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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Gateway Corridor vs Metro Transit: How State's $9 million Route Upgrade Could Replace the Gateway Corridor

1-12-16: This Metro Transit plan is relevant now more than ever check out why: 

Lake Elmo Kicks Gateway Corridor out!

The cost of the Gateway Corridor (GWC)/ Gold Line is now $485,000,000 according to Washington County engineer Wayne Sandberg as quoted in a May 2015 Pioneer Press article titled East- metro leaders hold out hope for bus line funding.  But is this nearly half a billion dollar bus corridor needed? Or would a FAR more affordable option be more appropriate?

Our article: The Gateway Corridor, Big Promises, Little Evidence goes into greater detail on the sourced facts and local comparisons regarding why this transit project is not a responsible investment. Metro Transit may agree. we contacted the department planners after they released an impressive plan to modify an existing east metro express bus route into nearly the same all day service that the Gateway Corridor (GWC) would provide. Best of all, it would only cost an addition $1.5 million a year to operate and requires just one Park and Ride to be constructed for capital costs.  

Metro Transit announced the alternative in the 2015-2030 SIP with a proposal to modify Route 353. The bus route is one of four that serves the woodbury area with express bus service to and from the twin cities. Since these routes would compete with the GWC they will be at risk of changing if the GWC was built.

Currently Route 353 serves "peak service" (AM and PM rush hour) with six major stops (Minneapolis, St. Paul, Woodbury Theatre, Woodbury Village, Christ Episcopal Church, and Woodbury Luthern Church). The route served 6,510 rides according to an e-mail from Metro Transit, as of the last numbers in 2013. Most impressive was the fact it only required $37,694 in tax payer subsidies to operate... 

what the modified route 353 could like like
On page 116 of the Metro Transit 2015-2030 Service Improvement Plan you can further appreciate the comparative service the modified route 353 would provide compared to the Gateway Corridor. With the three additional proposed stops to the existing six (a new Manning avenue Park and ride, Guardian Angels church, and the Sun Ray Shopping center). 353 would have 9 major stops compared to the 12 of the GWC. Both would have feeder routes... where 353's would be existing bus routes that overlap the current route which would be a zero sum additional cost. 353 feeder buses would deliver riders to the Sun Ray shopping center as evidenced by the fact most the routes mentioned serve that location. The GWC 5 proposed feeder lines would cost an additional $8.8 million/yr, in addition to the $9.6 million/yr the corridor itself takes, to operate according to an e-mail from Metro Transit SIP.

With the addition of these three additional stops and the increased frequency of service 220,320 additional rides a year are predicted on the modified route 353 (Over 226,000 total). The Gateway Corridor predicted ridership provides a seemingly wild estimation that it will serve over ten times this amount in their 2014 report to the Legislature. (2.4 million a year or 9,000/day) As explained in my previous article with evidence from the already built Red Line corridor this estimation is truly unrealistic:
unrealistic Gateway Corridor ridership prediction

The modified route 353 would have the benefits of Park and Ride (minimal stops off I-94) with the service of multiple drop offs where you are actually going (St. Paul and Minneapolis). All without having to waste time transferring buses mid trip as you would have on a BRT route like the GWC that only serves stations near the freeway. 

An undeniable reality of public transit is that it does not pick you up or drop you off at your destination. However, express bus routes like 353 can get you FAR closer to your morning destination in town than the planned Gateway Corridor.... and Metro Transit appears to understand that.

Riders on the proposed 353 change would only see an additional 15-20 minutes added to their current ride time according to Metro Transit; however they could choose to adjust to similar route 350, 351, or 355 that serve the Woodbury area and are not expected to change if they wish not to have the additional ride time. (Could change if the GWC is built)

The only capital cost for the route 353 expansion is a $9.1 million dollar Manning Avenue park and ride station according to this Met Council estimate. Yes, a ridiculous cost for a bus stop... but perhaps a compromise worth taking compared to the half a billion dollar capital cost of the Gateway Corridor.


 Also check out:

Contact our County Commissioners:          651-430-6211         651-430-6213              651-430-6215

You know you have a terrible project idea if you pay lobbyists over $100,000/yr and have nothing to show for it.
$51 million dollars has been taken by the transit sales tax. For what?
- We're only guaranteed $12.9 million. 
- A corridor has yet to be built. 
- At the "best" corridor plan they estimate 9,000 riders in 2030 off a freeway that has up to 150,000 cars/day right now. 
- MNDOT has a $9 million alternative to the $420M+ Gold Line
- No wonder Dakota County abandoned this scheme