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Bus Minneapolis Suburban Transit

Minneapolis commute made easy with Maple Grove Transit 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, November 04, 2015 9:14:00 AM

Customers exit a Maple Grove Transit bus in downtown Minneapolis.For nearly 20 years, Leslie Ross has taken the bus to and from his job in downtown Minneapolis.

Since moving to Maple Grove in 2007, that’s meant riding Maple Grove Transit Route 781, an express service that gets him from to and from work in a little over a half-hour.

“It’s my time before and after work to just relax and read the newspaper or a book,” Ross said on a recent morning commute. “I don’t even check work e-mail because it’s just so nice to have this small amount of time that I can unwind.”

The opportunity to trade a stressful and time-consuming commute for a faster and more enjoyable ride has led many others in the north metro community to the same conclusion. In 2014, more than 788,000 rides were provided on Maple Grove Transit’s six express routes with service to downtown Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota.

Though buses and Park & Rides are owned by and carry the name of Maple Grove Transit, the service itself is operated under contract by Metro Transit. Metro Transit’s operators drive the buses, mechanics at Metro Transit’s Martin J. Ruter Garage maintain the 39-bus fleet and fare payments are made using the same system used on Metro Transit vehicles. Metro Transit’s Customer Relations department also assists with feedback from Maple Grove Transit customers.

The City of Maple Grove manages Maple Grove Transit through its Transit Administrator, who conducts transit planning, administration, customer service and marketing.  The city also has a Transit Commission of eight customers who provide input.

Metro Transit has provided Maple Grove Transit services since 1990 and will continue to do so through at least 2018 after the recent approval of a three-year contract extension.

Maple Grove Transit Administrator Mike Opatz said Metro Transit has consistently provided great service and that he looks forward to building on the successes of the last 25 years. Among the improvements made this year was the addition of free WiFi to some Maple Grove Transit buses.

“We truly appreciate all of our partners throughout Metro Transit,” Opatz said. “We’re particularly grateful for the service and support we receive from the operators, garage staff and supervisors, and we look forward to continuing to work together in the years ahead.”

Maple Grove is one of 12 suburban communities that have chosen to “opt-out” and directly contract their transit services through other providers. SouthWest Transit provides service in Chanhassen, Chaska, and Eden Prairie; the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority provides service in seven south metro suburbs; and Plymouth Metrolink provides service in Plymouth. (MVTA merged with contracted providers in Shakopee and Prior Lake in 2014.)

For customers, the fact that the buses say Maple Grove Transit while the operators wear a Metro Transit uniform isn’t all that significant. Instead, they’re just happy to have an alternative to battling congestion on Interstate 94 (Maple Grove Transit routes use bus-only shoulders to bypass traffic).

On the same trip as Ross, the 20-year transit veteran, was newcomer Tara Roberts who began riding the bus just a few weeks earlier when she started training in downtown Minneapolis. Able to board just blocks from her home, Roberts uses her time commuting to text with her children instead of stressing about traffic and parking.

“I get anxiety when I drive downtown so I really didn’t want to deal with it,” she said.

After moving from Puerto Rico this summer, Carlos Muniz said he will be especially grateful that he can walk or take a short drive to the Maple Grove Transit Station near his home instead of having to drive as he faces his first Minnesota winter.

“It’s all new to me, so I think there would be a lot of complications with that,” he said. “I’m glad I’ll just be able to rely on the bus.”

Maple Grove Transit At a Glance

Routes: Routes 780, 781, 782, 783, 785 and 788 provide express, weekday service to and from downtown Minneapolis during peak periods. Route 787 offers midday and evening service on weekdays. Route 789 provides weekday express service to the University of Minnesota when fall and spring classes are in session.

Park & Rides: Free parking is available at five Park & Ride locations. Open since 2003, the largest Park & Ride is the Maple Grove Transit Station near the Shoppes at Arbor Lake; it features 926 parking spaces, a climate-controlled waiting area and bike storage. Open since 2010, Parkway Station has 800 parking spaces. Smaller Park & Rides are located on Zachary Lane, at Cross Winds Church and at the Shepherd of the Grove Church. 

Ridership: Customers took 788,000 rides on Maple Grove Transit routes in 2014; ridership has increased more than 10 percent since 2010.

More information: maplegrovemn.gov   

    > Good Question: Why are some routes operated under contract?    

Bus Good Question Light Rail Northstar Rider Information Suburban Transit

Good Question: Why is service reduced on certain dates? 

| Wednesday, July 01, 2015 10:56:00 AM

Customers board Route 767 at the Bottineau Blvd & 63rd Avenue Park & Ride.On dates when fewer customers are expected to ride transit, service is reduced on some bus routes, as well as light rail and Northstar.

These “Reduced Service” days are typically observed holidays when many major employers are closed. Most of the service reductions are on routes used by commuters traveling to downtown Minneapolis, St. Paul or the University of Minnesota.

Unless otherwise noted, light-rail, express and local bus routes operate according to Saturday schedules on Reduced Service dates. (Routes with no service on Saturdays may operate on a limited schedule.) 

In practice, that means there are usually about 20 percent fewer local bus trips and about one-third the number of express bus trips. Light-rail service is reduced less than 10 percent.

Several morning and afternoon Northstar trips are also eliminated on Reduced Service dates, since around 93 percent of those who use the commuter rail line are traveling to work or school.

Metro Transit considers historic ridership patterns when deciding whether and when to reduce service. When there was an observed holiday on Monday, July 5, 2010, ridership decreased about 60 percent compared to the rest of the weekdays that week. Service on that date was reduced by around a third. 

Service is also reduced on holidays to reflect lower demand.

Reducing service on these lower-demand days provides cost-savings that can be re-directed to other needs.

Even if service is reduced customers can continue to use NexTrip, which provides predicted real-time departure information using GPS data from in-service buses. The Transit Information Center is also open.

Reduced and Holiday service schedules are available on metrotransit.org and are also published in Connect, the on-board newsletter.

Service adjustments may be made based on customer feedback. Customers with specific concerns are urged to Contact Us

Bus Minneapolis Route of the Week Suburban Transit

Route 17: Avoiding the rush by taking the bus 

| Tuesday, July 08, 2014 11:50:00 AM

A Route 17 bus on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis. Every day for the last six years Charles Nelson has traveled across Minneapolis to see his wife at the nursing home where she lives near Lake Calhoun. Because the visits align with afternoon rush hour, he almost invariably elects to take the bus instead of battling traffic.

Watching cars idle on busy Lake Street, Nelson said he can’t help but wonder why anyone would want to drive under such conditions.              

“It just doesn’t make sense for me as a single person to be driving a car,” Nelson said as he traveled west on Route 17. “It’s not good for me or for the environment.”

Others on Route 17 similarly describe their use of transit as a practical, common sense response to the high costs of owning a vehicle and the pressures of Twin Cities traffic. On a recent weekday afternoon, passengers were found riding the bus to visit friends, get to work and avoid the hassles of driving to a Twins game at Target Field.

Such variety is common on the nearly 12-mile route because it serves so many distinct destinations.

Traveling westbound, Route 17 runs through residential and commercial areas of Northeast Minneapolis, across the 3rd Avenue Bridge and through the heart of downtown on Nicollet Mall. The route continues through Uptown on Hennepin Avenue and Lake Street and then continues west on Minnetonka Boulevard through St. Louis Park. Most trips end near Knollwood Mall, but some end near 36th Street and Wooddale on a branch that serves several large employers.

Bobby Watkins is among those who travel on Route 17 on a daily basis. Watkins lives in Northeast Minneapolis and takes the bus to get to his job at the Dairy Queen near 50th and France (transferring from Route 17 to Route 6 at the Uptown Transit Center).                                      

Watkins owned a vehicle for a few years but went car free three years ago when he faced an $800 repair bill. Instead of paying for car repairs, he puts his money toward a 31-day Go-To Card pass that allows him unlimited rides for $59 (rush-hour 31-day passes are $85 a month).

