What it's like to have one of the Twin Cities transitways running through your neighborhood?

That's the focus of a new University of Minnesota study.

Research indicates that light rail and bus rapid transit lines typically improve mobility in the neighborhoods they serve and can spark improvements in the area.

But the U wanted to know what residents themselves think of the changes -- especially since two more light-rail lines and a bus transitway, in the south metro, are in the works.

Four transitways were included in the study: the Hiawatha Line between downtown Minneapolis and the airport; the Central Corridor Line between Minneapolis and St. Paul, set to open in 2014; the Northstar Line between downtown Minneapolis and Big Lake; and the Cedar Avenue Busway from Bloomington through Eagan and Apple Valley to Lakeville, set to open next year.

To take the survey, the U randomly picked 160 businesses and 750 households in 16 neighborhoods along the transitways.

Interviewers found that residents along the two urban transit corridors were more positive than residents along two suburban transit corridors about what transit might bring to their neighborhoods.

The suburban residents expressed more neutrality about the transit improvements. Many either expected no real change in their neighborhoods or did not expect the transit to have either a positive or negative effect on their neighborhoods, said Andrew Guthrie of the University's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, who contributed to the survey.

Opinions were collected from June 2010 to October 2011, he said.

The survey asked people if their neighborhood had become a better or worse place to live in the past five years and whether they would expect it to get better or worse or stay the same in the next five, Guthrie said.

Seeing the findings along the Cedar Avenue Busway, Dakota County commissioners suggested that transit officials have some work to do to promote awareness and build enthusiasm for what will be the Twin Cities' first bus rapid transit now set to open next May or June.

The survey found that about 45 percent of 192 people interviewed along Cedar had somewhat positive or positive expectations about how the busway would affect their neighborhood in the next five years.

But about 55 percent had neutral or negative views about how the Cedar busway would affect their neighborhoods. Their reservations included worry about a possible increase in crime and street noise and reduced pedestrian safety.

Businesses showed similar attitudes. Sixty percent of the 40 businesses interviewed along Cedar expressed neutral or negative expectations about how the transitway might affect them. Fifteen percent said they thought it would hurt their business.

Businesses were positive about the busway if they expected customers to ride it, Guthrie said.

County Commissioner Will Branning, one of the busway's chief advocates, said the findings will be helpful in showing how attitudes change once the busway opens.

Mark Krebsbach, transportation director for Dakota County, said the results will direct marketing efforts for the opening. "It would be nice in a few years after Cedar is up and running to see how it's perceived."

Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287