Building a Complete aBRT System in Minneapolis

C Line Electric 1

aBRT is by far the most important transit project in the state. While it doesn’t get the same attention as pricier projects like the light rail or suburban BRT, aBRT has proven to be the single most effective and cost-efficient way to grow ridership and improve service quality in the Twin Cities.

However, we are approaching aBRT far too slowly. Instead of rapidly building a complete aBRT system for everybody, we are incrementally adding new lines one at a time, each taking several years to individually find funding and build political capital.

In this post, I will present a vision for a complete aBRT system in Minneapolis – a system where every single local bus route has been replaced with a high-quality aBRT line. I will also estimate the cost of building and operating the system and discuss the system’s benefits. While this post does focus exclusively on Minneapolis, this vision also applies directly to St. Paul and many first-ring suburban neighborhoods.

 

What is aBRT?

Arterial Bus Rapid Transit, or aBRT, is essentially the upgraded version of local bus transit. aBRT routes contain many of the same elements found in traditional BRT or LRT. Limited stop patterns, signal priority, level boarding, and off-board fare collection result in a 25-30% increase in speed. Bus stations will be upgraded with real-time information, heated shelters, and in some cases bike/scooter parking, making for a more comfortable trip. aBRT also has reliable service and high frequency, with 10 minute headways throughout the day, including weekends. Of note is that aBRT operates in mixed lane traffic – while this can slow down service, it also significantly brings down the cost of implementation, both financially and politically.

In 2016, we built our first aBRT line, the A Line, and the response has been incredibly positive. Christof Spieler, a notable planner who oversaw Houston’s recent transit redesign, calls the A Line “one of the best bus routes in the country”. Streetsblog USA says that the “the A Line has features that should be common on most bus routes”. Most importantly, riders have flocked to the line – in its first year alone, ridership increased over 30%! Ridership has continued to grow in the years since, in stark contrast to ridership losses in the overall system and general ridership trends across the country.

The C Line, our second aBRT line, opened in 2019 and mostly replaced Route 19 in North Minneapolis. In the time since the line opened, we again saw an immediate 30% ridership jump.

In spite of these great numbers, investment in aBRT has dried up. Funding for the next three planned aBRT lines has stalled in the legislature, and several projects that could be strong aBRT corridors (Nicollet-Central, West Broadway, Riverview), are instead proceeding as expensive streetcar projects that have 10x the price with no additional transit benefits for riders. If we want our transit system to keep up with growth in the metro area, aBRT needs to be our number one priority for investment.

 

Choosing the Routes

First, we need to define the scope of buses we are upgrading to aBRT. As my baseline, I chose to take every local bus which primarily serves the city of Minneapolis proper, and has a midday frequency of at least every 30 minutes. This frequency requirement disqualifies routes 12, 25, 27, and 39. Additionally, Route 19 has already been upgraded to aBRT, so I don’t include it in the analysis.

In total, this gives us 18 routes, shown in the table below. I have also displayed a few route statistics based on 2017 Met Council data.

Abrt Existing

 

Designing the System

My main goal for this thought exercise was to upgrade routes inside Minneapolis proper, providing a boundary (however arbitrary) for what I define as urban. Therefore, I mostly just picked segments of routes inside Minneapolis proper to convert to aBRT, most routes don’t extend far outside the city borders.

There were a few routes which I needed to extend farther out from Minneapolis because they have significant service operations there, and I didn’t want to skew my analysis. While picking boundaries for these routes, I simply either used the entire route, or extended service outside Minneapolis until frequency dropped off. Also, since I thought it made sense operationally, I combined a few pairs of routes into single lines: 3+C Line, 4P+11, 10+18, and 46+A Line.

Using these guidelines, I constructed the below aBRT system. Routes are color coded based on if they are ‘downtown’ or ‘crosstown’ routes. For visual context, I’ve included the Green, Blue, and Orange lines, as well as the Minneapolis city boundaries. Click here to play around with the map yourself.

Abrt Map

I want to mention that this system is not intended to be a final proposal for implementation,  just a sample network to demonstrate my ideas.

 

Ridership Projections

The existing set of 18 local routes in Minneapolis currently has an average daily ridership of 100,000. Based on data from the A Line and C Line, we would expect a ridership increase of about 30% after implementing aBRT, or about 30,000 total. However this is a very low estimate, because it doesn’t take into account the total system growing.

Taking the Route 9 corridor, we might predict a 30% ridership increase if we implemented aBRT by itself. However, Route 9 intersects 14 new aBRT lines in the system, so we aren’t improving Route 9 service in a vacuum, we are also adding 14 new high-quality lines to transfer to as well. To give a specific example, transferring from Route 9 to Route 46 suddenly becomes a lot more feasible when each route has 10 minute headways instead of 30 minute headways, the average transfer wait is now only 5 minutes.

With every new line in the aBRT system, this transferring ability to grows exponentially. Consider that in the current transit system, there are exactly 17 transfer points (by my count) with an expected wait time of 5 minutes or less both ways, throughout the day. In the new aBRT system, the number of transfer points with a 5 minute wait time would grow to over 150!

For these reasons, I would estimate a ridership increase of at least 50%. Though this is a somewhat handwavey estimate, it seems realistic. Overall, this would mean a ridership increase of 50,000, and a total daily aBRT ridership of over 150,000! For context, Minneapolis’s population is about 450,000, and the total daily ridership across the entire metro area is about 300,000.

 

How much will it cost?

Abrt Cost

Overall, I estimate that the new aBRT system would cost about $879 million to build, based on the A and C Lines. Using the low ridership increase estimate of 30%, the system would have a net increase of $88 million in operational costs, again based on the A and C Lines.

These costs may seem large at first, but compare it to other proposed transit projects in the Twin Cities (mostly compiled from here):

  • The Green Line LRT Extension will cost $2 billion dollars, with annual operating costs of $39 million. Average daily weekday ridership is projected at 29,000.
  • The Blue Line LRT Extension will cost $1.5 billion with $34 million in annual operating costs, Ridership is projected at 27,000.
  • The Orange Line BRT will cost $150 million, with $8 million in annual operating costs. Ridership is projected at 11,000. Current ridership on the 535 is about 1,500, and it remains to be seen if the Orange Line can increase ridership by over 600%…
  • The Gold Line BRT will cost $420 million, with $5 million in annual operating costs. Ridership is projected at 8,000.
  • The Rush Line BRT will cost $538 million, with $11 million in annual operating costs. Ridership is projected at 5,700-9,700.
  • The Riverview Streetcar will cost $2.1 billion dollars, with $36 million in annual operating costs. Ridership is projected to increase by 2,700.
  • The Nicollet-Central Streetcar will cost $276 million, with $14 million in annual operating costs. Ridership is projected to increase by 1,400.
  • The West Broadway Streetcar will cost $256 million, with $10 million in annual operating costs. Total ridership is projected at 3,900, though I couldn’t find what the ridership increase is over the current Route 14.

After looking at other projects, $870 million is an incredibly cheap cost for 30,000-50,000 new riders and likely the best core bus system in the entire country.

Compared to aBRT, streetcars are an example of especially poor transit value. On the whole, streetcars provide no significant mobility benefits for transit riders, in terms of speed or coverage. Instead, advocates justify streetcars by claiming that they stimulate more economic development and increase ridership, due to rail bias. Even if we take this to be true, the argument falls apart once we consider the total cost of the line.

For example, in the West Broadway corridor, the policy committee had two options: a 5-mile, $256 million streetcar, or a 7-mile, $40 million aBRT line. In a 6-5 vote, they chose the streetcar option. However this is an unfair comparison. Imagine the vote was instead between a 5-mile, $256 million streetcar, or a 50-mile, $250 million aBRT network – the logic suddenly flips. Once you compare apples to apples, aBRT clearly comes ahead in every measure.

