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Bus METRO Green Line Route of the Week St. Paul

Route 67: A route to relaxation 

| Friday, January 31, 2014 12:00:00 AM

When Karl Gehrke began a new job at the Hmong American Partnership last fall, he started riding to and from the organization’s offices at University and Western avenues on Route 67.

From his home, it’s a short, five-minute trip that leaves little time to review lesson plans or get any other significant work done. But the tiny window provides just enough space for Gehrke to sit back, relax and mentally prepare for the day.

“I just like to take a few deep breaths,” he said on a recent eastbound trip into the office. “Usually by the time that’s over, I’m there.”

Gehrke was one of several commuters recently about Route 67 trip who said they valued the relative peace and quiet their bus trips afforded them. Others said they chose to use transit to cut their transportation costs or because it was simply more convenient.

Traveling eastbound, Route 67 runs largely along Minnehaha Avenue and brings residents in St. Paul’s Midway area to and from their jobs or other activities in or near downtown. Traveling south from downtown, buses cross the Wabasha Street bridge into West St. Paul, serving more residents bound for work or connecting bus routes downtown.

Like Gehrke, several early-morning commuters said their favorite part of the ride is the opportunity to unplug while traveling to and from work, school or other destinations.

“A lot of times, I’ll just slow down and space out,” said David Nichols, who boarded south of downtown St. Paul to his job near Minnehaha Avenue and Victoria Street. “It’s a definite perk.”

Route 67 customer Prakash, who lives in West St. Paul, began taking Route 67 a year ago after getting fed up with the stresses of driving. Prakash rides the bus to downtown St. Paul where he catches a Route 94 bus to Minneapolis. For the final leg of his trip, he travels from the METRO Blue Line’s Downtown East/Metrodome Station to the Franklin Avenue Station, a short walk from his job at the American Indian OIC.                        

Though the trips includes two transfers and take nearly an hour, he said it’s still preferable to getting in his car every morning.

“I just decided that I was tired of driving,” Prakash said. “In the winter, with traffic, it was taking two or three hours. I tried it [transit] and found that I really liked it.”

For Midway resident Jackie Lannin, Route 67 is more than just a relaxing way to get around. Lannin doesn't own a vehicle and has used Route 67 to get to work, shopping and other destinations for the last 12 years.

"It was either a house or a car and I decided to go with the house," Lannin said.

When the METRO Green Line opens on June 14, Lannin and other Route 67 customers will benefit from something else: direct rail connections. Route 67 will connect with three downtown St. Paul stations – Central, Tenth and Capitol/Rice – as well as the Fairview and Raymond stations on University Avenue.

Service will also be improved to every 20 minutes Monday through Saturday, up from every half hour on weekdays and ever hour on nights and weekends. The route will extend to the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station, taking over an area previously served by Route 8.

Route 67 will no longer continue into West St. Paul but Route 62 will be extended to provide the same service, with buses running every half hour. Routes 68 and 75 also provide service in West St. Paul.

Among those excited about the impending changes is Lauren Thomas, who was on the bus earlier this week traveling to visit her mom. In addition to the new rail service, Thomas said she is looking forward to Route 67's increased frequency.

“That is great news,” she said. “It can be hard to ride when the bus only comes every hour.”

Route 67 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

Service: Traveling eastbound, Route 67 buses begin their trips at the corner of Gilbert and Prior avenues, just south of University Avenue, in St. Paul’s Merriam Park neighborhood. Buses travel north on Fairview Avenue before continuing east on Minnehaha and Thomas avenues, entering downtown St. Paul via Rice Street. Buses exit downtown St. Paul on Wabasha Street, connecting with Smith Avenue via Winifred and George Streets. In West St. Paul, the route serves a largely residential area with service on Thompson Avenue, Robert Street and Moreland Avenue. On weekdays, buses run every 30 minutes during rush hour and midday and every hour in the evenings. Service runs from approximately 5 a.m. to midnight. Route 67 buses also run every hour on weekends.

Route Length: Approximately 11 miles

Stops: 109 northbound, 106 southbound

Vehicles: Standard 40-foot

Ridership: Nearly 431,000 customer boardings in 2013, with an average of 1,180 passengers per day

History: Streetcars ran south of downtown St. Paul on Wabasha Street and Smith Avenue from 1890 to 1952. Streetcar service was introduced on Minnehaha Avenue in 1906. Route 67 was extended south to Highland Park in the 1950s, but that service was later incorporated into Route 87. Route 67’ was extended into West St. Paul in the 1970s.

Future: When the METRO Green Line opens on June 14, Route 67’s will travel west to the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station. This area had previously been served by Route 8, which will be eliminated. Route 67 will no longer travel south of downtown St. Paul; an extension of Route 62 will replace that service. Weekday service on Route 67 will improve to every 20 minutes Monday through Saturday and every hour on Sundays. The route will serve five METRO Green Line stations – Central, Tenth Street and Capitol/Rice Street stations in downtown St. Paul, and the Fairview and Raymond avenue stations on University Avenue. In West St. Paul, Robert Street has also been identified as one of a dozen corridors suitable for arterial Bus Rapid Transit service. If BRT is implemented, new stations, buses and technology would be built on Robert Street south of the State Capitol, speeding trips up to 21 percent.

METRO Green Line St. Paul Station Spotlight

10th Street Station encased in icy history 

| Friday, January 31, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Nan Jahnke loves the St. Paul Winter Carnival. That’s why, given the opportunity to share her ideas for station artwork at the METRO Green Line’s 10th Street Station, her mind went immediately to ice palaces.

It makes sense, too. Sitting in the middle of Cedar Street south of I-94, 10th Street Station stands where some of the festival's earliest ice palaces were built. The station remains a key gateway to downtown St. Paul and, by extension, the annual wintertime celebration.

“Since this is the station closest to where all the events used to happen, I thought, ‘It’s got to have ice on it, baby,’” said Jahnke, a longtime Winter Carnival volunteer who lives in downtown St. Paul.

And so it does.

Minneapolis artist Janet Lofquist used tens of thousands of tiny pieces of glass and stone, in some ways resembling ice itself, to create a series of mosaics that depict St. Paul’s ice palaces dating from the 1880s, when the Winter Carnival began. Lofquist said it is fitting to highlight such a unique part of St. Paul's history and culture.

“A lot of times we define cities by something that’s unusual about them and this really is one of the more unique and special things about St. Paul,” she said.

While 10th Street Station focuses on a specific season it will become a year round destination for those who live, work and play in the surrounding neighborhood.

Several major institutions are located a short distance from the station, including the History Theatre, McNally Smith College of Music, St. Paul Conservatory of Music and Fitzgerald Theater. Last fall, a new 254-unit apartment building, Penfield Apartments, opened a block east of the station. A new Lunds grocery store will open in the building’s first floor later this year.

Rachel Flynn, the marketing director for the History Theatre, said the organization is excited about the Green Line not just because it will make it easier for artists and patrons to get to the venue but because it will allow theatregoers to enjoy a full night out in St. Paul that includes dinner before the show at one of the amazing restaurants along University Avenue or drinks after the show in Lowertown.

"History Theatre patrons like to learn about the past and experience new things, and they tend to be particularly curious about St. Paul," Flynn said. "I think the Green Line is going to make it all of that even more accessible for them (and us), which is very exciting.​"

Hayley Johnson, an executive assistant and program manager at McNally Smith, said the school is also thrilled to see light rail arrive right outside its doors. Many of McNally’s students live in nearby student housing but those who commute rely heavily on transit or biking, she said.

“Instrument transport has been an issue for a lot of them, especially the basses and the trombones,” she said. “I’m sure riding the light rail will be a whole lot easier than strapping something to a bike.”

The station could also help bring more activity Cedar Street. McNally Smith hosts the Lowertown Guitar Festival and is also involved in the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, which takes place in Mears Park. Northern Spark, an all-night arts festival, will be held on the same day the Green Line opens – June 14.

“We’re kind of at an advantage being one of the first stops downtown,” Johnson said. “We can really be a welcome gate as we’re involved in a lot of these things.”

10th Street Station won’t just be busy during summer or winter festivals, though.

The station is located just south of the State Capitol and St. Joseph's Hospital is just a few blocks to the west. Immediately east of the station, more than 1,200 employees work at the Elmer L. Andersen Human Service Building. Thousands more visit the building for meetings, training and other business every year.

Katie Bauer, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said employees who office at the building have been closely following light-rail construction and are look forward to the June opening.

“DHS employees have closely followed the development and construction of the [METRO Green Line] in anticipation of a convenient new commuting option,” she said.

10th Street Station At a Glance

Connecting bus routesRoute 3, with service between downtown St. Paul to Minneapolis largely along Como Avenue, will be realigned in downtown St. Paul to connect with 10th Street, Capitol/Rice and Central stations; Route 16 will continue to provide local service from downtown St. Paul to the U of M; Route 62, with service between downtown St. Paul and Shoreview; Route 67 with service from downtown St. Paul to the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station; Route 75, with service from downtown St. Paul to West St. Paul, Mendota Heights and Inver Grove Heights; Route 262, with limited-stop service between downtown St. Paul and the 95th Avenue Park & Ride in Blaine.

Public art: Ice palaces for the St. Paul Winter Carnival were built near 10th Street Station in 1886, 1887, 1888 and 1837. Artist Janet Lofquist used these creations as inspiration for her station artwork, depicting the grand arch from the 1887 castle through a glass/stone mosaic. Learn more

Area landmarks: Minnesota State Capitol, Elmer L. Andersen Human Services Building, History Theatre, McNally Smith College of Music, Saint Paul Conservatory of Music, Fitzgerald Theater, Minnesota Public Radio

Bike-ped connections: St. Paul’s long-range bike plan calls for a nearly two-mile off-street trail along Kellogg Boulevard, Jackson Street, St. Peter Street and 10th Street. If built, the trail would link  10th Street Station to other popular downtown destinations, including  Union Depot, Lowertown and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts.

Neighborhood groupsCapitol River Council

Community Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Safety Transit Police

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

| Thursday, January 30, 2014 12:00:00 AM

K-9 Handler Alex Johannes tucked a pound of ammonium nitrate into a canister, sealed the lid and spanned the small conference room. Spotting a small cardboard box in the corner, Johannes concealed the canister and exited the room.

Minutes later, he and his trained bomb-sniffing dog Merle walked back through the door. After 30 seconds of scouring, the three-year-old black lab zeroed in on the box and took a seat. His work here was done.

Johannes and Merle are one of four K-9-officer duos at the Metro Transit Police Department. The officers and K-9s spend their days at busy boarding areas as well as light-rail and Northstar trains proactively searching for potential explosives. The unit also works closely with regional partners and during large events such as Twins and Vikings games.

The good news: the dogs haven’t caught a whiff of anything suspect since Metro Transit’s K-9 unit was created in 2007.

“It’s a huge responsibility so our hope is that he (Merle) would respond just the way he did today,” said Johannes, a former TSA agent who joined Transit Police four years ago.

Like the other K-9 handlers, Johannes said he was drawn to the idea of working with a dog because of the special bond that can be developed. The officers spend their entire days with the animals and keep them at home during their off hours.

Johannes has spent the last 14 months with Merle and said he has grown to see him as another member of his family. It helps that the two share a similar enthusiasm for their work.

“They try to match personalities and we’re a pretty good fit,” Johannes said. “Merle and I are both high drive, high energy.”

Officer Joshua Scharber said he and his K-9 partner Rusty, the newest members of the K-9 unit, have also grown close. “I’ve always wanted to be a part of a K9 unit,” Scharber said. “It’s just the bond you create – you can’t find that with a regular officer.”

Like Merle, all of the K-9s regularly test their skills by sniffing for explosive ingredients hidden by their handlers, typically at Metro Transit facilities. Once found, the specially-trained labs are rewarded with a chew toy and affection.

The furry hedgehog and other toys at officers’ disposal seem to offer more than enough motivation.

“When I say ‘Are you ready to go to work,’ he’s already in the car,” said Steve Schoephoerster, the longest tenured member of the K-9 unit.

While the K-9 unit hasn’t uncovered any active threats, they’ve responded to several unattended or suspicious packages. The unit works hand-in-hand with area bomb squads, which are equipped to disable bombs if anything is found.

While the risk is low, K-9 officer Scott Tinucci said the unit plays an important role in deterring activity simply by being out in the field and remaining visible. And if anything ever were to occur, he said, he and his two- and four-legged partners are ready.

“People will say the reward is when you find something, but the real reward is when you do a sweep and you don’t find anything and can say it’s all clear,” said Tinucci, who partners with the unit’s only female, Izzy.

“The bottom line is you hope you never have to use it but all it takes is one find and how many people have you saved?”

