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“It may take a little time, but we think that eventually the advantages of BRT will be demonstrated and people will use it more as they get used to it,” Hansen said. Because the Cedar busway is the first BRT line in the metro area, “We know that people are watching. We will certainly have to be monitoring the usage levels.”
One generator of rides for the busway is expected to be the Paragon Outlet Center, just off Cedar next to the Cedar Grove station in Eagan, set to open in August 2014.
“It’s going to be a very convenient walk from the station to the center, ” said Jon Hohenstein Eagan’s community development director. The center will have 1,600 parking spaces, but arriving by BRT is “going to be a very convenient alternative.”
The Metropolitan Council, which owns the busway and sets transit policy for the metro area, will give the BRT as much as three years for ridership to grow before drawing any conclusions about its success, said Arlene McCarthy, director of metropolitan transit services for the Met Council.
“When you start a new service like this you need to give it time to mature,” McCarthy said. Ridership for new transit lines can take years to mature because it takes time for businesses to locate along the busway, for people to make housing and employment decisions that include the new transit and for people to be educated about the service, she said.
High development hopes
Apple Valley and Eagan expect the BRT to prompt construction of new housing and business development along or near Cedar.
In Apple Valley, a developer is planning to break ground Aug. 1 on the 322-apartment Parkside Village within a half mile of Apple Valley Transit station. Apple Valley has space for more development in its downtown and larger sites for business in 400 acres of land being reclaimed in a former gravel mine, Nordquist said.
The BRT will be a great help to the city in promoting that development, he said.
“It’s business that wants efficient accessible transit services” for employees, he said.
Apple Valley is not a distant suburb, but the transit line brings it closer to the heart of the metro area, Nordquist said. “We are 15 minutes from the airport. And we are closer and more functional with regional transit service.”
In Eagan, there is land near the outlet mall location that could be developed for a mix of uses. The city recently received a proposal for the construction of a new apartment building there.
“We are looking forward to great potential for transit oriented development in that area,” Hansen said.
Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287