As Metro Transit prepares to launch service of a new bus rapid transit line along the Interstate 35W corridor, planners have been thinking about how residents will reach the route in the first place.
The Orange Line is a 17-mile BRT route that will connect Downtown Minneapolis and Burnsville via I-35W. Scheduled to open in 2021, it will largely replace the Route 535, a line where transfers make up just 20% of passengers, according to Metro Transit senior planner John Dillery. The Orange Line, with its frequent all-day service and larger, nicer buses, is expected to get a lot more transfer riders, he said. So the question is: Where will they come from?
Metro Transit is currently trying to figure that out by surveying riders and hosting open houses to hear how people plan to access the new service. But so far, Dillery said, they’ve heard more from suburbanites than city residents.
The Orange Line will have stations at 46th Street and Lake Street in South Minneapolis, and Metro Transit is trying to figure out how riders will connect there and is open to suggestions. They’re currently studying the bus routes in South Minneapolis and the suburbs, looking for potential changes to make connecting to BRT service smoother. In Southwest, those lines include Routes 4, 6, 18, 21, 46, 146 and 156.
Metro Transit is also hoping to bring in more local riders on foot and bike. The agency is considering ways to improve the sidewalks and wayfinding near the 46th Street station to attract more South Minneapolis residents to the Orange Line. The new transit station at Lake Street will bring better pedestrian access, a direct connection to the Midtown Greenway and more bike parking and should be a much nicer place to hang out than before, Dillery said.
Project manager Christina Morrison said riders will be able to get from 46th Street Station to Downtown in about 13 minutes, and from Lake Street to Downtown in 10 minutes or less.
“It’s going to change the way people in the Midtown area travel,” she said.