Bus Map

Building a Network of Rapid Buses — How to Serve Northeast Minneapolis

Several weeks ago, I published a series of articles on a potential path forward for rapid bus projects in the Twin Cities. I made an inventory of possible corridors, compared their current transit performance, and finally proposed a 2035 network of twenty routes. I got phenomenal feedback from a number of people who are excited about the future of the arterial bus rapid transit (aBRT) model as I am.

One negative critique also stood out. Nick M, who lives in Northeast Minneapolis, west of the railroad corridor, took objection to my proposed “Q Line,” which I envisioned running down University Ave NE/SE, traveling through the University of Minnesota, continuing down University Ave, before turning on Cleveland Avenue and heading down all the way to Sibley Plaza. His critiques or my responses were not a matter of wrong nor right, but rather a question of priorities and tradeoffs. The issues raised are broadly applicable both to my proposed map and transportation planning as a whole. At the same time, a single bus route is narrow enough to be easily digestible and a useful case study. As a follow up to my 30,000 foot view of the aBRT system, I wanted to dive into this one situation in more detail, with the hope that it explains some of how the future could differ from the present.

Q Line Abrt 01

The proposed Q Line, highlighted in red among other proposed aBRT routes.

In my proposed aBRT map, I mostly used the existing local bus system as a template. In several instances, I created connections between corridors on both sides of downtown that had not previously existed. In just a couple of situations, I changed the arterial that existing service runs down (e.g. shifting service from Bryant to Lyndale). In a couple others I made a significant route change that would alter the character of the existing service (e.g. continuing Franklin Avenue service over the river instead of replicating the current “Z” pattern).

It makes sense to talk about the route I proposed as the Q Line, because it is unique. It presents not just one change, but two major changes to the status quo.  The Q Line would substantially replace two existing Metro Transit local routes, the #11 (primarily on 2nd NE) and the #17 (primarily on Washington NE), shifting the service on these routes to an arterial that currently has no service. The Q Line would also significantly alter the function of those routes by not turning into downtown Minneapolis, becoming a circumferential route instead of a radial route. These changes are separable, but their justifications stem from a similar philosophy. I’ll defend the purpose behind each in turn, and then tie it together in the end.

Why Consolidate The #11 and #17 Routes Into One?

One of the big improvements that come when an existing transit route is upgraded to aBRT service is that bus stops are consolidated. Instead of stopping every block, as most current local routes do, the aBRT buses stop at intervals between a quarter to a half of a mile. By stopping less often, the bus can travel faster and more predictably. More resources can be invested into making each stop a pleasant place to wait, as there are less of them. At the same time, the stop intervals are not long enough to put service out of reach for most users. Most transit riders are comfortable walking a 5-10 minutes to the nearest stop or station, and a lot of transit planning is built around this assumption.

Bus11 Small

Route #11, mainly on 2nd St NE

Many of the same principles apply to route consolidation. Metro Transit currently runs a number of locals buses that take confusing, winding routes, and have a number of branches. It can be difficult even for a regular bus rider to keep track of which route goes where and when. By consolidating winding or branching routes, aBRT service can improve a system’s legibility.

The area of Northeast Minneapolis west of the railroad has a legibility problem. The #11 bus runs on 2nd St, then Grand St north of Lowry Ave. The #17 bus runs on Monroe Street for a stretch, then bends back and runs on Washington St. If you were to walk across this area of the city, it wouldn’t be particularly apparent where you might be able to catch a bus. The two largest and busiest routes in the area, Marshall St and University Ave, do not carry bus service.

Bus17 Small

Route #17, mainly on Washington St NE

The spacing between these routes is also a little inefficient. The diagonal railroad has isolated an inconveniently-sized section of Northeast Minneapolis. The distance from Marshall to the railroad is a little over a mile at Broadway, but only two thirds of a mile at Lowry. The area is on the small side to be served by two local bus routes, but too large to be appropriately covered by one. Hence the compromise routing in place today. The #11 runs about a quarter mile east of Marshall. The #17 runs a bit less than a half mile east of the #17. The #10 bus, across the railroad on Central, is a bit less than a half mile further to the east.

I previously wrote about how the Minneapolis and St. Paul grids are set up with a grid of arterial streets every half mile, with bus service running in a downtown direction on each of these routes, and bus service running in a crosstown direction on every other of these routes. That pattern doesn’t fit easily into Northeast’s grid, and Metro Transit has done a fair job of trying to shoehorn it in. But it could be better.

Legibility doesn’t matter a whole lot for the rider who takes the same route at the same times to and from work every day. But legibility matters a great deal for anyone considering whether to make any other trip via transit. Less than 20% of all trips are commute trips. The Twin Cities have a transit system designed to serve that 20%, but not the other 80%. Riders may know their own daily route, but how quickly can they learn and trust the rest of the transit system if they decide to make a trip to a buzzy new restaurant, or visit a friend in a different neighborhood? If all you know is that rapid buses move on most major arterials then you can trust that you’ll always be able to find and understand your way across the city. The main arterial in this part of the city is University Ave, which runs as close down the middle of this part of the city is possible.

Nempls Bus Comparison Riders Stop BusIn addition to its legibility problem, Northeast has frequency issues. Both the #11 and the #17 have a peak headways of fifteen minutes, and the #17 only runs through NE every half hour at off peak times. These frequencies may be decent by the poor standards of American transit, but they’re not convenient enough for people anywhere to rely on, and so people don’t. By the metrics that I assembled for my previous series of posts, the 2nd NE and Washington/Monroe corridors are in the bottom half of performers.

Given this, it makes more sense to consolidate the #11 and #17 bus into a single, much higher frequency route. This new route would combine the ridership base of both the #11 and #17, while providing a higher level of service. By combining the number of buses currently used for both local routes into a single route, Metro Transit could achieve headways of 7-8 minutes, which are far more in line with global standards for high frequency service. Experience and data show that potential riders are willing to walk further for service that comes more quickly. Any regular rider knows that the worst transit experience is when your ride pulls away just as you approach the station, and the second worst experience is waiting around at the station wondering when the ride will come. Both problems are fixed when you know there is always a bus coming soon.

Just as important is that this service improvement could be achieved with the same amount of resources as before. This is particularly essential. Metro Transit is not funded adequately. Part of the duct-taped financial formula for aBRT service includes cost savings from reducing or eliminating the underlying local bus service. In this case, there is the rare opportunity to prune two weaker lines and pool their resources in a single, strengthened route. In this way Metro Transit can more efficiently use its resources and justify the investment.

The tradeoff of consolidating two routes on local streets into one combined route on an arterial is a tradeoff that Metro Transit should not have to think twice about making. The shift makes sense for both the agency and its customers. Transit riders would gain access to a much-improved service, in an obvious location. Meanwhile, Metro Transit would have more capacity to support aBRT expansion by saving the costs from two routes.

Past transit planning has focused on providing more routes that go more places, but slower and less frequently. aBRT’s success comes because it inverts these priorities. Instead, it puts legibility and frequency first. Growing ridership for Metro Transit’s light rail and aBRT service demonstrates that riders are responding to this shift.


Why Move From A Radial Route To A Circumferential Route?

Currently, both the #11 and #17 buses travel down their respective corridors, then make a turn towards downtown Minneapolis. This makes a certain amount of sense. Downtown Minneapolis is the largest concentration of housing and employment between Chicago and Seattle. It’s a huge generator of transit origins and destinations. It’s only natural that tons of buses go straight there.

But should every bus go there? Obviously not. There are other destinations that need service as well. Travel demand across a city is everywhere to everywhere. The goal for the Metro Transit network is to make sure that riders have the option of reaching downtown Minneapolis as easily as possible, at the same time that the system serves other major nodes of housing and employment and as much in between as possible. In order to do this efficiently, because all buses cannot go to all places, every transit network must rely on connections.

