Express Bus for Chicago Avenue

BY JOHN CHARLES WILSON

Metro Transit is planning something called the D Line for the Chicago Avenue corridor in South Minneapolis. The D will also serve Fremont Avenue on the north side and will follow the C Line, which is planned for Penn Avenue North. These streets are currently served by Routes 5 and 19.

The first thing you should know is that the 5 and the 19 aren’t going away. Arterial Bus Rapid Transit (ABRT) is planned to supplement, not supplant, our current bus routes that stop every block. Instead, the new lines will be a form of “limited stop” service—kind of like how the 53 has limited stops on Lake Street while the 21 stops at every stop.

Planned stops in the Southside Pride readership area are along Chicago Avenue at: Franklin Avenue, 24th and 26th Streets, the Chicago-Lake Transit Center, 34th, 38th, 42nd, 46th, 52nd and 56th Streets, and Portland Avenue at 60th Street. The pattern is typically one stop every four blocks, with an emphasis on transfer points to other routes. I have noticed one glaring omission: There really should be a stop at Chicago and 48th. Even though there isn’t a transfer point to another route there, it is a commercial area.

In addition to having fewer stops than the regular local buses, ABRT has other features to speed up service: Like the light rail, there will be no farebox on an ABRT bus. You will buy your ticket from a vending machine or tap your GoTo Card at the stop before you get on the bus. Also, the buses will be able to communicate with traffic lights to get longer or shorter green lights when feasible. (Unlike emergency vehicles, buses won’t have absolute priority over the lights, but a computer will have to decide whether it is feasible to give the bus a break on a case by case basis.)

Presently, the A Line on Snelling Avenue in Saint Paul has these features. Yes, the routes planned for this new service were originally intended to be in alphabetical order. So what happened to the B Line? It was originally planned for West 7th Street in Saint Paul, to replace Route 54, but now a streetcar is being proposed instead. Since the C and D Lines were already in the research stage when the B was changed, the letters C and D have been kept to avoid confusion.

One interesting benefit of ABRT is that even the “slow” bus that remains on the route, although stops are still available every block, runs faster and with less crowding as a result of people switching to the faster alternative. Route 84 on Snelling is just about as pleasant a ride as the A Line. I don’t believe Metro Transit anticipated that positive side effect!

As to bad behavior on the “legendary 5”: While ABRT doesn’t exactly solve that problem, at least the fact that drivers won’t be involved in the fare collecting process means there won’t be arguments between obnoxious passengers and bus drivers over the fare. Transit police will show up randomly to check fares, just like on light rail. Now if only we can find a way to ameliorate the effects of the drunk and the high, we’ll be golden.

 

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