Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

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RailBaronYarr
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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby RailBaronYarr » October 7th, 2015, 11:28 am

MNdible wrote:This is broadly true on the residential side, but really not true on the jobs side. There are vast chunks of these areas with job densities so low as to be effectively nill. This is the reason that it's so tough to justify robust crosstown service. Every so often, somebody asks some variant of "Why is it so hard for me to take a bus from [somewhere in South Minneapolis] to [somewhere in St. Paul]?" And the answer is because there just aren't enough people who want to make that movement to justify frequent transit service.
I mean, I guess I thought it was clear I meant residential+jobs, a kind of rough metric of total destinations (since work commutes are a small % of total trips taken). But actually, the majority of non-CBD/U/Uptown/Midtown places in Minneapolis actually have fairly consistent and decently high job densities in the 500-2,000/square mile range, which really isn't that much lower than the population densities in those very same neighborhoods. https://imgur.com/o02zY22 vs https://gettingaroundmpls.files.wordpre ... 2/2007.jpg Chicken and egg conversation here, of course, but a more robust system of buses in those markets that doesn't force one or two transfers way out of your way would certainly make living and working within the city a lot easier, right? How many crummy little offices or retail establishments could go along any of those corridors as a result?
FISHMANPET wrote:I don't see why there shouldn't be a route that connects lots of housing to a place where a lot of people work or go to school. The U is the second biggest transit node in the region, after Downtown Minneapolis (and busier than Downtown St Paul). Why wouldn't we have a route that easily connects people to that node?
Counterpoint: to get to the East Bank by the 2 from Nicollet & Franklin at 8 am is a 26 minute trip with 15 minute headways (that can likely be timed fairly accurately). Taking an 18 or 17 to the Green Line and waiting 5 minutes on average makes for a 25 minute total trip. The further east you go, the worse that calculus becomes if your destination is the U and you are trying to catch a transfer rather than a one-seat 2 ride (hypothetically, from Franklin Ave Station the 2 to Raymond Ave Station back to the U would take 31 minutes including a 5 minute wait for a transfer vs current 13 minutes). But imagine a scenario where the 9 and 14 didn't go downtown bu continued on a more northerly route. Between them, the Blue Line, the 5 and the 7 you could basically catch a 1 transfer trip to the East Bank with hardly any time penalty vs a single seat ride on the 2 today. And now you've just opened up a single seat ride from Franklin bus shed to the 67's shed, plus a single transfer trip to any N-S bus the new 2 crosses. Previously, that would have meant a 3 seat ride by going downtown, transferring to the GL, then to any N-S bus route.

I dunno. There's a lot of diminishing returns talk for some improvements that would only cut a minute or two off many bus riders' journeys. Why not take that view the other way - maybe 1-3 minutes saved or a single seat ride for some of these odd routes are worth the tradeoff in vastly expanding the single-transfer job accessibility, which is really important since most of these routes have 15 minute headways at best, carrying a larger transfer penalty (time and perceived).

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby MNdible » October 7th, 2015, 11:52 am

RailBaronYarr wrote:I mean, I guess I thought it was clear I meant residential+jobs, a kind of rough metric of total destinations (since work commutes are a small % of total trips taken). But actually, the majority of non-CBD/U/Uptown/Midtown places in Minneapolis actually have fairly consistent and decently high job densities in the 500-2,000/square mile range, which really isn't that much lower than the population densities in those very same neighborhoods.
So, I'm going to belabor this because I think it's an interesting and important point. I've seen the residence + jobs heat maps, and while they're interesting, I think the residential component actually serves to conceal/dilute the more important influence of the job concentrations. I know not all transit trips are to jobs, but I'd argue most of them are. And most of those that aren't are going to major service or retail centers that happen to be the exact same locations as the job centers. These are the things that really drive transit habits, not residential, which can be fairly diffuse.

As for jobs, it looks like the majority of the area you've shown us here tops out at 1,000 jobs / square mile. Which sounds like maybe it's a lot, but it's really not -- less than 8 jobs per block. And of course, it's actually not evenly distributed -- it's concentrated along the commercial corridors, but the nature of the heat map again suggests that it's more distributed than it really is.

Anyway, my guess is that for every person who would benefit from a crosstown service that would take them directly where they wanted to go, there are another 5 [probably more?] people who are bummed that the next bus that's coming near their house isn't going to go downtown, where they want to go, or where they need to make a transfer.