The only problem is that riders don’t like connections. Connections add time and uncertainty to every transit trip. People who have alternatives tend not to choose to wait for a connecting bus in the blistering cold, with no idea of when it will come (and speaking from experience, the possibility that pulling out a phone to check might kill the phone’s battery). The current Metro Transit local bus network is built around this understanding. Most routes, at some point in their journey, make a turn and touch base with downtown Minneapolis, or downtown St. Paul. Even a bus like the #3, that hits several large employment nodes and makes connections to multiple routes that go downtown, also duplicates that service by going downtown as well.

But is the problem really connections, or is it the poor experience that riders have understandably come to expect from connections? As many have pointed out, riders don’t seem to care too much about making connections in a subway or elevated system. That’s mainly because service comes quickly. If you know your connection won’t be long, it stops becoming such an inconvenience.

The high frequency, high legibility service of aBRT helps make transfers as painless as possible. With ten minute headways, the average wait at an A or C Line station (if you just showed up randomly with no knowledge of the schedule) is exactly half the headway, or five minutes. That’s manageable. You may have already spent more time reading this article. Even better, at aBRT stations, you can take one look at the real-time travel information and immediately be reassured that a bus is coming, and informed as to just how long you can expect to wait. That makes the waiting easier.

Hennepin U 07

That’s ultimately why there’s no reason to worry if future aBRT service from University Ave NE continues along in that direction to the University of Minnesota, instead of turning to downtown Minneapolis. In my proposed plan for aBRT expansion, the Q Line would, as the letter designation suggests, be one of the lower priority routes for conversion. In fact, it would be implemented only when all major connections in Northeast Minneapolis were already complete. It would come after aBRT on Lowry (L Line), Broadway (M Line), Central (G Line), Hennepin (H Line), and the current E Line, which would run along University Ave SE, before turning at Hennepin and making a bend towards downtown. All of these connecting services would be available to future Q Line riders.

A hypothetical commuter who lives directly next to Sentyrz Liquor and Supermarket (on 2nd NE), and works at the IDS Center (on Nicollet Ave) can walk right out of their door and hop on the #11 for a fifteen minute trip to downtown, then hop right off the bus just steps from their office building lobby. It’s an almost ideal trip. In the proposed future, they would have to walk three blocks further to catch the Q Line at University and 18th NE, and walk a block and change further from their destination stop on Hennepin to their office. But they stand a good chance of making up the difference in time on the way.

In this future, the Q Line comes more frequently than the current #11 and is more reliably right on time. It also moves faster. While our current commuter waits for their neighbors to board the bus and fumble with change at seven stops between their boarding and the bus’ turn at Hennepin, the future commuter stops just three times, with speedy all-door boarding at each one. At that third stop, this hypothetical commuter gets off and waits for less than two minutes before an E, G, or H Line bus rolls up. Again, this trip moves faster (the aBRT target is 20% time savings) than the current trip, skipping a number of stops.

This hypothetical commuter has the perfect situation in the present day. They live and work directly on streets served by the same bus line. This is someone who in theory has the most to lose from this switch. But in the future scenario, they don’t lose much, if anything. Despite having to walk slightly further and make a transfer, their commute takes nearly the same amount of time, thanks to less time waiting and stopping.

Now consider the situation from the perspective of a planner, who is interested in more than just a single trip. When the time comes for aBRT for Northeast Minneapolis between the river and the railroad, three buses will already be traveling from Hennepin and University to downtown. Just one will be traveling from that point to the University. Does it make more sense to send a fourth line across the Hennepin Avenue Bridge to downtown Minneapolis? Or a second line to the University of Minnesota?

I believe there’s greater utility in adding the second line. At the main transfer point, where Hennepin and University intersect, waiting times to go to downtown Minneapolis will be just one minute and forty seconds. (Three buses, evenly spaced, with ten minute frequency average out to a bus every three minutes and twenty seconds. Divide that by two to find the average waiting time.) But average waiting times to transfer to the University of Minnesota will be five minutes. By adding a fourth bus to downtown, we could cut the average waiting time in that direction by twenty-five seconds (1:40 to 1:15). By adding a second bus to the University, we could cut the average waiting time in that direction by one hundred and fifty (5:00 to 2:30).

The Q Line’s proposed route also makes connections that are not easily available today. There is no bus that goes from Northeast Minneapolis to Southwest St. Paul. That’s not to say that there is robust transit demand between these two places. But there is surely some, and right now, transit does not serve it at all. Someone wanting to travel by transit between, say, Brasa on Grand Avenue and Brasa on East Hennepin, would need to travel for nearly an hour on three buses. In my proposed aBRT network, that trip would take just two aBRT buses. The proposed Q Line would fill a major gap in the existing network.

The Future Is In High Frequency, High Transfer, Anywhere-To-Anywhere Bus Service

To make its future rapid bus network everything that it can be, Metro Transit will need to make some moves that will seem like political risks. Aligning aBRT as I’ve proposed with the Q Line would be such a risk. But supporting this decision is a philosophy of transit service that is backed by experience and data. The future of transit in America is the present of transit elsewhere in the world.

Barcelona is an exceptional example of what a shift in perspective can do. The city’s spaghetti-tangle of a metro has long confounded experts, tourists and even locals. But its reformed bus system is an e(i)xample for the rest of the world. The Catalans have built a system that relies on frequent buses (7-8 minute headways) that travel the city in a pure grid. You may not be able to get to the Gothic Quarter or La Sagrada Familia from anywhere in the city on just a single bus. But you can almost certainly get there in two, with just a single brief transfer.

Guest Post: Barcelona’s Bus Network: Better Access, If You Change Buses

Barcelona took a risk, but it is paying off with more access and more ridership as a result. American cities like Houston have also started to move towards more grid-style systems relying on transfers. Metro Transit can take a similar risk and reap similar rewards. Close examination of situations like my proposed Q Line show how a system of rapid buses that facilitate easy transfers can seem like a negative tradeoff when looked at in isolation. But those downsides are minimized in reality, and the benefits are potentially enormous. With its aBRT conversions, Metro Transit not only has the opportunity to upgrade existing bus corridors, but it has the opportunity to completely rethink the bus system, with the principle of high frequency everywhere-to-everywhere service at its core.

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.

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37 thoughts on “Building a Network of Rapid Buses — How to Serve Northeast Minneapolis

  1. Scott

    Great post. You’ve convinced me. 🙂

    Curious to know what you think about the one way pairs of University and 4th St. and how that might impact the route. The one-direction nature of these streets likely contributes to high traffic speeds and a less than great pedestrian realm.

    1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker Post author

      One-way pairs are terrible and I’d always support their re-conversion to two-way traffic.

  2. Karen E Sandness

    I agree that the entire Metro Transit system needs a redesign. The first change I would make is to have seven-day frequent service on all arterials, both north-south and east-west, running into the first ring of suburbs in both cases. Currently, there are too many “you can’t get there from here” situations, as I quickly learned after moving here following ten years of car-free living in Portland.

    Forget the zigzags, such as the one the #4 makes between Lyndale and Bryant or the #18 makes between Nicollet and Grand or the #23 makes between 36th and 38th. Each of those streets deserves its own bus.

    Another problem is those letter designations. I know that I need to take a 6E, 6C, or 6K to reach where I live, but how is someone who does not live in my neighborhood supposed to know? And if they take a bus with some other letter designation, say D or F, they will end up some ten blocks to the west. It was a mistake to merge the #6 and #28, something that happened a couple of years after I moved here. Instead, the #6 should have gone down Lake-Excelsior Boulevard and turned onto France Avenue there.

    A more recent problem is frequent changes in bus routes and frequencies. Although I ride the #6 less than I used to, due to various changes in my life, I am still signed up for text alerts about the #6. Nearly every day there are alerts about stops that are being closed, runs that will not be made, and detours that must be followed.

    How can anyone use the bus as their principal means of transit if they can’t be sure that the bus they count on to get them to their destination at a certain time (or the bus that will take them home) will actually run? How to lose ridership and alienate people…

    I have suggested this more than once, but the fastest way to make Metro Transit more usable and rational would be to confiscate the cars of all the Metro Councilors and force them to find other ways to get around (no fair using Uber!) for six months, say, starting in January.

