The A Line is Open—What’s Next?

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by Hilary Reeves, Development and Member Engagement Director

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The A Line, the region’s first Arterial Bus Rapid Transit line, opened on June 11. With 18 stations between 46th Street (on the Blue Line) and Rosedale Transit Center, the A Line provides fast, frequent service along Ford Parkway and Snelling Avenue.

In the first week, ridership on the corridor jumped by 36 percent, including 30,000 rides on the A Line and 6,000 on the route 84 bus, according to Katie Roth, project manager at Metro Transit. Some of the surge in ridership was due to free rides for the first few days and curiosity about the new kind of service. There also was a big event at the State Fair grounds. In the week before the A Line opened, route 84 provided 26,000 rides.

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The 84 had been the main transit service on the corridor prior to the A Line. Now that the A Line is open, route 84 runs every 30 minutes. The A Line runs every 10 minutes most of the day, operating from about 4am till about 1:30 am seven days a week. It moves through the corridor about 25 percent faster, thanks to off-board fare collection and signal priority. It’s called “arterial” bus rapid transit because it operates in regular traffic and does not have a separate guideway.

Are there plans to add this new kind of service in more places? Yes, but the timing depends on finding the funding.

The budget for the A Line was $27 million, of which $16 million came from the state of Minnesota ($6 million from MnDOT trunk highway bonds for transit capital, $9 million in bonding, and $1 million appropriation by the legislature), $7 million from federal grants, and $4 million from Metropolitan Council funding. It was “a creative mix of one-time sources,” Roth said. One of the challenges of building out the system is the lack of a consistent and ready funding source, she said.

The C Line is the next planned arterial BRT line. It will run in the corridor now served by bus route 19, from downtown Minneapolis, along Penn Avenue North to Brooklyn Center. Metro Transit is coordinating planning and construction with Hennepin County’s Penn Avenue Community Works project.  Construction will start in 2018 if funding comes together. Earlier this spring, the Metropolitan Council approved a station plan for the C Line. The project still needs $15 million in funding.

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Next up after the C Line, according to Roth, is the D Line, which would run in the corridor now served by the route 5 bus, from Brooklyn Center to Bloomington. If a funding package comes together, this line would start construction in 2019 and open in 2020 or 2021.

In a 2012 study, Metro Transit identified several corridors where arterial BRT service would make sense—along Lake Street, Nicollet, and Chicago Avenues in south Minneapolis, along Broadway in North Minneapolis and Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis, along East and West 7th Streets and Robert Street in Saint Paul, and along American Boulevard in Bloomington, to name most. Metro Transit later explored two additional corridors. One would extend the Chicago Avenue line into North Minneapolis on Fremont and Emerson Avenues. The second is now the planned C Line, along Penn Avenue.

What happened to the B Line? The region’s second Arterial BRT line was planned for Saint Paul’s West 7th Street, but was put on hold for a larger study of transit options in the Riverview corridor. Rapid bus remains one of the options for that corridor.

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