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Bicycle Bus Community Express Bus Promotions Suburban Transit

Bridging bikes and buses brings serenity instead of stress 

| Wednesday, May 07, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Mike Bastyr on his bike during his daily commute. When Mike Bastyr started working in downtown Minneapolis more than 20 years ago, he quickly grew tired of battling traffic on Interstate 35W. To circumvent the stress, he turned to Route 250, an express service that runs between Lino Lakes and Minneapolis.

Not long after he started commuting by bus, Bastyr went a step further and began to bike the six miles that separated his Shoreview home from his boarding location, the County Road H Park & Ride in Mounds View.

The half-hour bike trip finds him on quiet residential streets and the Rice Creek North Regional Trail, a wooded area he describes as “very serene.” The trail cuts through woodlands and connects to County Road H just west of I-35W.

“There’s a lot of wildlife,” Bastyr said after completing a recent ride. “This morning it was two deer. Last week it was a fox, an osprey and an eagle. It’s just a really pleasant experience no matter what time it is.”

After maintaining the routine year-round since 2000, Bastyr believes he’s logged an estimated 26,000 miles traveling between his home and the Park & Ride. Avoiding gas fill-ups and using an employer-subsidized Metropass, he has also saved untold amounts of money. Bastyr's commuting costs are less than $50 a month.

“This bike has paid for itself a few times over,” he joked.

Bastyr’s commute provides a good example of how biking and transit can be combined, even in suburban areas. There are 15 Metro Transit Park & Rides with bike lockers – secure, weatherproof storage areas that rent for $48 a year, with a refundable damage deposit. Bike lockers are also located at select Northstar and METRO Blue Line stations.

For those who want to bring the bike along, buses are equipped with front-end racks; bikes can be brought directly on board Northstar and light-rail trains.

As part of Bike Week, Metro Transit offered free rides to customers who biked to select Park & Rides and completed their trip on a bus or train. The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition also offered free ride coupons to bicyclists at the Blue Line's 38th Street Station and at the corner of East Lake and West River roads.

Long-term, the Metropolitan Council wants to strengthen the link between biking and taking transit by prioritizing regional on- and off-road investments that would better connect cyclists to the regional transit system.

A recently-completed Regional Bicycle System Study, developed with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, provides a Regional Transportation Network for developing such connections in the future. The proposed network will be incorporated in the Met Council’s draft 2040 Transportation Policy Plan, which will be be distributed for public review this summer.

While it’s difficult to know exactly how many people combine biking and transit, there is ample evidence that more people are biking and taking transit in the Twin Cities. The number of bicyclists counted in Bike Walk Twin Cities’ annual survey increased 78 percent between 2007 and 2013. More than 4 percent of Minneapolis residents bike to work, one of the highest rates in the country, according to the U.S. Census.

Metro Transit’s ridership increased by more than 300,000 rides between 2012 and 2013 and is at the highest level in three decades.

Shirley Urman, of Mounds View, is among those who are combining biking and transit.

The 17-year-old began riding to the County Road H Park & Ride earlier this year when she started taking classes at Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley. Urman brings her bike to Minneapolis so she can ride to her transfer bus, Route 755, and enjoy a leisurely ride after school in nearby Theodore Wirth Regional Park.

Besides giving her more flexibility to get around, Urman said riding her bike to the Park & Ride each morning gives her the boost she needs to start her day.

“I was really tired and wouldn’t want to go to school, but once I had exercise in the morning I was pumped for my day,” she said, traveling in on Route 250. “I just kept doing it and now it’s a habit.”

Bastyr hopes he and Urman will be joined by even more bikers in the future. Bastyr’s best advice to those who want to make biking a part of their commute is to start slowly, riding only as much as comfortable and ramping up as confidence and enthusiasm builds.

“After a while it becomes a routine,” he said. “That’s what it’s developed into for me – a routine experience where instead of getting in your car and driving some place you hop on your bike and pedal instead.”

    > Park & Ride Search

    > Bike Lockers

    > Regional Bicycle System Study

    > Biking to work increases 60 percent over last decade, Census Bureau reports

Bicycle Bus Community METRO Green Line Safety Transit Police

Transit Police on board and on bike 

| Monday, May 05, 2014 12:00:00 AM

The Metro Transit Police Department's Bike Patrol poses during a training at Fort Snelling.When Sgt. Leo Castro is on patrol in St. Paul, he doesn’t need to roll down the window to get fresh air.

