Minneapolis Orbital Line

Continuing a series on circulatory transit routing, there is a difficulty providing services in the “suburb-to-suburb” market. The best markets will still be those with major attractions. This route connects a number of education, retail, and employment destinations, as well as connecting all of the radial transit routes emanating from Minneapolis (and some from St. Paul).

Starting on the east side, the line runs north to south from Rosedale Mall, down Snelling Avenue past HarMar, to the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus and State Fairgrounds, south to Energy Park, back to Snelling Avenue past Hamline University, intersecting the Central Corridor, down to Grand Avenue and Macalaster College, along Randolph to St. Kate’s, down Fairview through Highland Park, down Edgcombe Avenue to 7th Street (intersecting, and sharing right-of-way with a 7th Street/Fort Road line), over to Hiawatha LRT, where it shares Right of Way under the Airport. Crossing the River will remain a costly proposition given the narrowness of the existing bridge.
On the south side, it leaves the Hiawatha LRT at Mall of America, and runs along American Boulevard south of I-494 in Bloomington. (the choice of above or below I-494 is tricky, but there seems to be more activity south of the beltway, and it better serves potential park-and-ride).

The line turns North at Edinborough Way and moves over to France Avenue, where it passes Southdale Mall and Fairview Hospital, serving Edina. It runs through the 50th and France district, and then cuts across to the Excelsior and Grand area, following 36th Street until it intersects with Wooddale Avenue, intersecting the Southwest LRT. It proceeds north on railroad RoW to the Cedar Lake trail. It turns north at Park Place Boulevard, with a stop at the new West End development. The line follows Xenia Avenue north to another railroad RoW, and crosses Theordore Wirth park. It runs along Plymouth Avenue until Penn Avenue (where it intersects the Inner Circle), and turns north on Penn until Lowry Avenue.

The Orbital Line follows Lowry Avenue across the Mississippi River, turns south at RR RoW, and then east through Northeast Park and along Ridgway Parkway. It then follows frontage roads of I-35W until it reaches Rosedale Mall.

As with any hypothesized or “fantasy” transit line, all routings are first order approximations and many tens of millions of dollars in design will need to be spent to establish final alignments. There are an infinite number of possibilities (and a very large number of realistic possibilities), this seems from a cursory inspection to be some reasonable routes that have a shot at doing relatively well on an efficiency metric (benefits > costs), though I can make no guarantees of either absolute efficiency or optimality.