The A Line and C Line Work: Let’s Build More!

Two years ago, published a piece with the catchy title “The A Line Works, Let’s Build More.” Since then we have built more; the C Line opened, with the exact same result as the A Line: People loved it, and ridership jumped.

Since then, of course, the COVID-19 response has included asking people not to ride transit. In addition to doing extraordinary work responding to COVID, everyone I know is asking how we as a region can emerge from this even stronger. We’re not going to — nor should we — go back to a previous “normal.” We can and should build on what worked before. And that includes quality transit like the A and C Lines.

One of the reasons we know we will still need good transit post-COVID is that we need it now. Metro Transit carries a lot of essential workers, including to healthcare facilities. As the director of Transportation for America, Beth Osborne, put it on Tuesday, “We’re all transit dependent because it doesn’t help to get to the hospital and not have care.”

Higher frequencies and more reliable arrival times have always boosted ridership, and they now produce another benefit: They help minimize the number of people waiting and riding together, allowing the physical distancing that we will need for some time.

Passengers Disembark From An A Line Bus On Snelling Avenue.

The convenience of Bus Rapid Transit — including paying before you board and fewer stops — has been shown to boost ridership.

If you’re a reader, you may not need  convincing about the value of bus rapid transit (BRT). The legislators who have the power to fund more BRT do need convincing.

Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis) and Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul) each has proposed $75 million in bonding for more BRT. This would build the D and B lines, and fund planning for the next set.

The D Line would serve roughly the route of Metro Transit’s #5 bus, the busiest bus line in Minnesota. The B Line would connect Minneapolis along Lake Street with Marshall and Selby avenues in St. Paul, the current route of the #21, the second-busiest bus line.

With some of the most pressing COVID work out of the way, the legislature is now beginning to debate bonding in earnest. This is the perfect time to tell your representative and senator that you want to see more fast, comfortable, reliable buses in the Cities.

You can also remind them that we make the buses for BRT right here in Minnesota, at the New Flyer of America operations in St. Cloud and Crookston, so they can put Minnesotans to work across the state. There’s a great map showing all the transit manufacturing in Minnesota here:

The legislative session ends May 18. The time to let them know is now.

(In the interest of full disclosure, and keeping with the editorial guidelines: I’m the executive director of East Metro Strong but writing as myself. This post takes no position on a specific piece of legislation, but simply points out that the bonding bill that emerges needs to contain $75 million for BRT.)


2 thoughts on “The A Line and C Line Work: Let’s Build More!

  1. angela

    aBRT A & C lines they don’t not save much time compare to the local routes on the streets they served.

    On numerous occasions the #16 is even faster than the GL from downtown St Paul to Midway.
    Some #19 trips are just a fewer mins slower than the C line Last week I caught the C by HCMC a #19 was supposed to come by but was 2 mins before the C , yet the 19 got to BC Transit Center before just before the C line .

    Spending millions of the fancy monitors inside and outside the buses when most of them are not working for months

    N Mpls should haven’t 2 routes overlapping on Osseo Rd then they still have to maintain 2 local routes to supplement the same routing with local stops ,D line should have been build first instead of the C .Extend the C to MOA to avoid duplication in N Mpls.

    The proposed ST PAUL BRT are a total waste of money these routes does not have the ridership for all day services ,the density is too low to support BRT along these routes .W7th #54 will just as fast as the Riverview streetcar.Robert St will not save much time vs the local #68 .

    Orange Lines cannot support 15mins off peak or even weekends service The #535 was cut several time and frequencies reduced because of low ridership both weekdays and weekends .

    Unless the BRT have their own lanes it will be a waste of money .Mexico City has BRT that have their own lanes and operates like a metro with Bi-artic buses .

    Run 21A limited stops with larger buses instead of spending $ 25+M

  2. GlowBoy

    I haven’t ridden the C line (and probably won’t for a while, now), but I disagree that the A isn’t substantially faster than the #84 that it replaced. It takes quite a few minutes less, end-to-end. And it is a lot nicer to ride.

    The D line will be similar. From my Diamond Lake neighborhood I don’t even bother taking transit downtown if I miss the last express bus at about 8:20am. The #5 is simply too slow, taking 35-40 minutes. I can literally beat it with my bike for the 6-mile trip, even on snowy days that slow down my ride. That is to be expected for a truly urban route, but more than half that trip is covered at relatively high speed. It’s north of Lake Street, where the bus stops literally every block, sometimes for several minutes while passengers all board with various fares. aBRT reduces the number of stops to something more sensible, and prepayment at the station (combined with both doors opening for boarding) eliminates an enormous waste of time at stops. I eagerly look forward to the D line taking 10 minutes or so off the trip.

    Not sure why you’re comparing the #19 with the green line, because neither is aBRT and everyone knows the Green Line is slower than it could be.

    Which brings us to the Riverview corridor: I also agree that the #54 is faster (but aBRT would be faster yet, not to mention bringing nicer buses), but like it or not the decision was made for slower “modern streetcar.” For the record, I supported aBRT as the Riverview option.

    I don’t think aBRT is a waste of money. Yes, it would be faster with dedicated lanes, but then it wouldn’t really be aBRT, and in any event dedicated lanes aren’t really conceivable on these urban routes on relatively narrow streets. It’s still a massive improvement over regular bus service – at a cost that is orders of magnitude less than rail.

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