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Bus METRO Green Line Route of the Week St. Paul University of Minnesota

Route 87: Connecting the University of Minnesota to University Avenue 

| Monday, April 14, 2014 8:27:00 AM

Route 87 passed the METRO Green Line's Raymond Avenue Station on University Avenue.JB Shank sat aboard Route 87, laptop open, putting the finishing touches on a presentation he was due to deliver later that day.

A history professor at the University of Minnesota, Shank said he frequently brings his computer out on the bus and finds ways to be productive while traveling to and from the office.

“It’s another 20 or 30 minutes more work I get to do every day,” Shank said as he recently traveled towards the U of M’s St. Paul Campus.

Shank is among a host of customers who have found benefits to traveling on Route 87, which runs between St. Paul's Highland Village and the Rosedale Transit Center in Roseville. Buses run largely along Cleveland, University, Raymond and Fairview avenues.

The route is used by residents traveling to and from work, shoppers headed to Rosedale Center or Highland Village and those traveling to the U of M’s St. Paul campus, where parking can be a challenge.

Will Secur, a graduate student studying applied economics at the U of M, is among those who take Route 87 to class.

Secur said he hadn't used transit before moving from Virginia to St. Paul last year, but that he found taking the bus to be the easiest, most cost-effective way of getting to class. Secur uses a U Pass that allows students to make unlimited bus and METRO trips for less than $100 a semester. 

"I like that I get to read, catch up on e-mail or just sit and relax before going to class," he said. "And it's pretty much door-to-door service."

Students exit a Route 87 bus at the University of Minnesota's St. Paul Campus.

Jade Erickson, who boarded near Como and Cleveland avenues, has also found Route 87 to be the easiest way of getting around. For two years, Erickson took the route to classes at the U of M; now she rides to her job as a librarian at St. Catherine University.

"I drove for a couple of weeks but it was just too stressful," she said. 

Elma Williams realized how simple and convenient it is to take Route 87 when her car recently went to the shop for repairs. 

Needing a way to get to work, Williams called Metro Transit’s Transit Information Center and learned she could board near her home at University and Prior avenues and ride directly to her job at the Dollar Tree.

“This basically picks me up at the door and lets me off at the door,” said Williams, who expects to continue riding even after her vehicle is fixed. 

When the METRO Green Line opens June 14, Route 87 customers will find it even easier to get around. The route will make timed transfers to the Green Line at the Raymond Avenue Station, which will also be served by routes 1663 and 67Service on Route 87 will also be improved from every half hour to every 20 minutes, seven days a week. 

Jessica Rains, who has used Route 87 for nearly a decade, said she is grateful for the increased service. When Route 87 doesn’t match her schedule, Rains turns to Route 84, which runs on Snelling Avenue and is further from where she needs to be. “When I ride the 84, I get a lot of exercise,” she said. “This will make it much easier to get back and forth.”

Kurt Sanderson is also looking forward to an easier commute. After taking a job at Ecolab in downtown St. Paul, he began taking Route 87 to University Avenue and transferring to Route 50, a limited-stop bus on University Avenue. Route 50 will be replaced by more frequent, consistent Green Line rail service.

“I think that will make it a lot easier to get in and out (of downtown St. Paul),” Sanderson said. “I’ll be able to walk less than 1/10 of a mile getting from my house to the stop, to the train to the office.”

A Route 87 bus travels through St. Paul's Highland Village neighorhood on Cleveland Avenue.Route 87 At a Glance

Type: Urban local

ServiceRoute 87 runs between the Rosedale Transit Center and Highland Village, along Fairview, Raymond, University and Cleveland avenues. The route runs near three major schools – the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus, the University of St. Thomas and St. Catherine University. Buses run every half hour between approximately 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Route Length: Approximately 8 miles

Stops: 55 northbound, 56 southbound

Vehicles: 30-foot standard diesel buses 

Ridership: There were 160,502 rides on Route 87 in 2013, with an average of 614 customer boardings per weekday.

History: Buses ran from University and Prior avenues to Cleveland and Ford Parkway beginning in 1926. When streetcars replaced buses in 1952, the route was combined with bus service to downtown St. Paul via Minnehaha Avenue (today’s Route 67). A shuttle bus ran from Raymond and University avenues through the St. Anthony Park neighborhood, later becoming a rush-hour only branch of Route 16. This service was later combined with the route running south of University Avenue to Highland Village and a Roseville circulator route to create Route 87.

Future: When the METRO Green Line opens June 14, service will improve to every 20 minutes, seven days a week. Route 87 will also make timed transfers with the Green Line at the Raymond Avenue Station, which will also be served by routes 16, 63 and 67.

METRO Green Line Minneapolis Station Spotlight University of Minnesota

Getting to the game and more on the Green Line 

| Tuesday, April 08, 2014 12:00:00 AM

A METRO Green Line test train departs Stadium Village Station in Minneapolis.When the cost of gas skyrocketed in 2008, Wally Widlund and his wife decided to make a change.

