Crews this week are expected to finish installing a special lane on 7th Street in downtown Minneapolis that will be reserved exclusively for transit buses.

The lane designated with bright red paint, pavement markings and signs will stretch from Chicago Avenue near HCMC to 1st Avenue N. near Target Center and the First Avenue nightclub. The city and the transit agency are sharing the $320,000 cost to put in the lane.

When it opens, Metro Transit buses will have their own space to roll 24 hours a day.

Bus-only lanes in Minneapolis first appeared as a trial in 2018 on a portion of Hennepin Avenue in Uptown and later became permanent. The lanes are designed to keep buses moving and offer more consistent travel times. Data showed the lanes on Hennepin reduced delays by up to 34% on regular traffic days and up to 81% when congestion was at its worst, such as on snow days.

"They make transit more reliable and a dependable option for downtown workers and residents," said city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie. They also "increase the capacity of the street to move people in and out of downtown efficiently, make transit more enjoyable, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing idle time."

More than 400 buses carrying about 3,300 people use Hennepin on weekdays. Before the red lanes went in, routes on Hennepin were among some of Metro Transit's slowest.

Positive results seen on Hennepin spurred Metro Transit and the city to bring bus-only lanes to 7th Street. Several local and express routes travel on 7th Street, including Route 5, which is among Metro Transit's most-used routes. The C-Line, a rapid bus line running from downtown to Brooklyn Center, and the new D Line when it begins running next year or early 2023, will operate on 7th Street, making it a natural fit for the special lane, said Metro Transit spokeswoman Laura Baenen.

Bus lanes also support goals outlined in the city's 10-year Transportation Action Plan: climate, safety, equity, prosperity, mobility, and active partnerships, McKenzie said. And they help Minneapolis move toward its goal of having 60% of trips taken by walking, biking or transit to help achieve climate goals, she added.

With its arrival on 7th Street, Minneapolis joins other U.S. cities such as Boston, Baltimore and Portland, Ore., with dedicated bus lanes downtown. And the lane on 7th Street might just be the start.

"We will continue to identify corridors for other bus-only lanes," Baenen said.

MVTA Connect expands to Eagan

The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority's on-demand ride service, Connect, is now operating in Eagan.

Riders can use the "Ride MVTA" smartphone app to arrange trips anywhere in the city. Drivers can issue same-day transfers allowing passengers to hop from Connect to a fixed route line at the Eagan or Cedar Grove transit stations or take another ride on Connect.

The curb-to-curb service operates from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. Fares are $3 and can be paid using cash or credit card.

Studies have shown people are less likely to use public transportation if they are more than a mile from the nearest transit station or bus stop. Services like Connect can bridge that gap and help riders reach their final destinations.

MVTA Connect also operates in Savage, Apple Valley, Burnsville and Rosemount.

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