RailBaronYarr
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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby RailBaronYarr » October 7th, 2015, 1:24 pm

Well, we'll have to agree to disagree on what the majority of that map shows. Excluding parkland, lakes, and cemeteries, I'd say roughly half of the area shown is above 1,000 jobs/square mile. Thanks to all the small colleges in St Paul south of I-94 and decent commercial corridor coverage, that part of town probably justifies a better grid service than parts of South Minneapolis. But anyway, jobs being concentrated along commercial corridors is a feature not a bug when talking transit since those are exactly the streets bus lines with better frequency would run along.

I agree 100% with your last paragraph. Which is why I'd advocate finding the funding to run better cross-town frequencies from cutting back to system-wide quarter mile stop spacing and a few other capital improvements that speed buses up. Or hey maybe the regional or Henn/Ramsey sales taxes that have been tossed about. Not necessarily from cutting the major routes that feed downtown, even if I'd propose a few of the less important ones skip downtown altogether and force a single transfer to a bus that does retain its downtown through-routing or terminus.

Thinking long-game, if downtown is your destination or you need to transfer there, and we have the Orange Line, Bottineau, SWLRT, Midtown, A Line, C Line, D Line, and maybe a Nicollet/Central Streetcar (or ideally some sort of other N-S transit spine through downtown Mpls) in addition to Gold Line, Riverview, and potentially Rush Lines all built (which is the plan, right?), wouldn't a more evened out bus grid make sense? If we're doing the right thing and spending good money running every one of those high capacity trains/buses ever 10 minutes 16 hours a day and every 15 minutes for another couple, and all of them basically feed the downtowns and other job centers, do we really need a bus on Nicollet every 4 minutes between the 17 and 18? Could we supplant standard with articulated buses to ensure no one dies of compression and run them every 7-8 minutes instead? Are there ancillary benefits to a much better bus network for trips that don't go downtown, like making it easier to remove parking for protected bike lanes or increasing the areas that fall under the new parking minimum ordinance or something we haven't thought about?

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby EOst » October 7th, 2015, 1:46 pm

I don't necessarily disagree, but it's worth mentioning that the super-frequent bus service on Nicollet (esp. north of 24th) is amazing, and it'd be a shame to see it slashed completely for higher-capacity but less frequent buses.

SamtheBusNerd
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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby SamtheBusNerd » October 8th, 2015, 7:14 pm

Wow, this has turned into a great discussion. I didn't actually folks would be this interested in talking about local bus service :)

With regards to TVMs, why couldn't we aim to just install them on every bus instead of at stops? Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark has used this system for years and years and it makes for a much faster boarding process. Here's a picture of them, plus a very detailed instruction on how to buy a ticket: https://www.midttrafik.dk/kundeservice/ ... arhus.aspx. If you don't count coach buses (where boarding time is kinda irrelevant anyway), there are 848 buses in Metro Transit's fleet. That's a lot cheaper than outfitting thousands of stops with machines. Metro Transit would have to re-organize the seat layout of buses to accommodate the machines but it could be a good excuse to improve passenger flow anyway.

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby SamtheBusNerd » October 8th, 2015, 7:22 pm

I agree with the earlier comment that every line should be aBRT quality, and I don't think that needs to be expensive. I think the real improvements on these routes are because the bus on these routes is theoretically going to be faster and more reliable. You don't need to spend tens of millions of dollars to make that happen. Occasional queue jumps at bottlenecks, more direct routings, better signage, and bus stop consolidation are all very cheap.

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby grant1simons2 » October 8th, 2015, 7:34 pm

The top 10 or top 5 MT bus routes should be immediately studied for aBRT, and it shouldn't take as long as it has in the past. Wish MT could get a big package from the government to do so.

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby twincitizen » October 9th, 2015, 2:30 pm

All (or nearly all) of the busiest routes have been studied (completed 2011), and the delay is in funding and implementation. I hope things will really speed up once the A-Line is up and running as a huge success, but there's reasons not to get your hopes up too much.

