Skip to main content

Connecting Bus Service

Connecting Bus Service Study

Metro Transit is conducting a study to inform the bus service planning in the I-35W corridor area in Minneapolis, Richfield, Bloomington, and Edina. We hope to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of transit service in the area and to provide strong connections to the new METRO Orange Line bus rapid transit service on I-35W.

Public participation throughout the study is important. Using the travel data collected via customer surveys, bus stop outreach, public meetings and open houses, initial service recommendations will be developed and presented for comment in early 2021. The Final Plan will be approved in spring 2021 and changes will be implemented with the expected opening of the new Orange Line bus rapid transit service in late 2021.

Metro Transit periodically reviews service in a sector or sub-regional area in response to changing travel patterns and significant updates in the transit landscape, such as the opening of a new transitway. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major disruption in the transit landscape. Most of the corridor’s express routes remain suspended thru 2020. Service will be adjusted as needed based on ridership, new travel patterns and budget availability. In the wake of this situation, express routes may be changed with the introduction of the METRO Orange Line. The Orange Line Connecting Bus Service Study will revisit transit needs in this study area as well as effectively coordinate local and express bus routes with the new BRT line.

Study background 

METRO Orange Line BRT is scheduled to open in late 2021 between Minneapolis and Burnsville. The 17-mile Orange Line will replace Route 535 Minneapolis – Bloomington with frequent (every 10-15 minutes), all-day service between downtown Minneapolis and Burnsville. Service frequency will be improved most significantly in Bloomington and Burnsville. South of downtown Minneapolis, stations are planned at Lake Street, 46th Street (existing), 66th Street, 76th Street, American Boulevard, 98th Street (South Bloomington Transit Center), and in Burnsville, at Heart of the City and Burnsville Parkway. High-capacity, three-door 60-foot articulated buses will be assigned to the Orange Line. Off-vehicle fare collection, like that on light-rail lines, will be employed to speed up service. Travel time end-to-end is projected to average 40 minutes, resulting in average speeds over 25 miles per hour.

Ridership models project that a majority of Orange Line riders will transfer from bus or rail service to reach a BRT station, so high-quality connecting bus service will be essential. By 2030, the Orange Line is projected to carry double the weekday rides now provided by Route 535.

Study area 

The study area and route map, shown here, is bounded by the Mississippi River on the east, I-394 on the north, Highway 169 on the west, and the Minnesota River on the south. The Study Area is urban in the northern half, including downtown Minneapolis, and covering many neighborhoods in south Minneapolis, and suburban in the southern half, covering Bloomington, Edina and Richfield. Although the Orange Line extends to Burnsville, this study will not include areas south of the Minnesota River because this area is served by a separate transit provider, Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA).

There were 22 bus routes operating in the study area that are likely to complement the Orange Line outside of downtown: Routes 4, 6, 7, 11, 18, 21, 27, 46, 53, 146, 156, 515, 535, 537, 538, 539, 540, 542, 553, 554, 558 and 597 as of September 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruption and led to significant service reductions. Express routes 553 and 597 are greatly curtailed. Express routes 53, 146, 156, 554, 558 and local routes 537 and 542 remain suspended thru 2020. Study area routes are indicated in bold lines on the map shown here.

The routes are included because they connect with the Orange Line at a station, can be modified to connect with the Orange Line at a station, or may have service improvements to enhance the network of routes in the corridor, even without a direct connection.

The existing bus routes that may have the most significant changes due to the Orange Line:

  • Route 535, because the Orange Line will replace it,
  • Route 539, because it will make a direct connection between I-35W and Normandale Community College
  • Route 542, because it is best positioned to provide a direct cross-town connection at Knox/American Station for access along the entire corridor south of I-494 in Bloomington. Route 542 may not be part of the opening day plan due to the effects of the pandemic. Even without Route 542, Route 540 is well positioned to connect the north side of the I-494 corridor and the Normandale Lake Offices with the Orange Line at Knox Ave & 76th St.

Project Timeline 

Evaluate Existing Conditions  / August-October 2019

Stakeholder/Community Engagement  /  October-November 2019

Develop Concept Plan   /  2019-2020

Review Concept Plan, Public Comment Period  /  Early 2021

Plan Revision  /  Spring 2021

Final Plan Approval  /  Summer 2021

Implementation  /  Late 2021

Existing Conditions Report 

This report addresses the existing conditions of the routes in the METRO Orange Line Corridor, examining the markets and unmet opportunities that exist for the current transit service being provided and evaluates its effectiveness and efficiency. It sets the foundation for exploring potential new connecting service with the Orange Line, transit market opportunities and facility needs. It documents the development patterns, major attractions and destinations in the study area as well as current and potential future travel patterns.

Outreach & Feedback Summary - Phase 1

This summary describes the outreach activities and survey results from the initial Pre-Concept Plan phase of the Corridor Study.   

Email us

If you would like to receive project updates or pass along your comments, please e-mail us at

Photo of people discussing transit with planners