The couple sold their car and relocated from south Minneapolis to Prospect Park, nearer to work at the University of Minnesota.The decision to go car free has meant more walking and almost daily bus rides to fetch groceries, stop at the library or go the gym.

Beginning June 14, they’ll have an additional option  – the METRO Green Line. The Green Line’s Stadium Village Station is just a few blocks north of their home and will provide convenient and reliable transportation to both downtowns and the University Avenue corridor. “I’m really looking forward to being able to easily go to St. Paul and accessing all that’s along University Avenue,” Widlund said recently, riding to the Minneapolis Whole Foods on Route 6. “It will make it a lot easier for us, and I just like the vibrancy it will bring to the neighborhood.”

Widlund’s enthusiasm is shared by business owners, residents and commuters who will use Stadium Village Station.

Located at University Avenue and 23rd Avenue SE, the station will provide immediate access to TCF Bank Stadium, which the Golden Gophers football team will share with the Minnesota Vikings while a new stadium is constructed in Minneapolis. Several other U of M athletic facilities, including Williams Arena and Mariucci Arena, the McNamara Alumni Center and the Biomedical Discovery District are also nearby.

“We are excited about the Green Line opening,” said Jacqueline Brudlos, communications manager for the U of M’s Parking and Transportation Services. “Its impact on gamedays as well as the average school day should offer...relief to drivers in the immediate vicinity of campus.”

Brudlos, communications manager for the U of M’s Parking and Transportation Services. “Its impact on gamedays as well as the average school day should offer some potential relief to drivers in the immediate vicinity of campus.”  

Just south of Stadium Village Station is the bustling Stadium Village commercial district, which got its name after businesses located near the U of M’s former Memorial Stadium.

Christopher Ferguson is active in the business community and owns two Stadium Village businesses, a Dairy Queen and Bywater Business Solutions. Ferguson said he and other business owners are largely optimistic about what the Green Line will mean for the area.

A METRO Green Line train near the Stadium Village Station in Minneapolis.The hope is that the Green Line’s convenience will bring community members to Stadium Village throughout the year, and that some train passengers will be compelled to stop while traveling along the corridor.

Stadium Village businesses are partnering on events like the April 24 Taste of Stadium Village and looking to activate public open spaces to make Stadium Village a fun place to visit.

“The next phase of work is to get people to use the train and take advantage of the opportunities it creates -- to get them to explore parts of the community they haven’t before just because they weren’t as easy to get to,” Ferguson said.

Laura Beeth, the system director of talent acquisition for Fairview Health Services, also sees promise in the Green Line. Fairview has several locations along the light-rail corridor, including outpatient and children’s clinics on University Avenue just east of Stadium Village Station.

Beeth said the new light-rail connection will not only benefit patients and employees but the thousands of students who go through clinical rotations at Fairview sites every year.

Fairview is actively working to attract students who live in the Green Line corridor and works with several schools that are connected by transit service, including the U of M, St. Catherine University, Augsburg College, Saint Paul College and Minneapolis Community & Technical College.

“Not all of these students have cars and this will be a very convenient, affordable, stress-free way to get here,” Beeth said.

The convenience of light-rail is also seen as a major boost for those attending a wedding reception or other event at Profile Event Center, located on University Avenue about halfway between the Green Line’s Stadium Village and Prospect Park stations.

Having an easy way to travel to and from the venue is important for out-of-town guests who don’t want to rent a car and will also make for a fuller, more enjoyable visit, owner Patrick Kellis said.

“A lot of people have relatives or friends coming in from out of town,” Kellis said. “Now they can stay in a hotel downtown and take light-rail right to our facility, as well as the Mall of America, the airport, lots of places. It will be more of a fun weekend experience.”

Duane Rohrbaugh, the general manager at The Commons Hotel, said the prospect of a car-free, hassle-free stay drawing guests to the hotel, a block south of Stadium Village Station.

“In the last three weeks, we’ve booked three groups for the MLB All Star Game and it’s all because of the Green Line,” he said. “They’ll get into town, get on light rail and be able to get right here.”

The Green and Blue light-rail lines will share stations in downtown Minneapolis, including Target Field Station, where the All-Star Game will be held on July 15.

While particularly beneficial during events and gamedays, Rohrbaugh said the light-rail connection will be a year-round asset for guests at the hotel, which opened in late 2012.

“This (the Green Line) is just going to be a major artery for people to get into Stadium Village from either downtown and any place in the Twin Cities really,” he said.

A METRO Green Line test train at Stadium Village Station in Minneapolis. Stadium Village Station At a Glance 

Connecting bus routesRoute 6U, with local service in Edina, Uptown, downtown Minneapolis and the U of M, will be extended further east to 27th Avenue SE to connect with Stadium Village Station and provide local service to Prospect Park. Route 16 will continue to provide local service on the University Avenue corridor but will not continue to downtown Minneapolis; westbound commuters can instead transfer to the Green Line at Stadium Village Station. Several express or limited-stop routes with service to the U of M will also connect with the station, including Route 111, Route 113, Route 114, Route 115, Route 118, Route 252, Route 272, Route 465, Route 652, and Route 579. The U of M’s Campus Connector (Route 121) and East Bank Circulator (Route 123) also connect to Stadium Village Station.

Public art: Artist Roberto Delgado created a collage of historic and current photos from around campus and the Twin Cities, transferring the images to tiles using a silk screen process. The collage includes several photos from the U of M archives and commencement. “I like to superimpose photos so it becomes like a puzzle and you have to get up close to see what’s going on,” he said. Delgado created similar artwork for the Snelling Avenue and Central stations. Learn more

Area landmarks:  TCF Bank Stadium, Williams Arena, Mariucci Arena, McNamara Alumni Center, University Recreation and Wellness Center, Biomedical Discovery District, Stadium Village, Prospect Park

Bike-ped connections: The Dinkytown Greenway, an off-road trail through Dinkytown, runs between the Mississippi River and just north of TCF Bank Stadium. The trail connects with the U of M Transitway, which connects to the U of M’s St. Paul campus and is open only to bicyclists, transit and emergency vehicles. The Washington Avenue Transit/Pedestrian Mall runs between Walnut and Pleasant streets. Bicylsts and pedestrians can cross the Mississippi River on the Washington Avenue Bridge. There is also a trail along East River Parkway, on the west bank of the nearby Mississippi River. The U of M Bike Center is located at 401 SE Oak St, on the west side of the Oak Street Parking Ramp. For more information on biking on campus visit the U of M’s biking website.

Neighborhood groups: Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association, Prospect Park 2020, Stadium Village Commercial Association

Bus METRO Green Line Minneapolis Route of the Week University of Minnesota

Route 6: A reliable ride from Edina to the Green Line 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, April 04, 2014 12:00:00 AM

A customer boards a Route 6 bus on Xerxes Avenue in Linden Hills.Minneapolis resident Iris Key has spent a lot of time on Route 6.

As a student at the University of Minnesota, Key rode the bus between campus and her Uptown residence. When she got a job near Edina’s Southdale Center, she used Route 6 to commute to and from work. Now, nearly 15 years after she began riding, Key continues to use Route 6 to get to appointments, run errands or go out in downtown Minneapolis.

“The 6 really is my bus,” Key said this week, returning home after visiting the dentist. “I love it because it’s so dependable and reliable. It’s always there when I need it.”

Key isn’t the only person who has come to see Route 6 as a reliable way of getting around. Several Route 6 customers said in recent onboard interviews that the bus is a mainstay of their daily travels, allowing them to save money, avoid parking hassles and limit their own driving.

Traveling northbound, Route 6 buses run from the Bloomington-Edina border near I-494 and France Avenue, stopping at the Southdale Transit Center before making their way past homes, parks and businesses in southwest Minneapolis on Xerxes, France or Wooddale avenues. The France Avenue branch serves 50th & France and another retail nodes at 44th Street; the Xerxes Avenue branch runs though the Linden Hills retail area west of Lake Harriet.

In Uptown, buses stop at the Uptown Transit Center and continue on Hennepin Avenue to downtown Minneapolis and the U of M.

Students, workers and residents use the route as a way to get to work or school, run errands or get to entertainment in Uptown or downtown.

Sarah Koster, who lives in Uptown, uses Route 6 for all of those reasons. During the week, she rides to her job in the Warehouse District; on weekends she rides downtown for events like Timberwolves games. “I have a vehicle, but I rarely if ever use it,” she said.

Erick Briden, who boarded in Linden Hills, uses Route 6 to get to class at Minneapolis Community & Technical College on Hennepin Avenue and to get to jobs in Edina and Hopkins (transferring to Route 12 in Uptown). As a pre-med student, Briden said riding the bus allows him to remain productive while getting where he needs to be.

“I do homework, general research and, when I’m feeling really disciplined, I’ll read,” he said.

While Koster and Briden both occasionally drive, some Route 6 customers say using transit has allowed them to live completely car-free.

Janne Flisrand has never owned a vehicle and has relied on Route 6 since moving to Uptown in 1996. Flisrand takes Route 6 to her shared workspace in downtown Minneapolis and also bikes, uses car-sharing and routes 2, 3, 21, 63 and 94 to get around.

A Route 6 bus passes by streetcar tracks south of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis.By cutting her transportation costs, Flisrand said she has been able to build her retirement account and invest in her home. Beyond saving money, though, she said taking transit makes her feel more connected to the community.

“Riding the bus reminds me how interesting the cities are and how I don’t get to see that in everyday life,” she said. “I like being reminded of that.”

Route 6 also provides a reminder of how people used to move around the Twin Cities.

The route closely parallels two of the Twin Cities most historic streetcar lines, the Como-Harriet and Oak-Harriet streetcar lines, which operated until 1954. The lines served as commuter routes while providing access to the Chain of Lakes and points further west.

Today, the Minnesota Streetcar Museum maintains a portion of the streetcar track between Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet and invites the public to take trips on a restored streetcar between May and November.

While streetcars have vanished, Route 6 customers will soon have a new way to ride the rails when the METRO Green Line opens June 14. Route 6U’s western end, which now stops west of TCF Bank Stadium, will be stretched further to the east to connect with the Green Line’s Stadium Village Station and Prospect Park. Customers can also transfer to the METRO Blue or Green lines at the Warehouse District/Hennepin Avenue Station.

Heather Klopotek, who rides Route 6 between Uptown and her job at the U of M, said she will use the Green Line to visit friends in St. Paul. Klopotek said she has avoided going to St. Paul in the past because it means having to drive or taking a longer bus trip.

“I see myself spending a lot more time in St. Paul with the train,” she said.

Quinn Sahulka, who lives in downtown Minneapolis and takes Route 6 to class at the U of M, said she too will be more likely to visit St. Paul once Green Line trains are running. Sahulka doesn’t own a vehicle and said the idea of a long bus ride has kept her from visiting museums and other St. Paul locations she’s always been interested in seeing.

“I’m so excited that I’ll finally be able to explore St. Paul without it having to be such a trying experience,” she said.

A Route 6 bus travels on 4th Street SE in Dinkytown.Route 6 At a Glance

Type: Urban local

ServiceRoute 6 serves Edina, southwest Minneapolis, Uptown, downtown Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota. On its south end, Route 6 provides limited service to an industrial area in the northeast corner of the Highway 100 and Interstate 494 interchange. Traveling northbound, Route 6 buses travel along the France Avenue corridor, serving shopping centers and Centennial Lakes Park, a mix of parkland, offices and housing. Buses stop at the Southdale Transit Center before entering Minneapolis and continuing north on branches that serve Woodale, France or Xerxes avenues. All branches converge south of Lake Calhoun and continue north to the Uptown Transit Center and along Hennepin Avenue to downtown Minneapolis. After crossing the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, northbound Route 6 buses travel on University Avenue SE to Oak Street, near the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium. Southbound buses return to downtown Minneapolis on 4th Street SE. Buses run every four to 10 minutes during rush hour, every 10 to 15 minutes midday and every 15 minutes on evenings and weekends. On weekdays, service runs from approximately 4:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Route Length: Approximately 19 miles

Stops: 167 northbound, 167 southbound

Vehicles: 40-foot standard diesel and hybrid buses

Ridership: More than 2.7 million total passenger boardings in 2013 (an increase of more than 47,000 rides compared to 2012) with an average of nearly 7,500 rides per weekday.

History: Electric streetcars ran on the Como-Harriet and Oak-Harriet streetcar lines between 1891 and 1954. The Como-Harriet line ran down France Avenue and the Oak Harriet line ran down Xerxes Avenue. Both continued to downtown Minneapolis, the U of M and St. Paul. At the U of M, streetcars traveled through Dinkytown on 4th Street SE. In Minneapolis, streetcars traveled on Hennepin Avenue to 31st Street, east of Lake Calhoun, before continuing south on private right of way to Lake Harriet. West of Lake Harriet, streetcars diverged into branches that went west to Hopkins or south on France and Xerxes avenues. The Como-Harriet and Oak-Harriet streetcar lines were popular routes for lake-bound residents, but they also were key links for those traveling downtown or to the U of M for work and school. The Como-Harriet line connected with all the major lines in downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul and operated around the clock seven days a week. In 1952, France Avenue was repaved and streetcars were replaced with shuttle buses in Edina. Buses replaced streetcars completely in 1954. These were the last streetcar lines to be replaced with bus service in the Twin Cities. From May through November, restored streetcars make round-trips on a section of the Como-Harriet line between Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet. The Minnesota Streetcar Museum maintains the tracks, streetcars and Linden Hills Station.

Future: Route 6U will be extended east from Oak Street to 27th Avenue SE to provide a connection to the METRO Green Line’s Stadium Village Station. Route 6 customers will also be able to connect with the Green and Blue lines at the Warehouse District/Hennepin Avenue Station.

Bus METRO Green Line Route of the Week St. Paul Suburban Transit

Route 262: Sharing laughs while sharing the ride 

| Monday, March 31, 2014 12:00:00 AM

A Route 262 bus at the 95th Avenue Park & Ride in Blaine.For the last two years, Jeanine Wilson has used Route 262 to get from Blaine to her job in downtown St. Paul. The daily commutes have given her plenty of time to make friends and collect stories.

“If all of us are awake, this is a very interesting bus,” Wilson said during a recent southbound trip. “It’s unlike all the others. This is more of a community, actually.”

Wilson, who boards at the 95th Avenue Park & Ride, has been collecting stories in the hopes of creating a Route 262-themed comic strip tentatively called Bus Buzz. Take just one trip on the route and it’s easy to see where the material would come from, too.

While many customers spent their early morning commutes buried in a book or phone, several also laughed, joked and shared stories about their work life. The friendships created on the bus have even led to off-board meet-ups for dinner or drinks.

The camaraderie between passengers helped put Mollie Henefin's mind at ease when she she got a new job in St. Paul and began riding the bus last year.

“The only time I ever rode the bus before was when I was in school, but now I feel pretty good about it,” Henefin said.

Sue Maxey lives and works within a block of Henefin and has become one of her trusted “bus buddies.” Maxey has been riding the bus since 1996 and said she enjoys not just the friendships but also the convenience and cost savings.

Customers board a Route 262 bus on Rice Street in St. Paul.She's put just 100,000 miles on her 1996 vehicle by taking the bus instead of driving to work.

“I appreciate the bus because it’s cheaper and there’s a lot less wear and tear on the vehicles, especially with all the potholes,” she said.

Cost is what drove Karl Rosenquist to Route 262 seven years ago. The Shorview resident initially drove to his job in St. Paul but turned to transit when he realized he could save money and get there in roughly the same amount of time.

With limited-stop service on Rice Street, the trip from Shoreview to St. Paul takes around a half hour.

“And in rush hour I can get there even quicker (on the bus),” Rosenquist said.

For Jan Kinney, the motivation to take the bus came when she broke her foot this winter and could no longer drive. Her foot has since healed but she’s still taking the bus to work each day.

“Ever since then, it’s just that I don’t want to drive,” said Kinney, who was spending her time on the bus knitting a pair of socks for her granddaughter.

Whatever led them to transit, Route 262 customers all agreed that they’ve stayed because the experience is preferable to driving. For many, the alternative would be driving on Interstate 35E, frequently congested during rush hour.

After three years riding the bus, Mary Locht doesn’t like the idea of getting back behind the wheel. Besides saving money to spoil her 14 grandchildren, she says her commutes are considerably more relaxed.

“When I’m driving, there is more honking than laughing,” she said. “I think my stress level is much better when I’m not driving.”

A Route 262 bus at Union Depot Transit Center in St. Paul.Route 262 At a Glance

Type: Limited stop

ServiceRoute 262 buses run between the 95th Avenue Park & Ride and downtown St. Paul, serving commuters in Blaine, Shoreview and Little Canada. Buses run along Hodgson Road and Rice Street. There is limited-stop service on Rice Street between County Road C and University Avenue. There are three trips each weekday morning (departing the 95th Avenue Park & Ride at 5:54 a.m., 6:21 a.m. and 6:50 a.m.) and three trips each weekday evening (departing Union Depot at 4:07 p.m., 4:37 p.m. and 5:07 p.m.). Route 62 provides complementary local service on Rice Street between St. Paul and Shoreview.

Route Length: Approximately 19 miles

Stops: 76 southbound, 77 northbound

Vehicles: Standard 40-foot buses

Ridership: 36,224 total passenger boardings in 2013 with an average of 143 rides per weekday.

History: Transit service on Rice Street dates to 1888, when horse-drawn streetcars operated between downtown and Maryland Avenue. Electric streetcars arrived three years later and were eventually replaced by buses. North Suburban Lines, the last of the private suburban bus companies, ran a bus line on Rice Street to Circle Pines, which is now served by Route 262.

Future: Route 262 will connect with the METRO Green Line’s Capitol/Rice, 10th Street and Central stations. The route's southern terminus is Union Depot, which will also be served by the Green Line's Union Depot Station.

METRO Green Line St. Paul Station Spotlight

Lowertown has high hopes for Green Line 

| Friday, March 28, 2014 12:00:00 AM

A METRO Green Line test train at Union Depot Station in Lowertown St. Paul.Jim Ivey has always owned a vehicle. But lately, it’s not serving much of a purpose.

That’s because the Lowertown resident has largely given up on driving, choosing instead to get around by using transit, HOURCAR and Nice Ride. Soon, there will be another way for him to travel – the METRO Green Line.

Ivey lives and works just a few blocks from the Green Line’s Union Depot Station and plans to use the train to get to appointments on University Avenue, visit the State Capitol and make short trips in downtown St. Paul.

“Paying 50 cents to step on and step off right where I need to be is going to be really nice,” Ivey said, referring to the Green Line’s Downtown Zone between Union Depot and Capitol/Rice Street stations.

Ivey isn’t alone in looking forward to the Green Line. Across Lowertown, residents, business owners and organizations are anxiously awaiting the site of in-service light rail trains at Union Depot Station.

The Green Line’s eastern terminus, the station sits on the south side of East Fourth Street outside the Union Depot. The 1926 train station recently underwent a $243 million renovation and is owned by Ramsey County.

Caitlin Marlotte, the manager of community engagement for Twin Cities Public Television, said the Green Line will have an “immediate positive impact” by giving the station’s 200-plus employees a new way to get to work.

But the addition of light-rail will also allow TPT to open itself to the community in new ways. TPT’s studios are less than a block west of Union Depot Station, so visitors can easily take the train to visit for live tapings and other events. One of TPT’s public events is a series featuring Minnesota musicians called Lowertown Line, a name inspired by the Green Line.

“We really want to be able to invite the public into our station,” Marlotte said. “Having public transit that drops people off at Union Depot just a block away will be a big benefit for us.”

The Green Line will also be a boost to the community of artists who have taken up residency in the refurbished loft spaces surrounding Union Depot Station.

Linda Snyder and Valerie Anderson opened their store, Three Sisters, across from Union Depot a year ago and hope visitors will step off the train and through their doors. The store sells work from more than 80 Minnesota artists.

A METRO Green Line test train enters Union Depot Station in Lowertown St. Paul.“We absolutely see people coming from Minneapolis over to St. Paul and they’re going to be getting off right here,” Snyder said. “We think it’s really going to benefit our business.”

Next door, Andrew Rist sees the Green Line as a clear advantage for the 200-plus dancers who rehearse in Ballet Minnesota's first-floor studio space.

"It's always that problem of getting here," said Rist, who has been in Lowertown for nearly 30 years. "Light rail, when it's up-and-running, is going to make things a lot easier."

The combination of a strong arts community and transit led Bedlam Lowertown leaders to their space across from Union Depot Station, opening in April.

Venue Director Lucas Koski said Bedlam’s previous location near the METRO Blue Line’s Cedar- Riverside Station showed what kind of impact locating near transit can have. For some performances, more than 100 bikes would be parked at Bedlam, many of them brought by light-rail.

“One of the main caveats when we were looking for a new location is that we needed the train to be accessible,” he said. “The train offers more reliability and intersects nicely with bike culture. If you can bike to a station then you can come to us pretty easily.”

The nearby Union Depot’s connecting bus service is another plus, since it allows many of Bedlam’s guests and workers a one-seat ride to the location, said Koski, who travels to St. Paul on Route 21.

While Three Sisters, Bedlam and others hope transit provides year-round foot traffic, light rail will also be an important piece of events such as the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, Northern Spark, First Fridays and the Saint Paul Art Crawl, which will be held next month.

Tom Reynen, who helps organize the Saint Paul Arts Crawl and is a board member at the AZ Gallery, said parking has always been an intimidating challenge when trying to draw people to the event. But with the convenience of light rail, he expects to draw in more people from outside the area.

“There is a lot packed into Lowertown so we’re looking at light rail as a way to handle all that growth by giving people a way to get here without having to drive,” he said.

While the Green Line won’t be in service in time for the Saint Paul Art Crawl, Metro Transit is offering free rides to this year's event, which runs April 26-27.

Leaders at the St. Paul Farmer's Market also believe that transit -- both bus and rail -- can help attract more people to their popular summer markets, which draw nearly 18,000 people each weekend. The market is just a block east of Union Depot Station, making it easy for people to visit and leave with a small amount of produce, flowers or other goods.

"Really where our emphasis is going to be in the next two years is getting people to change their habits," said Jack Gerten, market director.

The St. Paul Saints are also hoping fans will turn to transit when the team moves from the Midway to Lowertown next season.

Just two blocks east of Union Depot Station, the ballpark is expected to attract around 400,000 people annually. More than a third of fans are expected to use transit to get to games, said Annie Huidekoper, the Saint’s vice-president of community partnerships and community service.

“It’s all part of the dynamic, engaging nature of Lowertown and we just can’t wait to be a part of it,” she said.

The Green Line’s June 14 opening is particularly poignant to Don Ball, a founder of the shared workspace CoCo. CoCo’s St. Paul location, located immediately north of Union Depot Station, opened on the exact day light-rail construction began.

Ball said watching construction unfold has led him and others there to become “quite invested” in the project, which will provide an easy connection to its other location in downtown Minneapolis.

“That goes a long way to shrinking the distance between our two cities and opens up all sorts of possibilities,” he said. “We hope that it lets more of our members ditch their cars and take to the rails.” 

A METRO Green Line test train at Union Depot Station in Lowertown St. Paul.Union Depot Station At a Glance 

Connecting bus routes: Route 21, with service to the Green Line’s Hamline Avenue and Snelling Avenue stations and the Lake Street corridor in Minneapolis; Route 53, with limited-stop service on Snelling and Marshall avenues in St. Paul and Lake Street in Minneapolis; Route 54, with limited-stop service on West 7th Street to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport; Route 94, with express service to downtown Minneapolis (effective June 16); Route 262, with limited-stop service on Rice Street between the 95th Avenue Park & Ride and downtown St. Paul; Route 417, with service to Mendota Heights; Route 480, with express service to Apple Valley and Eagan (operated by Minnesota Valley Transit Authority); Route 484 and Route 489 with express service to Eagan (operated by MVTA). Jefferson Lines and Megabus serve Union Depot and Amtrak passenger rail service is scheduled to arrive later this year.

Public art: The station will feature large carved black granite wheels that mimic those found on Great Northern’s Oriental Limited and Empire Builder trains. A stack of wheels used by transit vehicles in the corridor will be installed this spring (similar work is featured at the Green Line’s Westgate Station). The pieces were designed and created by Andrea Myklebust and Stanton Sears. Learn more

Area landmarks: Union Depot, St. Paul Farmer’s Market, Mears Park, Lowertown Ballpark (under construction and opening in 2015) , CoCo St. Paul, Twin Cities Public TelevisionMississippi National River and Recreation Area

Bike-ped connections: Off-street bike paths line each bank of the nearby Mississippi River. The Bruce Vento Regional Trail, which starts at the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, will be extended through Lowertown along Prince Street to terminate at Broadway and Prince streets. There Nice Ride kiosks at Union Depot.

