the way that seemed most efficient and impactful. For each route, I tried to choose natural groupings of corridors, through-running downtowns when applicable, that maximized legibility (with a few turns as possible, especially of greater than 90 degrees). Most radial routes serve two of the city quadrants profiled earlier, while most crosstown/circumferential routes serve just one.

Okay, here’s the list:

Routes Completed, Or In The Current Pipeline: (Corridors Listed West To East)

A: Ford—Snelling (completed 2016)
B: Lake—Marshal—Selby (late planning)
To a far greater extent than I expected, my research convinced me that this is the single most important project in the pipeline.

C: Penn (completed 2019)
D: Emerson/Fremont—Chicago (engineering)
E: Xerxes(?) — Hennepin—University/4th SE (early planning)
Metro Transit planners are still debating whether to extend this route to Southdale Center, along either Xerxes and France Avenues. Southdale is a major job center and deserves strong transit service. Unfortunately, my data does not really provide a clear answer in terms of which route to it is better. Both Xerxes and France score poorly in the ranking of corridors, perhaps because the existing #6 bus is hopelessly split between a number of branches in southwest Minneapolis. Of the two, Xerxes scores slightly higher.


Proposed Next Five Routes (2030):

C (extension): Bloomington or Cedar
The strong performance of Bloomington Avenue in the data and its current relatively low transit frequency despite supportive land-use, suggest to me that aBRT conversion of this corridor would be one of the highest impact projects that Metro Transit could undertake. To make matters simpler, this corridor could be served without finding a corresponding route on the other side of Minneapolis, but rather by extending the C Line.

A more difficult question is on which street this future line would run. Bloomington Avenue sits just a quarter mile from Cedar Avenue. Transit service on both roads would be duplicative, and resources would be better spent if concentrated. Both are similar roads. While Bloomington carries the existing service in the area, Cedar has several advantages. For one, buses running down 7th and 8th Streets in downtown Minneapolis could use Hiawatha Avenue as a shortcut to Cedar, while maneuvering onto Bloomington Avenue requires several confusing moves down smaller streets (albeit where some potential riders live). Cedar also extends all the way to a logical terminus at the Mall of America, while buses traveling down Bloomington would need to eventually turn, likely onto Cedar.

F: Franklin—Raymond(?)
Franklin Avenue has some of the highest density of transit ridership in the metro, and a lower-income population that benefits substantially from transit service. There is also an opportunity to capitalize on the under-construction Green Line extension by tying an aBRT route on Franklin to the future 21st Street Station, providing a direct link to the population of Franklin Avenue to Cedar Lake and the jobs served by the new light rail. The availability of the letter F seals the deal.

But there’s one issue with Franklin, and that’s legibility. The #2 route, although relatively simple, is unique in that it follows a “Z” route, backtracking onto Riverside Avenue, before crossing to the University of Minnesota. In rethinking the Metro Transit system, does this “Z” make sense? A strong case can be made for it. The #2’s contortions allow it to serve Augsburg University, the University of Minnesota Medical Center, and the University itself, three huge trip generators. On the other hand, hypothetically extending a Franklin aBRT route across the river would allow it to tie into the Green Line at Raymond Avenue, and ultimately serve the University’s St. Paul campus and the State Fairgrounds. Riverside Avenue could then be served by a separate route, probably one that also brings aBRT service to Washington Avenue in downtown. This choice requires data on where #2 riders on Franklin and Riverside Avenues are actually going that I don’t have.

G: Nicollet—Central
Bundled together, this route would make the highest ridership bus route in the metro area, beating the #5/future D Line. It’s a no-brainer that is being held hostage by the dumbest possible thing; a stalled streetcar proposal. It’s time to give up the streetcar dream, and worthwhile to at least try to convince the taxpayers of the special streetcar taxation district that aBRT, with its actual better transit service and wider coverage, would be a superior direction for their money. But regardless of whether that fiscal jujitsu is possible, this corridor should rise to the top of any list. What might determine the exact timing of implementation would be the progress made on reopening Nicollet at Lake Street. With city control of the K-Mart, there’s an opportunity and a good case to be made for reconnecting the road for all modes but cars. If there’s an opportunity to build out the aBRT infrastructure at the same time as the K-Mart site is being redesigned and developed, that’s a natural time and money saver.