    1. Brian

      So, taxpayers will end up paying tens or hundreds of millions every year for improved service, but only those who live in Minneapolis, St Paul, or a mile or two from those cities will benefit?

      1. Karen E Sandness

        Not necessarily. The buses already exist. It would be a question of redrawing existing routes for greater convenience.

        As for the “taxpayers” whom anti-transit types love to invoke tearfully, many of them ride the bus. The world is not divided into “taxpayers” and “bus passengers” and never the twain shall meet, There is quite an overlap between the two, and the overlap would grow if the bus system were more dependable.

        The first and second rings (not miles, rings, like Richfield and Bloomington, St. Anthony and Columbia Heights, St. Louis Park and Hopkins) of suburbia are becoming poorer and older and therefore in greater need of transit than before.

        1. Brian

          My main point is why are we concentrating only on those who live in the two core cities plus a few miles outside of those two cities? Those of us who live outside of those areas basically get nothing but express service to downtown during rush hour. The majority of taxpayers in the metro area have no easy access to use the transit they help pay for.

          I take the bus to downtown for work every weekday, but that is it since no other service is offered.

          1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker Post author

            The reason to concentrate on the core cities is because that’s where transit is most likely to succeed. The Met Council divides the metro region into “Transit Market Areas.” My proposed aBRT map runs exclusively in TMAs I and II.

            These are areas that include the two core cities, Richfield, St. Louis Park, and bits and pieces of other adjacent suburbs. What makes these areas good for transit is their gridded streets, pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, and decent density.

            Outside of these areas, there just isn’t the concentration of people or jobs to support quality transit service. If Metro Transit decided to run a bunch of high frequency buses around the suburbs, they’d bleed money. It would be like opening a ski resort in Oklahoma.

            Until these suburbs make an effort to become denser and more pedestrian-friendly, they will never get more than just express bus park and ride service.

            1. Eric SaathoffEric Saathoff

              People must make a decision about whether they want to live in a city, which has density to support mass transit, or in a conventional suburb, which is designed in way that does not support efficient and frequent mass transit.

              From the perspective of a tax payer, I don’t want the system to waste valuable resources on mostly empty, infrequent bus lines.

              An aside: who doesn’t pay taxes? Everyone pays property taxes unless they’re homeless.

              1. Brian

                Walking through downtown around 3:20 pm this afternoon I noted that three buses went by that were completely empty. I took the 7 twice today and both times there were five or six passengers.

                I’m not sure that urban buses necessarily have any more passengers than suburban buses would have.

                1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker Post author

                  Brian, we have detailed data on how many people ride each bus. An anecdote about a bus without people in it really does not tell us a lot.

                  1. dan

                    West ST PAUL /South St Paul is transit desert the only major route with decent services is #68 with does not even run early on weekends for people working day shift.Metro Transit still operate #415 to Brown College and LeCorden Bleu which both closed several years ago MVTA already operate #446 all in this area there are too many wasted services .

                2. daniel

                  You are right Brian the 7C on Ply Ave has historically been a low ridership route but they keep improving it at the expense of other routes.PLY AVE 7C intersect with #5 19 22 C with 14 nearby most of it is duplicated .The money could better used on other routes to improve headways.I have seen the 7C arriving and leaving downtown with no riders even rush hours this route is empty it is highly unlikely this route will ever be productive.

                  Too many routes are still following the streetcar route.The Stinson #25 deviate to McKinley which was a layover for the bus during the streetcar era.

              2. Tim

                And yet, when Dakota County left the CTIB because they felt taxpayers weren’t getting their money’s worth out of the arrangement, they got reamed for it.

                The core cities cannot expect the suburbs to help pay for their transit without getting something in return. If we are truly going to have a strong regional transportation system, that will mean accepting some inefficiency in places and at times. Support for transit in the suburbs is growing year by year. Let’s cultivate it rather than creating an us vs. them environment that leaves everyone worse off.

