South metro bus riders could see significant changes on several local and express routes as Metro Transit looks to revamp service in conjunction with the opening of the metro area's next rapid bus line.
Proposed changes include cutting two express routes from Bloomington to downtown Minneapolis and replacing them with new shuttle services connecting riders with the Orange Line, a station-to-station bus service that will begin operating along Interstate 35W later this year.
New local service would be introduced in some places while other current local routes through Richfield, Bloomington, Edina and south Minneapolis would be restructured. In total, 11 routes would be affected under the proposed changes presented Monday to the Metropolitan Council Transportation Committee.
"It certainly is a significant change to routes in the area," said Cyndi Harper, Metro Transit's manager of route planning.
The redo is similar to one that Metro Transit did in 2014 when the Green Line opened. At that time, many bus routes were redesigned to get riders to the light-rail train by incorporating stops at or near light-rail stations. In this case, it's to streamline operations and make it easier to get to jobs and on the Orange Line, which will run from Minneapolis to Burnsville, Harper said.
With the Orange Line to provide frequent all-day service in both directions, seven days a week, Metro Transit plans to scrap express route 597 from southwest Bloomington and express route 535.
New routes operating on Lyndale Avenue, American Boulevard, Old Shakopee Road and on 98th and 76th streets would replace the local portion of both express routes, funneling passengers to Orange Line stations at American Boulevard and 76th Street.
In another change, Metro Transit is proposing a new route running from the Mall of America through Richfield and Edina.
The east-west route largely following 76th and 77th streets would stay north of Interstate 494 and connect to the Orange Line at the 76th Street transit station.
A second east-west route staying south of I-494 would follow American Boulevard and 82nd Street traveling from the Mall of America to near Hwy. 169 in Edina.
For some riders, the makeover will mean taking a new route and making a transfer. Others will only have to adjust to a new route number.
"They may go from a one-seat to a two-seat ride, but with a reasonable travel time," Harper said, noting that a transfer from a local bus to the Orange Line might add up to 4 minutes to a trip. But the new rapid bus line will also provide express service every 10 minutes and for more hours of the day.
Revamped routes also could make it easier to get from 66th Street in Richfield to 98th Street in Bloomington, a trip that now is extremely inconvenient and requires multiple transfers, Harper said.
"There are trade-offs," she said.
Metro Transit is accepting feedback on the plan through Feb. 22. A survey is open in both English and Spanish on its website. The agency also will host virtual community meetings Feb. 6 and 9 and a public hearing on Feb. 10.
Harper said Metro Transit will make adjustments to the plan based on feedback and report back to the Met Council in June. Route changes would not take effect until the Orange Line is up and running, Harper said.
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768