C Line Bus Rapid Transit set to transform Metro Transit Route 19

One of the Northside’s most familiar bus routes is set for transformation over the next two years

Metro Transit’s Route 19 travels east out of Downtown on Olson Memorial Highway and extends through North Minneapolis via Penn and Xerxes avenues. The route is not set to change in terms of geography, but it will be a wholly different mass transit experience.

That’s because the Route 19 corridor has been selected for bus rapid transit (BRT), a package of enhancements meant to shorten travel times and improve rider experience. The new C Line will serve North Minneapolis starting in 2017, provided funding and construction move ahead as planned.

A new form of mass transit for Northsiders

What features define BRT? In a series of community meetings at Northside locations last month, Metro Transit officials provided explanation of just what bus rapid transit is and the benefits it brings to communities. Features include:

Fewer stops. Instead of picking up and dropping off riders at every block, BRT stations are spaced out over several blocks, up to about half a mile. Local service still makes all stops, but BRT commuters benefit from a streamlined trip that gets them to and from Downtown faster.

Neighborhood-scale stations. BRT commuters can safely wait for transit at mini-stations that are similar to those seen on the city’s light rail lines. Heat, lighting and trash receptacles are included. An emergency call box is available for security. And real-time bus departure information helps commuters plan travel.

Curb extensions. Regular buses travel in and out of traffic, pulling over to the curb to pick up and drop off commuters before merging back into the travel lane. BRT buses always travel in general traffic. Curb extensions, or bump-outs, extend to the travel lane, allowing riders to embark and disembark buses.

Pre-boarding payment. Also included at BRT stations: a machine for paying fares. Allowing riders to buy tickets before a bus has arrived quickens boarding – no more waiting in line for people to put money into an on-bus fare box. Police officers will help to enforce payment.

A faster, more secure commute

All of these enhancements are meant to create an improved rider experience and reduced ride times. BRT along the Route 19 corridor will result in buses running more frequently—every 10 minutes, the same as light rail schedules. Travel times will be reduced by 25 percent.

Mass transit through the Route 19 corridor is already efficient: Buses carry 25 percent of the commuters traveling on Penn Avenue while making up only three percent of the vehicle traffic.

Still, Metro Transit says, getting people through the corridor more quickly has to be a priority. Today, more than 7,000 commuters ride Route 19 buses each weekday. By the year 2030, that number is expected to surpass 9,000.

BRT makes sense as a solution due to the number of riders it can carry and the efficiency of its operation. Larger, vehicles with three doors have greater capacity than traditional buses, and drivers can gain traffic signal priority by requesting early or extended green lights to keep things moving.

Making BRT a reality in North Minneapolis

Metro Transit has been working to bring bus rapid transit to the Route 19 corridor since 2013. Over a lengthy planning phase, officials have worked with neighborhood groups, including Penn Avenue Community Works, to identify intersections best suited for BRT stations.

That work has resulted in a Draft Station Plan, which Metro Transit officials presented at last month’s series of community meetings. In these forums, residents had the opportunity to review which intersections are slated for BRT stations and what enhancements they might expect to see.

Metro Transit officials were on hand to collect feedback from residents. The goal: Get feedback from those most likely to be most impacted by the C Line’s development.

Comments and concerns from these meetings will be brought back to officials responsible for the next planning and design phases of the C Line BRT. The next iteration of the project, which will incorporate community feedback, is set for next spring.

If you missed the community meetings about the C Line, it’s not too late to offer your perspective. You can review plans and offer feedback on the special project page Metro Transit has created for the project (metrotransit.org/c-line-project).