B Line Lake St Rapid Bus, Midtown Rail Transit

Roads - Rails - Sidewalks - Bikeways
mattaudio
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Re: Midtown Corridor Rail & Lake Street aBRT (B Line)

Postby mattaudio » May 7th, 2019, 12:51 pm

Look at page 13 in that PDF... Wouldn't this be the right time to adjust Lake Street to a 3 lane profile (at least the quieter sections) alongside skip queues and other transit advantages?

CalMcKenney
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Re: Midtown Corridor Rail & Lake Street aBRT (B Line)

Postby CalMcKenney » May 7th, 2019, 1:05 pm

Slightly new here, but the 10,000 daily riders sounds like a pretty substantial amount for a bus line that has to sit in heavy congestion and is probably not an appealing alternative to walking, biking or even driving if you have the choice. Would a number like this warrant a light-rail, or true dedicated lane BRT, as I would assume there would be potentially a lot more people willing to take transit if it was faster? I'm kind of curious what the daily ridership on bus routes that have now been essentially replaced by the green line were before the green-line LRT existed. Just seems like the main way to really combat traffic in areas like this is to bite the bullet and develop BRT routes with more parts of the route with dedicated lanes or light-rail/streetcar. I understand BRT is cheaper, but the way they have been proposing BRT in the Twin Cities seems like marginal improvements for moderate costs, instead of trying to get large improvements for large costs. I just feel like we are thinking short-term with a lot of these proposals, but maybe someone could explain what I'm missing here, thanks!

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Tcmetro
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Re: Midtown Corridor Rail & Lake Street aBRT (B Line)

Postby Tcmetro » May 7th, 2019, 1:21 pm

As for previous ridership, the Blue Line didn't have any direct predecessors, but reorientated the bus network to feed the light rail line instead of being so downtown focused.

The Green Line replaced the 16 and 50 bus lines, which I believe had a combined ridership of ~18k per day.

The best option for improved transit in the Lake St corridor would be the light rail line in the Midtown Greenway. I wish that the City would redirect their efforts from the Nicollet-Central streetcar (which appears to be dead) to this line.

The "arterial BRT" program is all but BRT. It has all the right elements; TSP, pre-paid fares, frequent service, limited stops, but is missing the most crucial, bus lanes.

HiawathaGuy
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Re: Midtown Corridor Rail & Lake Street aBRT (B Line)

Postby HiawathaGuy » May 7th, 2019, 1:40 pm

Can Streets.MN do a story on the Midtown Rail Option of the B Line and get the Mayor and County on record for something?

alexschief
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Re: Midtown Corridor Rail & Lake Street aBRT (B Line)

Postby alexschief » May 7th, 2019, 2:19 pm

CalMcKenney wrote:
May 7th, 2019, 1:05 pm
Slightly new here, but the 10,000 daily riders sounds like a pretty substantial amount for a bus line that has to sit in heavy congestion and is probably not an appealing alternative to walking, biking or even driving if you have the choice. Would a number like this warrant a light-rail, or true dedicated lane BRT, as I would assume there would be potentially a lot more people willing to take transit if it was faster? I'm kind of curious what the daily ridership on bus routes that have now been essentially replaced by the green line were before the green-line LRT existed. Just seems like the main way to really combat traffic in areas like this is to bite the bullet and develop BRT routes with more parts of the route with dedicated lanes or light-rail/streetcar. I understand BRT is cheaper, but the way they have been proposing BRT in the Twin Cities seems like marginal improvements for moderate costs, instead of trying to get large improvements for large costs. I just feel like we are thinking short-term with a lot of these proposals, but maybe someone could explain what I'm missing here, thanks!
Development of light rail in Minneapolis-St. Paul has basically operated on a two-stage test.

1. Is the ridership there?
2. Is there right-of-way easily available?

The Midtown Corridor passes the first test, but only partially passes the second. It's easy to envision how rail could serve the part of the corridor from the West Lake Station to the East Lake Station (happily, this is the busiest stretch), but difficult to determine how to serve points to the east, especially without spending enormous amounts of money or clawing back a lot of space from cars, both of which have notable political difficulties).
Tcmetro wrote:
May 7th, 2019, 12:29 pm
B Line meeting presentation posted: https://www.metrotransit.org/Data/Sites ... educed.pdf

Interesting is the mention of having more stops (compared to the A, C, D lines) on the B and E lines and eliminating the local bus service underneath.
I hope Metro Transit is able to hold the line on stop spacing. The improvements to the #2 bus on Franklin, of which increased stop spacing was a major component, yielded 6% faster travel times. That's a heavy chunk of the 20% faster travel that aBRT conversion aims to achieve.

