This page provides answers to common questions about the Rush Line BRT project. If you have other questions, please contact the project team online or at 651-266-2760.
What is BRT (bus rapid transit)?
Bus rapid transit (BRT) is a package of transit enhancements that add up to a faster trip and an improved experience compared to regular bus service. BRT has several defining characteristics:
BRT buses runs frequently throughout the day.
BRT buses make fewer stops, significantly speeding up travel time.
Signal priority allows buses to move through traffic lights faster.
BRT stations include amenities such as shelters with lighting, heat, and real-time schedule information.
For faster stops, customers pay their fares at the station before boarding.
BRT buses operate in a dedicated lane for all or part of their route, allowing them to bypass traffic for faster and more reliable service.
The permanent station and guideway infrastructure associated with BRT stimulates economic development near stations.
Watch this video about the Los Angeles Metro Orange Line for an example of BRT in action.
Why is the Rush Line BRT Project needed?
The purpose of the Rush Line BRT Project is to provide transit service that satisfies the long-term regional mobility and accessibility needs for businesses and the traveling public and supports sustainable development within the study area between Saint Paul and White Bear Lake.
The needs the Rush Line BRT Project addresses are:
Serving the needs of people who rely on transit.
Meeting increasing demand for reliable, high-frequency transit.
What is happening now to advance the Rush Line BRT Project?
After competing the environmental process in October 2021, the project in the process of transitioning to the Metropolitan Council, which will be complete by late 2021 or early 2022. As the region’s leading transit provider, the Metropolitan Council has the experience and expertise to lead final design (expected 2022-24) and construction (expected 2024-2026) for the project. It will ultimately operate the BRT line as part of the regional METRO system. Project transition will be complete when the environmental process concludes and the project enters the Project Development phase of the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants program (expected in late 2021).
Following the transition, Ramsey County, as the project’s local funding partner, will continue to be involved with the project at the staff and policymaker levels. Ramsey County will also lead Advanced Station Area Planning between 2022 and 2024 in partnership with corridor cities, the Metropolitan Council and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Why is leadership of the project transitioning from Ramsey County to the Metropolitan Council?
As the region’s leading transit provider, the Metropolitan Council has the experience and expertise to lead final design (expected 2022-24) and construction (expected 2024-2026) for the project, and ultimately operate the BRT as part of the regional METRO system. The Metropolitan Council has been involved with all aspects of project planning to date.
What will be the impacts from COVID-19?
While transit ridership declined during the COVID-19 pandemic not only in the Twin Cities region but throughout the Country, the Rush Line BRT Project remains a long-term investment in the region’s transportation system. People will continue to count on transit to meet their transportation needs. Thus, planning for Rush Line BRT is continuing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic, existing BRT service has had some of the highest numbers of rides by essential workers. As of September 2021, BRT routes within the Twin Cities are at 75% ridership of what they were pre-pandemic and ridership continues to grow. While many employers have transitioned to remote work during the pandemic, studies have found that less than 40 percent of jobs can be done from home; the remaining 60 percent cannot be done remotely. In fact, the pandemic has underscored the importance of transit in providing essential workers with a means to get to work and to provide essential services.
As we navigate our new normal, Ramsey County and its partners continue to look beyond the pandemic to build the transportation system for the future and be a part of our economic recovery. People will continue to need to get to work, education opportunities, daily errands and appointments, as well as recreation. The fast, frequent, and all-day service of the Rush Line BRT will provide residents the flexibility to ride anytime, without a schedule.
As Rush Line BRT planning continues, Ramsey County and its partners will continue to monitor and take into account trends in travel patterns, including those related to COVID-19 to assess whether any adjustments may be needed.
Where will Rush Line BRT go?
The Rush Line BRT Project is a 15-mile transit route connecting Union Depot in Saint Paul to White Bear Lake, generally along Robert Street, Phalen Boulevard, Ramsey County Rail right-of-way (co-located with the Bruce Vento Regional Trail) and Highway 61.
The Rush Line BRT Project will serve Saint Paul, Maplewood, White Bear Township, Vadnais Heights, Gem Lake and White Bear Lake.
Rush Line BRT will serve destinations like Lowertown, the Saint Paul central business district, Payne-Phalen, Phalen Village, Maplewood Mall, St. John’s Hospital, the Vadnais Sports Center and downtown White Bear Lake. The line will serve 97,000 residents and will provide access to 106,000 jobs within a 10-minute walk of its 21 stations.
The Rush Line BRT Project includes further exploration of connector bus service north to Forest Lake, along with other transit system improvements.
How was this route selected? Why BRT and not local bus or light rail?
The purpose of the project is to provide transit service that meets the long-term regional mobility needs for the public and supports sustainable development in the project area. The project goals, as defined in the previous phase of the project, the Pre-Project Development study, are as follows:
Increase transit use.
Develop an implementable project.
Improve quality of life.
Improve sustainable transportation options.
Enhance regional connectivity.
Support the local vision for sustainable development.
The Pro-Project Development study (performed 2014-2017) examined 55 route segments and several types of transit through an extensive public engagement and technical evaluation process in order to determine which route and type of transit would best meets the projects overall Purpose and Need. A light rail, commuter rail, modern streetcar, bus rapid transit, and local bus service were all evaluated in the PPD study, and BRT proved to be the best option. BRT provides a similar quality of service to light rail at less than half of the cost. It is faster than local bus service and offers high quality amenities such as improved stations, off-board fare payment, and more.
The route and BRT option selected serves the highest number of riders, including people who rely on transit, and provides the greatest potential for economic development while maximizing cost effectiveness.
At what times and how often will Rush Line BRT run?
Rush Line BRT will operate all day, frequently and in both directions from approximately 5 a.m. until midnight.