                1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker Post author

                  I don’t think anyone disputes that. If you look at the aBRT map I proposed, it serves suburbs in the Transit Market II area much better than existing service.

                  In addition, Metro Transit and the Met Council are already spending more money than it would take to build twenty aBRT lines on BRT directly to suburbs outside of the Transit Market Areas I and II.

                  So there’s really no justification to pretend as if MSP suburbs are not receiving really extensive transit investment.

                  1. Tim

                    I agree that the suburban BRT lines are expensive for what they provide, and the same or better results could be achieved with much less money just by expanding regular service.

                    That said, it’s an apples to oranges comparison, because these suburban BRT lines will generally serve customers who wouldn’t use the aBRT lines at all (and they people served by the aBRT lines, while maybe not having access to the best transit, certainly have more options than do those further out).

            2. Karen E Sandness

              You beat me to it. Who moves to the outer suburbs in order to use transit more? People who want to use transit to get around locally should think twice about moving to Maple Grove or Apple Valley.

              Metro Transit has lost ridership, and no wonder, for the reasons I outlined in my first post. By improving service in the core cities and inner suburbs so that core residents don’t feel that taking the bus is a burden to be exchanged for driving as soon as possible, Metro Transit can increase ridership and build a financial base for expansion into the farther suburbs, preferably those that were once free-standing towns and have core districts (Wayzata and White Bear Lake, to name two).

              But I spent my high school years in Mound, once an independent town, now a suburb. Back in the 1970s, the high school, which had been in the “downtown” area since it opened in 1918, was closed and replaced by a complex that was–and still is–so far out of town that the only feasible access is by car or school bus. The primary form of commercial building is the strip mall with a sea of parking lots. Houses are on winding “lanes” and “roads” that branch off the state and county highways.

              In other words, it’s not the kind of place people move to if they love public transit. Although Mound has commuter bus service to downtown Minneapolis, I cannot imagine any kind of bus system that would work for local transit in Mound, much less Apple Valley or Woodbury, unless those communities were reconfigured in a major way.

              1. Tim

                People move to where they do for a variety of reasons. With the core cities getting more and more expensive (especially if you need a 2 or 3-bedroom home), many people who probably would like to live there if they could are moving to the suburbs instead out of necessity. You are right, of course, that it’s harder to have comprehensive transit without density. But with the overall housing situation in the area being what it is, people don’t always have great options.

                1. Karen E Sandness

                  If you can figure out a way to provide local transit within places like Mound or Apple Valley, or find a way to make 7-day, frequent service transit from those areas to the cities work, more power to you.

                  But Metro Transit has enough trouble getting funding from the legislature as it is, and as such, it needs to concentrate on its core constituency.

                  1. Tim

                    Well, Mound and Apple Valley are two very different situations from one another, to start. Mound is a smaller, further-flung suburb with a big lake between it and the rest of the metro, with nothing really to the west of it, while Apple Valley is about 5-6 times larger and is surrounded by other suburbs, three of which have still more people. What works in one suburb will not necessarily work in another.

                    There is some basic local transit available in Apple Valley and the rest of the MVTA area already; it doesn’t go everywhere, but it doesn’t have to. I used to ride the 444 regularly and it seemed pretty well-used, as it connected a number of key areas.

                    As far as funding goes, if Metro Transit is going to get enough funding from the legislature, they need to find a way to keep the suburban legislators happy too, particularly the DFL ones who are going to be looking out for their constituents too.

                2. Eric SaathoffEric Saathoff

                  I live on the East Side of St. Paul. How do the selling prices for a 2 bedroom home compare to where you live? I live near the #64, #54, #61, and eventually the Rush Line. Some folks are uncomfortable living around people who are different, though.

                  1. Tim

                    I didn’t say anything about houses specifically. I said “homes”, which includes rentals. There are many renters in the suburbs who wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage and/or don’t have the money for a down payment, or for whom home ownership is not a good fit due to the costs and time involved with upkeep. And to be honest, most multifamily housing in the suburbs is more diverse than many urban neighborhoods these days — my development certainly is.

