BRT on the Midtown Greenway

In a recent post: Do or do not, there is no plan, (a Yoda reference for the Star Wars challenged, where “plan” is a verb rather than a noun) I complained about over redundant planning, speed of implementation, and paralysis by analysis for inevitable projects like the Midtown Greenway transit line. Google churns up 26,400 links for Midtown Greenway Streetcar Plans Minneapolis, so this is hardly a novel or under-considered concept. Pick one.
Is this a good project? Or how could it be a good project? I was not intentionally clear on that, since the point wasn’t whether I liked it, but why spend so much money on planning for something you will do anyway (If I correctly read the powers-that-be).

However, if you wanted to design a transit corridor, something in the Midtown Greenway, already pre-grade separated exclusive right-of-way with no traffic lights, one block off a major activity link (Lake Street), connecting high-frequency LRT at either end, with major activity at Uptown, LynLake, Midtown Global Market, and the Kmart at Nicollet is about as good as you can ask for, along with all the crossing bus (or future streetcar services once Minneapolis gets its way). The only wish is that it were somehow wider to accommodate bicycles and two lanes/tracks of transportation service continuously with room for stations and more greenery. But constraints are what create great design.

This of course should, like almost everything in the Twin Cities, be bus rather than rail based. It should be real high-frequency bus rapid transit, with stations and payment before boarding, and with informational signs. It should have electrical vehicles to reduce local emissions (the exact technology I will leave to vehicle engineers, whether it be on-board or via cable or wireless). Nice looking BRT with grass down the middle (as in the attached picture [the vehicle of course could look nicer]) along most of it. It would more or less operate like the most successful transit system in the Twin Cities, the University of Minnesota’s Campus Connector.

Why BRT and not rail? This was mostly explained here, but there is one further point: reducing transfers. Buses can enter and leave the greenway at either end (and with some additional ramp construction, somewhere in the middle) and then continue on to other destinations (e.g. the University of Minnesota, St. Paul to the East, The I-394 corridor to the west) which might not otherwise have direct rail service from the Midtown Greenway, or might not have it yet (e.g. the idea to tie the Midtown Greenway into St. Paul) since construction is not instantaneous.
One expects stations every half mile or so, at major crossings, but BRT would provide the possibility of express services on the corridor that skipped some stations.

2 thoughts on “BRT on the Midtown Greenway

  1. Would you say the between an electric bus or streetcar that noise issues are at parity? This would seem to me a strong advantage for the quieter of the two given the Greenway’s bucolic aspirations. My guess is rubber wheels have the advantage, so long as brakes are well-maintained.
    Perhaps I have not dug into this deeply enough, but wouldn’t the width requirements of a busway + curb (even if guided) be challenging compared to streetcar? Or could this concern be mitigated by simply reducing permissible travel speeds?


  2. I am no expert on the noise characteristics of various modes, but electric should be quieter than fuel-powered engines, and rubber tires should be a bit quieter than steel, but that seems a relatively minor point.
    The width requirements can be significantly reduced for bus with curbing and some differential GPS to guide the bus in the guideway. This is used now on the Bus on Shoulders on Twin Cities highways, and would be fairly straight-forward to implement on an exclusive RoW BRT I should think, especially as technologies advance in a few years. Perhaps surprisingly the Montreal and Paris Metros both use rubber tired vehicles, though they are specially designed for the guideway.


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