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Express Bus METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Metropass Minneapolis Northstar On the METRO

New transit-friendly HQ a perfect ‘Match’ 

| Monday, December 14, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Be the Match employee Mike Smith spends his time on the bus catching up on emails and listening to the radio.When Be the Match relocated to its new North Loop headquarters, Michael Smith thought he'd continue driving to work.

But weeks after the relocation, he gave up on the idea of driving and using one of the few underground parking spaces available to a small portion of the donor network’s 900-plus employees. 

The decision to go “all in” on transit came after Smith compared his options and became convinced commuting between Minneapolis and Lakeville on Route 467 would be considerably more relaxing than battling traffic on Interstate 35W, his routine for the last several years.

On the bus, Smith spends his time catching up on emails and listening to the radio, occasionally using free WiFi now available on some buses.

“It’s changed my life to be honest with you,” said Smith, Be the Match’s Director of Donor Shared Services. “My wife has even noticed. It’s not that shock and awe feeling where you need a half hour to decompress because the drive is so crazy.  It’s amazing what this is going to do to my family as well as my work.”

Smith isn’t the only Be the Match employee to embrace transit since the non-profit moved from Northeast Minneapolis to a site immediately adjacent Target Field Station. After working in a location with relatively limited transit options, staff now find the METRO Blue and Green lines, Northstar and dozens of express and local bus routes at their doorstep.

Chief Financial Officer Amy Ronneberg said Be the Match looked at 70 different locations but was sold on the North Loop in large part because of its transit access. Like many companies moving to the downtown core, Be the Match sees transit as a key to retaining and recruiting top talent, particularly when it comes to Millenials who are increasingly averse to driving.

“As we looked out into the future, we knew it was important to be in a place with vibrancy,” Ronneberg said. “Being here with all of the amenities and transportation options, I think we’ve opened ourselves up to a whole new potential workforce.”

With thousands of people passing by each day – especially during the Twins season – Be the Match also saw a chance to increase its visibility and raise awareness of its mission. Operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, Be the Match manages the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world. 

To ease the transition for current staff, Metro Transit worked closely with Be the Match to help employees understand the options available to them. Be the Match also joined the Metropass program, which gives employees the opportunity to buy a low-cost transit pass that provides unlimited access to buses and trains.

Staff have also been given the freedom to work remotely and are encouraged to carpool, bike or walk to work.

Among those who have converted from a drive-alone commute to transit is Human Resources Coordinator Diane Dombeck, of Spring Lake Park. Before the move, she had taken Northstar just once to a Minnesota Twins game. Now, she takes the train daily to and from Fridley Station.

“I wasn’t sure how it would work, because it was a new thing to me,” she said. “But it’s really painless and a lot more fun than I thought it would be because you chat with other train riders and get to know people. I actually love taking it now.”

Dombeck was reminded of how different life will be when winter weather hit a few weeks ago and she had to drive to Be the Match’s former location. With traffic, the usual 25-minute commute turned into almost 90 minutes on the road.

“I really missed the train that day,” she said.

Metropass popularity growing

Be the Match is among several employers to join the Metropass program this year. The Mall of America, Delta and Regions Hospital also joined the program in 2015. Around 280 companies now participate in the Metropass program. Staff at participating companies can purchase the unlimited-ride passes for a flat monthly fee. The passes can be bought pre-tax and the cost is typically offset by an employer contribution. Any company with at least ten participants can join the Metropass program. To learn more, visit metrotransit.org/metropass.

Supporting TOD through grants, assistance

Be the Match’s new headquarters, at 524 5th Street N., were built by Minneapolis-based United Properties (United Properties has since sold the building; Be the Match has a 15-year lease, with the option of renewing). The Metropolitan Council provided a $487,000 brownfield clean-up grant to assist with pre-development at the site, previously home to a printing facility. To learn more about how the Council and Metro Transit are supporting Transit-Oriented Development through grants and technical assistance visit metrotransit.org/tod.

North Loop rising

Be the Match is among several recent developments in the area immediately surrounding Target Field Station. District 600, a new 78-unit apartment building adjacent to the Fulton Brewery, is set to open in February 2016. Construction is also underway on a new 12,000-square-foot brewery, Inbound Brewco., at 70 N. 5th Street. Metro Transit is planning to expand and improve its Heywood Campus north of Target Field. 

