State and local lawmakers who support transit vowed Thursday to improve bus service in Minneapolis, where much of the destruction occurred along Lake Street following George Floyd’s death.
Standing in the parking lot of the damaged Lake Street Target and Cub stores, and near other buildings that were burned, the elected leaders said they’ve requested $55 million in the state bonding bill to help build out the D and B rapid bus lines.
“To rebuild and better serve this area, bus-rapid transit is going to be key to the reconstruction,” said Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis.
The $75 million D line would link Brooklyn Center and the Mall of America by way of north and south Minneapolis, some of the most transit-dependent corridors in the state, and substantially replace the busy Route 5 bus line.
The request for D line state funding has lingered for years. To date, $55 million from the Metropolitan Council and federal sources have been identified to help build the line.
The B line would substantially replace bus Route 21 between Uptown in Minneapolis to St. Paul’s Union Depot, mostly along Lake Street and Marshall Avenue. The cost to build the line is estimated between $55 million and $65 million, with $26 million coming from the Met Council and the federal government.
It’s unclear whether Senate Republicans will support the bonding request, which includes another $20 million for the E line rapid bus connecting the University of Minnesota and Southdale Center in Edina.
So far, two rapid bus lines have been launched in the Twin Cities, the A line in St. Paul and the C line in Minneapolis. Rapid buses operate much like light rail but for a fraction of the cost to build. Passengers pay before they board and, with fewer stops and signal priority at intersections, trips are speedier.
Most of those in the D Line’s service area, or 57%, are people of color. For the B line, it’s 40%. Both the Route 5 and 21 bus routes serve communities heavily dependent on transit service, said Rep. Aisha Gomez, DFL-Minneapolis.
“People ask me, why do folks in the suburbs get big fancy buses while we get the local bus?” she said.
Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, a member of the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee, toured the B and D line routes with his DFL colleagues Thursday.
“I’m here to get educated,” he said. Rapid bus service “makes a lot more sense” than light rail in terms of flexibility and cost, he said.