Metro transit officials are building a new rapid bus line to shuttle riders from Brooklyn Center to downtown Minneapolis, the newest line in a push to build out the Twin Cities' transit network.
"Here we are standing out in the cold in Minnesota celebrating something," said Gary Cunningham, a Metropolitan Council member who represents north Minneapolis, at Tuesday's groundbreaking. "This really matters. These projects are not easy things to do."
The $37 million C-Line, like other rapid bus routes, will feature fewer stops while aiming to offer riders a more comfortable experience and reliable service — sort of like light rail, but at a fraction of the cost to build (and with much less controversy). Passengers pay in advance, can wait for their ride in heated shelters, and enter through two doors at the front and rear of the bus, making service more efficient.
Buses do operate in traffic, so there's no way to avoid a roadway pocked with potholes, or traffic snarls, although buses have technology to coax traffic lights to green.
The region's first rapid bus line, the A-Line, opened in 2016 to mostly rave reviews. Ridership along the route — along Snelling Avenue and Ford Parkway in St. Paul, connecting Rosedale Center with the Blue Line 46th Street station — surged by more than a third in its first year.
The Met Council plans 11 more of these lines throughout the Twin Cities, and the C-Line is next up. There is $50 million in Gov. Mark Dayton's bonding proposal that would help build bus projects like the D-Line, which would run along the heavily traveled Route 5 bus corridor between Brooklyn Park and the Mall of America.
Met Council Chairwoman Alene Tchourumoff noted in a statement that the Twin Cities region is expected to add 700,000 more people by 2040.
"That's nearly the entire state of North Dakota," she said. "With it, they'll bring an 80 percent increase in transit demand," prompting the need to build out a regional transit system.
Funded with federal and local money, the C-Line will travel largely along Penn Avenue and Olson Hwy. in north Minneapolis when it opens in spring of 2019, culminating at the Brooklyn Center Transit Station. It will largely replace the busy Route 19 local bus service, which carries one out of four people traveling on Penn Avenue today.
Metro Transit says there are more than 7,000 rides taken on the Route 19 each weekday. However, C-Line ridership is expected to grow to 9,000 rides a day by 2030 — the buses are expected to be 25 percent faster than those now in use. They will also feature the region's first electric buses, running on rechargeable batteries and producing no tailpipe emissions.
Minneapolis City Council Member Phillipe Cunningham said transit investment is crucial to attracting economic development to the area. Council Member Jeremiah Ellison cautioned that he wants to make sure "that an infrastructure project doesn't lead to displacement of residents" pushed out by higher rents.