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Posts in Category: METRO Green Line

METRO Green Line St. Paul Station Spotlight

Hope abounds at Hamline Avenue 

| Monday, June 16, 2014 12:00:00 AM

METRO Green Line trains at the Hamline Avenue Station. Like many of the students who documented the METRO Green Line’s construction as part of a special class at Gordon Parks High School, Khalaun Phillips viewed light-rail construction as an unwelcome inconvenience.

Now that work has come to an end, he looks at the project a lot differently.

“I learned a community needs things that bring people together and the train does that,” Phillips said during a recent visit to the school, which sits on University Avenue just east of the Green Line’s Hamline Avenue Station.

Philips’ change of heart came partly from his involvement in the school’s “Transitions” class. For the last several years, students in the class have interviewed residents about what life was like on University Avenue and what they think the Green Line will mean for the community in the future.

The results are collected on the Minnesota Historical Society’s website to be preserved for future generations to look back on.

Only time will tell how the Green Line will shape the area around Gordon Parks and Hamline Station, but as light-rail trains begin carrying passengers up and down University Avenue it’s already evident the area is poised for change.

Several vacant auto dealerships are being redeveloped to provide new housing and retail space. Small businesses are cropping up along University Avenue and in the surrounding neighborhoods. And immigrants who have settled in St. Paul are bonding together to support one another and promote their distinct cultural offerings.

Among the most visible signs of change can be found just north of Hamline Avenue Station, where Minneapolis-based Project for Pride in Living will begin construction this summer on a vacant property once used as an auto dealership.

PPL’s $28 million Hamline Station project includes two buildings that will together include 108 new apartments, as well as commercial and retail space and a courtyard.

Barbara McCormick, PPL’s director of housing, said the project is mean to serve working-class residents who live in the community and want to take advantage of being near transit. Already, it’s clear the demand is strong for such housing.

“The calls have been coming in since the sign went up,” McCormick said.

West of Hamline Station, a vacated showroom is being converted into retail space. East of the station, at University Avenue and Griggs Street, another old dealership is being renovated into a new Goodwill store.

Not every change around Hamline Avenue Station is coming in the form of new construction, though.

Seeing opportunity from the Green Line, several African business owners banded together in late 2013 to launch a new marketing and branding campaign for the Little Africa district.

The idea is to promote the cultural district as a destination for visitors traveling through the corridor on the Green Line. The district covers area south and north of University Avenue between Fairview Avenue and Syndicate Street.

“We want people to know they don’t have to travel to Ethiopia to experience Ethiopian culture, because it’s right here in their backyard,” said Gene Gelgelu, one of the effort’s organizers.

One of the businesses included in the effort is Flamingo Restaurant, located a block east of Hamline Avenue Station on Syndicate Street.

Shegitu Kebede and Frewoini Haile opened the restaurant in 2010 but after surviving construction and a power surge that nearly put them under say the start of light rail service makes them feel as though they are “opening for the first time.”

“I don’t think anyone will appreciate it (the Green Line opening) as much as we do,” said Kebede, who immigrated to St. Paul from Ethiopia. “It’s a very huge chapter in our lives.”

Beyond bringing in new customers, Kebede said she and many of those who work at the restaurant will be able to commute to and from work on the Green Line. Kevede lives in Frogtown and will travel between Hamline Avenue Station and the Capitol/Rice Street Station.

Students from Concordia University-St. Paul will also likely be traveling between Hamline Avenue Station and the Capitol/Rice Street Station, said Jason DeBoer-Moran, the school’s director of marketing and communications. Political science students often travel to the Capitol with rented vans but will now be able to make less than a half mile to Hamline Avenue Station and ride the train instead.

The trips are just one example of how Concordia’s 3,600 students will use the Green Line, said DeBoer-Moran, who lives in the neighborhood and himself will use light rail. Students can also use the Green Line to travel and from campus, to internships along the Green Line corridor and to reach downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“It’s just another convenient option for those students who are trying to get around without having to worry about driving and parking,” DeBoer-Moran said. “Having more options to get here is always a nice thing.”

Hamline Avenue Station At a Glance 

Connecting bus routesRoute 21, with service from Uptown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul on Lake Street, Marshall, Snelling, University, Hamline and Selby avenues. Route 16, with service from downtown St. Paul to the University of Minnesota on University Avenue.

Public art: Minneapolis artist Foster Willey and his brother Guy combined Terra Cotta, hand-made glazed tiles and other materials to create what they call “Hamline Prairie Station.” The work is inspired by Prairie School Architecture, a popular Midwestern style that draws on the natural environment. “I have always been drawn to the combination of geometric and organic forms that define the Prairie style,” Foster Willey said. “The station provides a modern context for new designs that are both original and complimentary.

Area landmarks: Concordia University-St. Paul, Central High School, Dunning Recreation Center, James Griffin Stadium, Skyline Tower, Gordon Parks High School, HealthParners Center for International Health, Galtier Community School, Leap High School, Hamline Park.

Bike-ped connections: Charles Avenue bike boulevard (construction to be complete in summer 2014); bike lanes on Pascal Street North between I-94 and University Avenue; pedestrian overpass over I-94 at Griggs Street. Nice Ride kiosk at the St. Paul Police Western District (389 Hamline Ave. N.)

Neighborhood groupsHamline-Midway Coalition; Union Park District Council

Community METRO Green Line

Green Line poster contest winner revealed 

| Thursday, June 12, 2014 12:39:00 PM

Green Line poster contest winnter Genesia Williams with her winning entry on Thursday, June 12, 2014.When Genesia Williams heard about the METRO Green Line Opening Day Poster Contest, she knew immediately that she had to enter. A graduate of the Minneapolis Community & Technical College’s graphic design and print program, Williams wanted to gauge how others responded to her work, and saw the contest as an ideal opportunity.

“It was an easy and efficient way to test my skill set, to make sure I could tackle something of this size,” said Williams, who lives in Minneapolis and is a frequent transit user. “I just thought, 'Why not give it a go? Why not try it?'”

Turns out people responded quite favorably.

On Thursday, June 12, Williams’ design – a vibrant green featuring an abstract collage of light-rail vehicles – was revealed as the contest’s winning entry. The contest drew 47 entries that were narrowed down to five finalists by a group of community members from neighborhoods along the Green Line and then put up for a public, online vote in May.

To recognize her efforts, Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb presented Williams, 27, with a $500 check and a Go-To Card good for a year’s worth of bus and train rides outside the Green Line’s Operations and Maintenance Facility in Lowertown St. Paul. She will also receive a framed copy of the poster.

More importantly to Williams, her work will be viewed by tens of thousands of people who attend the Green Line’s grand opening. Postcard-sized copies of the poster will be distributed at stations and a limited number of larger copies will be available on Metro Transit's store.

    > Purchase a Commemorative Green Line Poster here

Surrounded by her family, Williams said she was elated to have a part in the history-making opening and that the poster "resonated with the people that the work was there to serve."

“I’m so excited I can’t even contain it,” she said.

    > METRO Green Line

    > Celebrate Green Line opening with commemorative Go-To Card

    > Star Tribune: Metro Transit unveils poster commemorating Green Line opening

    > Pioneer Press: Green Line poster designer wins free rides for a year

 

METRO Green Line Minneapolis Retro Transit St. Paul

Rail returns to the Central Corridor 

| Wednesday, June 11, 2014 3:50:00 PM

Aaron Isaacs worked at Metro Transit from 1973 to 2006. A historian with the Minnesota Streetcar Museum, Isaacs is the co-author of Twin Cities by Trolley and author of Twin Ports by Trolley, which will be released in September. Isaacs also edits Twin City Lines, a quarterly magazine about Twin Cities transit history.

