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Metro Transit plans big rollout of more rapid bus service



Once a week or so, Minneapolis resident Serafina Scheel hops aboard the Metro Transit Line A rapid bus when she feels like shopping in St. Paul.

The souped-up bus connects easily to the Green Line light rail, which has a stop near Scheel's home in Prospect Park. Its frequency – a bus every 10 minutes during peak hours – means it's not up to the bus to show up, "Scheel said.

Nearly three years after the $ 27 million A Line made its debut, Metro Transit has big plans to expand its rapid bus fleet – a strategy seen as both economical and politically palatable. It's also popular with riders at a time when local bus ridership is down in the Twin Cities and Nationwide.

A second rapid bus called the C Line, which will include Metro Transit's first electric buses, is now scheduled to take off year, serving north Minneapolis and the northern suburbs. And the Metropolitan Council wants to ask the state lawmakers to help them build the $ 75 million D Line, which will largely replace the Route 5 local bus, the busiest transit thoroughfare in the state.

The council estimates it will take $ 400 million

In recent years, Republican lawmakers at the Capitol have asked for help at the regional planning body's funding requests for transit, particularly light rail.

"In general, I think arterial buses are a better buy for the money, more bang for the buck," said Rep. Paul Torkelson , the Republican lead on the House Transportation Finance and Policy Division. Torkelson, a farmer from Hanska, said he took the road and was impressed.

What is a rapid bus?

"When we were engaging people about the line it was difficult to visualize what it was talking about," Katie Roth, Metro Transit's manager of arterial bus-rapid transit. "We relied on a lot on renderings and what other cities were doing.

Rapid buses mimic light rail in many respects. Passengers pay before they board, stations are heated and equipped with a real-time schedule with a bus arrival every 1

0 minutes during peak hours. The low-floor buses, raised curbs at stations, and board seats in the front and back, which speeds up travel time.

All told, A Line service between the 46th Street Blue Line light rail station at Minneapolis and Rosedale mall is up to 25 percent faster than the Route 84 local bus, which has been substantially pared back. Last year, some 830,000 passengers took the rapid bus.

"The ridership numbers, as well as what we've heard", was launched in June of 2016, ridership along the corridor "Roth said."

But the challenge with arterial bus-rapid transit service is in traffic, and is subject to congestion and road construction.

Traditional bus-rapid transit usually travels in dedicated lanes, which paves the way for autonomous vehicles in the future, said Darnell Grisby, director of policy Development of the American Public Transportation Association.

Kim Crockett, of the Conservative Think Tank Center of the American Experiment, said she promotes resources for rapid bus service.

Still, some frequent transit users have embraced the A Line.

"I love how quickly it gets to Rosedale," said Jeb Rach, a Midway IT specialist who often uses the A Line to get to work in Roseville. His biggest challenge involves being outbound at the mall – pedestrian options are limited, and there's no easy biking option, he said.

Thinking big

Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, wants to think big when it comes to expanding the arterial rapid bus network.

"We have to look at this system needs to be out and it should happen rapidly, "he said.

A request for $ 35 million to complete the D Line fell flat last year;

Beyond the C and D lines, the B line for the second-busiest bus route in the state – now the Route 21 line traversing Lake Street in Minneapolis and Marshall Avenue in St. Paul. The E Line would be located along Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, and possibly to Dinkytown. The location of the remaining six lines has not been determined.

Scott Newman, the Republican chair of the Senate Transportation Finance and Policy Committee, said he "would certainly favor [rapid bus] over light rail because it's not nearly as expensive." But he said it's still early in the session: "Without knowing what the The budget has not been finalized. "

The council has not yet finalized its legislative request for this session. Council spokeswoman Kate Brickman said: "People are reliable, fast transit options, and a great piece of our future system is arterial rapid bus," she said.

Keep MN Moving, which consists of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, and a transit advocacy group called East Metro Strong, is already pushing lawmakers to support transit this session – including money for rapid bus.

"There's been a pretty steep education curve," said Jonathan Weinhagen, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Chamber, regarding a public campaign for more rapid bus service. "It starts to take hold last session. Now it's starting to resonate. "

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