Metro Transit is testing its first rapid transit bus line on an urban street. The new A Line is designed to attract more riders by cutting travel time and improving bus service.
Expected to open this spring, planners hope the $27 million line will set the stage for another 10 bus rapid transit routes in the Twin Cities by 2030 intended to complement light rail service.
"As these lines start to go together, we won't have individual lines serving certain areas, we'll have an integrated rapid transit system," Metropolitan Council spokesperson John Schadl said Wednesday during a media tour of the line. "That is going to have an exponential effect on ridership."
The A Line will run from Rosedale Mall down Snelling Avenue. It will then cross the Ford Bridge and end up at the 46th Street light rail station. The line offers access to the Blue Line and Green Line light rail routes.
Metro Transit says the A Line will run 20 percent faster than a local bus. The vehicles only make stops every half mile or so. Riders pay before boarding. And the buses contain technology that can keep a traffic signal green for a few seconds more than usual.
The rapid transit buses also look different. They have wider doors, and lower floors to make boarding easier. And 20 new stations will display bus arrival times.
The new bus line plays a different role than light rail or even highway-based bus rapid transit, said Andrew Guthrie, a research fellow at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The rapid transit lines "are very much about setting a higher standard of quality for local service."
If funding falls into place, the next bus rapid transit line will be built on Penn Avenue in north Minneapolis in 2017.