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Posts in Category: Minneapolis

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.

Bus Express Bus METRO Orange Line Minneapolis Route of the Week Suburban Transit

Route 467: Fast growth for a fast commute 

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013 2:00:00 PM

Nathan Ondricek lives in Lakeville and works in downtown Minneapolis. But for the last two years he’s managed to avoid getting behind the wheel and enduring the stream of traffic on Interstate 35W.

Instead, Ondricek leaves his car at the Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride, located just east of I-35 in Lakeville, and boards Metro Transit’s Express Route 467. In just a half hour, he’s getting off the bus at 2nd Avenue South and 8th Street South and is on his way to work.

Sitting near the back of the comfy coach bus, he fills his 21-mile commute time napping or using his smart phone. The leisurely trip in has allayed any fears Ondricek had about being isolated in the city without his car, an SUV he knows would put a strain on his wallet were he to drive in every day.

“I was skeptical about losing the control aspect, worried I couldn’t leave whenever I wanted, but the buses run so frequently I really haven’t had to worry about it,” he said.

Ondricek isn’t the only one finding value in Route 467’s easy commute, aided by the bus's direct interstate access and ability to use dedicated lanes that allow them to bypass general traffic congestion.

Nearly 224,000 people boarded Route 467 last year, up 21 percent from 2011 and 74 percent from 2010, the first full year of express bus service at the 750-space Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride. The $8.7 million Park & Ride was built in 2009 with the help of federal funding directed at addressing congestion on I-35.

The spike in ridership puts Route 467 among Metro Transit’s fastest-growing express services. Among all 53 Metro Transit express routes, there were 9.46 million boardings in 2012, a nearly 10 percent increase from five years ago.

Service at the Kenrick Avenue has expanded from six inbound and six outbound trips to and from Minneapolis to 13 inbound and 13 outbound trips to accommodate the growing demand. Customers can now begin boarding at the Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride at 5:53 a.m.; the three earliest trips drop off customers at I-35W and Lake Street (on demand only) and the 10 following trips go directly to downtown Minneapolis, dropping customers off at different sites on 2nd Avenue South. Beginning just after 3 p.m., commuters have 13 scheduled departures to pick from.

The downtown waiting areas on 2nd Avenue South offer NexTrip real-time departure information and were added as part of the federally-funded Marq2 project. The work also led to bus-only lanes on 2nd Avenue South and Marquette Avenue, allowing for faster transit service downtown. Route 467 is part of Metro Transit’s Pay Exit network that speeds bus departures from the downtown core by requiring customers to pay their fare when they reach their destination.  

The growth on Route 467 is part of the conversation behind the planned METRO Orange Line, a Bus Rapid Transit service that could offer all-day, station-to-station trips to downtown Minneapolis on I-35W. The service would be modeled after the METRO Red Line between Bloomington and Apple Valley.

Along with stops in Minneapolis, Bloomington, Richfield and Burnsville, planners are studying whether there is enough demand to extend Bus Rapid Transit south to the Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride. Transit planners predict the METRO Orange Line could draw up to 3.4 million annual riders by 2030, complementing continued express bus service.

The Orange Line would also benefit express bus service by adding MnPASS lanes on southbound I-35W between downtown Minneapolis and East 42nd Street and providing updated stations and technology along the corridor. A new station in the middle of I-35W at Lake Street is also planned that would allow Route 467 and other express buses to better serve the Midtown area.   

Route 467 At a Glance

Type: Express

Service: 13 trips to downtown leave Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride between 5:53 a.m. and 8:12 a.m.; 13 trips leave downtown Minneapolis between 3:14 p.m. and 5:54 p.m. The earliest three inbound buses stop at I-35W and Lake Street; in the afternoon, buses stop at Lake Street on-demand.

Vehicles: Coach buses

Ridership: 223,694 total customer boardings in 2012, with an average of 840 weekday riders. Ridership has grown 74 percent since 2010, the first full year of express bus service at the Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride.

History: Service began in 2009 with the opening of Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride, which sits immediately east of I-35. Funding came largely from a federal grant. The Counties Transit Improvement Board is an ongoing funding partner.

Future: The METRO Orange Line could bring all-day, frequent bus to I-35W and I-35, potentially as far south as the Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride.

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