Buses will run every ten minutes during rush hours and every fifteen to thirty minutes at other times.
What features will Rush Line BRT stations have?
Rush Line BRT stations will provide a comfortable, secure waiting space and a variety of customer amenities. These features include:
Real-time bus schedule information (NexTrip displays).
Trash and recycling bins.
Energy-efficient LED station lighting.
Information about the station, route, transit system and neighborhood.
Ticket machines for off-board fare purchase using cash or credit card, or for recharging a Go-To Card.
What features will Rush Line BRT vehicles have? Will vehicles produce air or noise pollution?
The vehicles used for the Rush Line BRT will be modern, state-of-the-art vehicles designed for an enjoyable customer experience. Like all buses in Metro Transit's system, Rush Line BRT vehicles will accommodate bicycles and be ADA-compliant with ramps, seating areas and accommodations for customers with disabilities.
Will Rush Line BRT buses have their own lanes or operate in regular traffic?
To provide a faster and more reliable trip, the Rush Line BRT will operate in a dedicated guideway and bus-only lanes for about three-quarters of the 15-mile route between Saint Paul and White Bear Lake. Along the remaining portions of the route, the Rush Line BRT will share traffic lanes with other vehicles. The project’s 15% Concept Plans show where the BRT will operate in its own space versus where it will share the road with other vehicles.
When will construction begin? When will the Rush Line BRT open?
Based on the project's current timeline, it is anticipated that construction of the Rush Line BRT will begin in 2024 and the Rush Line BRT will open in 2026.
How will the Rush Line BRT Project be funded?
Capital funding for the Rush Line BRT Project will come from a combination of Ramsey County and federal funds. The county funds are primarily generated by Ramsey County's Transit Sales & Use Tax and federal funding is expected to be obtained through the Federal Transit Administration's Capital Investment Grants Program.
Funding for operating costs for the Rush Line BRT will come from transit fares and state and county sources.
How will the Rush Line BRT Project affect the Bruce Vento Regional Trail?
The Rush Line BRT will be co-located with a reconstructed Bruce Vento Regional Trail through the portion of the route that utilizes the Ramsey County rail right-of-way. Ramsey County acquired the right-of-way in the 1990s for future transit use. There is enough of room within this public right-of-way to fit the Bruce Vento Regional Trail, the Rush Line BRT and other elements such as landscaping.
The Ramsey County Rail Right-of-Way Design Guide will guide the design of the Rush Line BRT Project and Bruce Vento Regional Trail. The Ramsey County Rail Right-of-Way Design Guide was created with public input collected in 2019 and in previous planning phases. It emphasizes the importance of the natural and historic character of the right-of-way, safety and security, ease of access and maintenance, and a safe, high-quality experience for trail and BRT users.
I don’t have a car – how can I access the Rush Line BRT?
The 21 Rush Line BRT stations are intended to be accessible by a variety of transportation modes such as walking, biking and using a mobility device such as a wheelchair. In fact, most transit riders reach their bus stop or transit station by walking. Improved biking and walking connections to stations will be constructed as part of the Rush Line BRT Project. Local bus routes in the area may also be adjusted to facilitate transfers to the Rush Line BRT. Ramsey County and its municipal partners are planning for increased development near Rush Line BRT stations, which will result in more homes, businesses and jobs within a short walk of stations.
Why won't the Rush Line BRT extend farther north than White Bear Lake?
As part of the pre-project development study (2014-2017), Ramsey County examined transit alternatives for a 30-mile corridor between downtown Saint Paul and Forest Lake. The study determined that the market for all-day, high-frequency (every 10-15 minutes) transit in the corridor is between downtown Saint Paul and downtown White Bear Lake when taking into account current population data and forecast population growth through 2040. Even with anticipated growth in Hugo and Forest Lake in the coming years, the residential and job density north of downtown White Bear Lake is not expected to warrant investment in all-day, frequent transit service. The existing demand for transit service in the Hugo and Forest Lake area is predominantly for express service, which is served by existing express bus routes 275 and 288 along I-35E.
As part of the current environmental analysis phase of the Rush Line BRT Project, a potential hourly connecting bus route from White Bear Lake to Forest Lake via Hugo is being explored to meet the limited demand for transit service in those communities.
Will Rush Line BRT cause residents to be displaced?
The Rush Line BRT will operate primarily in existing public right-of-way. As such, it is not anticipated that the Rush Line BRT will require the removal of any homes.
A central goal of the Rush Line BRT Project is to expand access to jobs, education, healthcare and recreation for people with low incomes. Historically, however, investment in high-quality transit service has the potential to increase property values near stations. In some instances, these increases can cause displacement due to higher rents or property taxes. The potential for this form of displacement and strategies to mitigate potential displacement along the Rush Line BRT route are being studied as part of the environmental analysis phase. This analysis will consider both technical data and community input obtained through public engagement.
Will the Rush Line BRT bring crime?
Research shows that people generally tend to commit crimes near where they live. Studies from San Diego, Los Angeles, and Durham, North Carolina have found no significant increase in crime due to the presence of a transit station. Using transit to flee a crime is especially uncommon.
Transit facilities in the Twin Cities follow best practices for safety and security with multiple security cameras, emergency call buttons, and open layouts that are well-covered with lighting for high visibility. Rush Line BRT stations and Park & Ride lots will have these same safety features. Uniformed and plainclothes Metro Transit Police continually patrol transit routes, vehicles and stations. Like other METRO lines, transit police officers will inspect fares on board Rush Line BRT vehicles. Buses are each equipped with multiple security cameras. Bus drivers continually serve as ‘eyes on the street’ and have instant radio and silent communications capability with police dispatch.
How can I receive the latest updates on the Rush Line BRT Project?