Greg Ruhland boarded Route 94, took a seat near the front of the bus and pulled out his cell phone. En route to St. Paul, he paid a few bills online and placed an order for grocery delivery.
The ability to catch up on his household chores is among the reasons the Minneapolis resident has been riding the express bus to work every weekday since 2009.
“I’m able to get all the details of home life done on the bus, which I’d never be able to do if I were driving,” said Ruhland, who works at the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s offices near the State Capitol.
Ruhland’s experience was typical of those recently aboard Route 94, which travels between downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis on Interstate 94. Besides catching up on chores, Route 94 customers said they use their time on the bus to read, listen to music or simply relax as they started or ended their days.
Elias Kehr, who began using Route 94 last October, is among those who enjoy the free time found while riding the bus. Kehr takes Route 94 from Minneapolis to his job as a math tutor in St. Paul each weekday, spending his time on the bus reading and preparing for the day.
“I find that driving in the morning is just a recipe for frustration,” Kehr said. “This is much more relaxing and productive.”
South Minneapolis resident Brent Dahlen, who has used transit for the last 15 years, also finds his trips to and from work relaxing. Dahlen walks from his home to the METRO Blue Line’s 38th Street Station, rides the train downtown and then catches Route 94 to St. Paul. During rush hour, buses and trains come frequently enough that Dahlen rarely consults a schedule.
“I just show up and trust that a bus will be there,” he said.
Westbound commuters have also come to trust Route 94 as a reliable, convenient alternative to battling traffic on I-94.
The distinction between driving and riding the bus becomes especially apparent when there is bad weather and congestion. Between downtown St. Paul and Highway 280, Route 94 buses can use bus-only shoulders to bypass congestion when it’s safe to do so. Entering and exiting I-94, Route 94 buses also use ramp meter bypasses.
“When traffic comes to a complete stop, we get on the shoulder and it’s like we’re in a different time zone,” said St. Paul resident Yeon Jo, who has used Route 94 for the last decade. “You could spend half your life in a car. The less time doing that, the more time you have just to enjoy life.”
Another perk: cost savings.
John Brentnall, who lives in St. Paul and works at Wells Fargo in downtown Minneapolis, began using transit four years ago after doing some simple math. Brentnall puts pre-tax dollars towards an employer-sponsored Metropass, bringing the cost of his commute to around $50 a month, about the same cost of a fill-up at the gas station.
“I really appreciate the value this provides,” Brentnall said. “From a value standpoint, you really can’t beat the price.”
Felicia Lewis can relate. Without a vehicle, Lewis relies on routes 94 and 535 to get to and from her job in Bloomington each weekday. She also uses transit to run errands around St. Paul. “Whenever I catch a cab its $50. That’s a whole month’s bus fare,” she said.
Lewis lives in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood, just four blocks from the METRO Green Line’s Dale Street Station. When the Green Line opens on June 14, she said she’ll continue riding Route 94 while working in trips on the train whenever it’s more convenient to do so.
Route 94 will no longer travel to the State Capitol when the Green Line opens, so Summit-University resident Linda McBrayer will be moving from the bus to the train this summer. McBrayer now takes Route 21 to downtown St. Paul and transfers to routes 16, 50 or 94 to get to her job near the State Capitol. “I have a lot of options,” McBrayer said. “And if I’m going to Minneapolis, I know I’ll take the train.”
As commuters mix the Green Line into their commutes, Route 94 will continue to provide express service between St. Paul and Minneapolis throughout peak periods and midday. Direct trips between Minneapolis and St. Paul will run every seven to 15 minutes during peak hours and every half hour midday.
Route 94 At a Glance
Service: Route 94 travels between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul on Interstate 94. Select trips stop at I-94 and Snelling Avenue to serve St. Paul’s Midway area. Traveling east from Minneapolis, buses run from the Ramp B/5th Street Transit Center down 6th Street North to I-94. In St. Paul, Route 94 buses stop at University Avenue and Rice Street, serving the State Capitol complex before entering downtown via Cedar Street. Select trips cross the Robert Street bridge to Fillmore Avenue, where large offices are located. Certain westbound trips also serve Huron Station, located at I-94 and Huron Boulevard, to connect with Route 50 and reach the University of Minnesota. On weekdays, Route 94 buses operate between approximately 5 a.m. and 1 a.m. with service every five to 10 minutes during rush hour, every 15 minutes midday and every half hour in the evening. Service is available every half hour on Saturdays and every 30 to 60 minutes on Sundays.
Route Length: Approximately 13 miles
Stops: 25 eastbound; 33 westbound
Vehicles: 40-foot standard buses and 60-foot articulated buses
Ridership: More than 1.3 million rides in 2013, with an average of around 3,600 customers per day
History: Route 94 began in 1976, providing weekday service between Minneapolis and St. Paul between roughly 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Future: When the METRO Green Line opens June 14, Route 94 will operate each weekday from approximately 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Trips will no longer stop at Snelling Avenue but run non-stop between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Peak hour service will run every seven to 15 minutes and midday trips will operate every half-hour. All night and weekend trips will be replaced by Green Line rail service. In St. Paul, Route 94 buses will no longer serve the State Capitol and will be re-routed from Cedar and Minnesota to 5th Street (eastbound) and 6th Street (westbound), with trips beginning and ending at the Union Depot. In downtown Minneapolis, westbound Route 94 buses will be re-routed from Fourth Street to Seventh Street. See complete details here.