The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA) wants to eliminate an entire bus route, merge two express runs and cut back three underperforming routes as part of a plan to revamp service south of the Minnesota River.
Under the proposal, some local buses would run every two hours on weekends or, in the case of Route 437, not at all. Two express runs from Shakopee and Prior Lake would be combined into a single route, and the popular all-day express route between Burnsville and downtown Minneapolis would have fewer midday trips on weekdays.
The agency this summer took inventory of its 33 bus routes and ridership patterns to identify places where cuts could be made to save money, eliminate overlaps and plan for expansions such as a new park and ride in Savage, said MVTA Executive Director Luther Wynder.
“Our goal is to get more productivity out of these routes,” he said.
MVTA staff will talk with riders at transit stations in Prior Lake and Shakopee on Wednesday. They also will hold a meeting from 4 to 6 p.m. on Aug. 21 at the Cedar Grove Transit Station with a presentation at 5:15 p.m. The agency is accepting comments on its website through Aug. 24.
The plan would ax Route 437, which runs between the Cedar Grove and Eagan transit stations with stops at the Blue Cross Blue Shield campus. It also connects with the Metro Red BRT Line, but the line overlaps with Route 445. At times, Route 437 buses carry fewer than three passengers.
Another local route, 440, which runs from Apple Valley and Eagan to the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center, would operate during peak hours only with select midday and late-night trips. Weekend service would drop from hourly to every two hours.
Local Route 442, running from Burnsville Center to the Apple Valley Transit Station, would operate hourly instead of every 30 minutes on weekdays; weekend service would be every two hours. Trips to be cut often carry two or fewer passengers, the agency said.
Express Route 465 from Burnsville to downtown Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota would operate hourly on weekdays at midday instead of every 30 minutes. Some Route 493 express runs from the Marschall Road Transit Station would be combined with express runs that serve other park and ride lots. Route 493 would be rebranded as Route 490 and 490X.
Comments will be reviewed by the MVTA with a decision possible by mid-September. Any changes would go into effect in November.
Nothing is set in stone, Wynder said. “We are saying this is what we’d like to do, but we need feedback from the public,” he said.
If approved, the changes would affect about 1 percent of the current schedule and save the MVTA $750,000 to $1 million. The agency’s annual budget is about $30 million.
The savings could be directed toward a growing list of priorities. There also are hopes of beefing up express service from the southern suburbs to downtown St. Paul, expanding routes to serve businesses in Scott County and adding east-west service in Dakota County.
Next week, MVTA debuts service to Dakota County Technical College.
MVTA provided just over 2.9 million rides in 2017. As of July, ridership is down about 1 percent in 2018.