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Posts in Category: METRO Green Line

Bus METRO Green Line Route of the Week St. Paul

Route 83: A new link on Lexington Parkway 

| Thursday, June 19, 2014 12:00:00 PM

Dressed in a suit and tie, Alon Coleman recently took his first trip on Route 83. If the interview he just finished leads to a new job, it will be the first of many for the 20-year-old St. Paul resident.

“That would be great,” Coleman said as he traveled south from Roseville to catch a Route 70 bus at St. Clair Avenue and finish his journey home. “I’m very conscious of my carbon footprint and it would really help me save money.”

Coleman was among many residents testing out Route 83 during its first week of operation. The new service began on Saturday, June 14, as part of a suite of bus improvements aimed at strengthening connections to METRO Green Line stations.

Route 83 buses run largely along Lexington Parkway, filling a gap in north-south service between Snelling Avenue (served by Route 84) and Dale Street (served by Route 65) and providing a new connection to the Green Line’s Lexington Parkway Station. Buses on the contracted route run between the Roseville Super Target and Montreal Circle in St. Paul with service every 30 minutes from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. seven days a week.

Chris Boldt is among those who immediately began using Route 83 to connect to the Green Line. Boldt works at the University of Minnesota and his research office is a short walk from the Green Line’s East Bank Station.

“Before, I just drove and parked,” Boldt said. “But I’m anti- paying for parking and this basically takes the same amount of time so it just makes sense (to take transit).”

Awazi Jaafaru, 15, also found instant value in the new route. Before she could take Route 83, getting to her internship on Energy Park Drive meant riding Route 23 to the Blue Line’s 38th Street Station, riding light-rail to downtown Minneapolis and transferring to Route 3.

In contrast, Route 83 provides a one-seat ride and gets her to the office in less than a half hour.

“It feels pretty good that it doesn’t have to be so complicated anymore,” said Jaafaru, who also plans to use Route 83 to connect to the Green Line and travel to classes at the U of M.

After testing out the Green Line on its first day of service, Linda Sootsman decided to take Route 83 to the Roseville Super Target to pick up a few items and see what the new route was like. Like many of the seniors who live with her at the Wilder Square Hi-Rise, Sootsman doesn’t own a vehicle and depends on transit to go to work and run errands.

“It’s great to have options because it gives me a lot more freedom,” Sootsman said. “I don’t see a need for me to get a car with the way I can get around on transit.”

Rachel Eutnam also appreciates having more options. Living in a one-car household, Eutnam uses transit during the day to get around with her one-year-old son. Eutnam was using Route 83 for the first time to visit the Ramsey County Library branch on Hamline Avenue.

“It’s all about connectivity and timing when I have to work around his naps,” she said.

Eutnam said she will also use Route 83 to visit one of St. Paul’s largest attractions, the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory. Stops on Lexington, Horton and Hamline avenues provide access to the park.

Campus Manager Michelle Furrer said Route 83 is a welcome addition as the park invests in transportation improvements aimed at relieving congestion. Around 4.4 million people visit the park ever year and more than 90 percent of park users arrive by car.

“We know we need to shift toward transit and having the addition of Route 83 and the Green Line that connects to it is a great step in the right direction,” Furrer said.

On the far south end of the route, buses will bring people directly to the Summit Brewery, located on Montreal Circle. Around 50,000 people visit the brewery every year and the combination of light-rail and bus service to the brewery’s front door “will be awesome,” said Carey Matthews, Summit’s marketing coordinator.

“The biggest thing for us is obviously greater accessibility to the brewery for the general public,” Matthews said. “It’s going to make it a lot easier for people to get over here and visit us.”

Route 83 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

ServiceRoute 83 buses operate between the Roseville Super Target and Montreal Circle, just south of West Seventh Street in St. Paul. Buses primarily run on Lexington Avenue but also provide service on Hamline Avenue between Larpenteur and Como avenues and on Edgcumbe Road between Jefferson and Randolph avenues. The route runs non-stop on Interstate 35E between Randolph Avenue and West 7th Street. Buses run about every 30 minutes from approximately 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. seven days a week. An end-to-end trip takes around 37 minutes. The route serves many residences, businesses, schools and the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory. The route also intersects with the METRO Green Line’s Lexington Parkway Station, allowing customers to transfer to light-rail and continue toward downtown St. Paul or Minneapolis. In addition to the METRO Green Line, Route 83 is intersected by routes 65, 61, 3, 67, 21, 63, 70, 74 and 54.

