The Minnesota Legislature approved spending $55 million on two new bus rapid transit lines in the Twin Cities metro, which together will provide quicker transportation to more than 25,000 passengers each weekday. It’s part of the $1.9 billion public works and tax cut package passed by the House and Senate this week.
The B line will travel along the current 21 route from downtown to St. Paul along Marshall Avenue and Lake Street to the west side of Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis.
The D line will run along the 5 route — the busiest bus route in the Twin Cities — from Brooklyn Center through north Minneapolis, downtown and south along Chicago and Portland Avenues to the Mall of America in Bloomington. Both projects are slated to be completed in 2022.
“This is really about jobs and opportunity,” said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, who led the effort to get the funding included in the $1.9 billion spending and tax cut package that passed this week. “At one transportation committee meeting, someone said, ‘Look, what good is a job if you can’t get there.’”
Ridership during the COVID-19 pandemic has tanked, but Hornstein noted 40% of Metro Transit’s current riders are frontline essential workers like janitors, grocery store clerks and health care workers.
Bus rapid transit (BRT) is designed to be more like light rail than normal city buses but at a fraction of the cost. Rapid transit buses make fewer stops, run more frequently, collect fares before passengers board and trigger stop lights to turn green —all of which speed up travel by as much as 25%.
The buses for the B and D Lines will be electric and manufactured in St. Cloud and Crookston by New Flyer, cutting harmful emissions, as well as greenhouse gases and creating jobs in the state. Electric buses are also quieter, making them more pleasant to ride.
Metro Transit currently operates two BRT lines, which have seen ridership surge since opening. Ridership increased 32% in the first year of the A Line, which runs from Rosedale Center to the 46th Street Station in Minneapolis, and sped up service by 25%.
Hornstein says he plans to reintroduce a transportation bill, which failed to gain traction in the Republican-controlled Senate this year. A transportation bill would make even more investments in public transportation.
“We have an underfunded system . . . and what we need to do in the metro area moving forward is to build 18 more of these rapid bus lines,” Hornstein said. “This is the future. This is what a modern transportation system looks like.”