 

Fulfilling the Minneapolis Transportation Action Plan

Minneapolis Tap

Minneapolis recently released its Transportation Action Plan draft. I actually started writing this post before this draft was released, but the vision expressed in the plan is highly aligned with the goal of a complete aBRT network. Some highlights include:

  • 75% of city residents located within a quarter mile and 90% of residents located within a half mile walk of high frequency transit corridors (In my example system, these percentages are ~95% and 100%, respectively.)
  • Increase the high frequency network from 15 to 10 minutes or better (aBRT does this)
  • Improve the quality and expand the high frequency network of local crosstown service (This is done by converting local routes 46, 23, 21, 2, 30, and 32 to aBRT)

If our politicians are serious about building a quality transit network to serve their residents equitably and effectively, aBRT has to be the first place to start.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that the money for this system already exists. The cost of 9 miles of streetcar (Nicollet and W.Broadway) alone would fund 75% of Minneapolis’s share of the aBRT system. If we want to extend aBRT to the eastern metro, just the money from the Riverview streetcar would fund a complete aBRT system in St. Paul three times over. Suburban aBRT extensions, where practical, are also far cheaper than current suburban transit expansion proposals.

My intention with this post was not to necessarily create the best possible transit system to serve Minneapolis – there are plenty of places where we can improve on the current network of bus routes without copying it exactly. I’m also not looking for a specific funding plan for the system, since the benefits of aBRT don’t depend on the funding source.

Instead, what I want readers to understand is that creating a dramatically improved transit network is not an impossible task. With a relatively small budget and a bit of political will, we could realistically upgrade our entire transportation network. Making aBRT the standard level of service for all of our local bus routes is one example of a solution that would allow us to fund a world-class transportation system with fast, frequent, and reliable transit service for all.

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29 Responses to Building a Complete aBRT System in Minneapolis

  1. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke March 26, 2020 at 10:11 am #

    Yes but how will it serve Carver County? /s

    • Lou Miranda March 27, 2020 at 10:08 am #

      ccBRT

  2. Tim Brackett March 26, 2020 at 10:38 am #

    Love this! aBRT may be even more important as our public thoroughfares adapt to a post-COVID19 world. It would be very interesting to see the 32 become an aBRT route.

    • Lou Miranda March 27, 2020 at 10:09 am #

      Yes, and the effect of coronavirus lockdown on streets shows that multilane roadways should give up one lane in each direction for transit and/or bikeway use. Then streetcars wouldn’t have to compete with cars for space.

  3. Elizabeth Larey March 26, 2020 at 11:17 am #

    I am wondering why ridership would increase if it’s decreasing now? Is it because of the speed?
    We are scheduled for a stop in White Bear Lake, but as far as I can tell there’s not much parking available. How would that work? I would use it but it’s a really long walk ( 3 miles ) for me to get to that stop. I was hoping it would be built in Hugo, as that’s where the population boom is happening. There’s a lot of land, so people would be able to drive and ride. Thanks for any ideas you have. We were really hoping for light rail, I don’t think I’ll see it in my lifetime.
    One other question. We have railroad tracks that run from way north of WBL to downtown. Why can’t we use regular rail, like other cities do? That’s probably a dumb question, but I’ve always wanted to ask it. Thanks!

    • Dan March 26, 2020 at 12:10 pm #

      Overall Metro Transit ridership has decreased, but as Saumik states, ridership on the existing aBRT has increased about 30% over the regular routes they replaced, due to the improved (yes faster, but also more frequent and with amenities like better shelters and quicker payment) service it provides.

    • Saumik Narayanan
      Saumik Narayanan March 26, 2020 at 1:24 pm #

      It’s true that ridership is decreasing, but if you bring high quality service to dense enough areas, riders will come back. As an example, ridership on Route 19 was decreasing for years, but when the C Line replaced it, ridership immediately jumped back up, far above the 19’s max ridership levels.

      Ramsey County decided to end the Rush Line in White Bear Lake during the initial study. “Even with anticipated growth in Hugo and Forest Lake in the coming years, the residential and job density north of downtown White Bear Lake is not expected to warrant investment in all-day, frequent transit service.” See https://www.ramseycounty.us/residents/roads-transit/transit-corridors-studies/rush-line-brt-project/frequently-asked-questions

      The railroad tracks are there, but railroad companies generally don’t like having transit projects on their right of way. This is why the Blue Line extension has been stalled for the last year.