That’s because he’s clipped into the pedals of a Cannondale mountain bike, traveling the streets on a pair of 26-inch wheels to monitor busy boarding locations and respond when needed.

Castro and other Metro Transit Police Department officers will be getting even more time in the open air when the METRO Green Line begins service on June 14.

Because the light-rail line runs through two downtowns, the University of Minnesota and a busy commercial corridor, Transit Police will be riding bikes, patrolling on foot and spending time aboard buses and trains so they can have more mobility and respond as quickly as possible.

“As a bike officer, we can get to certain areas where a squad car can’t go and get there a lot more quickly,” Castro said. “Even in rush hour we can cover three or four blocks in a couple of minutes.”

In 2010, Castro became the first Metro Transit police officer to get trained and certified as a bike patrol officer. Today, he leads a unit of 16 officers who split time between their bikes and a squad car. Bike officers will also load their bikes on bus racks and bring them on trains while doing fare checks and other on-board policing.

As part of their basic training, bike officers are taught how to ride up and down stairs, dismount and make arrests and navigate safely through traffic and large crowds. Transit Police also recently participated in “Bike Rapid Response” training with the Minneapolis Police Department to learn how bikes can be used to calm crowds during large events, such as the MLB All-Star Game.

Officer Daniel Wallace is part of the department’s newest class of bike officers and comes with two years of previous experience patrolling the Mall of America by bike. Wallace said one of the biggest challenges to patrolling on a bike is carrying all of the gear. A “duty belt” with a radio and other equipment weighs around 30 pounds.

“Once you learn how to ride you never forget,” Wallace said. “But doing it with all the equipment is a little more of a challenge.”

Bike patrols primarily take place in the spring and summer, but officers aren't afraid to go out in difficult weather conditions, including ice, snow and rain.

While physically demanding, Officer Kelly Franco sought a spot on the bike unit because it offered variety and a unique opportunity to interact more with the public.

“When you’re in a squad car, the majority of the time you’re going from call to call,” she said. “But when you’re on bike patrol you’re mingling and interacting with people and other bike riders so you get to see a different perspective.”

In his experience on the street, Castro said being on a bike has allowed him to quickly identify and apprehend suspects, respond to medical emergencies and generally be more proactive about quality of life issues such as loitering.

Being on a bike has also been a great way to combine his interest in biking with his job and public service, said Castro, the department’s 2010 Officer of the Year.

“I’m passionate about bikes, but I’m equally passionate about community-oriented policing,” he said. “Really, that’s what this is all about.”

    > Metro Transit Police Department

    > For Transit Police K-9s, all work and a little play

Bus METRO Blue Line Minneapolis Route of the Week St. Paul

Route 23: A crosstown community on 38th Street 

| Monday, May 05, 2014 12:00:00 AM

When Liz Conway needs to get to the airport, she rolls her suitcase down the block, catches a Route 23 bus and makes her way east to the METRO Blue Line’s 38th Street Station, where she continues south on the train.

“It’s absolutely the easiest way to get there,” Conway said this week after boarding near her south Minneapolis home. “I don’t even remember what it costs to park anymore.”

Conway counts herself as an occasional rider of Route 23 – using it to go to dinner, the movies and other entertainment – but many of those who use the crosstown route say it is a fixture of their daily travels.

Traveling eastbound, Route 23 runs from the Uptown Transit Center on Hennepin Avenue and along East 38th Street towards the Mississippi River. On the east end, branches go to Minnehaha Park and the Veteran’s Home or to Highland Park.

In addition to the Blue Line’s 38th Street Station, the route crosses paths with more than 30 other bus routes and past retail areas, medical centers, schools and libraries in Uptown and Highland Park.

Sandy Saline, of Hopkins, transfers from Route 12 to Route 23 in Uptown to the Minnesota Internship Center, where she teaches math, science and physical education. Beginning last fall, she began using the route to get to the Blue Line, which she takes downtown for paramedic classes.

Saline takes the bus so her son can take the car to school in St. Paul, but doesn't mind letting someone else do the driving since it allows her more time to be productive.

"It's an extra hour and a half of studying I get done every day," Saline said.