Expanding the scope to serve the entire corridor all the way to downtown St. Paul should be the primary priority of this stage in the planning process. Ensuring that the route stops as few times as necessary should better enable that longer end-to-end trip for both riders and operators. Eliminating the University Avenue jog would also help speed trips, but that's a tough call.

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Re: Midtown Corridor Rail & Lake Street aBRT (B Line)

Postby talindsay » May 30th, 2019, 11:59 am

Car traffic east of Hiawatha drops significantly enough that I'm sure they could take the middle of the roadway for rail without trouble.

I've always rather hoped that they'd do something along the lines of what they currently plan for Riverview - use dedicated ROW from West Lake station to East Lake Station, and then do mixed-traffic operations east of Hiawatha.

They could have the tracks dive into a short tunnel on the northwest side of Hiawatha and then emerge from the tunnel in the middle of Lake Street somewhere between 27th and 29th. Continuing in the middle of Lake Street across the river onto Marshall, it would definitely have to convert from dedicated to mixed use somewhere before Saint Paul, as the road becomes too narrow to lose two lanes in the center once it enters Saint Paul. It gets a little tough figuring out a reasonable way to get from the bridge to one of the Green Line stations, but both Cleveland and Prior should have low enough traffic volumes to accommodate a short jog from Marshall to University. I could even imagine using the open-secret Otis to Pelham route, though that's probably too residential to be a good choice. It should be self-evident that running the tracks all the way to the Marshall-Snelling intersection and turning up Snelling as the aBRT plan (and current 21) does would be unworkable. I think I'd lean toward Cleveland, as it would keep the Marshall trackage pretty minimal, and Cleveland itself has plenty of excess capacity between Marshall and University. Turning the tracks from Cleveland to University would be a little iffy, but there's enough light industrial use right there that taking small amounts of land to accommodate the turn shouldn't be too bad.

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Re: Midtown Corridor Rail & Lake Street aBRT (B Line)

Postby Silophant » May 30th, 2019, 12:32 pm

alexschief wrote:
May 7th, 2019, 2:19 pm
Tcmetro wrote:
May 7th, 2019, 12:29 pm
B Line meeting presentation posted: https://www.metrotransit.org/Data/Sites ... educed.pdf

Interesting is the mention of having more stops (compared to the A, C, D lines) on the B and E lines and eliminating the local bus service underneath.
I hope Metro Transit is able to hold the line on stop spacing. The improvements to the #2 bus on Franklin, of which increased stop spacing was a major component, yielded 6% faster travel times. That's a heavy chunk of the 20% faster travel that aBRT conversion aims to achieve.
They talked about this at the E Line community advisory meetings, and what they were saying is that they're looking at more like 1/3 mile stop spacings through Linden Hills, rather than the 1/2 mile spacing they tried to stick to for the A, C, and D lines. So, still wider spacing than the 1/4 mile they went with on the 2, and much wider than the 1/8 mile (every long block) spacing that currently exists.

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Re: Midtown Corridor Rail & Lake Street aBRT (B Line)

Postby Didier » May 30th, 2019, 9:17 pm

To talindsay, I think that assessment of East Lake and Marshall is true for much of the day, but the bridge becomes a major pinch point at rush hour, and removing one or even two lanes of traffic could really back things up. I travel from Fairview into Minneapolis daily, and getting from Cleveland to West River Parkway can easily take 10+ minutes to travel a mile.

I don't really know how you'd get around that short of some sort of massive overhaul to the bridge to add a second deck or something.

My preference would probably to be make something work with the existing train bridge, and then connecting with the green line at Westgate or Raymond, cutting through some of those industrial spaces or maybe piggybacking on some of the highway right of way. Or I suppose you could take the existing track down to Prior and cut up there, but that'd be traveling through a lot of empty space.