  4. GlowBoy March 26, 2020 at 12:27 pm #

    I’m not sure there’s much more opportunity for rail development in the Twin Cities beyond what is already being planned. It’s would just be too hard to justify the cost for the level of density that we have.

    But I think we have the opportunity to build one of the greatest aBRT systems on the planet. The improved speeds and transfer options could radically increase ridership, simply reducing the amount of time it takes to get from A to B. Still might take more time than with a car, but not twice as long.

  5. Dan March 26, 2020 at 1:18 pm #

    Thanks for sharing Saumik! Though its tricky to estimate, I have to agree that increases in ridership from transfer-ability could be massive. Its really frustrating to see suburban highway BRT and outdated streetcar projects get preference over such low hanging fruit for improving core service and increasing ridership.

    Does anyone know why the 3 ‘streetcar’ corridors (appear to be called High-Impact Transit Corridors, I don’t see any decisive mention of mode) in the draft TAP are so… short and/or circuitous?
    (pg 106 here: http://go.minneapolismn.gov/application/files/4115/8355/0607/TAP_Draft_Plan_Transit_web.pdf)

    Midtown greenway route makes good sense as a connector between green line extension and the blue line, whether that is a short line or dovetails and shares tracks at the end can be decided further on. The Nicollet-Central corridor seems to be routed fine, but if we can build LRT extensions out to cornfields, why on earth wouldn’t this line serve northeast Minneapolis along Central and south Minneapolis along Nicollet? It looks like it ends right where state control of Central as Hwy 65 begins, so I’d be unsurprised if MnDOT are being unreasonable and refusing to consider transit on a corridor where transit makes sense, because its their territory and therefore cars must reign supreme. Maybe they city just doesn’t want to step on toes given how early in the process it is, and the full involvement of Metro Transit and the council could get past this.

    I reckon both of these corridors should be LRT, streetcar doesn’t have the capacity/speed to effectively serve these corridors, and of course it is expensive for the real quality of transit service it provides. It tends to be selected in LPAs because people like the title and think its a cute compromise between LRT and BRT, but actually presenting it to the public as anything but the worst of both worlds compared to BRT and LRT should be malpractice.

    The West Broadway routing makes the least sense at first glance- very circuitous, it seems like they are trying to catch the core segments of what should really be several separate aBRT lines. the 7th/8th street segment are served by the C and D lines, and would be ideal for full bus lanes, as laid out in this piece by Alex Shieferdecker https://streets.mn/2020/01/07/bus-lanes-now-for-downtown-minneapolis/ The W Broadway/ North Loop segment of Washington makes sense as an aBRT route, but you’d think this would carry on down Washington towards Cedar-Riverside…..Maybe in the case of this corridor they are shooting for dedicated bus lanes and other BRT style improvements that can be used by multiple aBRT and regular routes downtown and through North? That would absolutely be worthwhile and would be more sensible than one new route serving that corridor.

    • Saumik Narayanan
      Saumik Narayanan March 26, 2020 at 7:23 pm #

      The Midtown Greenway is the best (and easiest) place to put rail in the metro area. We already have the right of way, and it would be located in the densest neighborhoods in the state. Whether it’s called streetcar or LRT doesn’t really matter, as long as it doesn’t share space with cars.

      Nicollet-Central and West Broadway are both short streetcar routes because streetcars are expensive. If you look at the online documents, they are even considering making the West Broadway streetcar even shorter (ending at Penn), because of the construction costs. Of course, if they built them as aBRT, the routes could be longer and cheaper… The other alternative is LRT, which is more expensive than a streetcar but much much more useful.

      To answer your question of West Broadway routing, they are essentially taking the northern half of Route 14, and turning it into a streetcar. It gives the people who live along Broadway access to the core of downtown, instead of just the northern edges.

