Bus-only lane pilot gets positive feedback

City and Metro Transit leaders received positive feedback on a bus-lane project last year along Hennepin Avenue. The city plans to make the lanes permanent in late August. Photo courtesy of City of Minneapolis

Metro Transit and the City of Minneapolis are reporting positive feedback to a test of bus-only lanes along Hennepin Avenue last month.

Leaders of the city and the transit agency said riders appreciated the lanes and that they appear to have had minimal impact on traffic. The leaders said they’re still analyzing data from the three-day pilot and that it could inform future projects.

“It was very popular,” said Robin Hutcheson, the city’s director of public works. “We got a lot of really positive indicators.”

The pilot came as Metro Transit explores ways to provide faster and more reliable service, which could help make transit a more appealing alternative to driving alone. The agency noted in a press release last month that Hennepin Avenue is one of the region’s busiest transit corridors, with more than 400 daily bus trips and over 3,300 people boarding buses between Lake Street and Franklin Avenue each weekday.

Michael Mechtenberg, senior planner at Metro Transit, said the agency has received positive feedback from riders, residents and businesses about the pilot. He said the agency is considering other ways to provide faster service along Hennepin Avenue, such removing stops and lengthening bus-stop zones.

Metneberg said a bus-only lane along Hennepin Avenue would yield the biggest benefits during times when traffic is backed up, such as during or after snow storms. He predicted there would be modest time savings on most other days.

Hutcheson said the city had only two instances of someone paring a car in the bus-only lanes during the pilot. She said the city did not hear concerns from businesses or people along the street about a lack of parking.

The pilot also came as Metro Transit prepares to begin planning for a rapid-bus project along Hennepin Avenue, to be called the E Line. The E Line would substantially replace parts of the Route 6 bus that runs along Hennepin Avenue, according to the agency.

Rapid-bus lines have faster and more frequent service, enhanced security, pre-boarding fare payment and more comfortable bus shelters, according to Metro Transit. The agency opened its first rapid-bus line, the A Line, on Snelling Avenue, Ford Parkway and 46th Street in June 2016 and plans to open the C Line on Penn Avenue in 2019.