Bus Bus Rapid Transit Express Bus METRO Orange Line Minneapolis Suburban Transit Transit Planning

METRO Orange Line more than the sum of its parts 

| Monday, May 19, 2014 12:00:00 AM

From Christina Morrison, METRO Orange Line Project Manager

Bus Rapid Transit is not a new concept for Interstate 35W. In fact, several improvements have been made to set the table for BRT, including bus-only shoulders, the 46th Street Station, MnPASS lanes and the downtown transit corridor known as Marq2.

This infrastructure was built even though the larger BRT project, the METRO Orange Line, was not fully funded. That's one great thing about BRT – it's nimble and can be built in pieces. The Orange Line combines all the station, roadway and service improvements that we’ve been building in pieces for decades to complete the BRT picture on I-35W.

Beginning in 2019, the Orange Line will deliver frequent, all-day service to job, housing and retail centers in Minneapolis, Richfield, Bloomington and Burnsville while relieving congestion on one of the state's busiest roadways. This enhanced transit service will not only serve those traveling downtown but reverse commuters accessing more than 30,000 jobs, as well as services, education and other destinations outside the downtown core.

We know the demand for transit in the I-35W corridor is strong and will continue to grow. In 2012, express and local bus routes in the I-35W corridor attracted nearly 14,000 daily transit riders. Ridership on the limited-stop bus service the Orange Line would replace, Route 535, has increased by more than 15 percent since 2011, topping more than 430,000 rides in 2013.

Existing customers ask why we don't simply put more buses on Route 535, and that’s a good question. While more buses could provide a short-term benefit, investing in the Orange Line strengthens our regional transit network while providing several key long-term benefits:

> Better station infrastructure. Like other METRO lines, Orange Line stations will be more comfortable and accessible -- with on-demand heat, ticket machines, enhanced transit information (including real-time, NexTrip signs) and security features. These stations will not only serve the Orange Line but complementary local and express routes, making transfers easier and more efficient. At the border of Richfield and Bloomington, Orange Line stations on Knox Avenue are also being incorporated into redevelopment plans that will create a more transit-, pedestrian- and bike-friendly environment.

> Reduced travel times. A complete trip on the Orange Line will take around 35 to 40 minutes, one way. Travel times are reduced by allowing customers to pay their fares before boarding and using 60-foot buses with front, middle and rear entries. A new southbound lane exclusively for transit vehicles and carpoolers from 42nd Street to downtown Minneapolis, traffic signal technologies and a new underpass bringing Knox Avenue beneath I-494 will also make for a speedier trip.

> Improved level of service. Route 535 will do the work of multiple local and express routes. The Orange Line will operate on a simpler routing that is more user-friendly, predictable and reliable. Each streamlined trip saves operating dollars that can be reinvested into additional service on the Orange Line and connecting routes in the corridor.

These benefits are explained in greater detail in the recently released draft of the Orange Line Project Plan Update. The update summarizes work that has been done to date and provides an outline of the steps that need to be taken to begin construction.

I encourage you to read through this plan and offer your feedback. Public comments will be accepted through the end of May and incorporated before the Metropolitan Council considers the project later this year.

Your feedback is important to refining plans as we look forward to construction beginning in 2016 and opening the Orange Line for service in late 2019. Please share your input and help us make the Orange Line a success.

For continued updates, subscribe to the Orange Line Project Update newsletter. You can also join the conversation on Twitter (@MetroTransitMN) as we host a "Tweet Chat" about the Orange Line between noon and 1 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20.

    > METRO Orange Line

    > Draft Project Plan Update

    > METRO Orange Line FAQs

    > I-35W Transit/Access Project

Bus Express Bus Minneapolis Route of the Week Suburban Transit

Route 767: Trading a tiring trip for transit 

| Monday, May 19, 2014 12:00:00 AM

For more than a decade, Christina Stensby commuted from Brooklyn Park to downtown Minneapolis with her husband. When a new job disrupted that routine last year, Stensby didn’t hesitate to turn her occasional back-up plan – riding Route 767 – into an everyday habit.

“I didn’t even have to think about it,” Stensby said during a recent morning commute. “Parking downtown is so expensive and driving is too time consuming.”

Stensby’s disdain for battling traffic was shared by many customers recently found traveling on Route 767. The express bus provides a convenient alternative to driving alone for northwest suburban residents in Maple Grove, New Hope and Brooklyn Park who travel to and from downtown Minneapolis on Interstate 94.

Congested roadways are circumvented by using bus-only shoulders while buses move swiftly in and out of downtown using the Marq2 corridor. Trips between Route 767’s largest boarding location, the Bottineau Boulevard and 63rd Avenue Park & Ride, and downtown Minneapolis typically take around 30 minutes due in part to these features.

