By Dave Van Hattum, Senior Policy Advocate
It’s no secret that the Twin Cities is experiencing steadily growing demand for walkable, bikeable communities well-served by transit. How can transportation planners tap this demand, and get more people where they need to go affordably and efficiently? One key answer is arterial bus rapid transit (BRT), also known as rapid bus.
This latest innovation in bus service is slated for eleven major city streets in the Twin Cities, but is headed first for Saint Paul’s Snelling Avenue. This month, Saint Paul residents have the opportunity to weigh in on the Snelling plans. What do you need to know about the enhanced, forthcoming service?
Enhancing Bus Service
Arterial BRT has three key, train-like features designed to improve travel times for transit riders.
- Faster boarding through off-bus payment of fares and low-floor entry at both doors,
- Traffic signal priority, which provides early or extended green lights for buses (so they spend less time waiting for traffic lights!), and
- Larger buses and/or buses that come more often.
With arterial BRT on Snelling Avenue, passengers could expect their trip to take about 27 percent less time than with current service.
Rapid buses are also designed to improve the passenger experience with amenities including better information, and heating and lighting at stations.
Tapping Ridership Potential
With custom branding and the enhanced features above, arterial BRT has successfully led to substantially increased transit ridership in Boston, Los Angeles, the East Bay (Berkeley, Oakland, San Leandro), and Seattle.
Metro Transit estimates that, with a modest investment, arterial BRT can increase ridership on selected routes in the Twin Cities by 20 to 30 percent.
RapidRide BRT in in Seattle. Credit: http://www.fta.dot.gov/
The New Route
The Snelling route will connect the Blue Line (Hiawatha LRT at 46th St.) and the Green Line (Central Corridor LRT at University Ave.), and continue north to the Rosedale shopping center in Roseville (https://www.metrotransit.org/snelling-brt).
This corridor is poised for substantial new development at University and Snelling Avenues (including a parcel of land owned by the Metropolitan Council), at the former Ford Plant site, at the 46thStreet LRT station, and at three college campuses (Hamline, Macalester, and St. Catherine).
Graphic: Metro Transit
Utilizing Snelling Avenue & Other Major City Streets
Arterial corridors, among the metro’s busiest roadways, are designed for higher speeds and traffic volumes than are residential streets. Just as bus-only highway shoulders, or MnPASS lanes, speed up buses and attract more transit riders on our region’s freeways, arterial roadways like Snelling have significant people-moving potential.
Snelling Avenue will be our region’s first arterial BRT route, followed next by West 7th Street. Metro Transit has also studied eleven other urban routes with rapid-bus potential based on high ridership and connections to major destinations.
Snelling Avenue is an ideal site to test and refine this new transit service, and we know that bicycle and walking connections will be critical to project success. We encourage you to attend an upcoming open house on July 17 to learn more and to share your thoughts.
Building a Connected System
Arterial BRT nicely complements plans for light rail and highway BRT (Metropolitan Council - Highway Transitway Corridor Study) in the Twin Cities metro. But, as we often remind readers, funding for a full build-out of a system of rapid bus, LRT, and expanded bus hours and routes, still needs to be secured. TLC and allies will continue to advocate for expanded investment in transit. Watch for updates on this site and at www.transit4mn.org.