Red Line (Cedar Avenue BRT)

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mulad
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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby mulad » June 19th, 2013, 12:44 pm

MSP Business Journal claims the line is up and running today. Maybe someone got confused about the buses doing route training/testing?

http://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/m ... ounty.html

Also, I noticed that scheduled arrival times (but not real-time info) has started to be published by the NexTrip API under route 903, though the Red Line does not yet appear on Metro Transit's website.

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby mattaudio » June 19th, 2013, 12:54 pm

Still wishing this continued past MOA to Downtown St. Paul via West 7th, replacing some 54 frequencies.

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby mattaudio » June 19th, 2013, 12:58 pm

The 15 minute headways would match up quite well with the 54...
http://metrotransit.org/Schedules/WebSc ... ?route=903

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby twincitizen » June 19th, 2013, 1:09 pm

I agree that it should go further than MOA, like at least to the airport so people don't have to transfer at MOA (side rant: and then ride the tram and walk a mile to the actual terminal...holy crap is the Terminal 1 LRT stop far away from where you actually need to be)

The funding scheme and the fact that it is operated by Schmitty & Sons dba "MVTA" is an issue with regards to extending through St. Paul. But yeah, I agree the Red Line would be a good match with West 7th. It would also stop Ramsey County from trying to waste time and taxpayer money on more Riverview Corridor studies when Metro Transit is already working on aBRT.

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby Tcmetro » June 20th, 2013, 11:54 am

Cedar BRT Express services are still performing quite poorly, the 477V Lakeville service is averaging 21 riders per day, and the 475 Cedar Grove service is averaging 72 riders per day. Looks like the Red Line service is expected to have 975 riders per day upon opening (IIRC, stats I saw a few years ago showed the 442 with 500-600 riders per day), and 1600 in 2017.

http://www.mnrides.org/sites/default/fi ... outs_2.pdf Pages 48 and 72

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby mattaudio » June 20th, 2013, 12:07 pm

Lakeville commuters either use the 465 or they drive to AVTS and use the 477. One solution would be to implement market pricing for parking at P&Rs, so it would be more expensive to park at AVTS compared to other lower demand P&Rs.

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby mattaudio » June 21st, 2013, 9:33 am

Explains everything that's wrong about this project:
http://www.startribune.com/local/south/211646251.html

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby woofner » June 21st, 2013, 9:56 am

I'd say that article more explains everything that's wrong about our culture, or maybe even the human condition.
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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby talindsay » June 21st, 2013, 10:54 am

Yes, it's hard to imagine what it will actually provide: not a practical alternative to parking at the Mall, since mall parking is free and distances are too short for gas prices to matter. Not a one-seat ride to any northern destination, since a transfer is required at the MOA to get anywhere interesting north of the Mall. Not a good alternative for city folks heading south since it doesn't even get you to the MN Zoo. I can't imagine commuters using it since the express buses are faster and well-timed for commute service. The ridership expectations are modest but still seem hard to reach. We'll see.

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby mulad » June 21st, 2013, 11:40 am

I wrote about the Red Line for my post today on streets.mn: https://streets.mn/2013/06/21/red-line/

In the process I also finally got around to uploading photos I took of the Apple Valley Transit Station back in October last year: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mulad/set ... 242850172/

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby David Greene » June 21st, 2013, 1:44 pm

Really unfortunate headline in the Strib today:

http://www.startribune.com/local/212427361.html

Apparently they updated the headline on-line. My paper copy has, "Bus version of light rail, BRT, set to roll."

"'We are developing the service that we hope will become the model for the state,' said Dakota County Board Chairwoman Kathleen Gaylord."

God I hope not!

"The busway will have three years to prove itself"

What's with that? I haven't heard of any such provision before.

"The astronomical cost of building a light-rail bridge over the Minnesota River Valley between Bloomington and Eagan ruled out light rail for Dakota County, Branning said."

"'To do that stretch with any kind of light rail would have been 10 times' the amount spent on the busway, Gerlach said. 'Light rail would have been literally over a billion.'"