Neighborhood groups: CapitolRiver Council, Lowertown Entertainment District, Lowertown Landing 

METRO Green Line St. Paul Station Spotlight

Green Line brings Capitol connections 

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Image of METRO Green Line train in front of Minnesota State Capitol. Kevin Frazell and his wife typically carpool from their home in downtown Minneapolis to their jobs on University Avenue in St. Paul.

Beginning June 14, they’ll have another way to share the ride – the METRO Green Line.

“The nice part about it is that if we drive together and one of us needs or wants to go home early, it’ll be really easy to do that,” Frazell said. “We’ll have a whole new set of options.”

Frazell is one of more than 100 employees who work at the League of Minnesota Cities, which is located just north of the Green Line’s Capitol/Rice Street Station. His wife works near Hamline Avenue Station.

The League’s offices are just one of the destinations near the Capitol/Rice Street Station, which sits at the intersection of University Avenue and Rice Street.

The Minnesota State Capitol is located just east of the station while the Western Sculpture Park and Minnesota History Center can be found a few blocks to the south. North of the station is the Rice Street business corridor, the Capitol Heights neighborhood overlooking St. Paul and the Oakland Cemetery, where some of St. Paul’s most prominent early leaders are laid to rest. Also north of the station is the state-owned Ford Building, where the Ford Motor Co. briefly produced cars in an unusual multi-level factory.

Don Grundhauser has lived in Capitol Heights for nearly 50 years and is just two blocks from the new Green Line station. Grundhauser said he plans to use light rail to avoid parking hassles when going to Minneapolis for Twins games or shopping.

“Usually I drive and pay for parking in a ramp but this will be a lot more convenient,” he said. “It will be kind of a different adventure.”

Not everyone boarding the Green Line at the Capitol/Rice Street Station will be traveling all the way to Minneapolis, though.

Employees at HealthEast will be able to use light rail to travel between several of the health care provider’s various St. Paul locations.

Image of Capitol / Rice Street Station on the METRO Green Line. Besides Bethesda Hospital, which is north of Capitol/Rice Station, HealthEast owns St. Joseph’s Hospital, near 10th Street Station, and has its headquarters at 1700 University Ave., near Snelling Avenue Station. It also recently opened the Midway Clinic, near Hamline Avenue Station.

“Whether it’s for employees, patients or family members of patients, this is an option that we’re all very excited about,” said Jodi Ritacca, Senior Public Relations Specialist for HealthEast.

Ritacca said the Capitol/Rice Street Station will be used by hundreds of employees who work at Bethesda and by visitors to the hospital, which specializes in long-term care.

The most visible destination for the Capitol/Rice Station, though, is in the station’s namesake – the Minnesota State Capitol.

St. Paul-based visual artist Seitu Jones used the Minnesota Bill of Rights translated into multiple languages. A poem written by John Minczeski is also featured in the station’s railings.

“Folks getting off at the station all need to be reminded of Minnesota’s organizing document and that we have a whole slew of rights guaranteed under the constitution,” Jones said.

While much of the area around the station is owned by the state, additional development could replace large surface parking lots in the years to come.

Plans to redevelop the Sears property south of University Avenue have been floated and the League of Minnesota Cities is in the early stages of planning mixed-use development on the land it owns surrounding its offices.

Jim Miller, the League’s executive director, said he is “keenly interested in the impact the station will have” on land use in the area.

“Anything that can help increase the vibrancy of the Central Corridor is positive for everybody who works in the area, lives in the area or owns property in the area,” he said. “The excitement is building.”

Image of Capitol / Rice Street Station on the METRO Green Line. Capitol/Rice Station At a Glance

Connecting bus routes: Route 3, with service between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul along Como Avenue and Rice Street; Route 16, with service every 20 minutes between downtown St. Paul and the University of Minnesota along University Avenue; Route 62, with service between Shoreview and St. Paul along Rice Street; Route 67, with service between downtown St. Paul and the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station along Minnehaha and Franklin avenues. Route 262, with service between Blaine and St. Paul along Rice Street.

Public art: St. Paul artist Seitu Jones has created aluminum scrolls that will wrap light columns at the station and feature elements of the Minnesota Bill of Rights, such as the freedom of the press and right to own property. A poem written by John Minczeski is also featured in the station’s railings. Learn more

Area landmarksMinnesota State Capitol, Western Sculpture Park, Minnesota History Center, Rice Street, Capitol Heights neighborhood, Oakland Cemetery.

Bike-ped connections: East of the station, there are bike lanes on Park Street and John Ireland Boulevard. There are also bike lanes on Como Avenue, north of the station. This summer, St. Paul will construct a bike boulevard on Charles Avenue between North Aldine Street and Park Street. Nice Ride kiosks are also located nearby.

