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Posts in Category: METRO Orange Line

METRO Orange Line Minneapolis

Orange Line at the center of an exciting new chapter for I-35W 

Posted by John Komarek | Tuesday, July 23, 2019 11:18:00 AM


Gov. Tim Walz addresses the media and a crowd at the METRO Orange Line groundbreaking ceremony at the Knox Avenue Park & Ride.

From General Manager Wes Kooistra

Sixty years ago next month, Twin Cities motorists celebrated the opening of the region's first freeway – a roughly 8-mile stretch of Interstate 35W from south Minneapolis to the Minnesota River. 

The section of I-35W that extends from downtown Minneapolis through the south metro is among the busiest roadways in Minnesota. As downtown Minneapolis, Richfield, Bloomington and Burnsville continue to grow, it's only going to get busier, too. 

Which is why, more than a half-century after I-35W opened, we're eager to make transit the most attractive transportation option for commuters and all those who travel along this corridor. 

And that's exactly what we're doing. On Wednesday, July 17, local, state and federal partners gathered to celebrate the execution of a federal grant that will go toward the METRO Orange Line, a 17-mile Bus Rapid Transit line on I-35W. 

Like other BRT services the Orange Line will operate every 10 to 15 minutes and serve high-quality stations at key locations, including I-35W and 46th Street and Burnsville's Heart of the City. 

Several features of the Orange Line have already been completed or are being built, including a new station in the center of I-35W at Lake Street. A new transitway under I-494 will be under construction beginning this summer and work on new stations will be underway next year. 

We expect the Orange Line to open in late 2021, as the state wraps up road repairs and bridge work along I-35W. 

When open, the Orange Line will help people reach hundreds of thousands of jobs downtown – many outside the downtown core – at all times of the day. Residential and commercial development is already occurring at future station areas where plans to support walking, biking and transit are also taking shape. 

Customers will find Orange Line service to be significantly more convenient and reliable, too. 

A bus-only ramp to southbound I-35W, new southbound MnPASS lanes and the I-494 transitway will provide significant transit advantages. Like the C Line, the Orange Line will also feature more spacious 60-foot buses that allow all-door boarding and off-board fare payments. 

While the Orange Line will be the centerpiece of our I-35W service, all those who use transit in this corridor should be excited about what's ahead.

A new bus-only ramp from 12th Street to I-35W will allow hundred of buses to avoid congestion exiting downtown each weekday. This fall, we'll seek input on improvements to dozens of local routes that will connect with the Orange Line.  

The milestone we celebrated last week wouldn't have been possible without the dedication of many employees throughout the organization, community support or the backing of our local, state and federal partners. 

Thank you to all those who brought us to this point and all those who will continue to devote themselves to this critically important project. Together, we are writing a new and exciting chapter in the history of I-35W.

METRO Orange Line Groundbreaking and Funding Ceremony

Bus METRO Orange Line Minneapolis

Key I-35W transit improvements moving forward 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, March 09, 2017 9:48:00 AM

A transit-only access ramp will allow buses to avoid congestion entering and exiting downtown Minneapolis as they travel to or from Interstate 35W.

Two key improvements included in plans for a new Bus Rapid Transit line on Interstate 35W will be built thanks to a key federal approval.

The Federal Transit Administration’s Letter of No Prejudice allows local funding to be used on a transit-only access ramp between downtown Minneapolis and I-35W (right) and a transit station​ at I-35W and Lake Street.

The improvements are part of plans for the METRO Orange Line, which will bring frequent, all-day BRT service to several new and existing stations along a 17-mile stretch of I-35W between Marq2 in Minneapolis and downtown Burnsville. Service is scheduled to begin in 2020.

“We’re excited to move forward with our partners on these critical improvements, which will benefit not just future Orange Line customers but thousands of people who travel on I-35W and Lake Street every day,” General Manager Brian Lamb said.

Like the station at I-35W and 46th Street, the Lake Street Station will be located in the middle of the interstate with two levels, an indoor waiting area and other amenities, serving Orange Line, express and local bus customers. The access ramp will allow 700 buses to avoid congestion entering and exiting downtown each weekday. 

Efforts to secure full funding for the Orange Line are ongoing but the FTA’s approval is important because it allows the transit ramp and Lake Street Station to be incorporated into state-led construction efforts on I-35W beginning later this year.

Local spending on the ramp and station could later be matched by the federal government, which is being asked to cover half of the Orange Line’s total construction costs.​

Learn more about the Orange Line and subscribe to project updates here

Accessibility METRO Orange Line

Expanding access and accessibility on the Orange Line 

| Monday, January 30, 2017 10:39:00 AM

Associate Planner Natalie Westberg directs Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee Sam Jasmine to station features on a layout printed in braille during a recent station design workshop.On Marq2, hundreds of buses pull quickly in and out of stops during the afternoon rush hour. At Interstate 35W and Lake Street, customers ascend a steep set of stairs to wait in what is essentially the freeway shoulder. And at the I-35W & 46th Street Station, buses pull in and out of what seems to be the wrong side of the street as passing trucks and cars overwhelm the senses.

These are just some of the challenges faced by express and local bus customers traveling on the Interstate 35W corridor south of downtown Minneapolis. And they are all the more daunting for members of the disability community.

Planners and engineers working on the METRO Orange Line are attempting to address these and other potential barriers to using transit, though, as designs for the new Bus Rapid Transit line continue to take shape.

A key step in that process came last week, when members of the Council’s Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee (TAAC) met with Metro Transit staff to review station designs and share their initial reactions. Representatives from the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority and cities of Minneapolis, Burnsville and Bloomington were also involved in the meeting.

TAAC members routinely advise the Council on ways to improve accessibility and get regular updates on transitway expansion plans. But the design workshop was a unique opportunity to dive deeper into the plans while there are still chances to make changes.

“These may seem like small things, but if that small thing causes you to miss the bus and you can’t get home that’s not a little thing,” said Kjensmo Walker, who chairs the TAAC. “All of these little components have to work just right.”                                                                                                                      

As Walker and others went through each station, several questions arose:

  • > How can audio announcements – both inside and outside of enclosed waiting areas – be better used to let customers know their bus is approaching?
  • > How can uniformity in gate letters, colors and signage make boarding locations more intuitive?
  • > Is there enough room on platforms for customers in mobility devices to pass safely?
  • > How will sidewalks and street crossings bring people to and from stations?

TAAC member Sam Jasmine, using layouts imprinted with braille, was especially interested in any audio features that would provide cues. Bus annunciators are helpful, she said, but they can be difficult to hear, especially in noisier areas like Marq2 and the freeway.

“It was a little bit humbling making sure I was getting on the right bus,” she said of the last time she boarded at Lake Street.

Feedback from previous workshops has proved useful. After TAAC members reviewed plans for facility improvements at the Mall of America Transit Station, restroom entry doors that could have been a barrier for people in mobility devices were replaced with a wrap-around entrance.

TAAC members have also reviewed stations plans for the Green Line Extension and will look at station designs for the Blue Line Extension and future light-rail vehicles later this year.

Comments provided during last week’s Orange Line workshop will be considered as design work continues. Final designs for the Lake Street Station are due this spring, and other station designs are expected to be completed by this fall. The Orange Line is scheduled to open in 2020.

“We’re starting the conversation today, but we want to continue to hear from this group and all our future users,” Project Manager Christina Morrison said. “This is the type of feedback that not only benefits the Orange Line, but the entire system.”

Jasmine also sees feedback from the disability community as a way to improve the system for all riders. “The rule is if something is good for someone who can’t see, it’s good for everyone,” she said.

Bus Bus Rapid Transit Express Bus METRO Orange Line Minneapolis Suburban Transit Transit Planning

METRO Orange Line more than the sum of its parts 

| Monday, May 19, 2014 12:00:00 AM

From Christina Morrison, METRO Orange Line Project Manager

Bus Rapid Transit is not a new concept for Interstate 35W. In fact, several improvements have been made to set the table for BRT, including bus-only shoulders, the 46th Street Station, MnPASS lanes and the downtown transit corridor known as Marq2.

This infrastructure was built even though the larger BRT project, the METRO Orange Line, was not fully funded. That's one great thing about BRT – it's nimble and can be built in pieces. The Orange Line combines all the station, roadway and service improvements that we’ve been building in pieces for decades to complete the BRT picture on I-35W.

Beginning in 2019, the Orange Line will deliver frequent, all-day service to job, housing and retail centers in Minneapolis, Richfield, Bloomington and Burnsville while relieving congestion on one of the state's busiest roadways. This enhanced transit service will not only serve those traveling downtown but reverse commuters accessing more than 30,000 jobs, as well as services, education and other destinations outside the downtown core.

We know the demand for transit in the I-35W corridor is strong and will continue to grow. In 2012, express and local bus routes in the I-35W corridor attracted nearly 14,000 daily transit riders. Ridership on the limited-stop bus service the Orange Line would replace, Route 535, has increased by more than 15 percent since 2011, topping more than 430,000 rides in 2013.

Existing customers ask why we don't simply put more buses on Route 535, and that’s a good question. While more buses could provide a short-term benefit, investing in the Orange Line strengthens our regional transit network while providing several key long-term benefits:

> Better station infrastructure. Like other METRO lines, Orange Line stations will be more comfortable and accessible -- with on-demand heat, ticket machines, enhanced transit information (including real-time, NexTrip signs) and security features. These stations will not only serve the Orange Line but complementary local and express routes, making transfers easier and more efficient. At the border of Richfield and Bloomington, Orange Line stations on Knox Avenue are also being incorporated into redevelopment plans that will create a more transit-, pedestrian- and bike-friendly environment.

