Metro Transit riders who go to the intersection of Franklin and Park avenues in south Minneapolis to catch a Route 2 bus will find that the eastbound and westbound stops have closed.

So have about 25 other stops along the bus line that meanders from the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood in southeast Minneapolis through the University of Minnesota campus and along Franklin Avenue to Hennepin Avenue south of Loring Park. Other bus stops have been relocated.

On Saturday, Route 2 began operating with fewer bus stops as part of a pilot project to speed up travel times on Metro Transit's second-slowest route. Only the Route 21, which runs along the Lake Street corridor in Minneapolis and continues across the river on Selby Avenue to downtown St. Paul, runs slower than the Route 2.

With an average of more than 6,000 boardings on weekdays, Route 2 is the eighth-busiest route on the Metro Transit system and carries about one in seven people who use the Franklin Avenue corridor. In addition to the U, the route passes through several business districts and is used by many riders to connect to the Blue and Green light-rail lines.

But the route crawls. Buses are in motion just over half the time. With closely spaced stops, Route 2 buses spend about 20 percent of every trip picking up or dropping off passengers. On a typical run, buses spend 25 percent of the time stuck in traffic or sitting at one of the 50 intersections with stoplights.

All that adds up to a route with slow trip times and low on-time performance, said Metro Transit senior planner Michael Mechtenberg.

To speed things up and improve reliability, Metro Transit recently cut the segment that used to run on Riverside Avenue between 25th and 27th avenues and on Franklin between 26th and 27th avenues.

As of Saturday, Route 2 — with its 183 trips each weekday — will now operate in the same vein of bus rapid transit (BRT).

Stops on Route 2 are now about a quarter-mile apart instead of on every block or two as they had been before. That compares with stops about every half-mile along the A-line BRT, which runs on Snelling Avenue in Roseville. Fewer stops could translate into trips that are 10 percent faster.

"Every minute is valuable to riders," Mechtenberg said.

In the coming weeks, bus shelters at Route 2 stops that have been closed will be moved to stops that have 30 or more boardings a day but don't have shelters. New shelters for 12 stops without them are on the way, too, Mechtenberg said.

Metro Transit also plans to install Transit Signal Priority (TSP) along Route 2 some time next year.

TSP allows computers on buses to communicate with stoplights to request longer green lights or shorter red lights, but not get lights to change from red to green like police cars, fire trucks and ambulances can.

Metro Transit has TSP on the Red Line from the Mall of America to Apple Valley, the A-line and Route 10 on Central Avenue. This month, the agency is expected to complete installation on the busy Route 5, with testing extending into November, spokesman Drew Kerr said.

If stop consolidation and TSP on Route 2 translates into faster trip times and increased customer satisfaction, Mechtenberg said Metro Transit might try similar improvements on about a dozen other heavily used urban routes.

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