Metro Transit’s K-9 Unit

    Alex Johannes and Merle (black lab, male)                Scott Tinucci and Izzy (yellow lab, female)

   Joshua Scharber and Rusty (brown lab, male)      Steve Schoephoerster and Cooper (black lab, male)      

A Line BRT METRO Green Line St. Paul Station Spotlight

Shows, support and supplies await at Snelling Station 

| Monday, January 27, 2014 3:21:00 PM

Jim Segal is rethinking the type of bags he provides customers at his University Avenue store, Ax-Man Surplus.

That’s because he thinks more than a few of them will be boarding the METRO Green Line after shopping at the store, located less than a block from the Snelling Avenue Station.

“We’ll probably have to get bags with handles to make it easier for people to carry their stuff on the train,” said Segal, whose store deals in everything from bowling pins to snail magnets.

Segal doesn’t mind making a few tweaks at his business, though. In fact, he’s looking forward to the Green Line’s opening as much as anyone along the 11-mile corridor.

“The thing I’m most interested in seeing is new folks coming up and down the avenue,” he said. “We’re going to have exposure to a whole new audience.”

Segal isn’t alone in his anticipation.

Jeri Quest, the co-founder and CEO of Dress for Success Twin Cities, said she expects light rail to greatly improve the non-profit’s ability to help women entering the workforce. The organization, which provides professional attire and career counseling, is located just north of the Snelling Avenue Station on University Avenue.

“We’re thrilled that this station is opening literally across the street from our office,” Quest said. “Our clients really rely on public transportation so we can’t wait for it to open.”

Quest estimated that more than half of the 700 economically disadvantaged women Dress for Success Twin Cities worked with last year used public transportation. Employees and volunteers are also expected to use the train, she said.

Just up the street, Danya Frank said the Snelling station will be a huge asset for concertgoers at the Turf Club. Frank is the executive vice president at First Avenue, which purchased the Turf Club in 2013.

“We’re really excited about what light rail is going to mean for the Midway as a whole and the Turf Club specifically,” Frank said. “A lot more people will have access to come see shows, which gives us a much bigger audience.”

Frank said the train will also be an asset for employees traveling back-and-forth between St. Paul and Minneapolis since many of the venues’ employees don’t have vehicles.

“Having the train makes transportation between the clubs not even easier, but really possible,” she said.

Kari Canfield, the executive director of the Midway Chamber of Commerce, said her group is also looking forward to traveling the corridor on light rail. The Chamber’s offices are in Spruce Tree Centre, at University and Snelling, so visits up-and-down University Avenue will start and end at Snelling Avenue Station.

“Instead of jumping in the car to visit them, we’ll just be getting on the train,” Canfield said. “It’s a great connector and will make our jobs a lot easier.”

Public art at the METRO Green Line's Snelling Avenue Station.Snelling Avenue Station At a Glance

Connecting bus routes: Route 16 buses will continue to serve University Avenue between downtown St. Paul and TCF Bank Stadium. Route 21, which runs between Uptown and downtown St. Paul, travels on University Avenue between Snelling and Hamline avenues. Route 84 travels through the intersection of University and Snelling avenues as it runs between the METRO Blue Line’s 46th Street Station and Rosedale (this is a particularly popular route for those attending the Minnesota State Fair). The A Line (Snelling Avenue BRT) will also open in 2015, bringing high-frequency, limited-stop service to Snelling Avenue between 46th Street Station and Rosedale.

Public art: Artist Roberto Delgado assembled historic and current photos from around the Twin Cities, using a silk screen process to transfer them to tiles. The murals and columns included hundreds of faces, including some of present-day bus riders Delgado photographed. Delgado said the resulting art is “pretty abstract” but is intended to invite the curiosity of those traveling to or from the station. “If you look hard enough you’ll find something,” he said. “And if you find something that’s a pretty good trip, artistically.” Delgado also designed artwork for the Stadium Village and Central stations. Learn more

Area landmarks: Midway Shopping Center, Hamline-Midway Library, Hamline Elementary, Hamline University, Hancock Recreation Center, LEAP High School, Hamline Park, Aldine Park, Dickerman Park

Bike-ped connections: Charles Avenue bike boulevard (construction to be complete in summer 2014); bike lanes on Pascal Street North between I-94 and University Avenue; pedestrian bridge crossing I-94 between Aldine Street and Concordia Avenue; bike lanes on Marshall Avenue west of Snelling Avenue; bike lanes on Minnehaha Avenue west of Hamline Avenue. 

Neighborhood groups: Hamline-Midway, Union Park

Bus METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Route of the Week

Route 8: From the city border to the Blue Line 

| Friday, January 24, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Update: Route 8 was consolidated with Route 67 on June 14, 2014.View the Route 67 schedule here

When Meital Kashi and her husband moved from Las Vegas to Minneapolis last fall without a vehicle, they knew they wanted to live somewhere with strong transit connections.                            

They landed in Prospect Park, where Kashi’s husband is able to ride the bus to-and-from his job at the University of Minnesota. For their everyday chores, the couple has also become regular users of Route 8, which serves the Prospect Park and Seward neighborhoods.                       

“We ride just about every day, for grocery shopping and everything else,” Kashi said while on a westbound trip en route to pick her son up at daycare. “I don’t know what I’d do without it – probably have to take a taxi.”

Kashi isn’t the only one has made Route 8 a part of their daily travels. Running between the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station and the intersection of University Avenue and Emerald Street, Route 8 provides a key link for residents connecting to light rail in Minneapolis, shops on Franklin Avenue or bus service on University Avenue.

“I don’t drive so, for me, it’s very important,” said Knol Tate, a Prospect Park resident who has used Route 8 for the last five years to run errands on Franklin Avenue and access the Blue Line.

Students also make use of Route 8 as they travel to and from school.

McCall Atkinson, 16, travels on Route 8 between her home and the Franklin Avenue Station, where she continues south to the Lake Street Station and then walks to school at South High. Atkinson is among the more than 20,000 area high school students with a Student Pass, which provides unlimited rides on buses and METRO lines.                            

“Without this, I would have no other way to get to school,” said Atkinson, who isn’t in any rush to obtain her license and get behind the wheel.

When the METRO Green Line opens on June 14, service improvements will go into effect that will help Route 8 customers get around even more freely. The changes are part of a suite of improvements designed to provide better connections to the Green Line.

Route 8 will be replaced by an extension of Route 67, which will run between downtown St. Paul and the Blue Line's Franklin Avenue Station and connect with Green Line stations at Fairview and Raymond avenues.

Service will improve to every 20 minutes on Franklin Avenue and trips Monday through Saturday; trips will run ever hour on Sundays.The route will also move from Franklin Avenue to Riverside Avenue between 25th and 26th avenues to better serve Augsburg University and the Fairview University Medical Center.

Sam Mabbs is among those who use Route 8 and look forward to the change. The Prospect Park resident now rides the bus to University Avenue to catch a connecting bus route. In the future, he expects to use light rail to travel the University Avenue corridor. “I’m looking forward to it – I think it’ll be really, super convenient,” he said.

Route 8 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

ServiceRoute 8 runs between the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station and the intersection of University Avenue and Emerald Street, in the Prospect Park neighborhood. Buses run along Franklin Avenue and cross the Mississippi River on the Franklin Avenue Bridge. Eastbound buses travel north on Emerald Street – effectively the city line between Minneapolis and St. Paul – while westbound buses travel south on Curfew Street. Buses run every 20 minutes during rush hour and every 30 minutes midday between approximately 5 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Route Length: Approximately 2 miles

Stops: 17 eastbound, 19 westbound

Vehicles: Standard 40-foot

Ridership: More than 44,000 customer boardings in 2013, with an average of 174 rides a day.

History: Streetcars ran from downtown Minneapolis to Franklin Avenue SE and 27th Avenue South beginning in 1914. Streetcar service was extended across the Franklin Avenue Bridge in 1924 and was replaced by buses in 1940. When the METRO Blue Line opened in 2004, Route 8 was shortened to end at the Franklin Avenue Station. 

Future: When the METRO Green Line opens on June 14, Route 67 will be extended to include what is now covered by Route 8. Route 67 buses will run between downtown St. Paul and the METRO Blue Line's Franklin Avenue Station, largely along Franklin and Minnehaha avenues. Service will improve to every 20 minutes, Monday through Saturday and every hour on Sundays between approximately 5 a.m. and 1 a.m. The route will also be re-routed from Franklin Avenue to to Riverside Avenue between 25th and 26th avenues to better serve Augsburg University and the Fairview University Medical Center. See complete details here.

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