Summer Brings Big Steps Forward for Transit Projects in the Twin Cities
Sometimes change doesn’t happen as quickly as we want it to, but signs of progress are all around us all the time. This summer, we’ve seen at least six big steps forward for transit in the Twin Cities metro.
1) Bus Route 54 Extended to Serve More People
In late July, Metro Transit was able to extend the heavily-used Route 54 bus. Already the only transit option between downtown Saint Paul and the Mall of America, the 54 now serves Saint Paul’s East Side and runs all the way to Maplewood. For people who live and work along this route, more transit means better access to jobs and a more connected community. And those are benefits that can’t wait. To better serve the area’s growing population, regional plans will eventually bring modern streetcar to the Riverview Corridor where the 54 is often overcrowded, but those big changes are years away.
The extension of the 54 reflects what we heard from people during our extensive on-the-ground outreach in the Riverview Corridor last year and the work we’ve done for years on Saint Paul’s East Side: it is so important for our region to do what we can to improve people’s lives today, while also planning for the future. This is as true for biking, walking, and rolling as it is for transit, and we hope that this near-term improvement is just the first of many for local families.
2) C Line Construction Kicks Off
Construction of an exciting new bus rapid transit line is officially underway. Since breaking ground in March, crews have been hard at work building the first new C Line bus shelters in Minneapolis. People will be able to ride the C Line to work, school, and other destinations between Brooklyn Center and downtown Minneapolis, starting in spring 2019. That means in less than a year, people along Penn Avenue can expect the fast, frequent service, heated shelters, station snow removal, and other modern upgrades that the A Line brought to Saint Paul’s Snelling Avenue and Ford Parkway two years ago.
3) D Line Station Plans Approved
Plans for bus rapid transit don’t end there: we’re also seeing progress on the D Line. D Line bus rapid transit will connect people from Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, Richfield, and Bloomington, primarily along Chicago and Emerson/Fremont Avenues. This summer, the Met. Council officially approved plans for forty D Line stations. This includes stations at 48th & Chicago in Minneapolis and Portland & 70th Street in Richfield, which were both added based on community feedback.
The future of the 48th & Chicago station still looks uncertain, though, and more community engagement is planned. Although a bus stop already exists at this intersection, some business owners have pushed back against D Line buses stopping here–an outcome that would mean neighbors, employees, and customers lose transit access at this local commercial hub.
When the new and improved D Line service opens, it will replace the regular Route 5, which Metro Transit reports is the metro’s busiest bus route. People take more than 15,000 rides on the 5 on a typical weekday. In a few years, the D Line will get these folks where they’re going 25 percent faster.
One major catch: right now the D Line is not fully funded. It’s still waiting for $35 million from the Minnesota Legislature. And this spring, legislators failed to fund this project—or any other transit project in the Twin Cities metro area. It’s a prime example of how inaction at the State Capitol is holding back improvements that could really impact people’s daily lives in a positive way. Advocating for these much-needed investments in transit, biking, walking, continues to be a high priority for us at Move Minnesota.
4) E Line Advances at the City Level
In July, the Minneapolis City Council approved plans that pave the way for future E Line bus rapid transit service on Hennepin Avenue. As Metro Transit reports, this includes “construction of eight enhanced bus stops between Washington Avenue South and 12th Street. The city also plans to add one-way, protected bikeways in both directions, and to route the bike lanes behind the new stations to avoid conflicts at boarding areas.”
If you ride the Route 6 bus today, or live, work, and play along Hennepin, watch for opportunities to get involved in E Line station planning in 2019.
5) Mall of America Transit Center Upgrades Underway
In early August, regional leaders celebrated the groundbreaking for improvements at the Mall of America Transit Center in Bloomington. People who ride the Blue Line, Red Line, and dozens of urban and suburban bus routes all converge here at the “busiest transit hub in the state.” Work will continue into next year and will reconfigure the transit center for better bus and pedestrian access. This includes a new bus-only entrance, and a new layout that eliminates the need for buses to cross the light-rail tracks. In 2019, transit riders also can expect new lighting, a family restroom, emergency telephones, and NexTrip real-time departure signs.
6) Southwest Green Line Extension Back on Track
The Southwest Green Line Extension cleared a big obstacle this summer after a disagreement with TC&W Railroad cropped up this spring and threatened to delay the light rail project. A new agreement affirms light transit can operate in the same corridor as TC&W’s freight trains. Without this in place, the railroad could have killed the project altogether. Decades in the making, Southwest light rail will serve people in Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Hopkins, St. Louis Park, and Minneapolis. There’s still room for more plot twists, but if all continues to go well for Southwest, construction might finally begin this fall. Stay tuned!