Yeah, well, check the price tag of the Green Line and the extension. A billion dollars isn't unreasonable for a line. The question of course, is whether ridership justifies it and in this case I'd say no. Extending the Blue Line south makes more sense from a user experience standpoint but I don't see how the cost of doing so could be justified.

But this project is the worst of all things. It's really a highway expansion project disguised as transit.

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby talindsay » June 22nd, 2013, 9:30 pm

I rode the red line from the moa to cedar grove this afternoon and have to say that while it's a *nice* bus line, there's nothing light rail like about it. The boarding platform at the mall feels like an after thought and the drivers have a lot of trouble lining up with the load platforms. The buses themselves are nice but nothing special, and they feel very small with the bike racks stuffed inside. I think they have less capacity than a normal transit bus, but they aren't any more comfortable so the space to me feels poorly used in such a small vehicle. Light rail cars can afford to waste space because they're huge -very long, but more importantly, very wide and tall.

I was waiting for a red line bus to take me back to moa but in the mean time a 444 came, so I jumped on that. Funny enough the 444 was also offering free rides for the red line opening, and it was a good chance to ask, what makes the red line different from the 444 service? Honestly, nothing important. Both buses drive on the freeway like a normal bus in the right lane; both buses pulled of the highway and looped around on regular streets to reach both stations. They were about equally comfortable, but the 444 clearly could hold more sitting passengers.

The improvements to cedar for the red line will benefit all buses on the corridor, and so it becomes hard to understand why somebody would wait for the custom labeled bus and not just jump in whatever bus comes first, as I did. I guess it seems to me that they should talk about all the buses in the corridor together - there's really nothing special about the red line buses per se.

There's really nothing light rail about the service. I do hope buses in the corridor do well, all evidence on my ride indicates that passengers were happy with buses but also that nobody was distinguishing the red line from the others - at cedar grove station everybody boarded the 444 for the mall instead of waiting an additional 10 minutes for the specially marked "brt" bus.

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby MSPtoMKE » June 22nd, 2013, 10:51 pm

I wasn't planning on riding it today, but I unexpectedly found myself with the day off (no power at work!), so I made an impromptu trip. It was mainly what I expected, some serious flaws, but there are nice elements. The stations are pretty nice, except the bench-less platform at the Mall of America. It is pretty fast, except of course that fun detour to Cedar Grove. Level boarding is nice, but it runs slowly in order to get in line with the platform. Basically a lot of "this is nice, but-"s to describe it. Here's a link to a set of the photos I took of it:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mspdude/se ... 276912912/

Image
Southbound Apple Valley Platform by MSPdude, on Flickr

Anyways, it isn't as if we haven't cut any corners with our current and future light rail lines, so maybe we shouldn't only look for the flaws in the Red Line?

I will say one thing. Before this opened, there is no way I would have taken a trip down to Apple Valley by transit without any planning in advance, as this trip was. Sure, I had to wait a bit at the Mall to make the connection, but I knew I wouldn't be waiting until, say, monday. ;)
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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby mulad » June 23rd, 2013, 4:05 pm

I rode it on Saturday. I think I've only taken the bus to Apple Valley twice before (once to visit the zoo, and another time to visit AVTS), so I'm a long way from understanding the route structure down there. Despite some freeway travel on those trips, I remember long, slow, circuitous routes (though they may have been made worse by the construction on Cedar). At least this Red Line trip and back didn't come with that foreboding sense of, "is this bus really going where I think it is?" or "will I ever get there?" I'm pretty sure my St. Paul to MN Zoo journey was 4 trips (3 transfers) and around two hours each way, and my directions from Google Maps had me transfer at this forlorn bus stop at the corner of Nicols Road and Diffley Road.

