Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Not big

A tidbit jumped out at me toward the bottom of the Star Tribune article about this morning's crash that temporarily closed down Interstate 94 through the Lowry Hill Tunnel:
Disruption to Metro Transit bus service has been minimal so far, spokesman John Siqveland said. One express route, No. 652 running between Minnetonka and the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, is being diverted from its usual path through the tunnel and onto downtown surface streets, Siqveland said.
Okay, route 652—and? Well, looking at Metro Transit's interactive map, it turns out that 652 is the only bus route that goes through the tunnel—and it only has two inbound runs in the morning and two outbounds in the evening.

Admittedly the route is an express to the University of Minnesota, so it's running at reduced frequency during the summer, but it's galling to think that so little effort has been expended to balance mode share through the most significant freeway bottleneck in the Twin Cities.

There were 164,000 vehicles using the tunnel each day in 2007, so even if the buses were pretty full, four per day probably only represents a total mode share of 0.05%. I hope things are a bit better during the regular UMN school season, but clearly the share of transit users would still be tiny: It'd take 15–20 times as many buses to reach just 1%.


  1. I'd think that an express from the Brookdale-Brooklyn Park area would be feasible. Maybe they'd consider more NW Metro-U of M expresses as feeders when Central LRT opens.

  2. I'm guessing Metro Transit buses don't go through the tunnel because most buses go to/through downtown. I'm not really sure I'd want to be on a bus that has to go through the slow tunnel traffic, anyways.

  3. It's certainly true that buses currently focus on the downtowns, so there isn't much need for it with the way Metro Transit does things today. I'm fairly convinced that they should operate differently, however -- using the highways much more extensively, and setting up a system of express station nodes so that people can leap from one sector of the metro to another with relative ease, and then use local buses once they get there.

    It seems to me that most of the people driving through the tunnel aren't going to or from downtown. The question is, where are they going, and can any of them be served by buses? Adding more transit through the tunnel could significantly increase the total throughput of people.

    While tunnel traffic is "slow", it's still much faster than the 5–10 mph speeds that bus riders experience on the surface streets in downtown.

    Mn/DOT does have HOT lanes on the radar for the tunnel, so it's important to look at what could be carried in those lanes other than cars.