Planning bus route changes for Central Corridor connections


It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that all modes of transportation support and complement each other. Even astronauts drive to the base and walk to the launch tower before blasting off. On a more mundane level, we walk to cars and transit and walk again when we debark. We drive or ride to the airport and walk or tram to the jetway. Biking, walking and transit are similarly joined.

Different transit modes—light rail, commuter rail and buses—also work hand in hand. That’s why the Metropolitan Council is planning significant changes to its Metro Transit bus service when the Central Corridor light rail, now dubbed the METRO Green Line, opens for business in 2014.

Some rubber-tire routes that parallel the Green Line along University Avenue in St. Paul will be cut back or eliminated, while more buses and at least one new route will be deployed on streets that cross the train tracks.

“There’s really no opportunity to park and ride in the corridor,” Metro Transit’s John Levin told MPR News. “So people need to walk or bike or take the bus to get to the corridor. We’re trying to create that bus transit network that makes it easy for folks who aren’t within biking or walking distance to use the Green Line.”

The Met Council is studying future service in a broad swath around the Green Line, including the Minneapolis and St. Paul downtowns and some of their neighborhoods, the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses and the St. Paul suburbs of Lauderdale, Falcon Heights and Roseville.

This heart of the Twin Cities is home to a quarter-million residents and 357,600 jobs (as of 2008; probably more now as the economy recovers from the depths of the recession), which is nearly one-quarter of all the employment in the whole metro area. In addition, about 91,000 students attend nine colleges and universities in the area.

Public meetings, hearings, online comments and further study will precede final decisions by the council, expected before year’s end. But council staff have already issued a concept plan that proposes many changes. In all, 18 regular bus routes and five express routes are under study. UofM Campus Connector and circulator routes will not be affected.

“The primary emphasis of the Concept Plan is to reduce service on bus routes whose trips will be operated by Green Line trains and to shift those resources to improved coverage, frequency and hours of service on bus routes connecting with rail,” the plan’s executive summary states. “Improving the frequency of service will improve the reliability of the routes and connections between routes.”

Here are highlights of the proposal:

  • Along, the University Avenue corridor, the limited-stop Route 50 will be replaced by light rail, and a scaled-back Route 16 will continue to run from downtown St. Paul to Oak Street on the UofM main campus, and all the way to downtown Minneapolis between 1 and 5 a.m., when trains will not operate. The Route 94 freeway flyer will operate nonstop between the downtowns only during weekday rush hours.
  • North-south routes on Dale Street (Route 65), Raymond Avenue (87) and Snelling Avenue (84) in St. Paul will make more frequent connections with the Green Line and a new Route 83 on Lexington Parkway will fill in a two-mile gap in current bus service.
  • Route 63 will be extended from the University of St. Thomas area in St. Paul to the Raymond Avenue station in front of MN2020’s office. Route 8 will be combined with Route 67 to serve Franklin Avenue from Hiawatha Avenue (a stop on the METRO Blue Line, nee Hiawatha LRT) to University and Fairview Avenues, then follow the existing route to downtown St. Paul.
  • Limited-stop Route 134 commuter service on Cleveland and Cretin Avenues in St. Paul will be reduced on the fringe of rush hours, but continue unchanged during the most popular commute times. Route 144 will be eliminated, with alternative service on Route 84 and the Green Line.
  • No changes are envisioned for Routes 2, 3, 21 and 53 in the service area, and Route 6 will get a minor extension from Oak Street and Washington Avenue to the Stadium Village station.
  • Metro Mobility hours for the disabled may be increased slightly in Falcon Heights and Roseville to maintain federally-mandated parity with increased regular bus service in the area.

More improvement priorities, including stepped-up frequency on Routes 21 (Selby-Lake), 62 (Rice Street) and 83 (Lexington) are listed in the concept plan in hopes of future funding availability.

The council’s proactive planning recognizes that mobility in a busy metropolis like the Twin Cities relies not on individual roads, trails and transitways but on the coordination that links them into an efficient system. Transit riders and drivers alike will reap the benefits come 2014.