Checking again today, it looks like Google still suggests 84 -> BLU -> 444 -> 440, with transfers at Hiawatha/46th, MOA, and Nicols/Diffley, even though the last transfer can be accomplished at Cedar Grove (Google's algorithm doesn't like the doubling back either). I see there are a few peak-period 440 trips on weekdays that run to/from the VA Medical Center station, but those ones skip past the zoo. Not that I really advocate restructuring routes south of the Minnesota River just to make zoo access easier -- heck, the zoo is pretty close to the Palomino park-and-ride which should turn into a Red Line stop someday. The zoo could easily operate shuttles to Palomino when that gets built (or maybe a new monorail? I'm kidding, mostly).

I generally think it's a good idea to put more bus service along highways -- That makes use of the general speed of the roadways, but it also puts transit right in the face of the driving public and in places where they would generally go anyway. In this sense, the Red Line is just as interesting from a marketing perspective as it is from a technological/operational one. The mental road map of a typical Twin Citian has the freeways painted in thick, bright lines, while local roads become a gray, tangled mass, even in areas with a good grid. The big drawback of highway bus routes is that they don't hit centers of population or business corridors very well -- highways often split them apart, such as along I-494 in Bloomington. There's little or no bus service along I-494 despite the need for some congestion relief, but simply adding buses into the existing mix could be an exercise in futility since businesses in the area are oriented more toward 76th/77th Streets on the north side and American Boulevard on the south side.

Highway bus routes are often unwalkable, almost by definition. They work better with feeder buses, but there's always a tradeoff between a faster single-seat express ride, often restricted to peak hours, or more frequent service that requires more transfers. I think the latter case is often best, since it tends to be a more comprehensible system overall. The highway nature of the Red Line also means that it doesn't require all that much equipment or staff resources to operate -- With scheduled end-to-end service of 27 minutes, it looks like they'll just continuously run two buses on weekends and four on weekdays (pretty sure redisciple or someone else noticed that a while back in this thread).

The buses themselves are fairly nice. Nothing too fancy, but it's good that they have big windows and bright interiors. Is this the only MVTA route where the buses have two doors? They're wider doors than normal, and there's even a small window out the back. The windows are sealed, so the A/C has to be functional -- but all/most MVTA buses have sealed windows (open windows would be annoying on the highway anyway). I didn't ride with anyone in a wheelchair or see any bikes on board, but someone in a wheelchair did get off at MOA when I was boarding to go south. It's pretty silly that they drive the buses so slowly to try to get perfect alignment with the platform, but they still have to deploy a big ramp at the driver's door for wheelchairs. I think most BRT systems avoid trying to get perfect alignment and instead rely on short, rapidly-deploying ramps instead. The Cleveland Healthline has a little ramp that shoots out of the floor like a tongue, and manages to stop, load/unload, and get going again just as fast as LRT (shown starting around 1:35 in this video):



I hope Metro Transit will come up with a good solution for the "Metro Direct" system (or whatever it's going to be called).

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby planetxan » June 23rd, 2013, 9:11 pm

I did the Red Line yesterday. Here is what I noticed:

The MoA platform sucks.

The Cedar Grove station sucks because a) it is in a bad location, and b) it has only one platform. We had to wait for a northbound bus to unload and load before we could pull up.

After these stations it gets better. The line is much less confusing than the previous bus set up. I may even be more willing to go to Apple Valley than before (once or twice a year vs once or twice a decade).

The Go-To reader on the back door is nice, but it is going to be taken out by a bike eventually. There were already tire marks on the bus I was on. There were a couple of bicyclists. It was an awkward experience for them, but once the bikes were settled in it was not so bad.

The robot girl audio announcements need some work. Surely they can use a recording of a real person. They also do not announce when only the front door is to be used at the smaller stations.

The 'stop requested' system was working even though the bus stops at every stop regardless. This takes time on the display when more important info should be displayed and has accompanying audio that gets obnoxious if the bus takes too long pulling up to the platform, which for now they do. People were visibly frustrated by the long pull up time at the station.

The NexTrip signs at the AVTS do not list the platform where the connecting buses stop.

All in all it was an okay busing experience, an improvement over pre-BRT transit to/from Apple Valley. I think people are underestimating the significance of the branding and simplification of the system. But I am reluctant to equate it with LRT, either in branding or function. All that said, the Apple Valley/Cedar Ave experience was scary. I found it almost easier to use the bus, transfer at AVTS and head back north rather than crossing the street/highway.

I don't really see this as BRT, compared to BRT that I have seen in other places. It seems that if a regular, rather than an articulated bus is all that is required for a route, then it is not BRT, no matter what the amenities are. Or at least, it tells me that BRT is not justified for such a route. This route much closer resembles regular bus service in other places I have been, like China. It is easier to understand, and easier to use, but it is still just a bus.

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby Mdcastle » June 24th, 2013, 6:31 am

As someone who refuses to ride buses, what I'm hearing goes along with what I understand, that BRT may be something more than a slow, stinky city bus, but it's not anywhere close to "LRT on rails" and calling it that cheapens the branding of the system. I think some people would ride it that won't a regular route, but to a lot of people, including me, it's ultimately still a bus.

Would commuter coaches directly from the park and ride lots to the Mall and downtown have been a better option? I understand too that some people will ride coaches that won't a regular bus.

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby mulad » June 24th, 2013, 7:33 am

City buses are a lot less stinky these days. I've had trouble with diesel exhaust ever since I was a kid and the line of buses outside my elementary school would pump out huge plumes of gunk, but increased emissions regulation on diesel engines over the last decade has reduced the problem dramatically. It's something that has made it a lot easier for me to ride the bus, so I figure it's worth pointing out. Body odor will always crop up from time to time, but I think internal air filtration has become easier to do now that particulates from the engine have been virtually eliminated.

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby David Greene » June 24th, 2013, 8:45 am

Mdcastle wrote:As someone who refuses to ride buses
I've always been curious about this when I hear it from people. What makes a bus unappealing to you? I'm not trying to play gotcha, I'm genuinely curious. What could be done to improve the bus system to attract riders like you? For me, the most unappealing aspect of the bus is when some riders get out of control. Metro Transit needs to do a *much* better job of enforcing good behavior.
Mdcastle wrote:Would commuter coaches directly from the park and ride lots to the Mall and downtown have been a better option? I understand too that some people will ride coaches that won't a regular bus.
This one confuses me too. What's the difference? Some of the older Metro Transit articulated buses even have very nice spongy seats.

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby mattaudio » June 24th, 2013, 9:09 am

I was in on the Congress for the New Urbanism's Transit Forum in Salt Lake City last month, and an engineer from the NYC MTA had some very interesting analysis on this bus vs. rail bias that's hard to quantify. The ability to multitask or relax.

On rail, or express service on coach buses, users are able to take advantage of their time on transit to conduct business, read, etc. This is much more difficult on our local bus routes where the motions are not smooth... lots of gas, brake, and swerving in and out of the traffic lane for stops.

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Re: Red Line (Cedar BRT)

Postby mulad » June 24th, 2013, 9:35 am

Yeah, and beyond pitching and rolling, there are times when I can barely read (either printed text or on a screen) due to vibration from the engine or the crappy road surface, and on a bus it gets worse when I lean against the window or side of the vehicle -- a problem I don't have at all on the Blue Line. The Red Line benefits from fresh pavement on the CR-23 section, and the MN-77 freeway is smoother than local roads (and will likely be more well-maintained in the future too). I noticed Nicols Road to the Cedar Grove station is getting pretty bumpy.

I'm a little curious how well the outside bus lanes on CR-23 will stand up in future years. Presumably they're built like regular travel lanes. I went on a route 860 bus from St. Paul to Coon Rapids a week ago, and there were segments the shoulder on I-35W where strings of potholes meant the bus either had to nudge into the rightmost driving lane or do a little off-roading(!). Buses are heavy and do a lot of damage to pavement -- I'm not sure if the bus-only-shoulder program has really taken that into account.


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