B Line Feedback Needed by Friday, January 31

For those of us who live in the Merriam Park neighborhood of St. Paul, on the city’s western edge close to Marshall Avenue (the Capital City’s equivalent of Lake Street), the upcoming B Line will mean faster rides to catch art-house films in Uptown in Minneapolis or walk with friends at Bde Maka Ska.

Headed east, the new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line will get St. Paul residents more quickly to downtown than the current 21A (the slowest route in the Metro Transit system) and help avoid the 12-minute walk to the Green Line on University Avenue. For Minneapolis residents within walking or cycling distance of Lake Street, the B Line will supplement the #53 express bus that runs weekdays only from Uptown to downtown St. Paul for folks with traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work schedules.

Streets B Line

BRT buses are longer than regular route buses. Photo courtesy Metro Transit

Any wonder that I hope they brand this thing The Beeline?

Faster, more reliable service, nicer bus shelters and longer buses that resemble a “train on wheels,” according to Metro Transit community outreach coordinator Cody Olson: That’s all good news for a transit system that wants to increase ridership among car owners who have other transportation choices and see mass transit as a time-consuming hassle.

“The higher quality of the service, the more people will be interested in taking the bus,” regional planning professor Yingling Fan, of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, told the Star Tribune just before Christmas.

The BRT is troublesome, however, for those who rely on the 21A — which boasts the second highest ridership of any route in Metro Transit’s system — to get to shopping or other destinations along University Avenue between Snelling and Hamline avenues in St. Paul.

The shiny new B Line, with its heated and lighted bus stops, real-time signage to indicate when the next bus is coming and pay-before-you-board efficiency, will eliminate the U-shaped “jog” in St. Paul that the 21A currently takes past Allianz Field and into the heart of Midway. Instead, eastbound buses would, under the current plan:

  • Turn right (south) off Marshall onto Snelling;
  • Stop at the A Line shelter on Snelling just before Dayton;
  • Drive a block into the increasingly congested Snelling-Selby intersection, and;
  • Turn left (east) onto Selby, heading toward downtown St. Paul.
B Line route

Proposed routing for the B Line. Image courtesy Metro Transit

Elimination of the Midway service prompted two members of the Union Park District Council board to cite “equity” issues on January 8 when they voted against the UPDC transportation committee’s recommendation to give full-throated support for the considerable government funding that the B Line will require to launch in 2023. (See this helpful article in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press.)

“Metro Transit needs approximately $60 million for full implementation,” Olson told the transportation committee at its December 2019 meeting, held at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul to attract student and neighborhood participation. “We have about $25 million to date.”

The B Line would eliminate the 21D service from Uptown to St. Thomas (where I work) and reduce the 21A service to every 30 minutes between West Lake Street (past Bde Maka Ska) and Minnehaha Avenue, in the Longfellow neighborhood. From there, anyone heading east would take the B Line.

“With the jog to University removed, how would a person with limited mobility get to Office Depot, Cub [Foods] and some of the businesses on University?” an audience member asked Olson at the meeting in December. Olson said Metro Transit is “looking into local service options” between Selby and Snelling — an increasingly vibrant shopping and residential district — and the Midway.

Your feedback! By Friday!

To weigh in yourself, click here to take a survey or email project staff at BLine@metrotransit.org to request the survey in an alternate form. Feedback is due by this Friday, January 31.

Full disclosure: I serve on the UPDC board and its transportation committee, and as a regular mass transit user and St. Paul resident who sees our streets increasingly choked with suburban-size vehicles, I voted in favor of the B Line, enthusiastically.

 

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13 Responses to B Line Feedback Needed by Friday, January 31

  1. Nathan Bakken January 27, 2020 at 2:29 pm #

    I think the compromise between an A Line connection and new local service in Midway will be more beneficial then that current jog that takes forever for those trying to just pass through the Midway area to get to downtown or uptown.

  2. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller January 27, 2020 at 2:30 pm #

    I’m confused. Isn’t there and A Line station at Dayton? I guess transfer is obviously a downgrade in service, even if it’s to another high-quality/high-frequency service. It’s a pretty long walk/roll across the parking lot to get to Cub anyway though.

  3. brad January 27, 2020 at 2:46 pm #

    Any good choices brought up for transferring between southbound A Line and westbound B Line? I know technically there’s a crosswalk on Snelling at Dayton, but that does not feel like a safe solution without additional traffic control.

    • Aaron Berger January 27, 2020 at 6:26 pm #

      That’s a really good point that I hadn’t thought of before — the same being true for eastbound B-line to northbound A line transfers, recreating the other half of of the function of the 21 jog. Something has to go there. I don’t think an RRFB will do the job, especially because a pedestrian would have to cross 3 legs of the intersection to cross at the marked crosswalk.