The main questions about this route overall should be its starting and ending points. Both Nicollet and Central Avenues go a long way. The route should certainly hit Medtronic’s headquarters in the north, and American Boulevard in the south. But should it continue all the way to the Northtown Mall and the South Bloomington Transit Center, as the #10 and #18 currently do? Ridership and frequency in these far-flung segments drop off.

H: Lyndale S—E. Hennepin—Larpentur
The lack of existing Metro Transit service on these routes is surprising to me. Lyndale is a highly trafficked route through the dense, transit-supportive neighborhoods of South Minneapolis, and E. Hennepin and Larpentur form the primary east-west spine for a significant area. This route would pass through a number of destination areas, from Best Buy’s headquarters, two future Orange Line BRT stops, Uptown, downtown Minneapolis, the St. Anthony Main area, the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus and the Bell Museum, the State Fairgrounds, and Lake Phalen. In the process, such a route would provide a huge number of connections to existing transit service, including nearly all South Minneapolis and West(ern) St. Paul crosstown routes.

The only issue with this route is that it would probably be the longest in the system. But there are stretches along the route where it would be able to travel more rapidly than is common on other buses, and electric bus technology is advancing rapidly.

J: Rice—Robert
Although Robert Street is named in the 2012 aBRT study, Rice Street is actually the more important corridor for aBRT service. It has higher ridership, higher ridership from areas of concentrated poverty, higher ridership per stop, and higher ridership per bus. It also has a better balance of trips in both peak and off-peak directions, while Robert is heavily commuter-focused. But both streets can improve their case by being connected for better bus service. Both routes serve communities that are largely isolated from the rest of the city, one by heavy industry, the other by a river. Both serve routes that could use significant redesigns, for which aBRT would provide needed political capital.

Rice—Robert are St. Paul’s best aBRT corridor, and in the perpetual battle between the east and west metro for resources, it’s important for fraternal peace that there is an eastern route included in the second wave of projects. That is not to say that the capital lacks transit investment. Two highway BRT routes and one rail route are also planned. But aBRT is needed to help balance the ledger, and this route is an important one.


Proposed Quick Win For A Tenth Letter Route

I: I-94
I don’t think all letters should necessarily be reserved for an apropos route, but the letter I is hard to distinguish from a 1 on the display on top of a bus, and also uniquely fitted for a downtown-to-downtown route. This is the cheapest aBRT conversion imaginable, as the #94 bus already operates much like BRT. It runs from downtown to downtown, using shoulders when needed to pass traffic. But given how many people have consistently complained that the Green Line does not travel quickly enough between downtowns, I suspect the #94 is not well known enough. aBRT branding might fix that issue. This conversion would require only new electric buses, and use stations that at this point will already exist in both downtowns. The only other addition, should be a restoration of the stop at Snelling Avenue. With soccer and increasing density at that intersection, there should in the future be demand that justifies that intermediate stop.


Proposed Next Ten (2035):

Once aBRT is operating on major radial routes, there will be increased utility for circumferential service that don’t just serve homes and businesses, but make vital connections. This proposed third wave of aBRT routes includes a number of critical crosstown connections that will connect to other aBRT, highway BRT, and light rail transit. This proposed timeline also is based on a hope that once a secure stream of funding is secured for these upgrades, they will be able to be launched far more quickly. Staff will be able to be hired, and lessons will be learned so that the entire process of putting together a route will get much faster. While it may be pragmatic to forecast ten aBRT routes by 2030, the faster they roll out, the better for the region and the planet.

K: 38th—France(?)
The 38th Street corridor and #23 bus showed up in the data as a surprisingly well-patronized crosstown route, and I think there’s a good case to be made for increases in local bus service today to test the corridor’s viability for future aBRT tomorrow.

This route has an obvious eastern terminus, given that 38th Street does not cross the river. But nailing down a direction on the western end is far tougher. 38th Street ends at Lakewood Cemetary, and the #23 bus turns towards Uptown. Future aBRT service could continue this route, ending at the future West Lake Station, or continuing on down Excelsior or Minnetonka, two corridors on the urban side of suburban, which show decent ridership that is heavily skewed towards commuters. My slightly preferred option would be for this aBRT route to continue west instead, running briefly in the same path as the E Line, but going further, to France Avenue, and serving Southdale. Depending on how much either of these corridors develop over the next decade, this calculus may completely change.

L: Lowry—Stinson
Another strong crosstown route with a case for an early-action boost in service. Lowry has impressive rider numbers and serves a population that predominantly lives in areas of concentrated poverty. At both ends of the route, it makes sense to bend northward. On the western end, because there is frustratingly no Blue Line station planned for the Sochaki Park area, aBRT should instead turn up Bottineau Boulevard, past North Memorial Hospital, and link up with the light rail in downtown Robbinsdale, not altogether a bad compromise. On the eastern end, the best ending point involves a short trip through along the urban Audubon Park and Waite Park neighborhoods to the Silver Lake Village Shopping Center.

M: Golden Valley—Broadway—Johnson
The third major Minneapolis crosstown route ought to be on Broadway. Because of the methodological issues unique to Broadway, I don’t have great data that supports this corridor, but I suspect that, like all of its peer routes, there is a compelling case for better transit service. The future Golden Valley Station on the Blue Line strengthens the case. Unusually, Golden Valley Road crosses Basset Creek and travels west. I don’t know enough to say whether there is a reason to provide aBRT service to the more suburban neighborhoods and industrial parks of Golden Valley, but the western end to this route is not necessarily the light rail station. On the eastern end, just like with Lowry, there’s no great stopping point. Buses could serve the Mid-City Industrial area or The Quarry shopping center, but the better option to me seems to be a turn up Johnson (a former streetcar route) and an eventual end also at the Silver Lake Village Shopping Center.

N: Grand—E 3rd
These two corridors are currently tied together in the system by the #63 bus, and there’s no real reason to pull them apart, as they meet all the criteria of a good aBRT line. Both corridors rank among the middle of the pack, although they are quite different in character. Grand links the University of St. Thomas (a natural western endpoint, and apparently an athletic club of some sort), Macalester College (the region’s most prestigious educational institution), and a major retail corridor. On the other side of downtown, E. 3rd is a mostly residential corridor, with a natural stopping point at the 3M Headquarters.

O: Omitted
Even worse than the letter “I”. For the purposes of helping people understand what route is coming, it seems smart to skip over O.

P: Plymouth—Washington—Riverside—(?)
The fourth and final major Minneapolis crosstown corridor that ought to be included in this wave of aBRT proposals. Plymouth breaks the mold a little bit, running only a half mile from another crosstown route. But Plymouth is so close to downtown that it’s not really a pure crosstown route or a pure radial route, and the existing #14 bus treats it that way. That formula seems fairly successful for the current route. Starting at the future Plymouth light rail station, this route would then run along the corridor until Washington. Although there is the opportunity to continue crosstown and meet up with Broadway, it seems better to turn into Washington, provide aBRT service to the North Loop and Minneapolis riverfront, and then continue along Riverside Avenue. It could also continue south in Seward, Cooper, and Longfellow, given that the route so far is very short, but I’m agnostic about which combination of streets would best to serve the inconveniently triangular area between Highway 55 and the river in a legible way.

Q: University NE—Cleveland N-S
When riders take the #11 bus down 2nd Street NE (just one to two blocks from University), they are taking it to downtown Minneapolis. But with aBRT service proposed to already be running to downtown from the E Line and Central aBRT, this proposed route is a bet that the frequency will be so high that riders won’t mind making a short transfer to complete their journey across the river. In the meantime, this bus would stay on the east bank, run down University all the way (in itself, not a small destination for trips), almost to the Menards, before turning on Cleveland Avenue and going past the University of St. Thomas and St. Catherine’s University, through Highland Park and the Ford Site, and ending at whatever station is built for Riverview Rail in the Sibley Plaza area.

It all sounds good in theory, but Cleveland already sees decent bus service via the #87, and ridership is really poor for this corridor. In between the present day and a hypothetical future in which this route is being discussed, it’ll be important to figure out why this corridor does so poorly.