Doug Bastyr has been enjoying the speedy trip since he began taking Route 767 this winter. After years of driving to and from his job in St. Paul, he grew frustrated and elected to leave the car at home.

His commute now involves a 40-second walk to the bus stop, a trip on Route 767 and a transfer in downtown Minneapolis to reach his job near Highway 280 and University Avenue. When the METRO Green Line opens June 14, he’ll be able to ride light-rail to Westgate Station, a short distance from his office.

“A couple of months of sitting in traffic and taking two hours to get to and from work got pretty tiring,” Bastyr said. “I actually get to work quicker now than I did when driving.”

Tayu Lee, of New Hope, stopped driving alone last year when he decided he no longer needed to have his car with him during the day. Lee telecommutes once a week so he can run errands and make midday trips that require a vehicle and spends his time in Minneapolis focused on work.

Besides the convenience, Lee saves more than $100 a month in parking costs and makes far fewer trips to the gas station. An employer-subsidized Metropass costs him around $50 a month.

“This has been much better than I expected, honestly,” said Lee, who drives three miles from his home to the Park & Ride.

Maxine Veith began taking Route 767 three years ago, when her 15-year-old car started to show its age and she decided she didn’t want to put any more money into it. Today, Veith relies on transit not only to get to and from work but as her primary means of transportation.

“You get so used to it, it really doesn’t matter to me anymore,” she said of living car-free.

New Hope resident Ron Goodson still uses his vehicle to run errands and take other local trips, but said he’d never consider driving to work. Taking Route 767 allows him to relax and catch up on reading. A few times each week, he’ll also bring his bicycle on the bus and pedal home – a roughly 11-mile trip that takes around an hour.

“I like getting rid of some of the stresses of driving while fitting in a workout,” Goodson said.

Route 767 At a Glance

Type: Express

ServiceRoute 767 provides express service from Maple Grove and Brooklyn Park to downtown Minneapolis. On the north end, select trips provide local service to the residential area east of the Bottineau Boulevard and 63rd Avenue Park & Ride, located in the northwest corner of Bottineau Boulevard (County Road 81) and 63rd Avenue North. Buses run non-stop on interstates 694 and 94 to the Marq2 corridor in downtown Minneapolis. There are five morning trips that run southbound between 5:15 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. and five evening trips that run northbound between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Trips between the 63rd Avenue Park & Ride and downtown Minneapolis are scheduled to take approximately 30 minutes.         

Route Length: Approximately 15 miles

Stops: 53 southbound, 60 northbound

Vehicles: 40-foot standard diesel buses

Ridership: Total ridership of 46,742 rides in 2013, with an average of 185 passengers per day.

History: Route 767 began service in March 2007, at the same time the Bottineau Boulevard and 63rd Avenue Park & Ride opened. The Park & Ride was built with funding from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ).

Future: The Bottineau Boulevard and 63rd Avenue Park & Ride has been identified as one of 12 future stations for the METRO Blue Line Extension (Bottineau Transitway), which would bring light rail from Target Field Station in Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park along Bottineau Boulevard. Planners working on the Bottineau Transitway envision the area surrounding the Park & Ride being redeveloped with the addition of light rail. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the transitway is available for public comment through the end of May. For more information visit bottineautransitway.org.

Bicycle Bus Community Express Bus Promotions Suburban Transit

Bridging bikes and buses brings serenity instead of stress 

| Wednesday, May 07, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Mike Bastyr on his bike during his daily commute. When Mike Bastyr started working in downtown Minneapolis more than 20 years ago, he quickly grew tired of battling traffic on Interstate 35W. To circumvent the stress, he turned to Route 250, an express service that runs between Lino Lakes and Minneapolis.

Not long after he started commuting by bus, Bastyr went a step further and began to bike the six miles that separated his Shoreview home from his boarding location, the County Road H Park & Ride in Mounds View.

The half-hour bike trip finds him on quiet residential streets and the Rice Creek North Regional Trail, a wooded area he describes as “very serene.” The trail cuts through woodlands and connects to County Road H just west of I-35W.

“There’s a lot of wildlife,” Bastyr said after completing a recent ride. “This morning it was two deer. Last week it was a fox, an osprey and an eagle. It’s just a really pleasant experience no matter what time it is.”

After maintaining the routine year-round since 2000, Bastyr believes he’s logged an estimated 26,000 miles traveling between his home and the Park & Ride. Avoiding gas fill-ups and using an employer-subsidized Metropass, he has also saved untold amounts of money. Bastyr's commuting costs are less than $50 a month.

“This bike has paid for itself a few times over,” he joked.

