Plans for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line through north Minneapolis are still on the drawing board, but a proposed shift in transit funding priorities has city leaders disappointed.
So disappointed that earlier this month the Minneapolis City Council passed a resolution affirming support for the D-Line, which would largely replace Route 5 and operate along Chicago, Fremont and Emerson avenues between Brooklyn Center and the Mall of America in Bloomington.
The Met Council revises its Transportation Policy Plan (TPP) every four years, and that process is now underway. The TPP is a fiscal plan outlining which transportation projects will be funded between now and 2040.
In the current plan, the D-Line is included in the “Current Revenue Scenario,” which is a list of projects that are fully funded and expected to be built in the next 10 years. But in the revised plan, the D-Line was downgraded to an “Increased Revenue Scenario” item. Translation: The line could be built if funding becomes available.
Even with the change in status, the D-Line remains a priority for the Met Council, said Nick Thompson, director of Metropolitan Transportation Services. The D-Line is expected to cost about $80 million, of which the Met Council has secured about half the funding. State bonding money was to have covered the cost, but “that source has not come to pass,” Thompson said. So moving the D-Line to the list of projects to be built if money becomes available better reflects where things stand.
“It is still a regional priority and is a strong project,” Thompson said. “It has broad support.”
Route 5 is Metro Transit’s most-used route. It provided more than 4.95 million rides last year. The bus is a lifeline for many in north Minneapolis, but often it is very slow and packed at all hours of the day.
A BRT line would make trips up to 20 percent faster as buses would stop only at stations spaced blocks apart. Fares would be collected on platforms rather that at the farebox. D-Line buses would also have the ability to communicate with signal control systems to shorten red lights or extend green lights.
A draft to show station placements is expected to be ready sometime in the first half of 2018. By later in the year, the final station plan should be ready. After that, the design and engineering phases would take place in late 2018 and 2019. Construction would begin in 2020 or 2021, pending full project funding.
Streets.mn blogger Nick Magrino said he finds it outrageous that the D-Line would be relegated to a second-tier list while other “marginal projects” that also need federal funding — such as the Bottineau/Blue Line Extension and the Southwest light-rail lines and the Riverview streetcar line along W. 7th Street in St. Paul — advance.
The D-Line, he said, is “cheap, provides better service and buses would be faster. It would improve service for transit riders in our region.”
Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, who represents the Eighth Ward in southwest Minneapolis, agrees. It’s why she helped pass a resolution pushing for the D-Line to stay on the Met Council’s A list.
“This goes through areas where good solid transit service is important for quality of life needs and serves areas with dense poverty,” she said. “This is one of those ‘do it now’ projects. To push it out longer is concerning. This is a top project and we want our support firmly stated.”
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