                    FWIW, the prices for a two-bedroom home around where I live are comparable to the East Side of St. Paul.

          2. Brian

            The day is coming when Minneapolis is going to either start congestion charges or outright ban motorized vehicles in downtown. I guess those of us who don’t have transit options will be out of luck if we ever want to go downtown outside of business hours.

            There is nothing I would ever want to visit in downtown badly enough to make me drive an extra 15 miles round trip to the park and ride at Fort Snelling.

            I would need to own two or three city lots in Minneapolis to be able to store my hobby stuff. I am pretty sure zoning laws wouldn’t allow the size building required to store my stuff anyhow.

            1. Karen E Sandness

              You’ve chosen to live in a suburb that is not amenable to transit.

              Choices have consequences. You make one choice that you consider advantageous, and in doing so, you give up something else.

              Life 101.

              1. Brian

                There is a huge push to ban cars, but no alternative is provided unless one lives in Minneapolis or St. Paul. There isn’t room for everyone to live in Minneapolis or St Paul without very high density.

                Are we just going to bulldoze all of the outer suburbs and bankrupt everybody who lived there?

                1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

                  There’s zero push to ban cars. But there has been a slight tilt away from planning transportation in the city solely for them.

                  There are lots of things – jobs, etc. – in the suburbs. People who chose to live in them may prefer those things.

                  1. Brian

                    I’ll buy you a new bicycle if Minneapolis doesn’t ban cars in a major part of downtown by 2040 or earlier.

                    I read articles every single day advocating for severe restrictions on cars or outright bans. There are any number of people right here that would be in favor of banning all cars.

                  2. Brian

                    Slight tilt? When was the last time Minneapolis did anything like adding a traffic lane to help car travel? They have an ongoing war on cars by removing traffic lanes and slowing traffic with various traffic calming techniques. A lot of public parking spaces have been removed by development and the city discourages new public parking. $21 an hour to park near the courthouse is ridiculous.

                    I am glad I rarely drive in Minneapolis since I started to take the bus downtown.

                    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

                      Yes, a slight tilt. We spent nearly a century only doing things to make it easy to get around in a car. We tore up whole neighborhoods for urban freeways. We rebuilt city rights of way with minimal or no space for pedestrians and none for bikes or other forms of transportation. We used public dollars to build massive parking structures. We built “parking” spaces in the right of way. We mandated that private property owners build yet more parking.

                      Just recently, we’ve started to use some of the public right of way for other things. That’s a slight tilt. And we’re still using the need to prioritize cars as a reason to scale back or forgo any proposed change too.

            2. Monte Castleman

              I wish my RAV-4 got the gas mileage of a Prius. But it doesn’t, so I had to make a choice as to what important to me, and to me the space and all wheel drive is what is important. I can throw my bicycle in the back or just about anything else I need to and I never get stuck in the winter, unlike my sister in her Corolla. That Since I picked the RAV-4 I shouldn’t be complaining about the gas mileage.

              Your priorities in were obviously space for your hobby stuff over good transit service makes sense, so you shouldn’t be complaining there’s not a bus that goes in front of your house every 10 minutes to wherever you want to go’

              Yes, you have a point about Minneapolis wanting to make it harder and more expensive to drive a car downtown, witness the talk about tearing down the I-94 viaduct or opposing to the federal reserve parking ramp. But there’s a lot of jobs not downtown. Prime Therapeutics is building a huge new campus in Eagan. I now a lot of people there and none of them want to go downtown, so they’re building where their employees want to be. I have no desire to work downtown because of how hard and expensive it is to drive there but I’ve never had to bother to so much as apply for a job there.

    2. Dan

      MetroTransit is the most confusing system ,I have never seen any system with so many branches some don’t make sense like some 3AB will detour to Kasota and bypass Como
      Some EB # 74 A will deviate to Jefferson then back on Randolph twice .
      Below are the many routes with excessive branches :

      3 ABCSEK U
      One would think Metro Transit will simplify the routes they are trying to serve everyone with poor services due to the excessive branching and too many commuter routes and duplicative services .