I get that running down Lake and Marshall makes for a nice, simple plan, but East Lake isn't very dense, and Marshall is even less. The only housing of any note between the river and Hiawatha are at Longfellow Grill and across the street from Dairy Queen, and both are relatively small, three-story buildings, dwarfed by the average new construction in Dinkytown. East Lake has kind of an eclectic collection of one-story businesses throughout, but east of Hi-Lake there's nowhere that's especially high traffic. Then Marshall has even fewer businesses, and a lot of the housing remains single family. So all of this is to say that I don't think a train bypassing East Lake-Marshall would be all that egregious.

In terms of an east-west train/streetcar in St. Paul, Grand seems like the obvious choice, connecting St. Thomas, Macalester and then all of the businesses on the eastern end. I have no idea how you'd accomplish that, though.

mattaudio
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Re: Midtown Corridor Rail & Lake Street aBRT (B Line)

Postby mattaudio » May 30th, 2019, 9:51 pm

Or just interline a Midtown-Riverview service via the existing Blue Line from Lake Street to VA Medical Center station (with a wye just north of Ft Snelling Station) and you have a one-seat ride from Uptown/South Mpls to Downtown St. Paul via existing planned LRT trackage.

talindsay
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Re: Midtown Corridor Rail & Lake Street aBRT (B Line)

Postby talindsay » May 31st, 2019, 11:53 am

Understand my bias: I live in Cooper.

The Greenway is so far from the activity centers, and my understanding has been that they couldn't use the train bridge both for ROW reasons and for the condition of the bridge. Building a new river crossing, or rebuilding the existing bridge to handle both freight and streetcar, would be cost-prohibitive, and although MN Commercial was interested in abandoning the spur a decade ago, it's apparently profitable now.

I drive across the Marshall/Lake bridge daily during morning rush, and at least a couple times a week during afternoon rush. The bridge itself is never the source of the backup, which originates further up at the Otis, Cretin, and Cleveland intersections, where Marshall is just two lanes. The two-laning of most of Marshall was done a good long time ago and it works well enough, but there's a lot of traffic for two lanes at rush hour. There is, of course, plenty of ROW for more than two lanes of traffic; it's entirely plausible that the existing two lanes could be maintained with dedicated ROW for a streetcar.

Realistically I don't think that would go over well, though. A streetcar with 10-minute frequency operating in mixed traffic would have very little effect on the general traffic flow, and if it were given signal priority (not full preemption) it could even slightly alleviate traffic on Marshall - at the expense of the cross streets, of course.

I expect they won't build rail east of Hiawatha anyway, for the reasons you point out - density, and especially commercial density, drops dramatically once you're east of Hiawatha. It does give high potential for development and densification, of course. As a resident of Cooper I'd love to see higher density along Lake - though I know many of my neighbors would not.

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Re: Midtown Corridor Rail & Lake Street aBRT (B Line)

Postby tmart » May 31st, 2019, 4:14 pm

I'd like to see us be a bit more forward-thinking in our designs than we have historically been, and leave the door open to eventually extending down Lake and into St. Paul, even if it doesn't seem super politically feasible in the immediate future.

I think the strongest corridors are East Lake and Grand, as y'all have discussed above, so the best case for extending IMO is along Lake, south on Cretin or Cleveland, and then following Grand to West 7th and interlining with Riverview for the last segment into Downtown. It's pretty compelling; you could imagine a very long-term goal of a line linking Hopkins, St. Louis Park, West Lake, Bde Maka Ska, Uptown, Lyn-Lake, Phillips, East Lake, Longfellow, Cooper, St. Thomas, Macalaster, all the great commercial along Grand, the most active stretch of West 7th, and finally Downtown St. Paul. That's a lot of high-value urban destinations, many of which have no rail connections, most of which don't have direct connections between them--and all of those neighborhoods and universities would get access to Downtown Minneapolis with a single transfer to the Blue Line.

There are some obvious challenges, too. Taking over lanes on narrower roads and a bridge across the river would be controversial, although in reality those bottlenecks are the most useful places to add a reliable alternative to getting stuck in traffic. I can imagine NIMBYs coming out of the woodwork over the Grand segment. Getting around 35E would be a hairy engineering problem. The West 7th segment could get congested with two lines running it, though this is less of a problem if they use dedicated lanes for this segment, which is entirely feasible.

Ultimately, I think we're better served by deferring and trying to build consensus on those (mostly political) obstacles than by choosing something like the rail bridge route just because it's expedient. IMO this approach would show that we've learned from some of the mistakes of SWLRT.


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