Red Rock Corridor Commission Approves Implementation Plan
At the October 26, 2016 meeting, the Red Rock Corridor Commission approved the Implementation Plan. The plan outlines projected ridership, construction costs, and operating considerations for the build out of a bus rapid transitway along the Highway (Hwy) 61 corridor. Bus rapid transit (BRT) is an all-day transit service that:
• Provides frequent, consistent service between stations
• Travels in both directions
• Works with the existing express bus system
The route provides direct access to residents via stations located in the center of communities rather than along Highway 61. The Implementation Plan outlines projected ridership, construction costs, operating considerations, and a phased approach to build out BRT service in the corridor.
“Our residents and businesses are interested in better transit service,” said Washington County Commissioner Karla Bigham who serves as Chair of the Red Rock Corridor Commission. “Businesses are having problems filling jobs now, and the Implementation Plan addresses bringing local bus service ahead of bus rapid transit. This phased approach allows us to pursue cost-effective solutions to meet the current transit needs for our communities and to build ridership in the corridor ahead of bus rapid transit,” Commissioner Bigham added.
The first phase outlined in the Implementation Plan is for improved local service between Cottage Grove and Downtown St. Paul. The service, known as Route 363, would run every thirty minutes throughout most of the day between the existing Cottage Grove park-and-ride and Union Depot via St. Paul Park and Newport. This route would serve many of the same stations as the preferred alternative for BRT implementation. While Route 363 will provide additional bus service to the Red Rock Corridor, it will also build stronger travel demand in the corridor.
Ramsey County Commissioner Janice Rettman stated “The public outreach and research completed as part of the Implementation Plan has demonstrated a demand for more frequent and consistent bus service traveling both directions. The express bus service is good at getting people to jobs in the downtowns, but there needs to be a short term solution for getting people to jobs outside of the downtown.”
Another near-term option is the possibility of an express service between Hastings and Minneapolis via Newport. Long-term options beyond the year 2020 would be determined based on the performance of the Route 363. Potential improvements including upgrading to BRT service would be considered when Route 363 ridership reaches the expected regional performance of 1,200 passengers per day.
“The Implementation Plan is the right-sized approach for the Red Rock Corridor cities,” said Dakota County Commissioner Mike Slavik. “The plan provides a workable approach to building transit service along the corridor, and allows for future investment for our residents and businesses.”