  4. Aaron Berger January 27, 2020 at 6:41 pm #

    My main complaint is not about the Midway jog (I think avoiding it is a good idea) but rather wish it would be routed along 7th Street, instead of 5th and 6th, in downtown Saint Paul. Many state jobs are located in the northern half of downtown or north of the freeway trench, and being 2 to 3 city blocks closer (remembering the pedestrian 7th Place is between the two) would make the B line more usable for us.

  5. Dennis January 27, 2020 at 8:20 pm #

    Routes #83 84 63 65 A line all connect to Greenline.Grand Ave is only 1/4 mile away which will upgrade to every 15minutes.
    B line stops are within walking distance for most riders.
    21A is extremely slow with delays at Uptown the deviates to Midtown Global market, again to midway adding 10 extra minutes .We have to spend 70 to 90 minutes from Uptown to St Paul.
    Run underused 16 to Hamline to Selby to Victoria.
    Keep 3 on Western to Selby.

  6. Eric Ecklund January 28, 2020 at 9:56 am #

    Not that the 21 was ever intended for end-to-end trips, but my first time taking the 21 was roundtrip Uptown-Union Depot. It took 4 hours. That was a wake up call to how slow our transit is.

    Also I really hope they add a stop at the bus turnaround on France Avenue. I was told that’s where B Line buses will layover but people won’t be allowed to get on/off there. Seems silly to have buses there but not letting people on.

  7. angela January 28, 2020 at 10:39 am #

    #21 is painfully slow .The 53 stops at major intersections that where most of the riders atmost riders will walk a few blocks for faster services
    . Why wait until 2023 or later use Artic bus and run like the 54 buses limited stops serving the B line routing .then add the machines/shelters as funding available and new buses.
    If possible paint some regular buses to look like B/C lines .Get additional resources by eliminating these useless bus routes 27/39.
    #21E can run every 30mins for the local stops .
    The proposed aBRT for W7th St wasn’t faster than the current #54 ,some 19/C are only about 4 mins different on some trips

  8. alberto January 28, 2020 at 7:49 pm #

    The midtown station should have never be built this add significant amount of time and create congestion on Chicago This route is already long and slow it also adds time to 53 limited stops.HWy should other riders have to go to midway adding extra time so shoppers can get a direct route.This jog was a temporary when the bridge was being built
    Now there are many crosstown routes that crosses Selby on most of the major streets so there are no need to even run the 21A on Selby.

  9. kelvin karim January 29, 2020 at 8:23 pm #

    Offer something better than the pokey 21A ,it is faster to take a plane to Chicago .Get this line done asap we not getting younger

  10. Scott January 30, 2020 at 9:20 am #

    I’ve noticed, since recently moving to Mac-Groveland from Portland, OR, what I think is a fundamental problem with the overall Metro Transit system in the Twin Cites. The problem, to me, is that any time you want to go from one city to the other, it involves a really long trip mostly due to transfers. For instance, if I want to meet my wife for lunch, it’s nearly an hour long trip each way from Mac-Groveland to the North Loop (hardly far-flung locations). By car it’s less than 20 minutes. We chose to live in one of the core cities to be close to work, entertainment, etc., and take advantage of transit like we did in Portland, but it’s really hard to justify the time required. I realize the current transit system has it’s roots in an era when Mpls folks mostly stayed in Mpls, and St. Paul folks most stayed in St. Paul.

    On a related note regarding the Green Line. I was initially a big fan of it, but seeing how it functions now it seems like there was a huge opportunity lost. What was built was essentially a very expensive local route that could easily have been handled with continued (maybe upgraded) bus service. It seems the investment should have been in building a real RAPID service between the two downtowns, perhaps along I-94.

    It appears to me that Metro Transit is working toward building a grid network (maybe?), connecting everything to everything via transfers, but it seems like all of the routes are just plain slow. It would be nice if there was a push to build more rapid into the system, so that slow local routes would almost always connect with a fast, grade separated, rapid route.

    Just my two cents.

  11. thomas February 2, 2020 at 3:18 pm #

    Why not have an instant B- line covert the 21A to B line (lite) without the fancy stations and ticket machines now?
    Start with combine 53/21A with 10mins peak 10-15 off peak utilizing the underused articulated buses that are use exclusively for suburbanites(expect#3 Como weekdays)
    The Lake St bus is an agonizing ride you re lucky if it your trip is less then 70mins
    The underused 16 and 67 can convert to circulator serving parts of Selby, both routes are pefroming poorly

  12. GlowBoy February 10, 2020 at 12:17 pm #

    I agree, we could get partway to B-line service now just be adding a lot more runs on the 53. That’s a great service, but way too infrequent.

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