Metro Transit Plans for a Better Bus System: Support (and Funding) Needed
By Barb Thoman, Executive Director
A welcome plan to dramatically expand bus service in the metropolitan area was released on October 22 by the Metropolitan Council. The draft Service Improvement Plan, or SIP, identifies the proposed new local bus, express bus, and arterial bus rapid transit (BRT) service that Metro Transit will prioritize when new funding becomes available. The final plan will guide bus service improvements and expansion through 2030.
The SIP identifies 122 projects that would result in a 29 percent increase in service by 2030, with a majority happening in the next six years. We are thrilled to see planning for this level of growth in the bus system. While there have been specific plans for growth in transitways and bus rapid transit, there has not been a concrete plan for growth in regular route or express bus service. Expanded bus service would improve affordable access to jobs, school, and opportunity. It would improve service for current riders, while also helping to attract new riders.
Before the plan is finalized and adopted, Metro Transit will host public informational meetings and accept comments through the end of November. Comments will be accepted at all the meetings. (See the schedule below.)
Three primary criteria—productivity, social equity, and system connectivity—were used to evaluate and select the slate of new service proposed in the plan. Productivity, or ridership potential, was weighted at 50 percent. Social equity and system connectivity were each weighted at 25 percent. The SIP estimates ridership growth would be 16 million annually after full implementation. The estimated ridership growth from the new proposed arterial BRT lines is an additional 13 million.
“Strong express and local bus service is critical to connecting residents to economic and recreational opportunities. The draft Service Improvement Plan provides a strong vision that builds on our existing network and will make our region better-connected than ever.”
Metro Transit’s General Manager Brian Lamb in an agency press release
The public investment needed for the service identified in the SIP is approximately $56 million per year. The estimated public investment need to operate new proposed arterial BRT lines is an additional $19 million. (The planned arterial BRT line on Saint Paul’s Snelling Avenue will be the first in the region.)
The cost estimates do not include other improvements that are a priority for Metro Transit, including more and improved bus shelters/lighting, passenger information, buses, or facilities. Those costs will also need to be included in a funding package for transit improvements (something we are working to secure at the State Capitol in 2015).
While we are enthusiastic about the prospect of significantly improving bus service over the next 15 years, it is important to note that Metro Transit’s SIP currently is not funded! In that regard, legislative action is needed to turn this plan into service on the street. Implementation of the SIP is one of many transit and bike/ped improvements that could be funded with a multimodal transportation funding bill next session. TLC’s top priority during the upcoming legislative session will be continuing to advocate for this funding with our Move MN coalition partners.
In the meantime, we strongly encourage our readers to attend the upcoming meetings and to weigh in on the service proposed in the SIP. TLC has been advocating for development of this plan and for new bus service for as long as the organization has been in existence!
- Wednesday, Nov. 5, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. , Hennepin County Central Library, Minneapolis
—served by multiple downtown routes, METRO Blue Line, METRO Green Line
- Saturday, Nov. 8, 1 to 3:30 p.m., North Community YMCA, Minneapolis
—served by route 14
- Thursday, Nov. 13, 6 to 7:30 p.m., Hennepin County Southdale Library, Edina
—served by routes 6, 538
- Saturday, Nov. 15, 1 to 3:30 p.m., Conway Recreation Center, Saint Paul
—served by routes 74, 80, 219
- Monday, Nov. 17, 6 to 7:30 p.m. , Anoka County Northtown Central Library, Blaine
- Tuesday, Nov. 18, 11:30 to 1 p.m., Metropolitan Council Chambers, Saint Paul
—served by multiple downtown bus routes, METRO Green Line
Can’t make an event? You can still submit your comments through November 30:
- By mail: Metro Transit Service Development, Attn: SIP, 560 Sixth Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55411
- By email: SIP@metrotransit.org
- By phone: 651-602-1500 (leave a message)
The SIP contact at Metro Transit is Cyndi Harper, Manager of Route Planning, Cyndi.firstname.lastname@example.org.