Route Length: Approximately 8.5 miles

Stops: 39 northbound, 43 southbound

Vehicles: 25-foot, 22 passenger small bus (the smaller vehicle is used because of operational constraints -- a railroad overpass near Como Park prevents the use of a larger vehicle). 

History: Buses ran on Lexington Parkway between Rosedale Center and Concordia Avenue beginning in June 2001, but the service was discontinued after 18 months. Route 83 began service on June 14, 2014 as part of a suite of bus improvements designed to better connect people to METRO Green Line stations. Route 83 is directly contracted by the Metropolitan Council and operated by a third-party provider but is a part of the regional transit network with scheduled connections to other routes, common fares and technology, and the same trip planning and customer service resources that make using it seamless for riders.

Bus Community METRO Green Line Minneapolis St. Paul

The last ride on Route 50 

| Wednesday, June 18, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Nikki Bass grew pretty fond of Route 50 over the last decade. The Frogtown resident said the route not only took her where she needed to go but moved at an ideal pace – brisk, but casual enough to let her take in the sights along the way.

On Friday, June 13, Bass spent a little more time looking out the window than usual. That’s because she was among several customers aboard Route 50’s final eastbound journey, which departed downtown Minneapolis shortly after 6 p.m.

“I’m really going to miss it,” Bass said as the bus moved toward the University of Minnesota campus. “The trains are going to be moving so fast, I don’t know if I’ll be able to see as much.”

Despite their nostalgia, Bass and other passengers making their final trips on Route 50 last week said they knew losing the bus meant gaining something even better – reliable, efficient all-day service on the METRO Green Line. Trains replaced Route 50 buses because the Green Line covers the same territory and can provide service more efficiently.

Route 50’s final run came almost 16 years to the day after the limited-stop bus service was introduced in an effort to attract new riders who wanted a faster, more efficient service on University Avenue. Route planner John Levin spoke with Minnesota Public Radio about the route on its first day of service, June 15, 1998, in an interview that can be heard here.  

As Green Line trains began running down University Avenue, several bus routes in the Central Corridor were improved to make the most of the new light-rail service. Besides Route 50, routes 8 and 144 had their final runs on June 13 as service was consolidated with other routes to improve efficiency.

While many Route 50 customers looked fondly on their years riding the bus, their was also excitement about the Green Line's opening. Among those looking forward to the change was Cameron Kolbe, who has commuted on Route 50 for the last eight years. 

“I’ve been psyching myself up and trying to acclimate myself to the fact that this is the new reality,” Kolbe said. “It’s going to be a weird adjustment but I’m looking forward to it.”

Sherry Hurt, who lives near the Green Line’s Victoria Street Station, said she turned to Route 50 two years ago so she could avoid the hassles of driving to work. She plans to use the Green Line to get to her job near the U of M campus and to run errands on University Avenue.

“I’m one of those people who hates to be late,” she said. “This bus always got me there early and I think the train will do the same.”

Being on the final Route 50 trip was particularly symbolic for Melissa Williams, a St. Anthony Park resident who has commuted by bus for nearly a decade. On Saturday, June 14, Williams and her four-year-old son had tickets to be on the first Green Line train departing Raymond Avenue Station.

Riding Route 50 for the last time, Williams said she saw the Green Line’s opening as an historic moment for the community.

“It’s a sign that University Avenue matters,” she said. “A lot of my friends will joke that you have to have a visa to cross over the river (between Minneapolis and St. Paul) but I don’t think that will be the case anymore.”

    > METRO Green Line

    > Enhanced bus service + METRO Green Line

    > Rail returns to the Central Corridor

    > Route 50: Limited stops for longer rides

Photos: Top right, Jodi Elowitz and Debra Jane take their photo while riding on the final eastbound Route 50 trip; the two have commuted to and from the University of Minnesota on Route 50 for the last three years. Bottom left, John Levin, who devised the route as a planner for Metro Transit, rides home after work on Route 50's final day of operation.

Interview from Minnesota Public Radio © 1998. Used with permission. All rights reserved.​

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.

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