  3. mplsmatt

    One of the fun things about reading streets.mn articles is that you wind up reading interesting articles that are in some way related. To that point, it looks like some of the Barcelona’s success is due to their construction of bus lanes and even some transit signal priority. The aBRT improvements are nice, but I think some dedicated lanes would do more for providing the kind of predictable, fast service that would reduce transfer aversion.

    1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker Post author

      These two things are not in conflict. Of course, Minneapolis and St. Paul should create more bus lanes, at the same time that Metro Transit pursues aBRT upgrades and (hopefully) reorganizes its network a little bit.

      1. mplsmatt

        They are not in conflict, but I do wish the initiatives had better connectivity. I’m forever muttering to myself that we would get better results if we had a more systemic approach to improving public transit, but of course that’s one of the points you’re making with this suite of proposed routes.

  4. Matt Brillhart

    I think your first justification (Rtes 11 & 17 are badly planned, windy routes that should instead be combined into a single frequent route on University Ave) is spot on, and I strongly agree.

    The second change, to make all of those riders transfer in order to get downtown, where the vast majority want to go, is a misfire, but not by much.

    Most planned aBRT routes leave an infrequent “shadow” local route in service (see Route 84, 19, and 5 once the D Line is running). Instead of continuing the frequent aBRT line further down University as a circumferential route, that’s what the remaining/infrequent local service should do. There simply won’t be enough demand for that circumferential route for it to both deserve the upgrade to aBRT-calibre service & stations, and delay the vast majority of riders who want to get downtown without a transfer.

    So yes to combining the 11 & 17 into a frequent trunk service on University Ave NE! But those riders (current and future that would be drawn in by the aBRT-level service) still deserve to get downtown in a single-seat ride. The Uni NE aBRT goes downtown, and the reduced local could continue on University Ave SE as your Q Line does. Planning an aBRT network shouldn’t be about making the prettiest/cleanest map for transit geeks to fawn over, it’s still about getting people where they want to go, just faster & easier.

    1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker Post author

      I disagree, and I think the difficulty here is that you are thinking about this dilemma explicitly in terms of the existing #11 and #17 bus riders in Northeast who go downtown.

      Without detailed modeling, I can’t say for sure what the time difference is with my future Q Line and the existing condition for any given person, but I believe the average effect is pretty close to a wash. It is true, however, that what I’ve proposed is worse for those riders than if my aBRT route traveled directly to downtown instead.

      But is that enough of a reason to justify it? Again, I don’t think it is, because of the larger effects on the entire network. Consider not just the riders in NE making this very specific commute, but instead riders on the Central or East Hennepin corridors who work at the University. They would still need to transfer, but now instead of waiting for an E Line, they could also catch a Q Line. The average transfer time is cut from five minutes to two and a half. Or riders in the Cleveland corridor (and maybe thousands more at the future Ford site, who work at the U or in downtown Minneapolis, who now have aBRT service that bridges what is now one of the largest gaps in the system.

      I think that there are a lot of smaller benefits like this, but they add more to the system over all and add up because they create new connections and add frequency where there would be less of it. That’s more valuable, I’m fairly convinced, than adding just another bus downtown.

      Also, as an addendum, I suspect Metro Transit will eventually start abolishing the underlying local service for aBRT entirely.

      1. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker Post author

        Just to sort of sum up, something I thought I had written but didn’t: I think it’s a mistake to fixate too much on a bus route providing service really well to just a single type of trip, even if it’s a type of trip that is likely to be more common than others (like a downtown commute).

        Even the most commonly-made trips represent a smaller fraction of travel in virtually any urban corridor. I’m not saying to treat downtown like any other origin or destination, but instead, not to treat it like the only origin or destination.

        Routes like my proposed Q Line provide a critical counterbalance by making a ton of connections and bridging gaps in service. Even if there’s not always an obvious A to B trip along the route (and the Q Line still has several major transportation nodes, including the University, whose three LRT stations generate more than half of the trips as downtown Minneapolis’ five), it’s worth having routes like these because of the wide and hard-to-envision universe of trips that they enable.

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