R: Randolph—Arcade
Currently Randolph is tied to E. 7th Street and Minnehaha. For legibility reasons, I’ve reassigned partner corridors between West(ern) and East St. Paul a little differently. Because these St. Paul corridors are so poorly served by transit, with low frequencies and a variety of strange jogs, there’s an opportunity with aBRT to make the system a bit easier to understand and more direct. Randolph is a poor-performing corridor that currently gets poor to medium service. Arcade is a major county road on the east side, with suffers from a darkly comedic road design and has developed into a well-used but less friendly retail corridor than nearby Payne.

S: St. Clair—Edgerton
In much the same vein, this pairing would make a new west-east connection through downtown St. Paul. Of all of the odd quirks with Metro Transit’s service patterns in East St. Paul, the lack of a route along the length of Edgerton (or Payne) makes the least sense to me. This route would fix that oversight. There’s a question about whether this route should run along Edgerton or Payne, one block away. I chose Edgerton, mainly to be a bit closer to the Payne-Phalen communities just east of I-35E, who don’t have great access, but at a cost of a direct connection to the proposed Payne Station on the Rush Line. Ultimately, it would be best if the station, or this route, were on the same page. A route up Edgerton probably would go all the way up to the Little Canada Town Hall.

T: W. Minnehaha—E. Minnehaha
Both of these corridors fill gaps in the plan. But there’s an interesting argument to be had over whether this route is better as a radial route or a circumferential one. Minnehaha Avenue is not entirely whole. It disappears and reappears on either side of I-35E. But via Pennsylvania Ave, Phalen Boulevard, and a pretty short bridge, you might be able to make a direct connection. Is it worth it? Probably not. The path of least resistance is to run this route through downtown St. Paul in the middle. It could start at Raymond Avenue Station on the western end and 3M’s Headquarters on the eastern end.

U: Como—Maryland
The last of these twenty proposed aBRT routes. Como is a weird, bendy road, but when it ends, Maryland is a natural continuation. This is another route that would fill a major gap in the network and provide a crosstown connection between the western and eastern ends of St. Paul. It would also provide reliable and comfortable accommodation to thousands of students, who use it every day to get to the University of Minnesota.


Twenty aBRT Routes, And Beyond

20 Abrt 01

The Twin Cities with twenty rapid bus routes is an urban area deeply connected by transit. All four quadrants of the central cities are served by radial and circumferential transit. From major job centers to neighborhoods in poverty, aBRT transit is a glue that brings disparate places ever closer. Over 250,000 trips are made every weekday on aBRT, and less than half of Minneapolis and St. Paul residents come to own a car.

Not all gaps are fully closed. Perhaps there is growing demand for an aBRT route that links 46th Street in South Minneapolis to the Green Line in St. Louis Park. Maybe Lexington Parkway, and a Dale-Smith aBRT route are moving forward with the hope of closing the biggest remaining crosstown gap in the system. Or else, growth along Excelsior and Minnetonka Boulevards is calling out for aBRT expansion into the western suburbs. But in the core areas of the city, where the streetcar network once nurtured transit-supportive neighborhoods, the same forces are once again at work.

This future can become reality. The politics of transit funding are frustrating, but the weight of the evidence is strong and the winds are blowing in the right direction. While we wait for that to get sorted, the groundwork for a vision like this can be laid now. Let’s start dreaming.

Alex Schieferdecker

About Alex Schieferdecker

Alex Schieferdecker is from New York City, lived in Minnesota for six years, and now lives in Philadelphia. He is still unhealthily invested in Twin Cities politics and development. Please help. His twitter handle is @alexschief.

33 thoughts on “Building A Network Of Rapid Buses — A Future Network

  1. Nick M

    It wasn’t clear from your proposal for the “Q” in your fantasy map would keep or kill the 11 in NE as a high-frequency (but still local) route. If the latter, I think this model would need to offer more than just a transfer. Marshall Ave NE at Broadway and Lowry is growing quickly and the sketched University Ave. line moves higher quality transit to DT further away from the people in that area, not closer (Central Ave or Hennepin into DT is a non-starter from Marshall and Broadway at roughly 1 mile walk for either). It also violates the 1/2 mile radial route rule you identified in the earlier post.

