This Good Question response comes in response to customers who ask why certain routes are operated by private transportation companies instead of by Metro Transit.
While Metro Transit is the primary provider of regular route service in the Twin Cities, the Metropolitan Council contracts a small number of routes to private transportation companies. As of early 2014, around 10 percent of regular route service – 27 of 128 local, express and suburban routes – was operated under contract.
Most contracted routes operate in suburban areas and enjoy consistent running times and stable ridership. While these routes have fewer riders, they provide important connecting service that helps people access other routes and destinations on transit.
Route 80, which runs between the Maplewood Mall Transit Center and Park & Ride and the Sun Ray Transit Center, and Route 225, with service from Shoreview to the Rosedale Transit Center, are good examples of contracted routes that play important roles in the regional transit network.
Routes may also be operated under contract to meet new service demands, to demonstrate a new service type or because of operational constraints.
Route 83, which runs on Lexington Parkway, is operated under contract not just because it is a new service but because a railroad overpass near Como Park requires the use of smaller buses. Many contracted routes use small buses because of such operational constraints or because ridership does not warrant the use of a larger, 40-foot bus.
Even if a route is operated under contract, customers pay the same fares and use the same fare payment technologies (Go-To Cards, Metropass, etc.) as they would when riding a bus operated by Metro Transit.
Routes have been operated under contract since transit service began in the Twin Cities. Private companies such as Medicine Lake Lines and Lorenz Bus Service received operating subsidies from the Metropolitan Transit Commission after the agency became public. The practice continued with the introduction of the BE Line in Bloomington and Edina and a Roseville Circulator in the early 1990s.
Photo: Route 87 is operated under contract by First Transit, Inc. The route runs from the Rosedale Transit Center to Highland Village, with service to the University of Minnesota's St. Paul Campus and the METRO Green Line's Raymond Avenue Station.
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