Minneapolis testing bus-only lanes in effort to ease congestion

Metro Transit, in partnership with the City of Minneapolis, is testing bus-only lanes this week along Hennepin Avenue in Uptown in an effort to ease congestion and provide faster and more reliable transit service. 

“We’re taking advantage of some parking spaces that are along Hennepin Avenue; those will be coned off during rush hours,” said Adam Harrington, director of service development for Metro Transit.

From 6 a.m. to 10 a.m, buses will have a dedicated northbound lane from 26th Street to Franklin Avenue. From 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., the bus-only lane will go southbound from 26th street to the Uptown Transit Center. The test runs until Thursday, May 17th.

“Of course we’d like to do a longer pilot, but I think we can learn a lot from what’s the right width, how does traffic interact with buses, what kind of advantage do our customers see, is there a time advantage,” Harrington said.

Metro Transit is hoping to get feedback from stakeholders like transit users and business owners in the area. 

“There’s going to be more cars in here because students will be graduating, and there will be more bikes,” said rider Susan Schmidtz, who hopes the test will lead to more solutions to congestion. 

But some business owners aren’t happy to see parking spaces removed on Hennepin Avenue, even temporarily. 

“Some people are always late and they always blame it on the parking already, and it’s going to make it even worse,” said Simon Randle, owner of Stilo Cuts Barber Shop. “It’s already a busy area.”

Based on the test results and feedback, there could be further changes in bus service on Hennepin Avenue, including permanent bus-only lanes and eventually bus rapid transit. A proposed E Line would be the fifth rapid bus corridor in the region, but construction would likely not begin until after the year 2020.