The Riverview Corridor is proposed to run between downtown St. Paul, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and Bloomington Minnesota, roughly along W. 7th Street (Fort Road), though there are some alternatives which deviate through the old Ford Manufacturing Facility in Highland Park. Recently, some alternative have been evaluated for different routes and technologies. The results were presented on a board. Bill Lindeke took a photograph, and I put it into Excel so I could compute the “In progress” numbers. The table is cut and paste below:
Draft Evaluation Summary: Most Promising Alternatives
|2040 Ridership||New Riders||Transit-Dependent Riders||Capital Cost (2015$)||Operating Cost (2015$)||Operating Cost/ Rider||Capital Cost/ Rider|
|3||BRT||W 7th – Hwy 5/ Ft. Snelling||14,100||2,300||3,700||415M||10M||709||29,433|
|4||Rail||W 7th – Hwy 5/ Ft. Snelling||20,400||2,700||4,600||1,010M||23M||1,127||49,510|
|5||BRT||W 7th – Ford Site||12,400||1,300||3,300||615M||23M||1,855||49,597|
|6||Rail||W 7th – Ford Site||19,000||1,800||4,400||1,210M||28M||1,474||63,684|
|7||BRT||W 7th – CP Spur – Ford Site||11,100||1,000||2,900||620M||14M||1,261||55,856|
|8||Rail||W 7th – CP Spur – Ford Site||18,400||1,500||4,200||1,250M||28M||1,522||67,935|
|9||BRT||W 7th – CP Supr – Hwy 5 – Fort Snelling||13,300||1,900||3,600||450M||10M||752||33,835|
|10||Rail||W 7th – CP Supr – Hwy 5 – Fort Snelling||19,600||2,200||4,500||1,090M||23M||1,173||55,612|
I don’t place a whole lot of stock in these (or other forecasting numbers), and certainly wouldn’t be confident in saying that rail to Fort Snelling will get more riders than rail to the Ford Site based on the a 5% difference in model outputs and some assumptions, but the general idea is right, Rail is more expensive than BRT. Modelers believe it will attract more users, but not enough to justify the cost. The winner, as always in this region, is Arterial BRT (what most people might call Rapid Bus). (Even if different model results somehow put it below No Build in ridership, I am sure that will change). Arterial BRT has both lower capital and operating costs per rider, by a lot.
Long-time readers may recall that line was planned to be the ‘B Line‘ until St. Paul self-sabotaged in 2014 and delayed that in hopes of chasing the mirage of a future streetcar line. The B-Line would be running this year, and St. Paul would have a second successful Arterial BRT. These plans are a decade away. The moniker ‘B Line’ has been reassigned by MetroTransit to the Lake Street/Marshall Avenue line. At best it is now at position F in the queue.
The more important point is not that a single Arterial BRT (like the successful A Line) attracts fewer riders, it is that you can do 5 of them for the price of one rail line and get probably twice as many riders overall. The key is not the technology, it is the frequency, directness, and reliability of service. I expect you could do two Arterial BRT lines (one down W 7th, one to the Ford site), at 10 minute headways throughout the day, 5 minute headways where they came together if you didn’t want to do an express route, and be far better off in terms of both service, ridership, and cost.
Some history on earlier studies of this route (this has been studied for decades now) can be found at this post. The reason it is 5th in the queue for regional LRT lines (after Hiawatha/Blue, Central/Green, Southwest/Green, and Bottineau/Blue) is because its ridership is inherently weaker. Downtown Bloomington plus St. Paul don’t make downtown Minneapolis. It has a weaker argument than other Arterial BRT corridors, notably Lake Street, Chicago-Fremont, and Hennepin Avenues as well.