State’s first BRT system still waiting to roll

Startup of the Cedar Avenue BRT (bus rapid transit) line has been pushed from November to May of next year.

Dakota county regional rail authority chair Will Branning and others got the news yesterday.

Transit station design and some right of way questions remain to be resolved.

It’s been a long wait for Branning, former Apple Valley mayor, former Dakota county commissioner and now regional rail authority chair who’s been a principal cheerleader for the project.

The wait goes back to the early 1980’s.

Branning remembers the late Carolyn Rodriquez, a state lawmaker whose district included Dakota county, came to him and said in so many words, “What about transit?”

Thirty years later, the sixteen-mile long, $225 million Cedar Avenue bus rapid transit line from Lakeville to the Mall of America is close to, but not quite at the starting line. When (if?) it opens next year, it’ll be the state’s first BRT service.

Place an asterisk by that last statement.

A BRT-like system exists between the University of Minnesota Minneapolis east bank and St. Paul campus on a dedicated, meaning separate from other vehicles, roadway.

Then, of course, there are the express bus lines. These are the BRT-like services that make long runs with limited or no intermediate stops. However, they all share the road with other vehicles and encounter the same congestion.

BRT fans point to the dedicated lane for the buses and preferential treatment at stop lights as big advantages.

The delay in starting the Cedar Avenue service, the funding questions facing BRT on 35W and other routes, puts frowns on the faces of transit fans. BRT, a popular transit option elsewhere in the world and in a small but growing number of American cities, remains in the slow lane here in the Twin Cities.

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