The good: These lines aren't that expensive, at $30MM-50MM per line. Even with minimal federal funds involved and with no increase in the transit sales tax, it would be great to be able to count on the legislature giving Metro Transit $20-25MM out of every bonding bill (even-numbered years) until the system is built out. That's a drop in the bucket of a $1B bonding bill, and ought to score very highly. Given the small size of the aBRT project office at Metro Transit, I think it is reasonable to expect a new line to open every two years. By government standards, and especially transit standards, that is practically a breakneck pace. At this point, opening a line every two years is probably an absolute best case scenario.

The bad: Besides the planning/funding timetable, there's also the sticky issue of planned aBRT lines overlapping with other planned transit investments or studies (see Nicollet-Central Streetcar, Riverview Corridor, Rush Corridor, Robert Street, Lake/Midtown, and West Broadway). All aforementioned corridors (over half of the planned aBRT system!!) have some kind of study ongoing or another mode has been selected. Metro Transit cannot rightfully execute aBRT on these corridors without the local government units in full support. That is not the case right now on all of those corridors. Right now it looks like after the A-line, Penn Ave N (Rt. 19) and Chicago-Emerson/Fremont (Rt. 5) are pretty much the only projects in the queue. If a decision is made to not pursue streetcar on West Broadway, that aBRT line could presumably move forward quickly as well, with North Minneapolis becoming a transit rider's paradise.

Hennepin Avenue is the one that we haven't heard much noise about since the ATCS study was completed. I think Minneapolis is tentatively planning to reconstruct Hennepin in 2020 at the earliest. That is going to be a major project in and of itself, and I'd take the position that it would be unwise to plan aBRT on Hennepin until it can go hand-in-hand with the total reconstruction of Hennepin. Of the remaining corridors, American Blvd scored pretty low, while Robert Street both scored low AND is currently being stymied by the fiscal and political issues surrounding reconstruction of Robert Street in West St. Paul.

Basically, Metro Transit came up with a fantastic plan to improve bus service across the central cities and inner suburbs, but local governments have royally ****ed it up by "holding out" for massive investments in LRT or streetcar that may take a decade or longer, if they happen at all. Your guess is as good as mine as to which, if any, of those corridors will be allowed to "devolve" back to aBRT.

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby MNdible » October 9th, 2015, 2:41 pm

Not sure how much of the per-aBRT line cost is for the new buses required to operate it -- but I'm thinking that the vehicles themselves are not able to be bonded for, as they would depreciate too quickly.

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby twincitizen » October 9th, 2015, 2:50 pm

That may be true. IIRC, a lot of bus purchases are funded through federal CMAQ grants (congestion mitigation & air quality).
Let's not get away from the meat of my comment though, that over half of the planned aBRT system is current blocked by LRT/streetcar projects. Penn and Chicago-Fremont will give the project office plenty to do over the next 3-4 years, but I'm not sure what the hell they do next.

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby Silophant » October 9th, 2015, 3:10 pm

I don't get why Hennepin isn't apparently even on the horizon. It was knocked out of the initial study because it was theoretically dependent on the then-unfunded SWLRT (because the direct route between the two boomingest neighborhoods in the metro isn't enough to support aBRT on its own), but now, with SWLRT (mostly) funded, and the 6 busier than ever, the shortest, cheapest aBRT corridor just languishes in the back of a file cabinet somewhere.

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby mulad » October 9th, 2015, 3:22 pm

I'm pretty certain that's due to a streetcar study like talindsay mentioned.

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby MNdible » October 9th, 2015, 3:25 pm

My suspicion is that the ordering of the aBRT lines was a direct response to concerns about regional transit equity.

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby Nick » October 9th, 2015, 3:39 pm

North Minneapolis was kind of conspicuously left out of the initial study back in 2011-2012, and then they did an addendum thing and added Penn and Fremont-Emerson into the plan. I asked about that last week, and the fellow I was talking to made the comment that the 5 is already running at >10 minute headways for most of the day, which is a good point. The 5th Ward in particular does currently have pretty good frequency/speed.

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby mulad » October 9th, 2015, 9:02 pm

I wish Route 3 was included in the aBRT corridors, especially between UMN and Highway 280 / Eustis, which is the busiest segment in my experience. A somewhat longer corridor reaching Raymond/Cleveland or Snelling would also be great. I've seen Metro Transit folks mumble things about including the 3 on occasion, but I don't know what it would take for it to be officially added. Of course, this is also one of my favorite corridors for a streetcar (yeah, difficult -- but maybe just divert cars to East Hennepin two blocks away?)

