Bus Rapid Transit – a faster ride
Local bus service works. The bus comes to your stop, you get on, pay your fare and pull a cord to tell the driver when you want to get off. This 100-year-old system is the mainstay of how we provide transit services to our region.
But this isn’t the only way to provide bus service. Today, we’re in the process of adding 21st century technology and innovation to bus service, making a big leap forward in the way riders can use transit. That innovation is called bus rapid transit (BRT).
The first of the new BRT lines has been up and running for almost two years now. The A Line runs on Snelling Avenue and Ford Parkway in Saint Paul, connecting riders to the METRO Green and Blue light rail lines, and it represents big improvements in bus service.
You never have to look at a schedule because buses come every 10 minutes, most of the day. High-tech signs at the BRT stations track bus arrivals and departures in real-time. The shelters and buses are designed for rider comfort and convenience: stations are heated and well lit, the buses are designed so riders can board quickly and easily, with ample room for strollers and mobility devices like wheelchairs. We’ve taken a lot of the ideas we use in light rail trains and applied them to BRT, for a better customer experience and a trip that can be up to 25% faster.
In North Minneapolis we’ve started work on the C Line BRT project that will run on Penn Avenue, connecting to downtown. Look for the C Line service to start up in 2019. Planning and design is well underway on the D Line, which will connect North and South Minneapolis via Chicago and Fremont Avenues. If all goes as planned, D Line construction will begin as soon as 2020.
The A, C and D Lines are all BRT routes that operate on existing streets, but the proposed Gold and Orange Lines will operate in their own dedicated lanes, separate from traffic and will be part of our region’s METRO system. The METRO Gold Line is now officially in project development in the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program. When complete in 2024, it will serve the communities of Woodbury, Oakdale, Landfall, Maplewood and Saint Paul on a dedicated route running parallel to I-94. The METRO Orange Line will connect Burnsville to Downtown Minneapolis following I-35W with existing roads and dedicated lanes. If all goes as planned, service will start in 2021.
In addition to these lines, we have plans in the works for another 11 rapid transit projects across the region. In the next 25 years, we expect to see our region’s population increase by more than 700,000 people, increasing demand for transit 80%. BRT is just one of the tools we will need to build out our transit system to meet this demand. By 2024, we hope to have additional transit lines that will allow 500,000 more people to be within a 30-minute transit commute to their job.
This is an exciting time for transit in the Twin Cities. We’re using new technologies and time-tested techniques to meet the challenges of the future.