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Posts in Category: METRO Green Line

Bus Bus Rapid Transit METRO Green Line Minneapolis Route of the Week St. Paul University of Minnesota

Route 61: From the city to the farm and back again 

| Wednesday, August 21, 2013 9:00:00 AM

Bucolic farm views aren’t what customers expect to find while riding one of Metro Transit’s urban bus routes.

But that’s what they’ll find on Route 61 as it passes the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. Acres of corn, tomatoes and other vegetables come into view as the bus rolls down Larpenteur Avenue and past the fields adjoining campus.

The agrarian environment is just one of the scenes customers encounter while riding Route 61, however. The crosstown bus also passes through quiet, tree-lined residential streets, past large industrial warehouses and over the Mississippi River as it makes its way between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul.

For two weeks every summer, it also passes near one of the state’s largest events: the Minnesota State Fair. The fairgrounds sit just south of Larpenteur Avenue, between Cleveland and Snelling Avenues and can be reached by Route 61 customers willing to walk a short distance to the entrance. (Regular service on Route 3 and Route 84 can also bring customers to the fair; see all available transit options here.)

Even without that extra attraction, though, Route 61 is seeing its fair share of customers. Nearly 780,000 customers boarded Route 61 buses last year, up around 3 percent from 2011.

Among them is Ritesh Katwal, a 25-year-old University of Minnesota student who uses the bus to travel between school and his home in St. Paul. Without a car, Katwal said the bus is so important to him that he plans his classes around the bus schedule.

“The 61 is the only bus I take and I take it all the time – to school, libraries, wherever I can go,” he said recently as he returned home from class.

Chuck Weber moved to St. Paul just two months ago but has already made a habit of riding Route 61. Weber said he boards once or twice a day, usually to get to the YMCA in downtown St. Paul. Though he has a car, he says he prefers to ride the bus for environmental reasons and to avoid paying for parking.

Now retired, Weber also benefits from a 75-cent senior fare, available to customers who are at least 65-years-old.

“I like the bus because it’s environmentally more sound but it’s also a lot cheaper,” Weber said.

Route 61 was created in 2001, when a series of service changes went into effect. A number of routes were either eliminated or consolidated, allowing Metro Transit to create a more direct crosstown route. One of Route 61's primary purposes is to link residents in east St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis. But the route also provides local service to businesses along Larpenteur Avenue and downtown St. Paul.  

Responding to strong demand, weekday spans on Route 61 were expanded in early 2013. Plans are now in place to improve station areas in downtown St. Paul, including the transit center at Fifth and Minnesota streets, where passengers board Route 61 and several other routes.

Future service improvements could be made to East Seventh and Arcade streets, once home to a streetcar line that ran between St. Paul and White Bear Lake. The streets have been identified as candidates for Arterial Bus Rapid Transit, which would improve travel time along a nearly 9-mile stretch between the METRO Green Line in downtown St. Paul and the Maplewood Mall Transit Center.

A Metro Transit study suggests more than 13,000 weekday passengers could use ABRT by 2030.

As that planning continues, longtime customer Michael Chappell said he's happy with what's already in place. Now 51-years-old, Chappell has been riding the bus since he was a child and finds himself amazed with the consistency of service he's experienced.

"It's never too late, never too early -- always on time," he said.  

Route 61 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

Service: Route 61 runs between the Ramp A/7th Street Transit Center in downtown Minneapolis and the Smith Avenue Ramp near downtown St. Paul. Buses run along East Hennepin Avenue, Larpenteur Avenue, Arlington Avenue, Arcade Street and East Seventh Street. In St. Paul, Route 61 stops at Fifth and Minnesota streets, adjacent to the METRO Green Line's Central Station. Buses run between roughly 5 a.m. and 11:30 p.m., approximately every 20 minutes during rush hour, every half-hour midday and every hour in the evening. Downtown Zone fares apply in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Route length: Approximately 15 miles

Stops: 132 eastbound stops and 134 westbound stops

Vehicles: 40-foot standard buses

Ridership: Route 61 saw nearly 780,000 customer boardings in 2012, with an average of more than 2,531 daily passengers.

History: Route 61 launched in 2001 following a series of service changes that led other routes to be consolidated or eliminated. It was created primarily to provide a direct connection between east St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis and to provide service to businesses along Larpenteur Avenue. Parts of Route 61 -- East Seventh and Arcade streets -- were once home to a streetcar line between downtown St. Paul and White Bear Lake.

Future: East Seventh and Arcade streets are under consideration for Arterial Bus Rapid Transit, which would bring faster service to the corridor along with new technology, buses and improved station areas.

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Safety

Close call on METRO Blue Line provides safety reminder 

| Friday, August 16, 2013 9:24:00 AM

Rusdon Torbenson considers himself extremely lucky. 

On June 15, Torbenson was biking westbound on East 35th Street. After crossing Hiawatha Avenue, he biked around the lowered, flashing gate arms. Though he saw a METRO Blue Line train traveling south, he thought he could cross the tracks before it passed through the intersection.

Headphones in and looking to his right, Torbenson failed to notice the second 150-ton train coming from the opposite direction at about 40 miles per hour.

That is, until it hit his front tire.

“I had no awareness of the northbound train until it was striking me,” Torbenson said recently. “If it had passed another second later I would have been killed.”

Instead, Torbenson walked away from the scene 30 minutes later with little more than a bruised pointer finger, a bent-up bike and a moving violation. Customers were escorted from the train to replacement buses as police and emergency responders arrived at the scene.  

“I wanted to apologize to every one of them,” Torbenson said, recalling the incident in an interview at the Blue Line’s 38th Street Station.

Though he avoided significant injury, Torbenson’s story underscores a message Metro Transit hopes will stick with all residents who come near light rail: trains can come on any track, at any time, from either direction. (Though this wasn't true in Torbenson's case, it's also important to realize trains may be approaching on the opposite track but blocked from view by the near-side train.)

Torbenson said he knows he should have been more careful and agreed to talk about his experience so that others would not repeat it. He said he hadn't been in a particular hurry. And despite crossing the tracks countless times over the last several years, he’d never attempted to beat the train before.

With METRO Green Line light-rail service beginning between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul in mid-2014, Torbenson's experience is a timely reason for a refresher on safety around light-rail trains for pedestrians, motorists and bicyclists.

> Never try to beat a train through a crossing – it takes the length of two football fields for a train to stop.

> Safety only takes a second – light-rail trains move faster than freight trains. If gate arms are going down, stop. The train will clear the intersection in a few seconds.

> Slow down and be alert near rail stations. Watch for pedestrians, trains, buses and cars. If you're wearing headphones, put them away to avoid distractions.

Looking back at the experience, Torbenson said the close call has left him more aware, but also more introspective. In the days after the collision, he thought about how his parents and 11-year-old son would have been affected had things gone differently.

“The first few hours I was really just embarrassed,” he said. “Then over the next few days it was pretty overwhelming, realizing it was such a near-death experience.”



Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line METRO Red Line On the METRO Transit Improvements

METRO Blue Line marks ninth anniversary 

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013 6:50:00 AM

For the last four years, Lisa Nguyen-Gaulke has relied on the METRO Blue Line to reach her job in downtown Minneapolis, a trip she estimates takes half the time she’d spend commuting by car from her Standish-Ericsson home.

Nguyen-Gaulke also uses the Blue Line to get to Twins games or other weekend events and as an easy connection to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Combined with their bikes, Nguyen-Gaulke’s use of the Blue Line allowed she and her husband to downsize to a single vehicle two years ago.

“It makes a big difference, especially with gas as high as it’s been recently,” Nguyen-Gaulke said this week.

Nguyen-Gaulke is among a growing number of residents who – nine years after the Blue Line’s opening and more than 30 years since it was first envisioned – have come to see light rail as an integral part of their daily lives.

As the Blue Line marks another anniversary today, here's a quick snapshot of how the state's first light rail line is performing and a look at what is yet to come.

  • > Ridership is exceeding expectations. Nearly 10.5 million customers boarded Blue Line trains in 2012, a record number of passengers for the 11-mile light rail line. Ridership levels have been trending nearly 30 percent ahead of projections for the year 2020. In Metro Transit's 2012 Customer Survey, 60 percent of respondents said they were on their way to work; 15 percent were running errands and 9 percent were on their way to school. Riders said they chose transit because they had no access to a vehicle, wanted to avoid stress and avoid gas and parking expenses. More than 42 percent of passengers have ridden for more than five years and more than 90 percent rated service as “good” or “excellent.”
  • > Development is surging. At the north end of the Blue Line, housing and office projects are planned or underway in the North Loop and near Target Field. Directly adjacent to the Nicollet Mall Station, a 26-story apartment building is rising from the ground -- the first high-rise in Minneapolis in 30 years. Plans to add offices, green space and apartments near the site of the new Vikings Stadium are taking shape. East of the 38th Street Station, a 180-unit apartment building, Longfellow Station, is nearing completion. And in Bloomington, plans for a 50-acre transit-oriented development around the Bloomington Central Station are taking shape as the Mall of America continues to expand.
  • > Property values along the corridor have been strengthened. Single-family homes within a quarter-mile of the Blue Line have sold for 4.2 percent more than homes in a comparison area, with values increasing an average of $5,000 per home. A 2013 study found home values within a half-mile of hi-frequency transit like the Blue Line performed 48 percent better during the recession compared to those farther away.
  • > Connectivity is growing. With the opening of the METRO Red Line last weekend, customers in the south metro have access to a frequent, all-day service connecting to the Blue Line at the Mall of America Transit Station. In 2014, the METRO Green Line will provide light rail passengers with a convenient connection to St. Paul and the University of Minnesota. When the Interchange transit hub adjacent Target Field opens next spring, connections between transit services, including the Northstar Commuter Rail line and bus service, will further improve. Future connections include the Snelling Bus Rapid Transit Line, which would run from the 46th Street Station and along Snelling Avenue to Rosedale Center, and the Green Line Extension, which would run light rail between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.
  • > Service will continue to improve. A dozen new light rail vehicles have been added to the Blue Line fleet in the past few months, providing service with all three-car trains during peak periods and special events. The vehicles are designed to be more energy-efficient and comfortable for passengers. Planned streetscape improvements on Hiawatha Avenue will make the corridor more inviting to pedestrians and bikers. And reconfigured traffic signal technology will help move traffic more quickly along Hiawatha Avenue. A growing police force will provide additional law enforcement presence throughout the entire Metro Transit system.
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