      • Dan March 27, 2020 at 5:58 pm #

        The length of the streetcar lines:
        I see, and I certainly agree that is all the more reason to use aBRt for West Broadway and (as an intermediate solution) Nicollet-Central, so those routes can be as long as they should be and the corridor(s) with the highest ridership potential can be full LRT. The streetcar plan from 2007 (updated 2017) makes mention of the success of aBRT in the section discussing changes since ’07, and in the draft TAP these routes are only mentioned in the context of LRT and BRT (not Streetcar), so I’m hopeful that the mode choice for these corridors is being reconsidered.

        Routing of West Broadway line:
        I’m fully supportive of that goal, but I wonder if with so many jogs and zig-zags that the route won’t be as good(fast, legible) of transit as say, serving that west broadway-washington ave/ North to central downtown(basically the D line) needs with several more direct aBRT lines.

        Midtown Greenway:
        I absolutely agree on its importance and that it should have top priority for rail transit in the state! However I think whether it is streetcar or LRT is of some importance to how effective the transit could be…As you probably know, the difference between the two is not only whether the trains run in mixed traffic, it is the size and number of the vehicles per train. Streetcars are generally just one car or an articulated car, having a capacity only slightly higher than a bus. LRT is usually three cars, with capacity multiple times that of a bus. Since as you say, it is one of the densest and most transit-friendly corridors in the state, and would at the very least connect to two other LRT lines, I think this extra capacity could prove quite important.

        If the line is built as a streetcar, there is a possibility that the ridership demand would rapidly outpace capacity, and upgrading its capacity could require extensive and expensive reworking of the track layout around stations and the length of the platforms themselves to accommodate longer LRT trains. This issue is already apparent with the station designs of the Riverview Corridor, if there is ever a need to add more cars to the trains that will run there. Now its physically possible for the platforms in the greenway to be designed to be long enough to accommodate LRVs from the start, but that would require planners pushing for that through the various fed/state/local review processes while maintaining that they only intend to use shorter streetcar vehicles.

        Since both redesigning the line after construction and getting through FTA review asking for one thing and hoping for another are by no means guarantees, I think its important to push for this line to specifically be LRT rather than Streetcar.

        • Saumik Narayanan
          Saumik Narayanan March 27, 2020 at 8:48 pm #

          The terminology separating Streetcar and LRT is a bit arbitrary in some cases, but I definitely agree, we should definitely build the Midtown Rail so it can handle ideally 3-car trains. I know the Blue Line was expanded from 2-car trains to 3-car trains, so it might be possible to retrofit it after construction, but it’s easier to just build it right the first time.

          Do you have a link where I can read about the issues with the Riverview line? I assumed with a budget of $2.1 Billion, it would be built up to the same standards as the Blue and Green Lines…

  6. Lou Miranda March 27, 2020 at 10:06 am #

    Great network you’ve got there. One way we can view aBRT is as training wheels for streetcars & LRT: put in BRT first, and if there is sufficient demand (and growth in taxable base), it can later be upgraded to some form of rail. Can BRT stations be designed to be reusable if route goes to streetcar or LRT?

    Your map shows an LRT route down Xerxes Ave S, but the E Line aBRT has already chosen France Ave.

    It’s also kind of funny that the Mpls transportation plan shows the 46 bus being upgraded to BRT someday, but ends at Xerxes rather than France. It could easily go west of France to Hwy 100 and be much more useful (although I know neither you nor Mpls were tasked with thinking about that). Thank you for your map showing the 46 going all the way to France. 👍

  7. Sheldon Gitis March 28, 2020 at 2:25 pm #

    I think you’re on the right track with the frequent service on all the major city through streets, but I also think you’ve chosen the wrong vehicles for providing that service efficiently and economically. Rather than running nearly empty, 45,500 lb, 125-passenger buses at 10:00am, wouldn’t it make more sense to place a much larger fleet of much smaller vehicles on every major arterial street, providing frequent, “all the time”, schedule-free service? For the price of one $40 million BRT line running maybe a dozen or fewer 125-passenger buses, you could buy 400 $100,000 minibuses. And with the cost savings on the purchase and operation of the much smaller vehicles, you could employ lots of drivers.

