Now that the buses are running on the Cedar Avenue Red Line BRT, what’s next?
Bloomington, Eagan, Apple Valley and Lakeville officials are all thinking about how to make the most of the $112 million bus line by using it to attract new development, which could then spin off more riders.
The Red Line opened in June between Bloomington and Apple Valley with one stop in Eagan, and it may be extended to Lakeville in a future stage sometime after 2020.
The officials plan to work together to create an identity for the line and have commissioned a consultant’s report to be issued by the end of the year on what could be done to attract transit-oriented development at the stations along Cedar, said Jeff Miller, a planner for Hoisington Koeghler Group Inc., consultants who are working with Kimley-Horn and Associates on the study.
Transit-oriented development is housing, workplaces or shops that work well with transit and attract people because of their location near the transit service, Miller said.
Initial findings of the study about the challenges and opportunities at each stop were displayed on placards in the skyway of the Apple Valley Transit Station on Aug. 14.
A key challenge for the Red Line is that it will have to compete for development with the Blue Line (formerly known as the Hiawatha line) from the Mall of America to downtown Minneapolis, with the Central Corridor line between Minneapolis and St. Paul, and with other light rail lines proposed for southwest and northwest Hennepin County, Miller said.
Those lines will be trying to attract transit-oriented development too, and the cities along Cedar will have to consider what it would take for a developer to want to build there, he said.
Station by station, here are the initial findings from the study:
• Mall of America in Bloomington: The MOA transit station where the Cedar BRT connects with the Blue Line is inside the mall parking ramp, which is neither visible from 24th Avenue nor a pleasant place to get on the BRT, the study found. One possible improvement would be repositioning the transit station to give it a storefront entrance visible on 24th Avenue while also widening the sidewalks, planting street trees and making 24th more welcoming and walkable. This could fit in with plans that Bloomington has for the South Loop area next to the mall.
• Cedar Grove Station in Eagan: The challenge is how to make it convenient and attractive for walking and biking. The new Paragon Outlet Center, about a quarter mile from the transit station, is expected to have a high number of employees. The surrounding development could encourage them to take the bus, and the challenge will be finding something compatible both with the mall and the surrounding neighborhood.
• 140th Street Station in Apple Valley: This station is a stop surrounded by a residential area. The goal here is to attract medium- and high-density residential development.
• 147th Street Station in Apple Valley: This is a commercial area, and building transit-oriented development would require redevelopment, Miller said. All buildings in the area are in use and each business has its own parking lot. Putting in more streets would make it more inviting and walkable but the challenge will be attracting someone willing to do redevelopment.
• Apple Valley Transit Station: Development opportunities here include the land owned by the city where the former Apple Valley transit station stands and land that is owned by the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority behind the current transit station.
• Lakeville: BRT service does not yet go as far south as Lakeville. The existing park-and-ride at Cedar and 181st may serve as a station in the future when the service is extended. There now is a shelter and parking for about 200 cars. The challenge for that city will be trying to guide development around the area to transit-oriented development before people — and developers — see the service in place.