Transit enthusiasts got some much needed good news last October as the B and D Lines received funding from the State to begin construction. These lines are the most recent additions to Metro Transit’s Arterial Bus Rapid Transit (ABRT) program that offers enhanced bus services with higher frequencies and faster travel times on some of the region’s busiest routes. But as with any new transit innovation, it is important to critically assess both the positive and negative effects of these new lines and how they will affect overall mobility. This was the purpose behind a study from Minnesota’s own Accessibility Observatory, which regularly publishes reports on the relationship between transportation and access to jobs.
The latest report, found here, studies the impacts of the planned B, D, and E Lines on regional access to jobs. Specifically, the change in jobs accessible by transit when they are added to the in-progress network that includes the C Line, the Orange Line, and the Southwest Green Line Extension. This accessibility is measured and averaged across several time periods during the weekday and weekend given at the aggregate and census block levels for a more spatial analysis. And of course, there are plenty of maps.
The B Line will run down Lake Street in Minneapolis and Marshall Avenue in St. Paul, with a small diversion to connect to Allianz Field in Midway. This largely mirrors the current Route 21, which will continue to run albeit less frequently. Overall, the line generally would increase access to jobs with the only decreases in accessibility seen further out in East St. Paul and Richfield. Changes in both directions are relatively small compared to overall increase of jobs that would come from the network as a whole, at around +0.5 to +1.0%
The D Line will run along the current Route 5, Metro Transit’s busiest bus route that connects North Minneapolis to Bloomington via Fremont and Chicago Avenues. This business is reflected in the major improvements to job accessibility that are projected along the route, despite the decreased frequency of Route 5 to every 30 minutes, by offering riders a greater number of jobs accessible within the same amounts of time. Job access almost universally improves with the D Line, more than doubling the number of jobs accessible in some blocks and improving the average metro area worker’s access by 4.16%. The changes are most significant in Brooklyn Center where job access improves on average by about 45%, most likely by improving connections to major employers in Bloomington (you know the one).
The E Line will resemble the current Route 6U, running from South Minneapolis up Hennepin Avenue and then following University Avenue through Southeast Minneapolis. Like the D Line the E Line is projected to have an overall positive impact on job accessibility. However, unlike the D Line, there is a mix of blocks experiencing major gains (some more than +100%) and major losses (up to -35%) scattered across the southeast. Frequent riders of the 6 know that the popular route has a number of different branches covering France, Xerxes, and Woodale Avenues. When the E Line goes into operation, Route 6 service is eliminated along Woodale and reduced along Xerxes, yielding small losses in job access to blocks alongside.
Overall, the B, D, and E Lines show the great potential for ABRT to improve regional mobility and job accessibility. So long as careful thought is given as to changes in existing local services, the continued funding of new ABRT lines is a powerful opportunity for equity and growth in the Twin Cities. You can visit the Accessibility Observatory’s website for the full report and other accessibility research and data.