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Bus METRO Green Line Midtown Corridor Minneapolis Route of the Week St. Paul

Route 53: Limited stops from Lake Street to Lowertown 

| Thursday, March 13, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Jeff Nelson likes to be productive – even when he’s commuting.

That’s why, for nearly a decade, he’s been taking the bus to his job at the Department of Employment and Economic Development in St. Paul. In the summer months, he combines short bike trips with a ride on Route 94. In the winter, when his routine includes morning visits to a gym near Nicollet Avenue and Lake Street, he catches Route 53.

One of the main reasons: he can use the time on the bus to squeeze in a little more work at the beginning and end of each workday, reading and catching up on e-mail while moving to and from the office.

“One of the biggest reasons I take the bus is that driving on I-94 can be such a pain,” Nelson said during a recent morning trip on Route 53. “Sitting in traffic, I’m just burning gas and wasting time.”

Nelson’s philosophy was shared by many commuters on Route 53, which travels between the Uptown Transit Center and downtown St. Paul along Lake Street, Marshall Avenue and Interstate 94. The route includes stops at the Chicago/Lake Transit Center and the METRO Blue Line’s Lake Street/Midtown Station.

Between Uptown and Snelling Avenue, Route 53 covers much of the same terrain as Route 21. But it offers a quicker trip with around one-third the number of stops and also non-stop service on I-94 between Snelling Avenue and downtown St. Paul. Route 53 buses run only on weekdays, with eight eastbound trips each morning rush hour and ten westbound trips each evening rush hour.                   

Liam Moore, who boards at Otis and Marshall avenues, appreciates the efficiency of his limited-stop trip to downtown St. Paul, where he works at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Moore and his girlfriend share a vehicle, so he takes the bus to work every day.

“It’s nice because it’s such a direct route to downtown St. Paul,” Moore said.

Other eastbound commuters who travel shorter distances use the Route 53 and Route 21 interchangeably, based on their schedules.

Among them is DeAndre Lindsey, who takes Route 17 from his home in St. Louis Park and transfers to Route 53 or Route 21 at the Uptown Transit Center to get to work near Lake Street and Blaisdell Avenue. Though he could drive, Lindsey has been commuting by transit for the last eight years because he sees it as a cheaper and easier way of getting to work.

“And it forces me to stay on time,” Lindsey said.

Audrey Blanchard, who also boarded at the Uptown Transit Center, said she too could drive but prefers to take transit. Blanchard rides Route 53 to the Chicago/Lake Transit Center, near her workplace at the Midtown Exchange, and appreciates not having to pay for parking while on the clock.

“I could drive, but this is just much more convenient,” Blanchard said. “I’ve got my schedule down so this is easy.”

For Linda Griffin, riding the bus is also about convenience. Griffin takes Route 53 three times a week to the Division of Indian Work, where she volunteers. “I like the fact that I don’t have to warm up my car in the winter, but even in the summer I ride,” she said.

Route 53 customers who travel to St. Paul will have another transit option when the METRO Green Line opens June 14. Route 53 buses will connect with the Green Line’s Central Station, at Fifth and Cedar streets, and the Union Depot, the Green Line’s eastern terminus.

Though not considered a major feeder route for the Green Line, employees who work north of downtown St. Paul on Lafyette Road could use Route 53 to get to the Green Line’s downtown stations.

Route 53 customers may also someday see changes to service on the Lake Street corridor. A recent study of transit in the Midtown Corridor concluded with a recommendation for Bus Rapid Transit on Lake Street and rail in the Midtown Greenway.

BRT would cut travel time by offering fewer stops and technologies like off-board fare payment and traffic signal priority. Route 21 will continue to operate alongside BRT but Route 53 would be replaced. Select BRT trips could continue from Snelling Avenue to downtown St. Paul during rush hour.

Route 53 At a Glance

Type: Limited stop

ServiceRoute 53 runs between the Uptown Transit Center and downtown St. Paul, along Lake Street, Marshall Avenue and I-94. Eight eastbound trips depart Minneapolis each morning between approximately 6 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. In the evening, ten westbound trips depart St. Paul between approximately 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. The Chicago/Lake Transit Center and METRO Blue Line’s Lake Street/Midtown Station are major transfer points along the route. Route 21 covers similar territory as Route 53, but has more stops. Route 21 also makes stops at University Avenue and Snelling Avenue and on Selby Avenue in St. Paul.