    https://www.newflyer.com/buses/xcelsior-charge/
    http://www.bradshawev.com/electric-vehicles/electric-road-vehicles/road-going-shuttle-bus/
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Share_taxi
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minibus
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshrutka
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dollar_van
    https://qz.com/1146630/volkwagens-ride-hailing-service-unveiled-its-new-electric-minibus/
    https://www.van.man/de/en/business-solutions/passenger-transport/passenger-transport.html

    • Saumik Narayanan
      Saumik Narayanan March 28, 2020 at 9:46 pm #

      Minibuses don’t make economic sense for typical bus routes because the large majority of operating costs (about 70%) is purely labor cost – this stays the same regardless if you are using a 20-foot bus or a 60-foot bus. But with the smaller buses, capacity is severely decreased, so you need to drastically increase the number of drivers you send out to compensate.

      To give a specific example, the A Line cost $26 million to construct, of which $6.2 million was spent on purchasing new buses. The annual operating cost of the A Line is $7.8 million. If we tripled frequency of the minibuses to equal the same capacity of one normal sized bus, the operating costs would increase an additional $15.6 million dollars per year. Over a 12-year bus lifespan, this would be over $187 million in additional operating costs. And I very much doubt that the cost of 3 minibuses is significantly cheaper than 1 normal-sized bus.

      Admittedly, 3-minute headway are much better than 10-minute headways, but the cost savings of buying minibuses is a few million at most, nowhere near enough money to cover $187 million in operating costs. We might as well spend an extra $10 million to buy normal buses if we are willing to spend $187 million on operating costs.

      Also, buses are not “nearly empty” at 10am, but even if they were, they are completely packed during rush hour, so you need the capacity of larger buses for these times. And if you are going to have large buses during rush hour anyway, why would you buy extra minibuses for off peak hours, instead of using the buses you already have?

      • Sheldon Gitis March 29, 2020 at 11:01 am #

        How is operating a 45,500 lb., 125-passenger mega-bus, most of the time carrying 25 or fewer riders, more cost-effective than operating a 25-passenger minibus, running far more frequently and far closer to capacity? Are you saying because a driver would have to paid $20/hour plus benefits to drive the minibus, that makes the often nearly empty mega-bus more economical? And isn’t employing more people with decent, living wage jobs, a good thing?

        In parts of the world where car ownership is far less widespread and transit ridership is far more common, the minibuses are privately operated for profit. If some of the most impoverished places in the world can make the minibuses work, why can’t we? Are the people in Africa, Latin America and Caribbean, carrying millions of riders each day on the minibuses, just a lot smarter than the folks running 45,500 lb. mega-buses, that more often than not, carry practically no one?

        It seems to me, for a small fraction of the subsidy to operate the 45,500 lb, 125-passenger vehicles, a large fleet of much smaller, less costly, more energy efficient transit vehicles could be purchased and maintained by a public transit agency and made accessible to those willing and able to drive them along the arterial routes, picking up anyone and everyone who waves a dollar bill.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dollar_van

        • Saumik Narayanan
          Saumik Narayanan March 29, 2020 at 9:38 pm #

          If a normal-sized bus and a minibus have close to the same cost of operation per service hour, but the minibus requires many times the service hours to serve the same number of people, then the normal-sized bus is more economical. That’s simply how the math works. The cost of things like fuel or vehicle maintenance, or even the cost of purchasing the bus itself is negligible compared to the overall operating cost. If you can provide alternate calculations to show how this isn’t true, I would love to see it.

          Minibuses can work in “some of the most impoverished places in the work” precisely because they are impoverished – labor costs become low enough that vehicle costs becomes relevant again. But once you are paying $20/hour + benefits, than it is more important to get as much value for each service hour that you can, and you do this by having bigger buses that can fit the crush-loads of people who want to ride it.