> Reduced travel times. A complete trip on the Orange Line will take around 35 to 40 minutes, one way. Travel times are reduced by allowing customers to pay their fares before boarding and using 60-foot buses with front, middle and rear entries. A new southbound lane exclusively for transit vehicles and carpoolers from 42nd Street to downtown Minneapolis, traffic signal technologies and a new underpass bringing Knox Avenue beneath I-494 will also make for a speedier trip.

> Improved level of service. Route 535 will do the work of multiple local and express routes. The Orange Line will operate on a simpler routing that is more user-friendly, predictable and reliable. Each streamlined trip saves operating dollars that can be reinvested into additional service on the Orange Line and connecting routes in the corridor.

These benefits are explained in greater detail in the recently released draft of the Orange Line Project Plan Update. The update summarizes work that has been done to date and provides an outline of the steps that need to be taken to begin construction.

I encourage you to read through this plan and offer your feedback. Public comments will be accepted through the end of May and incorporated before the Metropolitan Council considers the project later this year.

Your feedback is important to refining plans as we look forward to construction beginning in 2016 and opening the Orange Line for service in late 2019. Please share your input and help us make the Orange Line a success.

For continued updates, subscribe to the Orange Line Project Update newsletter. You can also join the conversation on Twitter (@MetroTransitMN) as we host a "Tweet Chat" about the Orange Line between noon and 1 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20.

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    > I-35W Transit/Access Project

Bus METRO Blue Line METRO Orange Line Midtown Corridor Minneapolis Route of the Week

Route 27: A short route with a big impact 

| Friday, January 10, 2014 12:00:00 AM

An end-to-end trip on Route 27 covers around two miles and takes just 10 minutes. While short, the route has proven to be an important connection for commuters and residents in south Minneapolis.

Joel Oliver is a case in point. Oliver boarded recently at East 28th Street and Park Avenue, using Route 27 to get to the METRO Blue Line’s Lake Street/Midtown Station. From there, he continued south to the Minneapolis VA, where he works in vocational rehabilitation.

“I don’t use a car so public transportation is everything,” said Oliver, who is visually impaired.

While Oliver was traveling eastbound on Route 27, the route is also a strong link for those traveling west from the Blue Line. From Lake Street/Midtown Station, Route 27 buses travel east on Lake Street then venture north on Cedar Avenue to East 26th Street en route to Interstate 35W. Buses return to the Blue Line via East 28th Street.

James Broom is among those who travel westbound on Route 27. Without a car, Broom uses transit to get to his job in Bloomington and uses Route 27 to get to I-35W and Lake Street, where he transfers to Route 535.

“I generally like to bike, but when it’s winter and it's super cold I don’t like to go that far,” Broom said.

Broom works at Wells Fargo’s Bloomington office, but Route 27 is especially important to employees who work at the company’s home mortgage campus on 5th Avenue South. Wells Fargo employee Ludy has used Route 27 as part of her commute for the last 11 years, walking a few blocks to the Blue Line’s 50th Street Station and transferring to Route 27 at Lake Street.

“I take the train for a couple of stops and then this gets me the rest of the way,” she said. “It’s very convenient. I love it.”

Other major destinations along Route 27 include Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Children’s Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota.

Sharon Sanford uses Route 27 to see her doctor every couple of months and was on board this week after transferring from Route 7. Sanford said she elects to take transit primarily for environmental reasons. “I believe in mass transit because there’s too much pollution in the air,” she said.

While Route 27 is designed primarily to serve as a link between light rail and large employers and institutions, it has earned a following from south Minneapolis residents who use the bus to get groceries or shop on Lake Street as well.

Elie Hall is among those who use Route 27 to run errands. Hall began using the bus when he moved into Ebenezer Care Center on Portland Avenue four years ago. “I don’t want to drive anymore so this means a lot to me,” Hall said recently as he returned from the grocery store. “Every place I go, I use transit.”

Route 27 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

ServiceRoute 27 runs between the METRO Blue Line’s Lake Street/Midtown Station and I-35W and Lake Street with service on Portland Avenue, 26th Street East and 28th Street East. Buses run every 10 to 20 minutes during rush hour and every 30 minutes midday, weekdays only. The route serves major employers such as Wells Fargo, Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Children's Hospital and Clinic. Reverse commuters who work in this location are also served by Route 39, which provides limited-stop service on Park and Portland avenues.

Route Length: Approximately 2 miles

Stops: 13 eastbound, 17 westbound

Vehicles: Standard 40-foot

Ridership: Nearly 63,000 customer boardings in 2012, with an average of 217 passengers per day

History: Route 27 service began when the METRO Blue Line opened in 2004. The route was created in part to serve large employers that were not directly connected to the new rail service.

Future: No service changes are planned at this time. However, there are plans for a new transit center at I-35W and Lake Street that would serve express buses and the METRO Orange Line. The Midtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis is meanwhile exploring improvements to service in the nearby Lake Street Corridor.

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