A new kind of Twin Cities bus service that promises faster routes and improved stops is beginning to take shape.
The so-called "arterial bus rapid transit," showcased during an open house Tuesday at the Roseville Library, is slated to make its debut along Snelling Avenue — connecting to the Central Corridor light rail — in late 2015. Similar service may eventually extend to high-ridership routes that have been studied throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The new service aims to make riding the bus a faster, less complicated process at a fraction of the cost of major rail investments such as light rail.
The 9.7-mile Snelling project is expected to cost $25 million, compared to $1.7 billion for the 15.8-mile Southwest light rail project. A proposed 3.4-mile streetcar line in Minneapolis, touted more as an economic development tool than rapid transit, would cost more than $200 million.
The Snelling "A" line will stop every half mile, compared to the local Route 84 which stops every eighth of a mile. Transit signal priority will reduce time stopped at red lights. Rush hour buses now spend about 25 percent of their time at red lights, according to Metro Transit.
Overall, Metro Transit says the "A" line trip times are expected to be as much as 25 percent faster. Local buses would continue to run local trips, however.
New shelters will feature preboarding payment, similar to light rail, as well as route maps and real-time arrival information. Other shelter amenities include roof-mounted heaters and security cameras.
The "B" line, planned for launch in late 2016, will follow West 7th Street from downtown St. Paul to the airport and Mall of America.
Next in the queue, according to a Metro Transit presentation, is a "C" line that would run along Pennsylvania Avenue. That could open in 2017.
Other corridors that have been studied for the improved service include Chicago-Fremont, Hennepin Avenue, Lake Street, Robert Street, West Broadway, Central Avenue, East 7th Street, Nicollet Mall and American Boulevard.
Improved bus service of this type is taking hold in other cities across the country. The Seattle area has five similar lines, called RapidRide, while Kansas City has several MAX Line routes, with more planned.
Unlike more traditional bus rapid transit, the arterial concept does not feature dedicated lanes.
Tuesday's open house in Roseville was the last of four May open houses on the new service. A recommended plan on the final number and location of stations is expected in June, with Metropolitan Council action following over the summer.