“The car just cost too much,” he said. “Breaking down once was about the same as a few months bus fare.”

Korissa Ebersole also uses transit as a way to save money. But as a new mother, she also likes the fact that she can cradle her seven-month-old child while riding the bus.

A passenger boards a Route 17 bus in St. Louis Park. “She really likes to be held and is a lot less fussy on the bus,” Ebersole said, returning downtown on Route 17 after having lunch with a friend.

Sitting next to Ebersole was Angela Record, who was headed to her job as a cleaner at Target Field. Record said she takes the bus to work and for most other trips because it’s a more relaxing, enjoyable experience.

“People don’t like to follow the rules of the road,” she said. “This feels so much safer to me.”

Rayla Heflin also sees the bus as a safer travel option. Heflin has a car but takes Route 17 to and from her jobs at Taco Bell and T.J. Maxx in St. Louis Park because she finds it hard not to look at her phone while driving. Riding the bus allows her to text, play games and listen to music all she likes.

“I try to limit it, but sometimes I get involved and miss my stop,” Heflin said. “I know if I was in the car and I was too focused on my device something a lot worse might happen.”

Bob Kelley also uses the bus as a way to keep himself in check. Car-free for the last three years, Kelley takes Route 17 to get to his job in Uptown and to visit friends in Northeast Minneapolis. Besides saving money on gas, insurance and car repairs, taking the bus also has a way of limiting his spending at the store.                       

“This helps keep my shopping trips to a minimum because I only buy what I can fit in my bag,” he said.

While many on Route 17 have made taking the bus a part of their daily routines, St. Louis Park resident Jane Nelson, her son and his girlfriend were making a rare trip to Target Field.

Looking to avoid traffic and parking, Nelson called Metro Transit’s Transit Information Center and learned Route 17 would provide a simple, one-seat ride to the ballpark.

“I just don’t know downtown very well so I thought it would be easier to walk to the bus stop than to try and figure out how to get around,” she said. “It was a lot easier to just go the four blocks to the bus stop.”

A Route 17 bus on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis. Route 17 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

ServiceRoute 17 serves Northeast Minneapolis, downtown Minneapolis, Uptwon and St. Louis Park. Traveling southbound, buses run on Washington and Central avenues and through downtown on Nicollet Mall. Buses continue on Nicollet Avenue and 24th Street, stopping at the Uptown Transit Center on Hennepin Avenue before going to St. Louis Park on Lake Street and Minnetonka Boulevard (Route 17F goes south at Highway 7 to provide a connection to multiple employers in St. Louis Park). On the west end, Route 17 runs on Texas Avenue, serving Knollwood Mall and residential areas. Buses run every 5 to 15 minutes during rush hour, every 15 minutes midday and every 30 minutes in the evening. Service runs every 15 to 30 minutes on weekends and holidays. Service hours are approximately 5 a.m. to 2 a.m.             

Route Length: Approximately 12 miles

Stops: 123 eastbound, 125 westbound

Vehicles: 40-foot standard and hybrid-electric buses

Ridership: Approximately 2.1 million customer boardings in 2013, the ninth highest ridership among all Metro Transit bus routes.

History: Buses, including some of the first gas-electric models, began running on Nicollet and Hennepin avenues in the early 1920s. A streetcar line that ran from Hennepin and Lagoon avenues to Lake Street and Brownlow Avenue operated from 1892 to 1938. The Richfield Bus Co. operated buses on the far west end of what is now Route 17 until Twin City Rapid Transit took it over in the 1950s. The northeast section of the route is rooted in a horsecar line that opened in 1892 and ran from downtown Minneapolis to Broadway and Monroe streets, where Logan Park is now located. Horsecars were replaced with electric streetcars, which operated until 1954.

Future: Concept plans for the Southwest LRT project call for Route 17 to be extended to the proposed Blake Road Station.                                                              

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.

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