Minnesota BRT Moves Forward

Minneapolis, Minnesota, is planning on starting BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) service beginning June 11th, with a route beginning in Rosedale, go through St. Paul along Snelling Ave. and Ford Parkway, and finally stopping in Minneapolis at the 46th St. light rail station. The route, dubbed the A Line, could appeal to travelers otherwise opposed to bus travel, according to a Minnesota Post article.

BRT System
Bus Rapid Transit System, Image by Nashville’s Metropolitan Transit Authority

Generally, people are more likely to ride rail than buses, but cities are aiming to change this attitude. By implementing BRT, with many of the advantages of rail, transit authorities are hoping to dissuade casual riders to use these bus systems when they usually would not.

At a fraction of the cost, bus transit costs significantly less than rail based on infrastructure alone. 10 bus stations, 20 stops, and 12 buses will cost roughly $27 million. For comparison, a 13-mile track extension of light rail would cost an estimated $1.5 billion.

“There are two things we’re trying to offer,” with the new BRT line, said Charles Carlson of Metro Transit, “one, a faster trip and two, a more-comfortable trip.”

Modes of transit can rival each other in the transit debate but Minneapolis hopes to utilize many in unison. BRT, light rail, and streetcars are being applied where appropriate – deploying BRT on streets with little room for development of rail but with high traffic.

Metro Transit aims to build 11 BRT lines by 2030 on routes that are burdened with approximately half of the area’s public transit trips. With the extension including a B, C, and D line, BRT would cover local transportation for much of the region.

BRT Station

How is BRT faster than conventional buses? One, the stops are more spaced out – roughly a half a mile apart rather than a few blocks. Second, fares are paid at the station rather than onboard the bus. Consequently, passengers can board quicker and more efficiently. The buses are also built so that they can easily stop at stations with raised platforms without having to leave traffic lanes.

Interestingly, as well, BRT buses will signal traffic lights at 20 intersections to receive priority – almost receiving automatic green lights. This will extend green lights for buses approaching and shorten red light wait times.

How will this effect travel speed? These buses are an estimated 20% faster than conventional buses taking the same route. This roughly equates to saving 8 minutes on a 35–40 minute trip. Will this improvement result in more riders? Metro Transit says ‘yes’ and predicts a 50% increase in ridership by 2030.

27 or more BRT systems are in effect or under construction in the United States and, as this trend continues, 20 more are in the planning stages. The benefits of BRT are being studied beyond the fact they systems are much cheaper than rail. However, urban developers tend to see rail infrastructure as a hotter commodity since it cannot be decommissioned and disassembled as easily as a BRT system — so the jury is still out as to whether or not BRT is a viable alternative to rail.

As written by Arthur C. Nelson and Joanna Ganning, “We find substantial though often circumstantial evidence that bus rapid transit systems can influence development patterns in important way … we conclude that, on the whole, BRT systems are associated with positive development and job location outcomes, though not necessarily population or housing outcomes.”

Written by Kyle Park Points

is a working father in New York City by way of Sarasota, Florida. He is a public transportation enthusiast, clean air advocate, lifetime recycler and frequent panderer. He also reluctantly tended to his family's compost heap for many formative years. He hopes to one day leave his daughter with a safer, healthier environment than when she was born - which shouldn't be hard since she was born in Queens, New York.

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