For 63 years, streetcars rolled down University Avenue connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul. When the METRO Green Line opens this weekend, 60 years after the last streetcar made its way through the corridor, the Twin Cities' premier transit corridor will once again have the rail transit it deserves.

The history of rail service in the University Avenue corridor is long and rich.

In the 1880s, special railroad passenger trains operated by Great Northern, Milwaukee Road and Minneapolis & St. Louis ran every hour between the cities, stopping at stations every mile or so. Several of these stations were linked to residential areas such as Merriam Park, Macalester Park, Desnoyer Park, St. Anthony Park and Prospect Park. These neighborhoods featured curving streets, hills and parks designed to offer the latest in suburban living, despite being inside the city limits.

At the time, street railroads were in their infancy. Horse cars provided trips from the downtowns, but managed just five miles per hour and traveled only as far as Dale Street in St. Paul and Seven Corners in Minneapolis.

All that changed when electric streetcars became commercially viable in 1888. Although they were two separate corporations, the St. Paul City Railway and the Minneapolis Street Railway were both owned by a group headed by Thomas Lowry. Both companies immediately began converting horse cars to electricity.

Connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul was a high priority and was accomplished in December 1890. The new line was dubbed The Interurban and followed the same basic route as the new Green Line, differing only in the downtown areas.

It took just three years for the electric streetcars to put the competing short line railroad trains out of business. The streetcars were more frequent, charged a lower fare, stopped closer to where people wanted to go and didn’t have any of the smoke, soot or hot cinders that singed clothing and got in people's eyes.

After The Interurban was built, University Avenue went from a largely undeveloped corridor to an economic powerhouse with a mix of manufacturing, retail, hospitals, offices, entertainment and plenty of residential development.

Along the corridor, the University of Minnesota shifted towards Washington Avenue, Ford Motor Co. and International Harvester opened assembly plants and Montgomery Ward opened its department store and regional distribution center east of Snelling Avenue. Twin City Rapid Transit, the company Lowry created in combining the St. Paul and Minneapolis streetcar businesses, employed several hundred people at its Snelling Station and shop.

Add to that the State Capitol, Lexington ballpark, Memorial Stadium, the two downtowns and connections to 47 other streetcars lines plus some buses and it's easy to see why the Interurban became the busiest streetcar line in the Twin Cities. Streetcars were running every few minutes during rush hour and every five minutes during the rest of the day.

Buses fully replaced streetcars on University Avenue in 1953, but they ran side-by-side on for 35 years. Bus technology was new and for a while unregulated. Bus service began on University Avenue in 1918, running in direct competition with the streetcars.

The limited-stop bus service on University Avenue continued until the 1970s, when express service began on Interstate 94. As Route 16 grew to become the single most popular east-west route in the Twin Cities, limited-stop service returned in 1998 with the introduction of Route 50. Route 50 is now being replaced with rail service, bringing the history of transit on University Avenue full circle.


Central Corridor History At a Glance

+ Dec. 9, 1890 – The first Interurban electric streetcar line begins service between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.

+ Aug. 1, 1891 – Interurban streetcars are equipped with mailboxes, allowing residents to deposit mail without boarding. The postal service continues until 1910.

+ Oct. 31, 1953 – Interurban streetcar service ends in St. Paul.

+ Nov. 28, 1953 – Interurban service ends in Minneapolis. Non-revenue trips continue to Snelling Avenue through June 1954, when streetcars disappear entirely from the Twin Cities.

+ June 15, 1998 – Limited-stop bus service returns to University Avenue with the introduction of Route 50.

+ June 28, 2006 – The Metropolitan Council selects light-rail on University Avenue as the “Locally Preferred Alternative” for the Central Corridor following several years of study and public input.

+ Dec. 14, 2006 – The Federal Transit Administration gives approval to begin preliminary engineering on the Central Corridor.

+ Sept. 7, 2010 – Heavy construction begins on Robert Street between University Avenue and 12th Street.