Route Length: Approximately 12 miles

Stops: 33 eastbound; 33 westbound

Vehicles: Standard 40-foot buses

Ridership: More than 216,000 customer boardings in 2013, with an average of 859 passengers per day. Ridership grew more than 8 percent between 2012 and 2013.

History: The Selby-Lake streetcar line operated from 1906 until 1953 and was among the most important crosstown connections in the burgeoning streetcar system, with more passengers per mile than any other route. An express bus also traveled on Lake Street to downtown St. Paul in the 1920s, competing with the Selby-Lake streetcar. Route 53 is the successor of that express bus service. 

Future: When the METRO Green Line opens June 14, Route 53 customers will be able to transfer to the train at the Union Depot and Central Station. The Midtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis also recommended Bus Rapid Transit on Lake Street, between the METRO Blue Line’s Lake Street/Midtown Station and the proposed West Lake Station on the METRO Green Line Extension (Southwest LRT). BRT features could be continued on Marshall and Snelling avenues, connecting with the Green Line’s Snelling Avenue Station.

 

Bus METRO Blue Line METRO Orange Line Midtown Corridor Minneapolis Route of the Week

Route 27: A short route with a big impact 

| Friday, January 10, 2014 12:00:00 AM

An end-to-end trip on Route 27 covers around two miles and takes just 10 minutes. While short, the route has proven to be an important connection for commuters and residents in south Minneapolis.

Joel Oliver is a case in point. Oliver boarded recently at East 28th Street and Park Avenue, using Route 27 to get to the METRO Blue Line’s Lake Street/Midtown Station. From there, he continued south to the Minneapolis VA, where he works in vocational rehabilitation.

“I don’t use a car so public transportation is everything,” said Oliver, who is visually impaired.

While Oliver was traveling eastbound on Route 27, the route is also a strong link for those traveling west from the Blue Line. From Lake Street/Midtown Station, Route 27 buses travel east on Lake Street then venture north on Cedar Avenue to East 26th Street en route to Interstate 35W. Buses return to the Blue Line via East 28th Street.

James Broom is among those who travel westbound on Route 27. Without a car, Broom uses transit to get to his job in Bloomington and uses Route 27 to get to I-35W and Lake Street, where he transfers to Route 535.

“I generally like to bike, but when it’s winter and it's super cold I don’t like to go that far,” Broom said.

Broom works at Wells Fargo’s Bloomington office, but Route 27 is especially important to employees who work at the company’s home mortgage campus on 5th Avenue South. Wells Fargo employee Ludy has used Route 27 as part of her commute for the last 11 years, walking a few blocks to the Blue Line’s 50th Street Station and transferring to Route 27 at Lake Street.

“I take the train for a couple of stops and then this gets me the rest of the way,” she said. “It’s very convenient. I love it.”

Other major destinations along Route 27 include Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Children’s Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota.

Sharon Sanford uses Route 27 to see her doctor every couple of months and was on board this week after transferring from Route 7. Sanford said she elects to take transit primarily for environmental reasons. “I believe in mass transit because there’s too much pollution in the air,” she said.

While Route 27 is designed primarily to serve as a link between light rail and large employers and institutions, it has earned a following from south Minneapolis residents who use the bus to get groceries or shop on Lake Street as well.

Elie Hall is among those who use Route 27 to run errands. Hall began using the bus when he moved into Ebenezer Care Center on Portland Avenue four years ago. “I don’t want to drive anymore so this means a lot to me,” Hall said recently as he returned from the grocery store. “Every place I go, I use transit.”

Route 27 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

ServiceRoute 27 runs between the METRO Blue Line’s Lake Street/Midtown Station and I-35W and Lake Street with service on Portland Avenue, 26th Street East and 28th Street East. Buses run every 10 to 20 minutes during rush hour and every 30 minutes midday, weekdays only. The route serves major employers such as Wells Fargo, Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Children's Hospital and Clinic. Reverse commuters who work in this location are also served by Route 39, which provides limited-stop service on Park and Portland avenues.

Route Length: Approximately 2 miles

Stops: 13 eastbound, 17 westbound

Vehicles: Standard 40-foot

Ridership: Nearly 63,000 customer boardings in 2012, with an average of 217 passengers per day

History: Route 27 service began when the METRO Blue Line opened in 2004. The route was created in part to serve large employers that were not directly connected to the new rail service.

Future: No service changes are planned at this time. However, there are plans for a new transit center at I-35W and Lake Street that would serve express buses and the METRO Orange Line. The Midtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis is meanwhile exploring improvements to service in the nearby Lake Street Corridor.

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