Bastyr’s commute provides a good example of how biking and transit can be combined, even in suburban areas. There are 15 Metro Transit Park & Rides with bike lockers – secure, weatherproof storage areas that rent for $48 a year, with a refundable damage deposit. Bike lockers are also located at select Northstar and METRO Blue Line stations.

For those who want to bring the bike along, buses are equipped with front-end racks; bikes can be brought directly on board Northstar and light-rail trains.

As part of Bike Week, Metro Transit offered free rides to customers who biked to select Park & Rides and completed their trip on a bus or train. The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition also offered free ride coupons to bicyclists at the Blue Line's 38th Street Station and at the corner of East Lake and West River roads.

Long-term, the Metropolitan Council wants to strengthen the link between biking and taking transit by prioritizing regional on- and off-road investments that would better connect cyclists to the regional transit system.

A recently-completed Regional Bicycle System Study, developed with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, provides a Regional Transportation Network for developing such connections in the future. The proposed network will be incorporated in the Met Council’s draft 2040 Transportation Policy Plan, which will be be distributed for public review this summer.

While it’s difficult to know exactly how many people combine biking and transit, there is ample evidence that more people are biking and taking transit in the Twin Cities. The number of bicyclists counted in Bike Walk Twin Cities’ annual survey increased 78 percent between 2007 and 2013. More than 4 percent of Minneapolis residents bike to work, one of the highest rates in the country, according to the U.S. Census.

Metro Transit’s ridership increased by more than 300,000 rides between 2012 and 2013 and is at the highest level in three decades.

Shirley Urman, of Mounds View, is among those who are combining biking and transit.

The 17-year-old began riding to the County Road H Park & Ride earlier this year when she started taking classes at Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley. Urman brings her bike to Minneapolis so she can ride to her transfer bus, Route 755, and enjoy a leisurely ride after school in nearby Theodore Wirth Regional Park.

Besides giving her more flexibility to get around, Urman said riding her bike to the Park & Ride each morning gives her the boost she needs to start her day.

“I was really tired and wouldn’t want to go to school, but once I had exercise in the morning I was pumped for my day,” she said, traveling in on Route 250. “I just kept doing it and now it’s a habit.”

Bastyr hopes he and Urman will be joined by even more bikers in the future. Bastyr’s best advice to those who want to make biking a part of their commute is to start slowly, riding only as much as comfortable and ramping up as confidence and enthusiasm builds.

“After a while it becomes a routine,” he said. “That’s what it’s developed into for me – a routine experience where instead of getting in your car and driving some place you hop on your bike and pedal instead.”

    > Park & Ride Search

    > Bike Lockers

    > Regional Bicycle System Study

    > Biking to work increases 60 percent over last decade, Census Bureau reports

Bus Express Bus In the News METRO Blue Line Northstar

Transit ridership hits a 57-year high 

| Tuesday, March 11, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Transit ridership hit a 57-year high last year, according to a new report from the American Public Transportation Association.

Americans took nearly 10.7 billion trips in 2013 according to the industry group. That marked a 1 percent increase from 2012 and was the highest ridership since 1956. It was also the tenth straight year transit ridership topped 10 billion rides nationally.

Metro Transit saw ridership grow for the fifth straight year to 81.4 million rides last year. Ridership on buses, the METRO Blue Line and the Northstar Commuter Rail line increased by 300,000 rides from 2012, reaching the second highest total in 32 years. Ridership on the Northstar Commuter Rail line was especially strong, growing more than 12 percent.

Regional transit ridership grew 0.4 percent to 94.3 million rides in 2013. The number includes ridership from all transit providers in the Twin Cities metro region as well as Metro Mobility, Transit Link and Metro Vanpool.

The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, which operates the METRO Red Line, set a new ridership record year with 2.7 million rides.
 
Since 1995, transit ridership has grown 37 percent nationally, outpacing population growth and vehicle miles traveled, according to APTA. Metro Transit’s ridership grew nearly 7 percent between 2009 and 2013.

“There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities,” APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said in a statement. “People in record numbers are demanding more public transit services and communities are benefiting with strong economic growth.”

    > APTA: Record 10.7 Billion Trips Taken on U.S. Public Transportation in 2013

    > Metro Transit 2013 Ridership Increases to 81.4 Million

    > Star Tribune: Transit use hits historic levels in metro, nationally

    > USA Today: Transit ridership reaches highest level since 1956

    > New York Times: Use of Public Transit in U.S. Reaches Highest Level Since 1956

    > Stateline: Improving Networks and Economy Boost Transit Ridership

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