    If 2nd is truly incompatible with aBRT (I would disagree, it’s not that different from Chicago south of 31st), then Marshall into DT should be on the table.

    This just highlights why I struggle with fantasy map exercises–it’s really easy to draw lines on a map and it’s hard to actually pair origins and destinations on a meaningful way unless you are in the thick of operating a transit system. There are plenty of people to hate on MT here, but the most disappointing parts of transit in MSP are a product of policy decisions far above the people who are dedicated to trying to make transit function better for those who need it (most important) or can use it (choice riders are a tough crowd).

    1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker Post author

      A few points:

      Just for one, the proposal would put aBRT on Broadway, so anyone living at Marshall and Broadway would have aBRT right on their doorstep. That Broadway line would bring people directly to the Blue Line LRT, and make connections available to the D Line on Fremont.
      Moving from the #11 to my proposed Q Line would move the transit service just a single block to the east. Because of the way the streets are skewed, the added distance is a bit further than that, but in the end, aBRT service at University and Broadway would be just 0.28 miles from the Marshall and Broadway intersection, which is a pretty easy distance.
      My proposed Q line would also kill off the #17 that winds its way through the Presidential streets (this is a fact that might make this route a far higher priority for Metro Transit, because they can save a lot of money by consolidating two routes into one). Riders of the #11 and the #17 would be asked to accept more frequent, comfortable, and reliable service in exchange for transit that runs right next to where they live (although of course, for many people who take those routes but live closer to University, my proposed Q Line would also be closer). I really do think that people as a whole would make this trade.
      The other tradeoff for my proposed Q Line is that it no longer goes downtown. Riders headed downtown would have to get off at University and Hennepin, and wait for a second bus to complete that leg. But they wouldn’t have to wait long. The E Line and my proposed G and H Lines would all come through these stops. If each had a frequency of every ten minutes, that means a downtown-bound bus would arrive every 3 minutes and 20 seconds, and the average wait time for a connecting passenger would be just 1 minute and 40 seconds.
      Some people would also benefit from the new routing. I know many people who commute from northeast to the University. Their trip would now be dramatically improved. People who commute from northeast to points on the Green Line would also benefit. People who commute from northeast to destinations like the University of St. Thomas, would also gain a brand new connection.

      Basically to sum up, there are tradeoffs, but I think the benefits of having straighter, faster, more frequent transit, dramatically outweigh the negatives that you describe.

      And I don’t hate on Metro Transit, FYI, I think they’re doing a great job.

      1. Hero

        This may just be the Bourbon speaking but if we are thinking of fantasy maps why not send the Blue line extension up N 7th St, turn on Emerson Ave and then onto Broadway?

      2. Nick M

        “The other tradeoff for my proposed Q Line is that it no longer goes downtown.”

        That is not the other tradeoff. That is THE tradeoff. Moving the line to University Ave is irrelevant if you sever that neighborhood from the place where you admitted that most people go on the 11 right now. And, as I mentioned, this seriously violates the 1/2 mile spacing for radial routes that this whole exercise was predicated on.

        Transfers are lower quality transit. I don’t understand how a proposal can take a current route that just recently was upgraded to high frequency (and from what I’ve heard, has consistently solid ridership all day) and make it less effective be forcing a transfer. That is just crayon map rubbish and, frankly, makes everything else said here seem less credible to me. If there is such a strong desire to have a connection from NE to St Paul, it seems like the E line could be extended past Westgate or your Broadway or Lowry crosstown could turn south instead of both turning north. As a bonus, either of those options would also enhance the connection to N Mpls and points east, which seems like a bigger mobility win.

        1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker Post author

          My rule isn’t that every 1/2 mile there should be a radial route. My observation was that in much of the city, existing service runs that way, and we should take it as a baseline. My Q Line breaks that mold because I think legibility is an even higher priority, and if far greater legibility can be accomplished while still directing a route to some significant destinations (the University, e.g.), that’s really a plus.

