D Line would replace region’s highest ridership bus route; still needs $35 million to construct entire project
Faster, more reliable access to jobs and opportunity is coming to the region’s busiest bus route, following final approval of the station plan for the D Line rapid bus project. The Metropolitan Council voted Wednesday July 25 to approve locations for 40 stations along the 18.2-mile line from the Brooklyn Center Transit Center, through Minneapolis and Richfield, to the Mall of America Transit Center in Bloomington.
The vote allows Metro Transit to begin the design and engineering phase later this year. The D Line will upgrade and substantially replace Route 5, the region’s highest ridership bus route, with an average daily ridership of 15,000 rides. When constructed, the D Line will be the third in the region’s rapid bus system – A Line opened in 2016 and construction is underway on the C Line, which is expected to begin service in 2019.
“The D Line has the potential to transform our regional transit system,” said Alene Tchourumoff, Chair of the Metropolitan Council. “Nationwide, bus ridership is declining, and we’re seeing a similar trend here in the metro region. The exception is the A Line, which has seen sustained ridership growth over the past two years. These types of investments provide a significant return, and as we compete with our peer regions, we know a reliable and efficient transit system is critical to attracting and retaining a talented workforce.”
The total cost of the project is currently estimated at $75 million and still has a $35 million funding gap. The Council sought bonding for the project during the 2018 legislative session.
“Despite the broad coalition in support of this line, the legislature failed to include any funding for it in the final bonding bill. Now, as we move forward with planning for the D Line, there is no clear solution for how to fully fund the project. We will be working with our partners and the many supporters of the D Line to seek ways in the coming year to secure the remaining funds from the legislature. This project is too important to leave on the table.”
Project planners will use the current identified funding to advance design and engineering for the entire project. The Council would recommend to a new administration seeking the $35 million in funding during the 2019 legislative session. Pending full funding, construction would begin in 2020, with service beginning in 2021 or 2022.
Faster, more efficient service
The arterial bus rapid transit system includes enhancements for faster and more efficient service. This includes curb bumpouts for boarding, which eliminate delay caused by merging back into traffic; off-board fare payment; and transit signal prioritization, which allows the buses to request early green time and/or extended green time to allow movement through the intersection.
The current Route 5 bus route averages 70-100 minutes end-to-end. More than 20 percent of that time is generally spent at red lights, and about a third of the trip is spent in the customer boarding process. The improved D Line will reduce delays and increase average speed, meaning a 20-25 percent faster trip.
Rapid bus, also called arterial bus rapid transit (BRT), includes amenities that improve the customer experience. This includes shelters with on-demand heaters and integrated lighting; emergency telephones and security cameras; as well as real-time information display. Paired with reliable service every 10 minutes, the D Line corridor is expected to see ridership of 23,500 daily rides by 2030.
Public input had impact on final plan
The final plan includes three stations not originally included in the draft plan released in February for public comment. More than 100 comments were submitted on that draft, which overwhelmingly supported the addition of the stations to improve access for residents to businesses and corridor destinations.
Those stations were included in a revised plan released for public comment in May. More than 50 additional comments were submitted, including statements of support from the cities along the line.
“We’ve consistently heard from our customers that they want buses to be faster and bus stops to be improved. With the D Line moving ahead, we look forward to continuing to engage our riders and neighbors along the corridor as we enter the next phase of design.”
Contact: Howie Padilla, Metro Transit, 612-349-7089, firstname.lastname@example.org