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby David Greene » October 10th, 2015, 11:50 pm

Hennepin is in a really unfortunate situation. Maybe. First it had to wait for SWLRT, now as Matt said, it probably has to wait for reconstruction. That may not be such a bad thing. It could give some time to organize an effort for dedicated transit lanes on Hennepin. Even peak-hour lanes would be a huge improvement.

Lake is also tricky. Do it too early and you kill any chance for Midtown LRT. But the longer you wait the longer people on a major transit corridor wait for better service.

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby David Greene » October 10th, 2015, 11:58 pm

mattaudio wrote:Hennepin lanes downtown probably can't be enforced because they're also right turn lanes. Anyone busted in there could just say they were getting ready to turn right.
Well, if a cop sees someone pass through a right-turn opportunity, it'd be a pretty big clue the person wasn't in the lane to turn right.

I really think a lot could be accomplished by painting a solid line and a right arrow in the lanes at every right turn with a "Right Turn Only/Buses Exempt" sign. These are marking drivers are already familiar with. No one recognizes the diamond "right turn only" sign because it is strange and different. At best it looks like a carpool lane, not a "right turn only" lane.

You wouldn't remove all the offenders but I bet you'd get 80% of them out of the way.

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby mamundsen » October 11th, 2015, 8:36 am

Something that annoys me about Hennepin, is there are some short left turn lanes, that backup into the only through lane. I'll admit, I go around in the bus/right turn lane. I'd agree it's a mess. It's somewhat too bad that the Hennepin bridge dumps right into it.

As for improving MT bus service. For me it's all about frequency. 30+ mins between trips seems too long. Also the stop spacing is often too close.

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby RailBaronYarr » April 12th, 2016, 7:51 am

While we're talking in general about airports in the Riverview thread, I was reminded to post some data points for discussion here...

Most folks talk about the MOA and MSP as being important transit destinations because of jobs (low income ones in particular). A few folks have looked down on the idea of better crosstown bus service outside the core because so few people work at points along those E-W routes, with downtown St Paul being too small of a job destination. But the draw of jobs at the end-point of the MSP/MOA area is, well, pretty disappointing. The area bound by 62, 77, the river, and everything north of Killebrew/Old Shakopee road (all of MSP, MOA, HealthPartners, the hotels, etc etc) is home to only 700 jobs of people living in the area of South Minneapolis roughly served by the LRT (bounded by Franklin, Cedar, the river, and 62). This is after nearly 12 years of the line being in operation helping drive live/work patterns (in fact, the same areas actually had 800 people living there and working in the MSP/MOA area back in 2004). Compare that to 670 people living within a ~1/2 mile buffer of W 7th (including downtown) who work in the same MSP/MOA area. Then consider that 450 people live in the area bound by 35th St, Cedar, the river, and 62 and work in downtown St Paul (to say nothing of people living further west in S Minneapolis who would benefit from one or two cross-town improvements).

I know that serving downtown Minneapolis was #1 in the priority for the Blue Line, but the anchor of the MSP/MOA area was a close second in selling the line for ridership and job equity. The job numbers barely support that, or at the very least they tell me running more buses all day long E-W between Minneapolis and St Paul neighborhoods and terminating in downtown St Paul and [?Southdale? ?Excelsior area? ?50th/France then Grandview? ?open to suggestions?] on the western ends might actually be a pretty good idea if we could justify a $700m light rail line.

I can say that after nearly 2 years of commuting from my house at 35th and Fremont S, which is actually served by the high frequency 6 along with the 4 within a reasonable walking distance, that heading into downtown (shorter distance than many who live south of me!) to transfer to the 94 is a real pain in the ass. It's why I bike into downtown whenever possible, saving time there and getting a more favorable transfer point (which is especially important on the way home when the 94 takes forever to get to the west side of downtown). And it doesn't surprise me that my many coworkers living in Longfellow or Nokomis drive.

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Re: Improving Metro Transit's urban bus service

Postby mattaudio » April 12th, 2016, 9:01 am

More reason for my Greenway - Hiawatha - Riverview - SPUD LRT service sub-alignment?
Also more reason for interlining Mpls Crosstown buses into DT St. Paul (23, 46, 515?)


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