MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – In just a few months, there will be a new way to get around in the Twin Cities – and it’s 20 percent faster than a bus.

Bus Rapid Transit (or BRT) will launch in late spring or early summer.

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However, one of the 10 new vehicles hit the road a little early, and I was on board a test route up Snelling Avenue.

From the outside, you may not see much of a difference when you spot the BRT, but 30-year veteran driver Dale Patrin says its one smooth ride.

“At our garage, it’s probably going to be going to the high seniority drivers, because they’re gonna want to work it,” he said.

The BRT has no compulsory stops. Aside from pickups, the only time a BRT bus will stop is if riders press a button or signal that they are ready to get off.

The inaugural route goes down Snelling Avenue from the Rosedale Mall to the 46th Street lightrail stop in Minneapolis.

According to Metro Transit, BRT is 20 percent faster than a bus.

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The new vehicles can even signal approaching traffic lights to change. While the lights won’t always turn green immediately, there will be minutes shaved off commute times.

Loading and unloading is also faster, due to wider entryways and pay-ahead stations.

No longer will users hold up the route while digging through their pockets for change, Patrin says.

Like the lightrail, the BRT seats are designed of steel, giving the new vehicles the structure of a train with the agility of a bus.

It cost about $500,000 to build BRT vehicles, that’s about 6 to 8 percent more than the cost of a standard bus.

The next planned BRT route will run from Brooklyn Center on Penn Avenue to downtown Minneapolis.

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For more information about BRT, visit Metro Transit online.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield