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Posts in Category: Minneapolis

Bus Bus Rapid Transit Minneapolis Route of the Week

Route 19: Buses and blossoms on Penn Avenue 

| Wednesday, August 07, 2013 12:37:00 PM

When Karen Bradford was young, she used to ride the bus to downtown Minneapolis with her grandmother so they could shop at the department stores lining Nicollet Mall.

Though she’s grown older, Bradford still uses the bus as her primary connection to downtown, where she shops, goes to doctor appointments or simply enjoys the city.

And she isn’t alone. On a recent afternoon, Bradford was among several customers traveling northbound on Route 19, which runs from Minneapolis to Brooklyn Center. The bus travels along Olson Memorial Highway, Penn Avenue and Osseo Road en route to the Brooklyn Center Transit Center, one of Metro Transit’s busiest boarding areas.

Last year, more than 2 million people boarded Route 19 buses, a more than 8 percent increase from 2011.

Like Bradford, many Route 19 customers say they do not own vehicles and that the bus serves as their primary mode of travel to work, school or shopping.

“This is my everyday transportation,” said Nick Lofton, 21, who lives in north Minneapolis and uses the bus to visit friends, shop and get to work. This fall, he plans to use the bus to get to and from classes at the Minneapolis Community & Technical College.

Keith and Jayme Talley use Route 19 every day, multiple times a day to fetch groceries, get to appointments and visit parks, including Theodore Wirth Park. “If we have a lot of stuff to do, we’ll be on the bus the majority of the day,” Jayme Talley said.

Because of the high, all-day demand Route 19 is part of Metro Transit’s Hi Frequency Network, with buses running every 15 minutes between downtown Minneapolis and the intersection of Penn and Lowry avenues. Midday and evening service was recently improved and morning and afternoon trips have been added to better serve customers, including Patrick Henry High School students now traveling to school with Go-To Student Passes.

Future improvements could come in the form of Arterial Bus Rapid Transit, which would move buses more quickly through the corridor by making fewer stops and using new technology like pre-paid fare payment, traffic signal priority and low-floor buses with front and rear entrances. Station areas would also be more fully developed.

Penn Avenue has been identified as the third potential Arterial Bus Rapid Transit corridor, after Snelling Avenue and West Seventh Street in St. Paul. 

Katie Roth, a project manager in Metro Transit's BRT/Small Starts Project Office, said BRT planning is just beginning but that plans could be put in motion as early as 2017. Route 19 and its branches would continue to provide local service even with the addition of BRT.

Roth said the corridor stands out for improved service because it has strong all-day ridership and is an important connection to suburban routes in the northwest metro. Estimates suggest BRT service on Penn Avenue could draw up to 9,300 weekday riders by 2030.

BRT would come as just the latest evolution for transit on the Route 19 corridor.

Streetcars ran on Sixth Avenue North until 1940, when the road was rebuilt as Olson Memorial Highway. Portions of Penn Avenue also had streetcars until 1953. Until 2007, two routes served Penn Avenue — Route 19, which ran between Olson Memorial Highway and Golden Valley Road, and Route 5, which ran north of North 26th Avenue. Continuous service on Penn Avenue was implemented as part of a service restructuring in the northwest metro.

As Metro Transit prepares for the next evolution, it is participating in Hennepin County's Penn Avenue Community Works project, designed to enhance the corridor through a series of community-building projects. The Community Works project is focused on the area between Interstate 394 and the intersection of Osseo Road and 49th Avenue North.

One community-focused investment already in place is 'Blossoms of Hope,' a bus shelter that also serves as a striking piece of public art. Designed by landscape artist Marjorie Pitz and located at Broadway and Penn avenues, large metal flowers sprout from the top of the bus shelter adding color and life to the busy intersection (the shelter itself is meant to mimic a vase, Pitz said).

The flowers were installed shortly before the 2011 tornado struck Minneapolis, damaging several surrounding properties. After surviving relatively unscathed, the flowers became a "beacon of hope" and have persisted as a welcoming and encouraging landmark ever since, Pitz said.

"I wanted to make it (the shelter) into an attraction that would actually lift peoples' spirits when they came to wait for the bus," she said. "It's very joyful, colorful and happy."

Route 19 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local 

Service: Route 19 runs between downtown Minneapolis and Bass Lake Road in Brooklyn Center, largely along Olson Memorial Highway, Penn Avenue and Osseo Road. As part of Metro Transit’s Hi Frequency network, buses run every 15 minutes between downtown Minneapolis and the Lowry Avenue-Penn Avenue intersection between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays.

Route length: 8 miles

Stops:  79 northbound stops and 82 southbound stops

Vehicles: 40-foot standard buses

Ridership: Customers rode Route 19 more than 2 million times in 2012 — making it the tenth most-popular bus route. Average weekday ridership exceeds 6,400.

History: Buses began running on Penn Avenue after streetcars were taken out of service in 1953. Until Express Route 758 was introduced a decade ago, Route 19 buses ran west to Golden Valley. Penn Avenue was covered by two separate routes until 2007, when Route 19 was continued north to the Brooklyn Center Transit Center.

Future: Metro Transit has identified Penn Avenue as strong corridor for Arterial Bus Rapid Transit service. Preliminary planning is ongoing and implementation could come as early as 2017. BRT would improve travel times through the use of pre-paid fares and low-floor, front- and rear-entrance buses. Enhanced stations would also be built. 

Minneapolis Route of the Week

Route 10: High ridership, Hi Frequency and hybrids 

| Friday, July 26, 2013 11:00:00 AM

For the last three decades, Curt Delaney has relied on buses to get to work, appointments and shopping.

One of his favorite and most frequently used routes: Route 10, which runs north of downtown Minneapolis along Nicollet Mall and Central Avenue Northeast, serving Northeast Minneapolis, Columbia Heights and Fridley.

Returning from downtown Minneapolis with a handful of DVDs this week, Delaney said he’s not sure how he’d get around if not for the frequent, all-day service Route 10 provides.

“This is just a Godsend that the buses run so well,” said the Robbinsdale resident, who connects to Route 10 via Route 32.

Delaney isn’t the only one who has come to rely on Route 10. More than 2.7 million customers boarded its buses last year, placing it among Metro Transit’s most heavily-used routes (the route ranked sixth in ridership last year).

Beginning at the Leamington Parking Ramp at 2nd Avenue South, Route 10 buses run northbound on Nicollet Mall, downtown's main artery and open only to pedestrians, buses, emergency vehicles and taxis. Route 10 customers can ride for 50 cents in the Minneapolis Downtown Zone. (Specially-marked southbound buses offer free rides between Washington Avenue and the METRO Blue Line’s Nicollet Mall Station; Route 18 buses offer free northbound service between the Minneapolis Convention Center and Nicollet Mall Station).

After crossing the Mississippi River, buses continue north on Central Avenue and through the Central Avenue Business District, home to an eclectic mix of ethnic restaurants, grocery stores and small businesses.

Buses run every ten minutes between Minneapolis and the Columbia Heights Transit Center at Central and 41st avenues, part of Metro Transit’s Hi Frequency network that eliminates the need for a bus schedule. Trips take roughly 30 minutes end-to-end.  

Steve Schmid, who uses Route 10 on a near-daily basis, said the high level of service has made it remarkably easy for him to use the bus to get where he needs to go. Without a car, he said it's dependability is key to his way of life. “If I want to see anybody I take the bus,” Schmid said. “It’s everything for me.”

Route 10 branches that run north of Columbia Heights – the 10N and 10U – offer additional service to Fridley and Northtown Transit Center at Blaine’s Northtown Mall, passing shopping destinations and employers such as Medtronic, at 53rd and Central avenues.

Transit in this northern service territory has come more recently, but transit has a longer history on Nicollet and Central avenues.

A horsedrawn streetcar ran on Monroe Street and Central Avenue until 1882. In 1891, an electric streetcar line was built on Central Avenue to 29th Avenue NE. The line was extended to Columbia Heights two years later as Thomas Lowry, president of the Minneapolis Street Railway Co., promoted real estate development in the area.

Streetcars were cut back to 37th Avenue NE in 1951 and the entire line was abandoned in 1953. Streetcars never ran on Nicollet Avenue through downtown – the area was instead served by the Nicollet-Hennepin bus line, now Route 17, which began in 1926.

Known for many years as the Grand-Central Line, buses ran from downtown Minneapolis on Marquette and Second avenues to Nicollet Avenue and East 31st Street, heading west to Grand Avenue and south to 46th Street. Buses were later moved to Nicollet Mall to relieve congestion; Grand Avenue is now served by Route 18.

Route 10 has been a part of Metro Transit's more recent history-making efforts, with electric-hybrid buses making up the bulk of the service. The buses are quieter and get up to 25 percent better fuel economy than standard diesel-fueled models. It is also one of just three routes to use a bus "annunciator" system in which stops and transfer locations are displayed and announced through speakers inside and outside the bus.

Minneapolis is now studying transit alternatives for Central and Nicollet avenues. Among the options: a streetcar that would run between East Lake Street and East Hennepin Avenue, near the intersection with Central Avenue Northeast, and could later be extended further north and south. 

Type: Urban Local

Service: Route 10 offers Hi-Frequency service between downtown Minneapolis and Columbia Heights Transit Center, at 4079 Central Avenue NE. Buses run on Nicollet Mall downtown and on Central Avenue. From the Columbia Heights Transit Center, Route 10 branches run further north to Fridley and the Northtown Transit Center in Blaine.

Stops: 109 northbound and 107 southbound, including branches

Length: 12 miles

Vehicles: 40-foot hybrid buses

Ridership: There were nearly 2.73 million customer boardings in 2012, with an average of 7,448 customers per day

History: A horsedrawn streetcar ran on Central Avenue until 1882 and an electric streetcar offered service between 1891 and 1953. 

Bus Minneapolis Northstar Route of the Week

Route 20: Small route to big train 

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013 3:07:00 PM

It doesn’t go far but it does fill an important niche. 

That’s the abbreviated story behind Route 20 – the shortest trip among Metro Transit’s 130 local, suburban and express bus routes.

Launched in 2009, Route 20 makes five one-mile trips from the Ramp B/5th Street Transit Center to 5th Avenue South and 7th Street South each weekday. In the afternoons, there are five reverse trips that run from 9th Street South and Chicago Avenue to the Ramp B/5th Street Transit Center. 

The short trip is half the distance of Metro Transit’s next shortest routes – routes 8 and 27 – and was created as a downtown link for customers using Metro Transit’s longest route, the 40-mile Northstar Commuter Rail Line.

Many Northstar commuters can use the METRO Blue Line, which runs along 5th Street South to Target Field Station. Route 20 also runs east-west through downtown but is designed to better serve those coming from west downtown.

Southbound Route 20 buses run five blocks southwest of the Blue Line, on 10th Street South; northbound buses run four blocks southwest, on 9th Street South. The Minneapolis campus of the University of St. Thomas, Target, the AT & T Tower and the Hennepin County Medical Center are among the landmarks on the Route 20 corridor.

“We have this great connection with the Blue Line but for people who need to get to 9th, 10th and 11th that’s pretty far for them,” said Cyndi Harper, a route planning manager with Metro Transit. “We didn’t really have anything that could hit that south end of downtown, which is why we started Route 20.”

Several customers aboard a Route 20 bus this week said they appreciate not having to walk several blocks in the summer heat or when it snows.

Though short, the bus is getting its share of customers. In 2012, an average of 93 customers boarded Route 20 every weekday. And as Northstar ridership climbs – boardings are up 15 percent through the first half of 2013 – use of Route 20 could continue to grow. In length, though, probably not.

Route 20 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

Service: Route 20 provides five southbound trips every morning between 6 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. and five northbound trips every afternoon between 3:30 p.m. and 5:50 p.m. Buses run from the Ramp B/5th Street Transit Center to  the southwest corner of downtown Minneapolis.

Route length: 1 mile

Stops:  7 southbound stops and 6 northbound stops.

Vehicles: 40-foot standard buses

Ridership: More than 23,600 customers boarded Route 20 in 2012, with an average of 93 weekday customer boardings.

History: Route 20 was launched in 2009, with the opening of Northstar Commuter Rail.

Community Light Rail METRO Blue Line Minneapolis

Garden partnership blooming on METRO Blue Line 

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013 9:07:00 AM

Three years ago, volunteers planted nearly 1,800 flowers, vines and trees on an small corner lot west of the METRO Blue Line’s 50th Street/Minnehaha Park Station. The effort is paying off.

At the peak of its second full growing season, the collection of Giant Hyssops, Wild Geraniums and Purple Prairie flowers that help make up what’s now known as the Nokomis East Gateway Gardens is in full bloom.

For those behind the garden, the space has also become a meeting ground for neighbors and a point of pride that delivers a fitting welcome to the Nokomis East neighborhood.

“I walk by here every day and have a great sense of pride in the neighborhood,” said Sally Einhaus, a 17-year neighborhood resident who has worked on the garden since its inception.

Einhaus was among a group of five volunteers at the garden on a recent Saturday morning pulling weeds and enjoying the company of neighbors.

Less visible than the oranges, yellows and purples that fill the space is the partnership the garden represents.

Metro Transit purchased the small corner property northwest of the Hiawatha Avenue and East 50th Street intersection as part of the METRO Blue Line construction effort. The land was needed to build an electrical substation that provides electricity for trains.

Preparing to demolish a 1920s-era dry cleaning business that sat on the site in 2009, Metro Transit approached the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association to discuss how the land could be reused.

Neighbors viewed the site as important because it serves as an entry to the Nokomis East neighborhood and quickly landed on the idea of a garden because of its proximity to the Nokomis Naturescape Gardens, known nationally for its collection of monarch butterflies.

“Nobody wanted to see a chain link fence with weeds behind it when they turned into the neighborhood,” said Trish Schilling, one of the garden’s most active leaders. “This really is a gateway to our community.”

Local design firm colberg | tews Landscape Architecture provided complimentary designs for the site. From above, the paths form an outline of a butterfly wing.

Metro Transit agreed to install a fence around the substation, grade the site, install a water line and helped acquire the plants, trees, compost and mulch needed to get the garden off the ground.

Planting occurred over two days in October 2010 and neighborhood volunteers have maintained the site ever since. The garden has attracted several butterflies and been enhanced with the addition of pavers, birdhouses and other decorations.

Schilling said the effort has been sustained “in the spirit of community service” and that the garden has taken on a “look, feel and personality” as it has evolved.

The garden has also helped build connections between the community and Metro Transit.

“Just from a relationship-building standpoint it’s been really valuable,” said Julie Quinn, a planner in Metro Transit’s engineering and facilities department who helped organize the garden project.

> Metro Transit's Adopt-a-Shelter program

A Line BRT Bus Bus Rapid Transit METRO Blue Line Minneapolis Route of the Week St. Paul

Route 84: Schools and shopping on Snelling Avenue 

| Friday, July 12, 2013 1:42:00 PM

Dellia Ihinger’s commute from Minneapolis to the Avalon School near University Avenue in St. Paul typically involves boarding a Route 16 or Route 50 bus. Next year, as she embarks on her senior year of high school, Ihinger hopes to add another leg to her trip, using Route 84 to reach Hamline University where she can take classes and earn early college credit.

Ihinger was recently aboard a Route 84 bus on her way to an interview at Hamline, among a handful of schools that line Snelling Avenue – the main thoroughfare on the north-south route.

“I’ve ridden the bus since I was little and now I’ll just take it a little further,” said Ihinger, who recently obtained a driver’s permit but doesn’t want to deal with parking or the expenses of a car.

Ihinger is part of a growing Route 84 customer base that is driving transit enhancements and planning along the corridor, which extends nearly 10 miles from the METRO Blue Line’s 46th Street Station to the Rosedale Transit Center in Roseville largely along Ford Parkway and Snelling Avenue. The 84D also runs south on St. Paul Avenue to West 7th Street.

To better connect with the METRO Green Line, opening in mid-2014, Route 84 trips will run every 10 minutes, all day long. Buses now run every 15 minutes. The schedule will also be adjusted so customers can board the Green Line at University and Snelling avenues with short wait times.

Planning is also underway to build the region’s first Arterial Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line on the Route 84 corridor.  

BRT plans call for light-rail-like features such as enhanced station areas, real-time transit information, pre-paid fare technology and vehicles with rear boarding areas. Buses would continue to run every ten minutes but end-to-end trips would take 27 percent less time as buses benefit from traffic advantages and speedier boardings. Route 84 buses would run every half hour and make more stops, providing customers local service.  

In 2012, Route 84 drew 1.3 million customers, with an average of nearly 4,000 daily weekday boardings. With BRT features, planners expect there could be an average of 8,700 daily customers in 2030.

The coming improvements would serve as just the latest evolution for transit on Snelling Avenue.

A streetcar line operated on the corridor between 1905 and 1952, providing all-day service every 10 minutes during peak periods. At its longest, the streetcar traveled from Highland Parkway to Hamline and Hoyt avenues, with extra service to the nearby Minnesota State Fairgrounds during the fair.

In the early 1970s, the route was extended to Roseville’s Rosedale Center. In 2001, it was straightened north of Como Avenue to follow Snelling Avenue directly to Rosedale, where a transit center has been built in the northeast corner of the mall, near the entrance to the AMC Rosedale 14.

Route 84 served Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport until the METRO Blue Line opened in 2004. Customers traveling to those destinations now transfer to the Blue Line at the 46th Street Station, a bustling, multi-modal transit hub adjacent to a new mixed-use residential and commercial development: Oaks Station Place.

Route 84 has several landmarks of its own, though. The corridor passes Minnehaha Park and provides service to a number of schools, including Highland Park High School, Macalester College and Hamline University. The University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus and St. Catherine's University are a short distance to the west of Snelling Avenue.  

Several shopping destinations also line the route, including Har Mar Mall, Midway Shopping Center, Grand Avenue, Sibley Plaza and Highland Park.

Greg Stout, a 15-year Route 84 customer, lives in downtown St. Paul but said he frequently uses Route 84 to shop and get his hair cut in Highland Park. Stout said he enjoys Highland Park’s comparative calmness and the scenery he passes while on the bus.

John Dillery, a senior planner at Metro Transit, said the evolution of transit on Snelling Avenue reflects a strong and growing rider base that will continue to expand with the opening of the Green Line and the coming BRT improvements.

“It’s a really positive story of growth, taking the bus and sending it where people want to go, and doing it well,” he said.

Route 84 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

Service: Route 84 is part of Metro Transit's Hi-Frequency Network, with service at least every 15 minutes during peak periods. Buses travel between Rosedale Transit Center at Rosedale Center in Roseville and the METRO Blue Line’s 46th Street Station in Minneapolis. The route travels largely along Snelling Avenue, passing the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus, Minnesota State Fairgrounds, Hamline University, University Avenue, where a new METRO Green Line station will open in 2014, and Macalester College. On the south end, Route 84 travels east-west, crossing the Mississippi River on Ford Parkway. A second branch goes south via St. Paul Avenue to West 7th Street at Sibley Plaza.

Route length: 10 miles

Stops: 83 northbound, 79 southbound

Vehicles: 40-foot standard buses

Ridership: Nearly 1.3 million customers boarded Route 84 buses in 2012, with nearly 4,000 weekday boardings. By 2030, estimates project around 8,700 daily customers on the corridor.

History: A streetcar operated on Snelling Avenue between 1905 and 1952, when it was replaced with bus service. Buses began traveling to Roseville with the opening of Rosedale Center in the early 1970s. Buses ran as far south as the Mall of America until the METRO Blue Line opened in 2004; MOA-bound customers now transfer to the Blue Line at the 46th Street Station.

Future: Snelling Avenue has been identified as a top Arterial Bus Rapid Transit Corridor, where enhanced station areas, new vehicles and expanded service would combine to speed travel times and improve the customer experience.

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