Route 23 is also heavily used by students at Roosevelt High School and Wellstone International High School, located two blocks south of East 38th Street.

Abdi Muhumed, a senior at Wellstone, is among those who use Route 23 to get to school . With a Student Pass, he gets unlimited rides on buses and METRO lines and can save up to continue his education next year at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

“I could drive but I like taking the bus better,” Muhumed said. “Right now, when I’m a student, why do I need to spend money on gas?”

Saving money is also important to Tyler Botnen, who has lived car-free since arriving in the Twin Cities three years ago. Botnen, 25, recently moved to Highland Park to take advantage of its strong transit connections and because he knew Route 23 would provide a quick, one-seat ride to work.

Using a Metropass, Botnen pays a flat monthly fee for unlimited bus and train rides and puts the money he saves towards rent, groceries and other living expenses. “Riding the bus gives me one less thing in my budget that I have to think about,” he said.

Carol Lee can relate. Lee has lived in Minneapolis without a car since 1959, relying on buses as her primary way of getting around. Lee takes Route 23 to get groceries at the Uptown Rainbow and to go to church at Sagrado Corazon de Jesus Catholic Church, at East 38th and Pleasant streets.

“I ride the bus all the time,” Lee said. “In fact I can go almost any place I want with a little effort.”

For Lauren Flynn, the decision to begin taking the bus in December was motivated by a desire to reduce her environmental impact. Flynn takes Route 23 to her job in Uptown and also uses Route 21 to get to St. Paul for work.

“Anything I can do to use less fuel and counteract the badness is a good thing,” she said.

Emily Harris, who boarded Route 23 near Minnehaha Park, takes Route 23 and the Blue Line to work in downtown Minneapolis each weekday. Besides the convenience and cost savings, she said she enjoys sharing the ride with neighbors and other regular customers.

“Everyone gets to know each other and it feels like a community,” she said.

If anyone would know about the community on Route 23 it is operator Melanie Benson, who has driven Route 23 for the last 15 years and is on a first-name basis with many of its regular riders.

Besides the people, Benson said she appreciates all the services that can be found along the route, including grocery stores, cafes and unique neighborhood hangouts, such as the Riverview Theater.

“Pretty much all of the things you need to sustain life can be found along this route,” she said.

Route 23 At a Glance

Type: Urban local

ServiceRoute 23 runs between the Uptown Transit Center and St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood. Going eastbound, buses go south on Hennepin Avenue South, east on 38th Street, connecting with the METRO Blue Line’s 38th Street Station, and south on 46th Avenue. The ‘C’ branch continues south to the Minnehaha Park and the Veteran’s Home while the ‘H’ branch continues east on Ford Parkway to Kenneth Street.

Route Length: Approximately 8.5 miles

Stops: 62 eastbound, 68 westbound

Vehicles: 40-foot standard diesel buses

Ridership: In 2013, there were a total of 527,817 customer boardings, and an average of 1,446 rides per day

History: In 1926, buses began running on East 38th Street between Bryant Avenue South and 34th Avenue South. The route was later extended east to West River Road, the Minnesota Veteran’s home and Highland Village and west to Uptown. On the west end, buses initially ran to and from Uptown on Bryant Avenue; buses were re-routed to West 36th Street and Hennepin Avenue a decade ago.

Future: Route 23 customers will be able to transfer to the A Line at a new station located at 46th Street and 46th Avenue and stations along Ford Parkway. Opening in 2015, the A Line is a Bus Rapid Transit corridor that will run between the METRO Green Line’s Snelling Avenue Station and the Blue Line’s 46th Street Station with service on Snelling Avenue and Ford Parkway.

METRO Green Line St. Paul Station Spotlight

At Dale Street Station, the best is yet to come 

| Monday, April 28, 2014 12:00:00 AM

 Ron Whyte has spent the last 30 years making barbeque in St. Paul. Despite the long work history, the opening of the METRO Green Line has him wishing he had even more time to spend at the grill.

The restaurant Whyte has built alongside Bob Edmond, Big Daddy’s BBQ, moved to the corner of University Avenue and Dale Street in 2010, where the Green Line’s Dale Street Station now stands. As the Green Line’s June 14 opening approaches, Whyte is increasingly confident the restaurant’s best years are yet to come.

So confident, in fact, that he and Edmond recently expanded their restaurant to 21 seats and added a patio that sits right on the street corner.

“I see all the improvements that are being made on University Avenue and I just wish that I could be here another 25 years,” Whyte said recently from his restaurant. “I think it’s going to be really nice.”

Whyte’s enthusiasm is echoed by business owners, residents and others who live, work or play near the Dale Street Station. Following years of community-building, the intersection of Dale Street and University Avenue has emerged as a bright spot along the Central Corridor where small businesses get their start and residents live, dine, shop and learn.

The Green Line’s opening marks the beginning of the next chapter and should bring about more positive change, community members say.

“The whole strip looks better,” said John Tolo, who lives near the Dale Street Station and is part of a group that began reinvesting in neglected Frogtown properties three years ago. “And when things start to look nice that has a contagious effect on your neighbors. People start to take pride and want their place to look better, too.”

Tolo is working with the Frogtown Community House Project, which has purchased or leased nine properties on or near Charles Avenue, just north of Dale Street Station. Previously vacant buildings have been restored to provide homes for residents in need. A community garden and outreach center have also been developed.

Directly on University Avenue are two prominent buildings that symbolize the progress that has already been made in the Dale Street Station area – the Rondo Community Outreach Library and Frogtown Square, a mixed-use building where several small, locally-owned businesses are located. The library opened in 2006 while Frogtown Square opened in 2011 with support from a group of non-profits, the City of St. Paul, the Metropolitan Council and the federal government.

The library building, which also includes multifamily housing, sits on property that was previously home to an adult theater. Today, the library has become a community focal point with more than 500,000 visitors a year – the highest number of any of St. Paul’s public libraries.

Branch Manager Charlene McKenzie said students and adults come to the library from all over the metro and that light rail will allow even more people to access the site, which also includes a small business resource center.

“I’m kind of amazed every day who finds us,” McKenzie said. “I hope it (light rail) does make people’s journeys easier.”

Across the street in Frogtown Square, employees at the Daily Diner are also on a journey. Opened in April 2013, is part of a 12-week vocational training program that provides recovering adults the skills they need to enter the restaurant industry.

Nick Gisi, the director of men’s programs at Union Gospel Mission, which runs the diner, said most of those who participate in the program rely on transit to get to work. Having reliable, convenient access to the diner and future employment will be one of the keys to their success, he said.

“Some of these people have been out of the workforce for a long time and there’s some fear around it (working),” he said. “Anything you can do to make things easier and more convenient, even just getting to work and back, is a huge help for them.”

Above the diner, nearly 50 seniors live in Kings Crossing Apartments.

Among them is Jean Tretter, who moved there in 2011 so he could take advantage of the Green Line when it opened. Because of health issues, Tretter stopped driving more than a decade ago and now relies primarily on buses to get around. He said the Green Line and related bus improvements will make it easier for him to run errands, visit friends and continue living independently.

Tretter has for years used the METRO Blue Line to get to the VA Medical Center, and said he hopes more light rail lines will be built in the future.

“Every time they build a new light rail line it expands my ability to go somewhere,” he said. “So many places are difficult to get to now. I just want something where you can get on and get there and light rail does that.”

Dale Street Station At a Glance 

Connecting bus routesRoute 16 provides local service between downtown St. Paul and the Green Line’s Stadium Village Station. Beginning June 14, Route 65 will provide service between the Rosedale Transit Center and Grand Avenue. Route 67 buses travel four blocks north of University Avenue on Thomas Avenue, turning on Dale Street to Minnehaha Avenue. The route travels between downtown St. Paul and connects with the Green Line’s Fairview Avenue and Raymond Avenue stations, terminating on the west end at the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station.

Public art: St. Paul artist Seitu Jones, who lives near Dale Street Station, created painted steel and aluminum "quilts" that include patterns and icons derived from many of the cultures present in the Dale Street Station area. Jones also created the public art for the Green Line's Capitol/Rice Street and Lexington stations. Jones' wife, Soyini Guyton, also created a poem that is featured at the station. ​Learn more

Area landmarks: Frogtown Square, Rondo Community Outreach Library, Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, Central Village Park, Carty Park, Saint Agnes School, Jackson Prep Magnet, Museum Magnet, Capitol Hill Magnet

Bike-ped connections: A Nice Ride kiosk is located on the west side of Frogtown Square. This summer, St. Paul will construct a bike boulevard on Charles Avenue between North Aldine Street and Park Street. There pedestrian crossings over I-94 between St. Anthony and Concordia avenues at Grotto and Mackubin streets (north access is between Kent and Arundel).

Neighborhood groupsFrogtown Neighborhood Association, Summit University Planning Council 

Bus Route of the Week St. Paul

Route 71: Cutting the car for convenience, connections 

| Monday, April 28, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Shannon Willenering spent 25 years driving herself to and from work in downtown St. Paul. Her children grown, she decided last year that she could do without her car during the day and decided to try taking the bus instead.

She stopped into Metro Transit’s St. Paul Service Center and discovered Route 71 provided what was essentially door-to-door service between her South St. Paul home and her job at Securian.

After nearly a year of commuting on the bus – avoiding $140 in monthly parking expenses and the hassles of winter driving – she doesn’t have any plans to get back in her car. “I didn’t realize just how convenient it was,” Willenering said recently as she made her way to work. “Now I tell everyone to take the bus.”

Convenience is a selling point for many of those who use Route 71, which runs between Little Canada and Inver Grove Heights. On a recent weekday morning, several customers were found going to work and school on the bus even though they had the option of driving.

Lori Curtis is among those who were traveling southbound to work in downtown St. Paul instead of driving her car. Curtis said she has used Route 71 for more than a decade to cut her transportation costs and avoid the stresses of driving.

A Caribou barista, she said her half-hour commutes give her time to crochet, read or simply relax as she eases into the work day.

“I’ll be spending the whole day standing so it’s nice to be able to sit back and drink my coffee,” she said.

Todd Smith, of Stillwater, is among the newer customers to find their way onto Route 71. Smith took a job at a South St. Paul marketing firm at the beginning of the year and began using transit as a way to save money.

At least three times a week he takes Route 294 downtown and then transfers to Route 71 to get the rest of the way to the office, a 50-mile round-trip that costs him around $5.

“Paying to ride the bus versus driving, it’s not even a comparison,” he said of the savings.

Joshua Holmes, a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas, said money also drove his decision to take the bus. Though he just bought a car, he continues to use routes 71 and 63 to get to school using a College Pass, which provides unlimited rides for $140 to $175 a semester.

“That’s a lot cheaper than a parking permit, plus gas and everything else,” he said.

Saving money isn’t the only perk of taking Route 71, though.

Several southbound, early-morning commuters have gotten to know one another as they travel to and from work every day. For Perry Kapaun and Kelly Moore, the on-board connection was especially significant.

Kapaun and Moore went to school together 30 years ago in Fargo, N.D. and ran into each other on the bus when Moore began riding Route 71 earlier this year.

“We’re fully caught up now,” Moore said.

Route 71 At a Glance

Type: Urban local

ServiceRoute 71 trips start and end at different locations depending on the time of day. The longest trips operate between Little Canada Transit Center, at Rice Street and Little Canada Road, and the Walmart located off of Highway 52 in Inver Grove Heights. Traveling southbound, Route 71 buses go east on Little Canada Road to Edgerton or Westminster streets and enter downtown St. Paul on Robert Street. In South St. Paul, buses travel largely on Concord Street and west on 80th Street to Inver Hills Community College. On weekdays, buses run approximately every 15 to 30 minutes between 6 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and every hour in the evenings. Service runs approximately every 30 minutes on Saturdays and every hour on Sundays.

Route Length: Approximately 17 miles

Stops: 171 northbound, 179 southbound

Vehicles: 40-foot standard diesel buses

Ridership: 501,709 customer boardings in 2013, with an average of 1,375 passengers per day

History: Route 71 grew out of streetcar lines on Concord Avenue in South St. Paul and Mississippi Street in St. Paul. The far north end of Route 71 on Edgerton Street was originally served by North Suburban Lines, the last independent private bus company to be acquired by the Metropolitan Transit Commission, the organization that eventually became Metro Transit. Service on McMenemy Street and in Inver Hills began in the 1970s.

Future: In downtown St. Paul, customers will be able to transfer to the METRO Green Line’s Robert Street Station from Jackson Street (a block east).

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