A number of transit improvements being explored by the Metro Transit would fundamentally change how people navigate South Minneapolis using public transportation.

A group of stakeholders studying the Midtown Corridor decided last week that a combination of rail on the Midtown Greenway and enhanced bus along Lake Street would be ideal for accommodating passengers traveling both long and short distances.

The route is currently served by the No. 21 bus, which provides a slow trod through one of the city's busiest commercial corridors, and the rush hour No. 53 express. The 21 route is the second-busiest east-west bus route in the entire state, according to Metro Transit spokesman John Siqveland, with about 14,600 riders traveling along it each weekday.

Funding needed for the improvements to materialize has not been identified, however. The expected cost of the project is between $235 and $270 million, not including operating costs. Most of that is for the rail component, with enhanced bus expected to cost about $47.5 million.

Enhanced bus, which will make its Twin Cities debut on Snelling Avenue, features improved bus stops that are spaced farther apart -- every half mile, rather than the standard 1/8 mile (see above). The stops would be built on widened sidewalks and include pre-payment systems, as well as possibly real-time arrival information.

The rail along the Greenway would be similar to modern streetcar, simultaneously being planned for Nicollet Avenue, though somewhat different because it does not operate in mixed traffic.

Trip times would be dramatically reduced from the current bus service, which would take 42 minutes to reach the Hiawatha LRT station from just northwest of Lake Calhoun. The study of the corridor found that the rail trip would take 13 minutes, while enhanced bus would take 30 minutes.

Here is what an enhanced bus stop would look like on Bloomington Avenue (rollover for existing):

And here is what a rail stop would look like along the Midtown Greenway: