The official plan for restructuring St Paul’s bus routes was presented to the Met Council’s Transportation committee the other day, and while there were one or two surprises, mostly fulfilled my expectations (although it didn’t follow my recommendations). Accompanying the presentation was an excellent map – showing the new route structure and symbolizing frequency through line width. Here’s a brief summary of the changes:
- The east-west orientation of the network is still intact. It would have been highly advantageous to riders to change this to north-south to take advantage of the high-quality transfers that would have been newly available on the Central LRT and Fort Rd Rapid Bus. But the presentation notes that many comments exhibited “Loyalty to existing routes” – change is hard.
- They couldn’t bring themselves to straighten out the kink in the 21 up to the Midway. I guess the frequency bump to every 10 minutes for the 84 adds up to a hill of beans.
- The 8 has been absorbed. Everyone saw this coming for this runt of a line. A bit more surprising is what route absorbed it – more below.
- The 94 will be peak-only and no Midway stops or Capitol service. Maybe it’s surprising that a government agency wouldn’t want to compete with itself, but it should be expected anyway.
- A new route called the 83 has been added to Lexington to meet the route spacing requirement of a line at least every mile in one direction and at least every half-mile in the other.
- The 63 has been extended to Raymond & University. They didn’t do it my way, though (that would have been a much bigger change) – they have it dart up Cleveland and over on Summit for two blocks before proceeding up Cretin. That’s not ideal – it splits the service around St Thomas and thereby dilutes it (which my plan also would have done, but at least I kept one line up the length of Cleveland for legibility, whereas they have the Cleveland bus jut over to Cretin at Marshall anyway) and it leaves Desnoyer Park unserved.
- The 65 has been rerouted to Grand, which makes sense because Selby already has the 21 service. But it does lead us to our first surprise…
- The 65 will terminate at Grand instead of continuing downtown. This one perplexes me, as it would have only been another mile to the Smith Ave ramp, which certainly would take riders to more jobs and seemingly would be better for operations anyway. Maybe they’re afraid that once they’re downtown, they’d have to go all the way to SPUD.
- The 67 will be absorbing the 8. It makes sense when you consider that these two routes run on about the same latitude. I’d think that this overserves the stretch of University between Fairview and Raymond, though – using their rough guide for frequency, it looks like the average headway for buses between Cretin and Raymond will be 6 minutes – that’s not counting the train. Another strange quirk is that they’re routing the new 67 up Riverside for a couple blocks and then back down 25th/26th, presumably to better serve Fairview.
- The West Side branch of the 67 will be shifted to the 62 – a logical choice, although I will they had experimented with a crossing at Smith, which then could have gone up Kellogg and John Ireland to Rice for a quicker crosstown. Trips to St Paul CBD would have an easy transfer at Seven Corners.
- The aforementioned 83 – the Lexington bus – appears to terminate at Como and Snelling after a short jaunt down Energy Park Dr. An extension to Roseville via an extensive detour back to Lexington – seemingly designed to deter anyone who wants to get anywhere fast – is penciled in for someday. Here’s an idea – if you’re going to Snelling anyway, why not go the extra mile and a half to the U of M? There are actually destinations there besides Nelson Cheese Shop.
- No circle line! The Central Corridor EIS assumed two changes that didn’t make the cut – one was an extension of the 67 to Fairview, which would have resulted in half-mile grid of service that apparently was considered overkill, and the other was a weird circle line that would have run down Hamline, St Clair, Victoria and University. Maybe this one shouldn’t be in the surprise category, because that route didn’t make much sense in the first place.
They also provided a table showing the proposed frequency of the 23 affected routes:
It seems like most of the St Paul routes in the study are getting a modest frequency boost – the 65, 67, and 87 are all going from every half hour at peak and midday to 20 minute headways, with more evening runs as well. I’m a little surprised they didn’t give the 63 a rush hour increase, but maybe since the area is mostly students and shopping there isn’t as much peak demand (they do seem to be boosting it in the afternoon peak a bit). It’s disappointing that the 62 didn’t merit more service, though not too surprising since it doesn’t have much in the way of a northern terminus.
I’m tempted to say that some of this frequency would be better put to use in Minneapolis, but I’m excited for the opportunity this service improvement provides to St Paul. It wasn’t the news I was looking for, but the results of the Central Restructuring study are good news indeed.
PS the presentation claims that the study final report is online but as of writing it isn’t up yet.
PPS The same Met Council Transportation committee meeting has an update on the Midtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis – including this interesting graphic of a proposed Hi-Lake station and how Wellington wants to build apartments on top of the easement for it: