Three major Metro Transit bus routes across the Twin Cities are slated for a major upgrade. Say goodbye to bus routes 3,10, and 68/62, and hello to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines F, G, and H. Of those routes, the 3 and the 10 are both within, or adjacent to Minneapolis’ First Ward, with the 10 cutting right down Central Ave, connecting Northeast to Columbia Heights and Downtown. The 3 runs near the Mid-City Industrial district, but doesn’t come far within the bounds of the ward.
Four routes were under consideration to upgrade to BRT lines, but only three were selected for the time being. The fourth, Route 4 running down Johnson Street, will be taken under consideration for upgrades again after Metro Transit completes its current undertaking.
What does upgrading to BRT mean? BRT routes offer a faster, more streamlined service that runs every ten minutes, and they feature upgraded bus stops with electricity and heat. For those who ride the 10, expect Central Avenue to get nicer bus shelters outfitted with screens to display route information and upcoming departure times, like a very small train station. Also like a train station, BRT stations come with ticket machines and card scanners so that riders can pay before boarding; riders can hop right on through both the front and back doors of the bus and be on their way quickly. BRT stations are less numerous than normal bus stops, with stations placed every half mile.
Route 10 is set to become the F Line. The 68/62 is becoming the G, and the 3 is becoming the H. Vestiges of the 10 as we know it today will still exist; the route branches off at Central and 53rd. The western branch, along University Avenue for the rest of the route, will become the F. The eastern branch, which connects to parts of Spring Lake Park, will remain a normal bus service.
The decision on which bus routes to adapt into BRT lines was determined by public input. Multiple factors played into which routes were selected. Route 10 had a strong pre-existing ridership, growth potential, and a lot of already-existing infrastructure.
“We saw that it would cost less here [on Route 10] than in the other three corridors to operate a BRT line because of the existing bus services,” explained Assistant BRT Project Director Katie Roth. “We kind of considered it a down payment on construction.”
Roth and a team of surveyors began gathering community feedback from riders in 2019. As the list of candidates to adapt got shorter, and the COVID-19 pandemic became more severe, surveying moved largely online in 2020, though Roth said surveys were still collected at bus stops throughout the year (socially-distanced and with personal protective gear). As ridership decreased due to the pandemic, collected data helped narrow down which bus lines were still fairly active, flagging heavily used and essential routes that needed the most attention. The pandemic reinforced Metro Transit’s idea of which lines form the backbone of their network.
“We needed to balance the challenges folks are facing in their daily lives versus our desire to move forward with these plans,” said Roth, who still wanted to get to people where they were rather than call it “good enough” and move on.
Planning for construction will not begin until later this year. The Metropolitan Council still needs to approve the updates, pending a vote on March 25. Assuming approval, all three routes are expected to be completed by 2030. For the F Line, construction is expected to begin in 2025, and be completed by the following year.
Below: Most of Route 10 will be converted to the F Line, seen above highlighted in blue. A version of Route 10 that brances off towards Spring Lake Park will remain in operation as it exists currently, highlighted in red. (Graphic provided by Metro Transit)