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The New Hennepin Bus Lanes

Earlier this year Metro Transit and the City of Minneapolis did a demonstration of rush hour bus lanes on Hennepin Avenue between Franklin Avenue and Uptown Transit Station. Bus service has always been extremely slow due to morning backups from I-94 and afternoon backups from Lagoon Avenue.

The demo worked just fine, but relied on barrier separation, which wouldn’t be practical in a permanent application.

To their credit, the city has followed through with new permanent lanes as of September 3rd. The entire street has been re-striped, with the bus lanes being wider than the adjacent mixed traffic lanes. That will pay dividends when snow narrows the curb lanes. While there is prominent signage, the most striking thing about the lanes is that they’re painted bright red.

With-flow bus lanes are notoriously difficult to enforce. It only takes a few cars blocking them to render them useless. I’m hoping the red color and diligent enforcement keeps the cars out of them.

I took these photos on the second afternoon between 4 and 5 PM. The block between 25th and 26th was clear of cars, as was the block south of 28th. Several car were parked in the middle two blocks, including one directly under one of the big No Parking signs.

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Note the No Parking sign. However, the car is parked in one of the gaps in the red paint that has since been filled with a Bus Lane stencil.

I was pleased to see two Traffic Control officers show up about 4:30. They ticketed the cars, then a tow truck appeared and towed one of them away.

Img 0742Hopefully the car drivers will get the message, but I expect it will be a continuous cat and mouse game. It should be noted that a ticketed car and tow trucks are still obstructions.

Chicago Avenue
There’s another short bus lane on southbound Chicago Avenue from 28th Street to the entrance of the Chicago-Lake Transit Center.
Img 0726It differs from Hennepin by being located in the center of the street, because buses turn left into the transit center. It helps buses get past the backup from the light at Lake Street.

Many more bus lanes needed
I recently took a Route 6 round trip to downtown Minneapolis during the PM rush hour. The first bus experienced so much traffic delay that that we were 18 minutes late arriving downtown. It took at least 5 minutes and three light cycles to travel from Franklin to Groveland because traffic was backed up.

On the Nicollet Mall cars on cross streets blocked intersections.

The return trip was 30 minutes late by the time I got home. We (and a bunch of I-394 express buses) were delayed in a big backup leaving downtown on 11th Street. The solution should be a contraflow bus lane on 12th Street from Marquette to I-394.

We turned onto Lyndale next to the sculpture garden and as usual traffic was backed up all the way behind the 15th Street/Vineland Place light. At Franklin we saw northbound Hennepin was backed up solid to 24th Street.

There has to be a connection between all the traffic delays and declining transit ridership. The schedule goes out the window. Travel time increases. At some point the frustrated bus rider starts thinking, “If I were driving I could find a way around this congestion, or at least I’d be more comfortable.”



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.

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