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As for technology, BRT buses use beams of light to count passengers as they get on. The buses carry global positioning systems that communicate with traffic signals to keep the buses on schedule. Riders will hear and see stops announced.
To get people on board, rides will be free the first week.
“I want it to be a huge success,” said Will Branning, the former Apple Valley mayor and Dakota County commissioner who shepherded the project for years.
A transit alternative
The astronomical cost of building a light-rail bridge over the Minnesota River Valley between Bloomington and Eagan ruled out light rail for Dakota County, Branning said. “This is going to prove that BRT is an economical alternative to light rail. We can pump a lot of money into BRT just to make it happen because it will never catch up with the cost of putting in light rail.”
Dakota County Commissioner Chris Gerlach, a former Republican legislator from Apple Valley, said the affordability of BRT compared with light rail won the project support from Republicans at the Capitol, including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
“To do that stretch with any kind of light rail would have been 10 times” the amount spent on the busway, Gerlach said. “Light rail would have been literally over a billion.”
The fact that it’s been built in phases pleases Gerlach. It will be extended southward to Lakeville as use increases, he said. “I am a conservative. I like to see a system with as little subsidy and high farebox recovery as possible.”
Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287