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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.

Bus METRO Green Line Midtown Corridor Minneapolis Route of the Week St. Paul

Route 53: Limited stops from Lake Street to Lowertown 

| Thursday, March 13, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Jeff Nelson likes to be productive – even when he’s commuting.

That’s why, for nearly a decade, he’s been taking the bus to his job at the Department of Employment and Economic Development in St. Paul. In the summer months, he combines short bike trips with a ride on Route 94. In the winter, when his routine includes morning visits to a gym near Nicollet Avenue and Lake Street, he catches Route 53.

One of the main reasons: he can use the time on the bus to squeeze in a little more work at the beginning and end of each workday, reading and catching up on e-mail while moving to and from the office.

“One of the biggest reasons I take the bus is that driving on I-94 can be such a pain,” Nelson said during a recent morning trip on Route 53. “Sitting in traffic, I’m just burning gas and wasting time.”

Nelson’s philosophy was shared by many commuters on Route 53, which travels between the Uptown Transit Center and downtown St. Paul along Lake Street, Marshall Avenue and Interstate 94. The route includes stops at the Chicago/Lake Transit Center and the METRO Blue Line’s Lake Street/Midtown Station.

Between Uptown and Snelling Avenue, Route 53 covers much of the same terrain as Route 21. But it offers a quicker trip with around one-third the number of stops and also non-stop service on I-94 between Snelling Avenue and downtown St. Paul. Route 53 buses run only on weekdays, with eight eastbound trips each morning rush hour and ten westbound trips each evening rush hour.                   

Liam Moore, who boards at Otis and Marshall avenues, appreciates the efficiency of his limited-stop trip to downtown St. Paul, where he works at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Moore and his girlfriend share a vehicle, so he takes the bus to work every day.

“It’s nice because it’s such a direct route to downtown St. Paul,” Moore said.

Other eastbound commuters who travel shorter distances use the Route 53 and Route 21 interchangeably, based on their schedules.

Among them is DeAndre Lindsey, who takes Route 17 from his home in St. Louis Park and transfers to Route 53 or Route 21 at the Uptown Transit Center to get to work near Lake Street and Blaisdell Avenue. Though he could drive, Lindsey has been commuting by transit for the last eight years because he sees it as a cheaper and easier way of getting to work.

“And it forces me to stay on time,” Lindsey said.

Audrey Blanchard, who also boarded at the Uptown Transit Center, said she too could drive but prefers to take transit. Blanchard rides Route 53 to the Chicago/Lake Transit Center, near her workplace at the Midtown Exchange, and appreciates not having to pay for parking while on the clock.

“I could drive, but this is just much more convenient,” Blanchard said. “I’ve got my schedule down so this is easy.”

For Linda Griffin, riding the bus is also about convenience. Griffin takes Route 53 three times a week to the Division of Indian Work, where she volunteers. “I like the fact that I don’t have to warm up my car in the winter, but even in the summer I ride,” she said.

Route 53 customers who travel to St. Paul will have another transit option when the METRO Green Line opens June 14. Route 53 buses will connect with the Green Line’s Central Station, at Fifth and Cedar streets, and the Union Depot, the Green Line’s eastern terminus.

Though not considered a major feeder route for the Green Line, employees who work north of downtown St. Paul on Lafyette Road could use Route 53 to get to the Green Line’s downtown stations.

Route 53 customers may also someday see changes to service on the Lake Street corridor. A recent study of transit in the Midtown Corridor concluded with a recommendation for Bus Rapid Transit on Lake Street and rail in the Midtown Greenway.

BRT would cut travel time by offering fewer stops and technologies like off-board fare payment and traffic signal priority. Route 21 will continue to operate alongside BRT but Route 53 would be replaced. Select BRT trips could continue from Snelling Avenue to downtown St. Paul during rush hour.

Route 53 At a Glance

Type: Limited stop

ServiceRoute 53 runs between the Uptown Transit Center and downtown St. Paul, along Lake Street, Marshall Avenue and I-94. Eight eastbound trips depart Minneapolis each morning between approximately 6 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. In the evening, ten westbound trips depart St. Paul between approximately 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. The Chicago/Lake Transit Center and METRO Blue Line’s Lake Street/Midtown Station are major transfer points along the route. Route 21 covers similar territory as Route 53, but has more stops. Route 21 also makes stops at University Avenue and Snelling Avenue and on Selby Avenue in St. Paul.

Route Length: Approximately 12 miles

Stops: 33 eastbound; 33 westbound

Vehicles: Standard 40-foot buses

Ridership: More than 216,000 customer boardings in 2013, with an average of 859 passengers per day. Ridership grew more than 8 percent between 2012 and 2013.

History: The Selby-Lake streetcar line operated from 1906 until 1953 and was among the most important crosstown connections in the burgeoning streetcar system, with more passengers per mile than any other route. An express bus also traveled on Lake Street to downtown St. Paul in the 1920s, competing with the Selby-Lake streetcar. Route 53 is the successor of that express bus service. 

Future: When the METRO Green Line opens June 14, Route 53 customers will be able to transfer to the train at the Union Depot and Central Station. The Midtown Corridor Alternatives Analysis also recommended Bus Rapid Transit on Lake Street, between the METRO Blue Line’s Lake Street/Midtown Station and the proposed West Lake Station on the METRO Green Line Extension (Southwest LRT). BRT features could be continued on Marshall and Snelling avenues, connecting with the Green Line’s Snelling Avenue Station.


Bus Express Bus In the News METRO Blue Line Northstar

Transit ridership hits a 57-year high 

| Tuesday, March 11, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Transit ridership hit a 57-year high last year, according to a new report from the American Public Transportation Association.

Americans took nearly 10.7 billion trips in 2013 according to the industry group. That marked a 1 percent increase from 2012 and was the highest ridership since 1956. It was also the tenth straight year transit ridership topped 10 billion rides nationally.

Metro Transit saw ridership grow for the fifth straight year to 81.4 million rides last year. Ridership on buses, the METRO Blue Line and the Northstar Commuter Rail line increased by 300,000 rides from 2012, reaching the second highest total in 32 years. Ridership on the Northstar Commuter Rail line was especially strong, growing more than 12 percent.

Regional transit ridership grew 0.4 percent to 94.3 million rides in 2013. The number includes ridership from all transit providers in the Twin Cities metro region as well as Metro Mobility, Transit Link and Metro Vanpool.

The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, which operates the METRO Red Line, set a new ridership record year with 2.7 million rides.
Since 1995, transit ridership has grown 37 percent nationally, outpacing population growth and vehicle miles traveled, according to APTA. Metro Transit’s ridership grew nearly 7 percent between 2009 and 2013.

“There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities,” APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said in a statement. “People in record numbers are demanding more public transit services and communities are benefiting with strong economic growth.”

    > APTA: Record 10.7 Billion Trips Taken on U.S. Public Transportation in 2013

    > Metro Transit 2013 Ridership Increases to 81.4 Million

    > Star Tribune: Transit use hits historic levels in metro, nationally

    > USA Today: Transit ridership reaches highest level since 1956

    > New York Times: Use of Public Transit in U.S. Reaches Highest Level Since 1956

    > Stateline: Improving Networks and Economy Boost Transit Ridership

Bus METRO Green Line Route of the Week

Route 65: Ditching the drive on Dale 

| Monday, March 10, 2014 10:03:00 AM

Every weekday morning, Fran Crisler boards a Route 65 bus with his daughter and travels with her to Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary, a block west of Dale Street.

“They don’t let me get on the school bus so she won’t get on either,” Crisler said this week, returning home after seeing his daughter off at the St. Paul school.

Crisler doesn’t mind the ride. In fact, he regularly uses Route 65 to travel the Dale Street corridor and to get to downtown St. Paul.

On a recent weekday morning, he was joined by plenty of others traveling to work, school or appointments and using the bus as a way to avoid the hassles and costs of driving.

Among them was Abdi Teferra, who has commuted on Route 65 for the last three years. Teferra boards at the Rosedale Transit Center, at Roseville’s Rosedale Center, and rides to work in downtown St. Paul.

Teferra saves money by using a Metropass that allows unlimited rides instead of paying for gas and facing parking costs of up to $9 a day.

“I have two kids so saving that money means a lot to me,” said Teferra, who uses his time on the bus to read, catch up on e-mail or simply relax.

Traveling southbound, Teferra’s end-to-end trip takes around 40 minutes. From Roseville, Route 65 buses run south on Snelling Avenue and east on County Road B to Dale Street, where they continue southbound to Selby Avenue.

Buses travel through the Summit-University neighborhood and enter downtown St. Paul via Summit Avenue, with rush hour trips terminating at the Union Depot. Midday and evening trips going as far as Jackson and Sixth streets.

South St. Paul resident Dave Campbell takes Route 65 the other direction, using a Route 68 bus to get downtown and transferring to Route 65 to get to his job at Rosedale Center.

Campbell turned to the bus after his vehicle broke down three months ago. While he may go back to the car eventually, he has appreciated having the bus there during his time of need.

“It has been a real blessing that I’ve been able to take the bus,” he said.

When the METRO Green Line opens June 14, Route 65 customers will be blessed with something else – a connection to the Dale Street Station. Service on the route will also be improved to every 20 minutes.

Erma Flowers, who boarded Route 65 near her home at County Road B and Snelling Avenue, said she is looking forward to the Green Line’s opening, which she hopes will make it easier to travel to Minneapolis.

“I can’t wait,” said Flowers, who uses transit to visit friends and go to appointments. “I think it will get me where I want to go a lot faster.”

Because Route 65 customers will be able to transfer to the Green Line, the route will no longer go to downtown St. Paul but instead continue south to Dale Street and Grand Avenue. The change will go into effect the same day the Green Line opens.

Tory Hart, who used Route 65 while at Roseville High School, said he'll start combining trips once the train opens. Hart lives off Dale Street and said he will take the bus to Dale Street Station and ride the train downtown any time he wants to get to an event.

“That will be a lot cheaper and easier,” he said.

Route 65 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

ServiceRoute 65 runs between the Rosedale Transit Center in Roseville and downtown St. Paul. Traveling southbound, buses run on County Road B to Dale Street and Selby Avenue. Buses enter St. Paul via Summit Avenue and Kellogg Boulevard. In St. Paul, peak hour trips terminate at Union Depot while midday and evening trips terminate at Jackson and Sixth streets. Weekday trips run every 30 minutes beginning from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and every hour until 10:30 p.m. Trips run every half hour between 8:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. on weekends.

Route Length: Approximately 9 miles

Stops: 64 northbound, 66 southbound

Vehicles: 40-foot standard buses

Ridership: More than 347,000 customer boardings in 2013, with an average of 952 passengers per day

History: Streetcars operated on Dale Street from 1914 to 1952. The Dale Street line intersected with several east-west routes and used shared tracks on Grand Avenue to downtown St. Paul. The line went as far north at Maryland Avenue, where it veered west and ended on the eastern shore of Lake Como and Como Park. Buses replaced streetcars in 1952.

Future: When the METRO Green Line opens June 14, Route 65 will connect to the Dale Street Station at University Avenue and Dale Street. Buses will no longer go to downtown St. Paul via Selby Avenue. Instead, service will continue on Dale Street to Grand Avenue as they did from 1953 to 2001. Service will be improved to every 20 minutes from 5 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday and from 6 a.m. to midnight on Sunday. More details can be found here.

METRO Green Line Station Spotlight

At Fairview Avenue Station, 'it's all coming together' 

| Friday, March 07, 2014 12:41:00 PM

Frustrated with the costs of maintaining and owning a vehicle, Heather Erickson sold her car and moved to downtown Minneapolis three years ago. She’s been relying on transit ever since.

This June, she will be among those who can use the METRO Green Line to get to and from work. From Minneapolis, she’ll be able to board at the Nicollet Mall Station and ride to the Green Line’s Fairview Avenue Station, a short walk from her office at Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity’s new headquarters on University Avenue.

Erickson, who oversees Habitat’s AmeriCorps program, also expects to ride the train to visit shops, restaurants and other destinations along University Avenue and downtown St. Paul, exploring parts of the city she might otherwise not visit.

“I always stay in Minneapolis so it will be nice to visit some new places in St. Paul,” Erickson said from her third-floor office overlooking the Green Line. “There is so much wonderful stuff here that I always forget about.”