+ April 26, 2011 – A full-funding grant agreement is signed, committing $478 million in federal funding for light-rail construction.

+ July 14, 2011 – First rail line is delivered and placed on Robert Street. 

+ May 14, 2012 – Light-rail construction reaches the halfway mark, on schedule.

+ Sept. 5, 2012 – METRO Green Line tracks are welded together with Blue Line tracks between the Metrodome and Cedar-Riverside stations.      

+ Oct. 10, 2012 – The first light-rail vehicle built for service on the Green Line debuts in Minneapolis.

+ Dec. 7, 2012 – The restored Union Depot re-opens in Lowertown St. Paul. A light-rail station north of the restored passenger rail building will serve as the Green Line's eastern terminus.

+ July 25, 2013 – The first light-rail vehicle to operate under its own power on Green Line tracks makes its inaugural run.

+ May 17, 2014 – Target Field Station opens in Minneapolis, providing another light-rail platform and public space at the Green Line's western terminus.          

+ June 14, 2014 – The METRO Green Line opens for revenue service with celebrations at nine stations and free bus and train rides throughout the weekend.

 


  > MPR: Everything old is new again: Trolley motorman rides the new light rail line


    > MinnPost: A timeline of the Green Line

    > Pioneer Press: St. Paul’s light rail evokes city’s bygone streetcar era

    > The Line: Beyond the Rails: Mapping the development, cultural and community impact of the new Green Line

    > Route 50: Limited stops for longer rides

    > Route 16: The original Minneapolis-St. Paul connection

    > Green Line Project Timeline

    > Minnesota Streetcar Museum


Photos: Top Right: Isaacs at the Green Line's Raymond Avenue Station, near one of the original streetcar buildings; middle left: construction workers install embedded tracks at Union Depot Station in St. Paul, courtesy Steve Glischinski, TRAINS Magazine; below right: an Interurban streetcar on University Avenue circa 1950, looking west from Chatsowrth Street; Blue and Green line tracks welded together in Minneapolis; Green Line test train in Prospect Park.

Bus METRO Green Line St. Paul

The sky's the limit 

| Friday, June 06, 2014 9:43:00 AM

A new stairway-elevator tower connecting street-level transit and the St. Paul skyway opened on Thursday at the METRO Green Line’s Central Station.

The first person to take the trip up the tower: Rick Cardenas, who advocated on behalf of the disability community to make the case for its construction.

“Yep, it works,” Cardenas told the Star Tribune as he exited at the skyway level alongside several others who joined him to celebrate the opening.

While Cardenas and others in the disability community were especially vocal about the tower’s importance, the building will be a benefit to anyone who lives, works or visits downtown St. Paul. More than 73,000 people work in the city and another 8,100 call it home.

Central Station is the Green Line’s most centrally-located stop in downtown St. Paul and will serve as a gateway to several nearby entertainment, dining and recreational destinations.

“This stairway-elevator tower builds on the excitement that is spreading throughout downtown St. Paul with the Green Line’s opening and reaffirms our commitment to making transit in the Twin Cities open and accessible to all individuals,” said Metropolitan Council Member Rich Kramer, who represents downtown St. Paul.

Besides its functional benefits, the tower also stands as a piece of public art. Colored glass mimics the shades of sunrise and sunset while interior stonework goes from light to dark – effects meant to create a feeling of transition. The artwork was created by JoAnn Verberg,

The tower is among several improvements that will enhance the experience for transit customers in downtown St. Paul.

In July, construction will begin on three new custom shelters at downtown St. Paul’s busiest boarding locations, at Cedar and 5th streets, 5th and Minnesota streets and 6th and Cedar streets. Improvements to the waiting area at Minnesota and 6th streets will follow later.

The new shelters will include public art, security upgrades, NexTrip signs with real-time predicted departure information, bicycle amenities and landscaping. The stations are also being built to accommodate the addition of arterial Bus Rapid Transit features, including off-board ticket vending machines. Arterial BRT lines on West 7th Street and East 7th Street will include stops downtown.  

Funding for the waiting area improvements and the tower came from a federal grant received by Metro Transit. Green Line funding was also used to help pay for the tower.

    > Stairway-elevator tower opens at downtown St. Paul METRO Green Line station

    > Star Tribune: Ahead of LRT, St. Paul skyway accessibility improves

    > KSTP: Elevator at Green Line Station makes skyways more accessible

    > Downtown St. Paul Transit Improvements

    > METRO Green Line

Community METRO Green Line Safety Transit Police

Transit Police geared up for Green Line 

| Thursday, May 29, 2014 10:51:00 AM

Guest post by Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington

University Avenue looks much different today than it did when I began riding Metro Transit buses as a patrol officer more than 20 years ago. The METRO Green Line promises to bring even more change to the corridor, long the busiest east-west transitway in Minnesota.

While we don't expect light rail to dramatically alter the public safety dynamic in St. Paul, the return of rail service is something everyone along the route must prepare for – including local, county and state police.

Metro Transit Police officers are doing just that, connecting with community members and residents, strengthening partnerships with partner agencies and growing to meet the demands of our growing transit system.

In March and April, Metro Transit and partner agencies held joint emergency preparedness exercises at Stadium Village and Raymond Avenue stations to simulate emergencies involving light-rail. To reinforce safety messages, Metro Transit and St. Paul police in April began an outreach campaign to provide motorists, pedestrians, transit customers and bicyclists the information they need to safely navigate the Green Line corridor. We’ve interacted directly with hundreds of residents and will continue this important work after trains open to the public on June 14.

We’ve also grown the department to keep up with the expansion of transit services. Another 20 part-time officers were sworn in this week, expanding the force to a diverse group of 94 full-time and 100 part-time officers. Many of these officers will work out of our new East Command center near University Avenue, including 22 who will focus specifically on the Green Line and the neighborhoods it serves.

As Capt. Jim Franklin recently told The Star Tribune, the “rail beat concept” will be a key to effectively policing the Green Line corridor. “You get officers that know the area very well,” Franklin told the newspaper. “They know the businesses. They know the community and really will get to know the ridership.”

Building these relationships will be aided by the fact that officers will spend more time than ever patrolling on foot, on bike and on board trains and buses. A number of officers were recently added to our bike patrol squad, which can be more nimble in Green Line’s dense urban environment. In Minneapolis, we are participating once again in Minneapolis SafeZone, a multi-agency effort that provides additional patrols to ensure safety during the busy summer months.

While building personal relationships is important, we are also harnessing data to focus our efforts and using technology more than ever. Each Green Line station and all light-rail trains are equipped with multiple security cameras that can be monitored in real time. Call boxes at each station are available in the event of an emergency.

Like University Avenue, our department will continue to evolve and grow as trains transform the way Twin Cities residents get around. Whatever the future holds our fundamental approach to policing and commitment to providing a safe, secure environment for all who use or interact with transit will never change.

    > Star Tribune: Get a driver's point of view riding alongside Green Line

    > Police Chief John Harrington on MPR's Daily Circuit

    > MPR: Walk, bike and drive safely along the Green Line

    > Pioneer Press: Policing the Green Line: Metro Transit promises cameras, cops, analysis

    > Star Tribune: Police prepare for safety on Green Line

    > WCCO: Officials work to educate public on Green Line safety

    > Fox 9: Officers patrol University Avenue to raise light rail awareness

    > KSTP: Navigating the new METRO Green Line

    > Pioneer Press: Green Line will require safety heads-up by motorists and pedestrians

    > Star Tribune: Emergency-preparedness drill near the U tests response to train-bus crash

    > Pioneer Press: Light rail readies to roll, and St. Paul responders prepare, too

    > KSTP: Crews practice emergency response with light rail derailment situation

    > Star Tribune: Busier, safer St. Paul streets

    > Green Line Safety

    > Transit Police on board and on bike

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