          Employing more people with living wage jobs is a good thing of course, but we don’t have enough drivers as it is. Bus driver shortages are killing transit all across the country – Metro Transit is already at a point where they will hire pretty much every competent transit driver they can find.

          https://usa.streetsblog.org/2019/08/27/driver-shortages-causing-transit-delays-nationwide/
          https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2020/01/11/metro-transit-hosts-unique-hiring-event-aimed-at-eliminating-bus-driver-shortage/

          • Sheldon Giitis March 30, 2020 at 9:24 am #

            Your premise is false. Obviously, the cost per service hour of the 125-passenger, 45,500 lb., million-dollar or whatever they cost mega-bus does not have “close to the same cost of operation per service hour” as the much lighter and less expensive minibus. Assuming both vehicles are comparably built in terms of durability, the cost per service hour in depreciation alone makes operating the mega-bus more expensive. In addition, the mega-bus is most likely more expensive to service, maintain, and insure than the much smaller, lighter, and less lethal minibus. I’m not an auto mechanic, but I’d assume a lube job or a tire change would be much more expensive for mega-bus than the minibus.

            When you claim 70% of the Metro Transit budget is operating costs, I think you misconstrue “operating” for wages paid to drivers. I very much doubt 70% of the Metro Transit operating budget, or anything close to that amount, is wages and benefits paid to those who actually operate and maintain the vehicles.

            I also think you confuse a shortage of trained, highly-skilled drivers, capable of maneuvering and dealing with the stress of operating a 45,500 lb., 125-passenger vehicle during morning and afternoon rush hours, and willing to often work part-time/split shifts, with the number of able and willing workers who would welcome a much more relaxing, 8-hour shift, or a part-time shift with benefits, driving something like the new VW electric minibus on one the arterial routes you recommend.
            https://qz.com/1146630/volkwagens-ride-hailing-service-unveiled-its-new-electric-minibus/
            Also, Metro Transit spends a large amount – a very large amount – just hiring and training drivers to operate the 45,500 lb. 125-passenger buses. You could pay a large number of minibus drivers – a very large number – just with the money the transit agency currently spends on recruitment and training. And let’s not assume the recruitment and training for the minibus drivers comes anything close to the cost to recruit and train drivers of the much larger vehicles – it doesn’t.

            • Saumik Narayanan
              Saumik Narayanan March 30, 2020 at 9:39 pm #

              It looks like I misread the source of the 70% number – its “often 70%” not “about 70%” – so the number in Minneapolis might be less. I couldn’t find any other sources on this statistic, so I can’t really say anything for sure. https://humantransit.org/2011/07/02box.html.

              On your other points, I don’t think we are going to come to an agreement here. If you strongly think that Metro Transit would do a better job with minibuses than regular-sized buses, I would definitely encourage you write your own article and publish it here! I would enjoy reading your thoughts on this topic with deeper calculations and explanations than you could do in a small comment thread.

              • Sheldon Gitis March 30, 2020 at 11:26 pm #

                Sorry I couldn’t sell you on the minibuses. For long-haul routes on rush hour freeways, the big, heavy, high-capacity buses are great. For city streets, especially during off-peak periods, not so much so.

    • Brian March 30, 2020 at 7:31 pm #

      Have you actually ridden in a mini bus? I think an 1800s buckboard rides better than one of those. They make a normal transit bus seem like a Cadillac in comparison. I doubt it would help ridership any by packing people into vehicles that ride like crap.

      The mini buses I’m referring to are the type of buses used for Metro Mobility and dial a ride services now. A van like in the picture would likely ride pretty nice, but it wouldn’t carry 25 people. You also have to remember those mini buses aren’t designed for urban bus service with people getting on and off all day long. They probably wouldn’t last even one third as long as a regular transit bus on a busy route like the 5.

      • Sheldon Gitis March 30, 2020 at 9:16 pm #

        Yes, I have ridden in the Metro Mobility-like buses. The U used to, and maybe still does, use them for their inter campus shuttle on weekends when ridership drops off. I didn’t think the small buses were that bad, at least not for the short ride on the transitway between the St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses.