Erickson will be joined at Fairview Avenue Station by a mix of seniors, workers and residents when the Green Line opens on June 14. The station, at University and Fairview avenues, is surrounded by a mix of small businesses, offices and single-family homes. The surrounding Union Park and Hamline-Midway neighborhoods are also home to a mix of parks and schools, including Macalester College, the University of St. Thomas and Concordia University.

Immediately south of Fairview Avenue Station is Episcopal Homes’ Midway Village senior living complex. Around 280 seniors live in existing housing and another 200 will move into three under-construction buildings by early next year.

“We feel like the luckiest people in the world to be located right at this stop,” said Marvin Plakut, Episcopal Homes’ President/CEO. “For seniors, being able to get somewhere without having to bother anyone else is compelling because it provides a real sense of freedom.”

Besides using the train for shopping, entertainment or appointments, residents at Midway Village will be able to visit Episcopal Homes’ other locations near stations at Lexington Parkway and Dale Street, Plakut said.

North of Fairview Avenue Station is the headquarters for Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota. Around 300 people work at the site and its retail store generates more than 160,000 shopping visits and 75,000 donation visits annually.

Michael Garberich is among those who work at Goodwill and will be able to take the Green Line to work. A technical writer for the non-profit, Garberich has lived car-free for the last two years and is looking forward to adding light rail to his roster of travel options.

“It will be easier to visit friends who live in St. Paul any time of the week or weekend,” he said. “The bus can get crowded so I’m hoping there will be a better place to sit and read.”

Like Habitat for Humanity, Episcopal Homes and Goodwill, officials at College Possible Twin Cities are also eager to see their employees and the students they work with use the Green Line.

College Possible moved into a larger space at 540 Fairview Ave. last August, in part to be near Fairview Avenue Station. AmeriCorps members at the organization assist thousands of students pursuing college education each year.

“The light rail line was an important consideration as we weighed our options when planning our expansion to a new space,” said Bethany Krueger, the associate director for College Possible Twin Cities. “We need to be accessible to our AmeriCorps members and the students they serve.”

The same desires for access led Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative to the Fairview Avenue Station area. Beacon has begun site work on land at University and Prior avenues, just west of the station, where they plan to build 44 studio apartments for homeless youth.  The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation will provide on-site services at the new building, Prior Crossing.

“It (light-rail) will offer excellent access to both St. Paul College as well as U of M and to many jobs up and down the corridor and in both downtowns,” said Kris Berggren, Beacon’s communications specialist.

John Kachel, the owner of Major Tire Co. at University and Fairview, is getting an extra treat out of watching test trains travel the corridor in anticipation of the Green Line’s opening.

Seven years ago, Kachel allowed artists to paint a mural on the side of his building. The mural includes both a light-rail vehicle and streetcar (occupied by Bob Dylan, Captain Kangaroo, Paul Wellstone, Prince and Kachel's two children).

“At the time, I just thought it would be neat to have an old picture since we’ve been here quite some time,” he said. “But it really is all coming together now isn’t it?”

Fairview Avenue Station At a Glance

Connecting bus routes: Route 16, with service every 20 minutes between downtown St. Paul and the University of Minnesota; Route 67 will run between downtown St. Paul and the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station after the Green Line opens; Route 87 with service between Ford Parkway and the Rosedale Transit Center, has stops nearby at University and Prior Avenues.

Public artNancy Blum created glass mosaics featuring elements of the old oak trees that can be found in the surrounding neighborhoods. Learn more

Area landmarks: Episcopal Homes Midway Village, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, Dickerman Park, Iris Park, Merriam Park Recreation Center, Merriam Terrace Park, Four Seasons Elementary School, Aldine Park, HealthEast Midway Clinic, Griggs Midway Building

Bike-ped connections: North Prior Avenue is striped with bike lanes between West Pierce Butler Road and Marshall Avenue. Going east-west, there are bike lanes on Minnehaha Avenue, a half-mile north of University Avenue, and a bike boulevard on Charles Avenue east of North Aldine Street. The Friendly Streets Initiative will be looking at ways of making Fairview Avenue more bike and pedestrian friendly this year.

Neighborhood groups: Hamline-Midway Coalition, Union Park District Council

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