With as many as 3,800 new houses and apartments expected to be built over the next 20 years at Highland Bridge, Ramsey County has initiated a $500,000 study of how best to improve transit in and around Highland Park. The Blue Line/Riverview Connection Study includes Highland as well as the West End, Macalester-Groveland, Merriam Park and Summit Hill neighborhoods of Saint Paul and the adjacent neighborhoods of South Minneapolis.

The study will identify possible connections to the light-rail Blue Line in South Minneapolis, the A Line rapid transit bus between the Blue Line and Roseville, and the proposed Riverview Corridor streetcar line from downtown Saint Paul to Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport and the Mall of America.

Ideas for improved transit will be evaluated beginning in the fall. Bus route changes are possible, as are enhancements to the A Line and improved pedestrian and bicycle connections. However, the study is not expected to produce any recommendations for more light rail or streetcar lines, according to Scott Mareck, senior transportation planner for Ramsey County.

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The Union Park District Council (UPDC) and Highland District Council transportation committees reviewed the upcoming study in February. A virtual open house on the study will be held from 7-8:15 p.m. Thursday, March 31. To register, visit ramseycounty.us/residents/roads-transportation/multi-modal-planning/blue-lineriverview-connection-study.

The UPDC committee asked for more transit connections running north and south through the area as well as additional connections to the planned rapid transit B Line bus. The B Line is scheduled to begin service in 2024 along Selby and Marshall avenues in Saint Paul and Lake Street in Minneapolis.

The transit study comes at a time when some local bus routes are actually being suspended by Metro Transit. The Route 84 bus along Snelling Avenue and the Route 70 bus along Saint Clair Avenue were discontinued late last year.

Transit ridership has shrunk appreciably  over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in the number of people working from home. Total ridership fell from 17.3 million during the first quarter of 2020 to 7.6 million during the first quarter of 2021. Metro Transit has also been struggling to hire enough bus drivers and train operators. 

“We don’t know what the future of transit (ridership) will be,” Mareck said. “We assume we’ll see a gradual return (of bus and train riders), but we may be looking at a new normal.”

— Jane McClure

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