Neighborhood groupsFrogtown Neighborhood Association; Summit University Planning Council

Bus METRO Green Line Route of the Week St. Paul

Route 63: From Grand Avenue to the Green Line 

| Friday, March 21, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Bruce Pedalty hadn’t boarded a bus in 20 years. But this week, assigned to jury duty in downtown St. Paul and wanting to avoid parking costs, he decided to give it another try.

“It was just too easy not to,” Pedalty said as he traveled east on Route 63.

Unlike Pedalty, many of the passengers recently interviewed aboard Route 63 have spent years if not decades using the bus to run errands, get to work or make their way to class.

The route serves a mix of commuters, students and residents as it moves along Grand Avenue, past the University of St. Thomas and Macalester College, retail nodes and residential areas. East of downtown St. Paul, buses travel on 3rd Street East and McKnight Road, serving additional residential areas and shopping centers.              

Chris Wood is among those who have long used Route 63. For the last 20 years, he has commuted by bus between his home near Snelling and Grand avenues and his job downtown. Wood characterized his decision to rely on transit as a rationale response to the responsibilities and high cost of owning and maintaining a vehicle.

“Driving is a choice. It’s not mandatory,” he said. “When I’m making a choice to do something I need to have a reason and I just don’t have a reason to drive.”

Jamie Wersal was also motivated by simplicity and cost savings when she elected to buy a Metropass and start commuting to her new job downtown a few months ago. She spends her time on Route 63 browsing Facebook or simply looking out the window and relaxing.

“I like looking at the sights,” she said. “I know I see them every day but they’re still pretty.”

East St. Paul resident Kassie Church has a similar motivation for using Route 63. Instead of looking out the window, though, she spends her time on the bus buried in a book. “I like to read and obviously, I can’t read when I drive,” she said.

The convenience of Route 63 will be further enhanced when the METRO Green Line opens June 14.

On the west end, the route will be extended north on Cretin Avenue to connect with the Raymond Avenue Station. Service will also be increased with trips every 10 to 20 minutes during rush hour and every 20 minutes midday, nights and weekends.

John Hershey, the neighborhood liaison for the University of St. Thomas, said the new Green Line connection will make it easier for students, faculty and staff to take transit to downtown Minneapolis.

While many of the school’s 6,000 undergraduates live on or near campus, they frequently travel across the Mississippi River for entertainment and shopping, he said. The university’s law and graduate business schools are also located in downtown Minneapolis.

“The more options we have, the more it opens things up and allows people to think more creatively about using transit,” Hershey said.

For Kate Westfall, who lives in Summit-University and has commuted for years on Route 63, the Green Line is all about entertainment. Westfall and her friends are already making plans to attend baseball games at each end of the Green Line. The St. Paul Saints stadium sits at the east end, in Lowertown, and Target Field is at the west end in Minneapolis.

“We’re all kind of excited about the idea of making that a super day and going to two games in one day,” she said.

The Green Line’s arrival comes nearly 124 years after St. Paul’s first electric streetcar line opened on Grand Avenue, encouraging a wave of residential and business development.

Noreen Farrell, a self-professed transit advocate who has used Route 63 since moving to St. Paul in 2000, is glad to have rail service back in the mix. Farrell lives near Grand Avenue and Dale Street and plans to use the Green Line to get to shows and other events in Minneapolis. “We do a lot of things in Minneapolis so there’s a good chance we’ll use the light rail,” she said.

Pedalty, the customer who returned to the bus after a two-decade hiatus, said he too would be open to making trips on the bus and train a more regular part of his routine. “My wife and I are talking about it,” he said.

Route 63 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

Service: From the University of St. Thomas, Route 63 buses continue to downtown St. Paul along Grand and Smith avenues. The route travels into St. Paul’s east side on Kellogg Boulevard and 3rd Street East. Buses stop at Sun Ray Transit Center and then continue south on McKnight Road South. Buses operate approximately every 13 to 30 minutes during rush hour, every 20 to 30 minutes midday and every 30 minutes in the evening and on Saturday. Buses operate every 30 to 60 minutes on Sundays. Weekday service runs from approximately 6 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.

Route Length: Approximately 11 miles

Stops: 92 eastbound; 88 westbound

Vehicles: Standard 40-foot buses; all buses on the route are hybrids

Ridership: Nearly 1.24 million customer boardings in 2013, with an average of 3,384 passengers per day

History: St. Paul’s first electric streetcars operated on Grand Avenue beginning in 1890. The streetcar line led to residential development and drew several schools to the corridor, including St. Thomas College, St. Paul Academy and Macalester College. Prior to the electric streetcars, horsecars ran on Grand Avenue between Dale and Victoria streets beginning in 1883. Streetcars were replaced by buses in 1952.

Future: On the west end, Route 63 will be extended north from Grand Avenue to University Avenue to connect with the METRO Green Line’s Raymond Avenue Station and routes 16, 30, 67 and 87. The route will also connect with the Green Line’s Central and Union Depot stations. Service will improve to every 10 to 20 minutes during rush hour, and every 20 minutes midday, evenings and weekends. The A Line (Snelling Avenue Bus Rapid Transit) will include stations at Snelling and Grand avenues.

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