Big changes are coming this spring for commuters who ride Minnesota Valley Transit Authority buses, as service on at least eight routes will be affected when a new rapid bus service begins operating on Cedar Avenue.

The agency will hold two open houses, Thursday night and next week, to show plans and seek input on the proposed changes on routes 420, 437, 438, 440, 441, 442, 445 and 475, which the MVTA operates in the southern suburbs of Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan, Rosemount and Savage.

Parts of some routes will be eliminated. Others will be modified. A few will be expanded to provide local service seven days a week. Most will connect the new bus rapid transit (BRT) line that officials hope will be the primary mode of public transportation from the southern suburbs to the Mall of America, MVTA spokeswoman Robin Selvig said.

"This is a pretty big deal," Selvig said. "We are looking for riders to weigh in and tell us if this looks good, if there are places we are missing the boat, and if we are providing a service that is useful."

Bus company representatives will give presentations and answer questions from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Eagan City Hall and again from 5 to 7 next Wednesday at Apple Valley City Hall.

The new 16-mile BRT line, to be dubbed the Metro Red Line, will use buses to transport people along Cedar Avenue from 215th Street to the Mall of America. The line will operate much like light rail, but instead of trains, buses using shoulders on Cedar Avenue will provide station-to-station service.

Tim Harlow