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Orange Line FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

What is BRT service?

Bus rapid transit – or BRT – is a package of transit enhancements that adds up to a faster trip and an improved experience.

  • Frequent service 
    Service so frequent you won't need a schedule, along with fewer stops than local routes so you'll be moving more of the time.

  • Train-like features
    You'll pay your fare before you get on for faster boarding and wait at enhanced stations.
  • Enhanced stations with more amenities
    Real-time departure signs so you'll always know when the bus is coming, enhanced maps and signage.
  • Enhanced security
    Stations with cameras and emergency phones, fare enforcement by Transit Police and improved lighting.
  • Specialized vehicles
    Unique, recognizable buses with wider aisles and additional doors so more people can get on and off easily.

How is Orange Line service different from an express bus?

Orange Line station and other improvements will also benefit express bus routes in the corridor. At many stations, a customer will be able to choose between express and station-to-station service based on the length of trip, destination and time of day. The Orange Line will be slower than a non-stop express trip over the entire 17-mile corridor. However, frequency and span of service will be greatly enhanced to destinations throughout the corridor, providing more options for people traveling in both directions, seven days a week.

This graphic outlines how Orange Line provides a new service option, and is different from existing express and local routes.

Why was I-35W selected for BRT?

I-35W is already Minnesota’s busiest commuter corridor, with 26 express bus routes, and one limited-stop route (Route 535) providing station-to-station service. There are about 14,000 daily bus riders on I-35W South. This existing, high demand led the Minnesota State Legislature to pass a 2003 bill which mandated that MnDOT study the feasibility of BRT on I-35W. In 2010, Highway BRT along I-35W was incorporated into the Metropolitan Council's 2030 Transportation Policy Plan. The Orange Line will significantly improve this route, while utilizing improvements that are already constructed and operating.

Read the I-35W Bus Rapid Transit Study report here.

What will be the frequency and service hours?

The Orange Line is expected to run every 10 minutes during rush hour and every 15 minutes during midday, evenings and weekends, with less frequent service in the early morning and late at night. During rush hour, express buses will supplement Orange Line service.

What kind of features will stations have?

Orange Line stations will provide a comfortable, secure waiting space and a variety of customer amenities.

These features include:

  • Bike racks
  • Litter receptacles
  • Information about the stop / route / system and neighborhood
  • Real-time information signs
  • Security cameras
  • Emergency telephones
  • Station lighting
  • Push-button heating
  • Ticket machines for off-board fare purchase using cash or credit card, or for recharging a Go-To Card

Will the Orange Line have Park & Ride facilities?

Yes. The Orange Line will serve three existing park & ride facilities: Burnsville Heart of the City municipal ramp, South Bloomington Transit Center, and Knox Avenue.

Will this new service replace any existing routes?

Yes. The Orange Line will upgrade and replace the route 535. Although Orange Line service will not provide a one seat ride to Normandale Community College (NCC), travel to NCC will be enhanced. The frequency and reliability of service to NCC will increase with transfer opportunities at 98th Street.

How much will it cost to ride the Orange Line?

The Orange Line will have the same fare as local bus and light rail. There will be no extra charge for the service.

When will construction begin? When will the Orange Line be open?

Construction on the northern end of the project began in 2018 under MnDOT's 35W@94 project, with the next phase of work planned to begin in 2019 in the I-494 area, pending federal funding. Orange Line is expected to open for service in 2021.

What will make the service rapid?

Traveling in high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) MnPASS lanes saves time spent in congestion or at traffic signals. Making fewer stops will significantly speed up travel time. It will help buses stay better in sync with traffic flow.

  • Low-floor buses and raised curbs at stations, plus wider bus doors and boarding from the front and back, will speed up boarding.
  • Ticket machines will allow customers to purchase tickets before boarding. There’s no need to line up and wait at the bus farebox.

Will BRT vehicles have priority lanes?

Yes. Orange Line vehicles, like express bus routes, will use the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) MnPASS lanes while on I-35W. Once downtown, Orange Line buses will use transit advantages on Marquette Avenue and 2nd Avenue.