        I think the “crap” vehicles you’re referring to, the ones used by Metro Mobility and the U inter campus shuttle on weekends, are basically just some off the shelf Ford/Chevy/whatever truck chassis jerry-rigged with an extended cab on top containing the 2 rows of seating and the wheelchair lift. Not surprisingly, the improvised vehicles are noisy and bumpy. That said, those vehicles are not the minibuses I would recommend for the arterial routes running on streets like Chicago and West Broadway along the Route 5. I think something electric, more up to date, and designed specifically for public transit from the ground up, would go over much better – maybe something like the VW MOIA electric vehicle only larger. I think the VW MOIA looks like a pretty comfortable, sturdy vehicle.
        https://www.moia.io/en/hamburg

  8. Rita March 28, 2020 at 11:05 pm #

    Doubt anymore aBET will get built soon now.Run more limited stops like #54
    Lake 21A buses can run limited stops to midway with 21E local use larger buses which can be painted similar to A C lines.

    Henn Av #6 run all limited stops from 36 th St to downtown #4 and 17 will serve the local stops End at all 6 downtown #3 can replacement of 6U

  9. terry March 29, 2020 at 12:51 am #

    A better use for the RED LINE is to extend to Southdale via 66th St it will be useful which will connect to the Orange line and serve the many apartments and jobs there .

    Spending millions on these aBRT does not decrease travel time some #19 trips are slightly longer than the C line.
    #16 sometimes is faster than the Green line at times .

    Most of the monitors are not working at the stations or in the buses for months on the A line ,one would think they can sell ads on these monitors.

    I just got back from Mexico City their BRT has exclusive lanes and stations similar to a LRT with Bi-articulated buses ,another route has shinny double decker buses .

    • Brian March 30, 2020 at 7:35 pm #

      Was the Green line ever sold as being faster than the buses it replaced? The 94 express is still running five plus years after the Green line started because it takes half the time if one is simply going between the two downtowns.

      • Sheldon Gitis March 30, 2020 at 9:38 pm #

        The Central Corridor concrete project, aka “The Green Line”, was a developers’ wet dream. Public transit was the last thing the business interests who sold the project were thinking about.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXmhg5MCn78

    • Saumik Narayanan
      Saumik Narayanan March 30, 2020 at 9:48 pm #

      I’m not sure what you are referring to with the Red Line, I didn’t mention it in my post at all? Though I would argue extending it to downtown is better than extending it along 66th to Southdale.

      The 16 and the 19 might be better for some trips, but the Green Line and the C Line are far superior travel modes overall, as can be seen by the 80% and 35% increases in ridership, respectively.

      Dedicated bus lanes would be great, though it is politically and financially expensive. This is what the Gold Line and the Rush Line (but not really the Red and Orange Lines) are trying to do. However, the location of these lines aren’t very conducive to high-quality and high-ridership transit.

  10. Scott March 30, 2020 at 10:37 am #

    Good post. Seems like a no-brainer to move forward quicker with the ABRT implementation. Does all this not move forward because they are concentrated in Minneapolis and we have to spread transit improvements around the metro?

    By the way it makes me a little sick to see the cost of the planned transit improvements: $420 million for the Gold Line, $500 million for the Rush Line, $1.5 billion Blue Line Extension, & $2.1 billion for W. 7th. The Denver region just spent billions on LRT and commuter rail to unwalkable, car-oriented places with terrible results. We should learn from them.

  11. carol March 30, 2020 at 12:34 pm #

    I was Denver a few years ago they did a poor job with their LRT ,the headways are long Their LRT was build mostly to serve suburban commuters P/R ,the buses are mostly 30-60 mins headways ,very few have high frequencies .I was their when the R line opened the only useful station was large P/R .METC is making the same mistake with suburban lines with poor land use

    Rush &Gold line will fail to even attract 1000 riders/day.It is doubtful the Orange line will even get 2000 /day,the current #535 cannot even support weekends services or high frequencies on weekdays .Gold line will replace #535 ,

    Anyone noticed the very high subsidies in suburbs ?
    NS Rail is $18/rider

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