          It’s also a plus if this can be accomplished with a minimal tradeoff. You are arguing that a single transfer is a significant tradeoff. I understand that in the current state of public transit in America, it usually is. But there’s a better world out there, and it doesn’t need to be.

          Remember the frequency of downtown buses at University and Hennepin would be 3/10 minutes. The average wait time if dropped randomly at that intersection would be 1 2/3 minutes. When you factor in the time savings that aBRT achieves through off-board fare payment, all door boarding, and stop consolidation, I suspect the door to desk trip would be the same or faster in my universe than in the current one, despite the lack of a direct route. (If I model aBRT by cutting travel times by 20% on the current 11, then add in the transfer, it looks like would take a 1 1/3 minutes less time to travel from Stenyrz Market to the Minneapolis Visitors Center (15 * 0.8 = 12 + 1 1/3 = 13 1/3, current travel time via Google is 15 minutes.)

          But this math I don’t think is likely to convince you. Let me just say that the main principle at work here is the idea that by developing a network of transit routes that mutually support each other, we can achieve better outcomes than by taking every route and eventually routing it downtown, because we assume that’s where everyone wants to go. In this case, my proposed Q route not only relies on three other aBRT routes to provide the connection to downtown that it lacks, but it in turn doubles service from Northeast to the University. So for instance, a commuter traveling from Central Avenue to a job at the U, could take either an E or a Q Line bus. Their average wait time is cut in half, all the way down to 2 1/2 minutes.

          It’s no longer about getting people on corridor Z to location A. It’s about bringing people on corridor Z into a larger network, with short transfers to routes that allow them to move quickly around the entire region.

          1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

            I’m not sure “transfers are lower quality transit.”

            I live in an area with mediocre bus service to Downtown (40 minutes on a stop-and-go Route 14, or a long walk to the 133) and I routinely choose to take the 46 or 14E to the Blue Line because it’s a much better ride quality and much more predictable timing versus taking a single-seat ride all the way downtown. I can even get dinner at Venn’s food truck before getting on the bus. I’m a “choice rider” too.

            Make services frequent, fast, and pleasant and the “transfer penalty” is not-so-much.

            1. Nick M

              “I live in an area with mediocre bus service to Downtown (40 minutes on a stop-and-go Route 14, or a long walk to the 133)”

              Apples and oranges. This is not an area of mediocre transit. This is an area with 15-minute frequency and a 17-minute ride from 2nd NE and Lowry to 7th & Nicollet. Forcing a longer walk and a transfer for that population is maybe ok for the people that want to go to the grocery store or a restaurant, but that is a lot of people to force a transfer on. An aBRT expansion should enhance service for the majority of riders, not make is more complex for the benefit of a few unless there is a HUGE equity benefit to making the change. I just don’t see it on the ground.

          2. Nick M

            Among those people who are going to DT, do you know what they’re doing? If they are transferring now you’re either taking a one-transfer trip and making it two or forcing people to travel farther to get to a transfer that makes it a one-transfer trip. For all we know, 2/3 of the people on the 11 are transferring to a route 5 to go to Abbot Hospital or the Blue Line to Mall of America. Now they are transferring twice.

            Second, if S Minneapolis can have 5 lines into DT Minneapolis with varying destinations to offer one-seat or one-transfer rides to basically the entire core of the metro area before you start including the crosstowns, why does NE between Broadway and Lowry (which is getting infill at a pretty solid rate) only justify one route? Asking someone to walk 15 minutes to get to a stop (because aBRT stops are spaced at 1/2 mile plus you’re moving the bus a couple blocks farther away) and then transfer suddenly negates all this time you’ve saved them, which inevitably wasn’t much time savings to begin with because the 11 is a fairly quick route.

            I’m sure you will tell me all the reasons why I’m wrong, and to be blunt I will never agree with you because as a resident of this area* I just don’t see the overwhelming need to make the connection to the University at the expense of all the existing transit users. Also, if this need was so overwhelming, why was connecting the university to NE only a medium priority in the later years of the 2015 SIP– generating just 600 riders per day? If we want to connect NE and the university, it should be an “and” connection, not an “instead of” connection. Maybe convert the Monroe St corridor to the U-crosstown (bookending it with aBRT to DT on either side) instead? Or run it down Central along with the Central-Nicollet line, providing even better transit access to an area of concentrated poverty? Having lived in a European metro area half the size of MSP, legibility does not mean every street has only one route, key corridors have plenty of overlap that maximizes mobility.

            Again, I will say that fantasy maps do not help the majority of actual transit riders. Instead of spilling more ink on pretend, we should be mobilizing support for the big picture market research that will help us understand this. And once that data is out, we should be watching to see how it’s used and point out weaknesses. Sure I might have to eat crow on part of this, but as someone that does market research for a living I know that the people who think about this kind of thing all day long rarely know the viewpoint of the people who never think about it. In the end, this system needs to serve the people who have limited mobility better, not worse than the current routes do, otherwise we’ve just failed at building an equitable transit system.

            *In case there are any accusations of trying to protect my own personal ride, I live within three blocks of where the E line will run on 1st NE/Hennepin, so this is not negatively affecting my day-to-day transit route. However, based on my experience riding standing-room-only 11s to various destinations in NE from home or work I think I have some pretty strong on-the-ground observations.

            1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker Post author

              As I’ve said, I think there are tradeoffs.

              Some people who closer to University Ave NE would see transit get much closer to them. Some people who live closer to the existing #11 and #17 would see it move further away.
              Some people would lose a one-seat ride downtown, but they would gain a slightly faster two-seat ride downtown. some people would gain a faster ride to the University, but some people might need to make a different connection (say, using Broadway aBRT to get to the D Line, and from there to the Mall of America, still a two-seat ride, but with a different route). Some people would get an easier trip to downtown St. Paul, or UST, etc.

              These tradeoffs are real. That’s one reason why I wouldn’t advocate changing the direction of transit service like I’ve proposed, until the network of complimentary services are highly developed. It’s Q, not F.

              The routes that Metro Transit runs are not etched in stone. The agency should be constantly looking to reevaluate them. The bias should certainly be on preserving the patterns that people are used to, but that shouldn’t be the overwhelming priority. If improvements to the system as a whole can be made, they should be.

              In this case, because University Ave NE runs away from downtown, I chose to make it a near circumferential route, much like Franklin. As opposed to routing it straight to downtown, we gain greater legibility and a second bus to the University. For those benefits, we lose a fourth bus to downtown. I think the tradeoff makes sense from a broader network perspective, and won’t effect individual riders in that corridor too much, while benefiting riders going to the U and points East more. I might write some more about this later. But you are free to disagree regardless!

              I certainly agree that what would ultimately be needed is some research on current riders and some good modeling. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I just have some ideas.

  2. Avocadoplex

    I think one of the reasons the Green Line is too slow thing sticks around, even with the existence of the 94 is that the 94 only runs M-F 5am-7pm. You can’t take it home from a Saints game, much less a night out in Lowertown. This is honestly a big reason I spend less time in St Paul in the evenings than I otherwise would.

    1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker Post author

      How long has that been the case? I feel as though I used to take the 94 at late night hours when I went to Macalester.

      1. Avocadoplex

        Since the green line opened, I believe. There were major changes to the 94 at that time.

      2. Joey SenkyrJoey Senkyr

        I believe the 94 got chopped back to weekdays only when the Green Line opened. Really wish it had even just hourly service in evenings and weekends.

        FWIW, I think the 94 corridor would be better served by an extension of the Gold Line, which is now planned to go through DT St Paul right up to the 5th St freeway ramps. I’m assuming the only thing holding them back now are the lack of MnPass lanes, but I can’t imagine those won’t be included in the upcoming reconstruction of 94, and then the GL extension would just be a matter of buying the extra buses (and operator hours).

  3. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    I love the vision at the end. This is the only plausible vision for transit investment that I’ve seen, and the price tag would be what… less than the Blue and Green expansions?

    1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker Post author

      Back of the napkin estimate is about $1 billion, maybe plus a couple hundred million, for all of these lines.

      So yeah, comparable to the local match for an LRT line.

            1. Monte Castleman

              Most of that is for an unbonded concrete overlay on existing lanes and rebuilding bridges. Since the cost to society of closing lanes for an extended period is too high, the only extra cost is the marginal cost of making the extra lanes permanent, ie concrete pavement instead of asphalt.

              1. Matt SteeleMatt

                The cost to society of adding new lanes for an extended period is too high. I recently saw a calculation of the annual cost of highway collisions in America. If MN has a 1/50 share of that cost to society, that annual cost to Minnesota exceeds the entire annual state budget.

                1. Monte Castleman

                  You’re forgetting to count the value of people’s time lost due to congestion. Just like we count the value of people’s time lost to slow buses and trains when discussion transit improvements.

                  1. Matt SteeleMatt

                    The best way to ensure people don’t lose time to congestion is to ensure they don’t have to sit behind the steering wheel to participate in the economic and social life of our state.

  4. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

    The 18 having shoddy ridership south of 54th is less of a rationale to kill off that part of aBRT to me. I would maybe combine it with a 554 and make the aBRT stations served by both in the corridor (and few to no other stops). This would keep the system simple and would help expand the base of ridership/users for these southern stops.

    Also, great thing about aBRT stations is that they are modular and can be expanded when needed, so suggesting a simple shelter, heater and pylon would be expandable if ever there was a need for long buses or multiple buses to dock at once.

  5. Frank Phelan

    Fantasy football is so last decade.

    I’m going to start a fantasy transit operations league.

    “I got weekday ridership of 15k on my route 23!”

  6. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

    Regarding the proposed I(nterstate 94) Line, here’s another idea…

    If/when the Rush Line and Gold Line BRT routes ever happen, then route those both to a terminus in Downtown Minneapolis via I-94 from Downtown St. Paul. This would provide high-frequency express service between the Downtowns while also providing a one-seat ride for these “METRO” routes to the metro’s primary employment destination.

  7. Scott

    This series of posts about ABRT is my favorite on streets.mn this year. Thanks for pulling all this together!

    The #4 route going northbound from south Minneapolis to downtown is often pretty slow getting stuck in traffic. This is especially true near Lyndale and Franklin Avenue because of the I-94 freeway entrance and Hennepin/ Lyndale bottleneck. It can also get pretty slow-going through downtown. Do you suggest ways to make ABRT function better in these areas? Obviously, there is limited right-of-way.

    1. Matt Avocadoplex

      Close the entrance to 94 on Lyndale. There’s already one two blocks over on Hennepin. I hate getting stuck in the onramp traffic when riding the 4 (I’ve had to get off and walk on snowy days when traffic comes to a standstill).

      1. Andrew Evans

        Not sure what closing that onramp would accomplish. Especially with construction being what it is.

        Close Lyndale and now you’re forcing more traffic turning left on the Franklin/Lyndale intersection, or using 26th and 28th and making left turns there, and dealing with one lane gone due to the bike path. Close Hennepin and it’s much of the same thing with everyone trying to go over to Lyndale.

        The only other close onramps would be up by the Walker, off Franklin and 3rd’ish, or down by Lake Street. All of those would put an increase of traffic on already similarly terrible intersections and roads.

        I’m not even sure that, although bad, those onramps are fully to blame. Traffic is already backed up before the tunnel. Through traffic on 94 goes down from 4 or 5 lanes around Broadway to 2 before going up to 3 with the onramp of 55. However that 3rd lane (if I recall correctly) is the exit to 35w South. So any traffic merging on at 55 will eventually need to weave left, and then too any traffic from Hennipen and Lyndale will need to move left. That’s the real issue and when things get busy part of the reason those onramps and intersections may be backed up.

  8. Taylor

    Rice-Robert is gold, I’m delighted it’s getting press. If there was only one more aBRT route over here in Saint Paul, that’s what I’d pick. BRT 94 basically prints its own money, all you’d need is, like three signs. That said, the 3A (Como-Maryland) should be way higher on the list; between the State Fairgrounds, Como Lake and just as direct of a link to the U of M-Saint Paul Campus as the “H” line, as well as all the same connections as the 61, it’s a really important crosstown route for most of Central-Western Saint Paul. It might not even really need to go over to the East Side, as that can be taken care of by a more frequently-stopping counterpart. Clearly I’ve given this some thought (Figure 1: see website).

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