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Bus Express Bus Minneapolis Route of the Week Suburban Transit

Route 767: Trading a tiring trip for transit 

| Monday, May 19, 2014 12:00:00 AM

For more than a decade, Christina Stensby commuted from Brooklyn Park to downtown Minneapolis with her husband. When a new job disrupted that routine last year, Stensby didn’t hesitate to turn her occasional back-up plan – riding Route 767 – into an everyday habit.

“I didn’t even have to think about it,” Stensby said during a recent morning commute. “Parking downtown is so expensive and driving is too time consuming.”

Stensby’s disdain for battling traffic was shared by many customers recently found traveling on Route 767. The express bus provides a convenient alternative to driving alone for northwest suburban residents in Maple Grove, New Hope and Brooklyn Park who travel to and from downtown Minneapolis on Interstate 94.

Congested roadways are circumvented by using bus-only shoulders while buses move swiftly in and out of downtown using the Marq2 corridor. Trips between Route 767’s largest boarding location, the Bottineau Boulevard and 63rd Avenue Park & Ride, and downtown Minneapolis typically take around 30 minutes due in part to these features.

Doug Bastyr has been enjoying the speedy trip since he began taking Route 767 this winter. After years of driving to and from his job in St. Paul, he grew frustrated and elected to leave the car at home.

His commute now involves a 40-second walk to the bus stop, a trip on Route 767 and a transfer in downtown Minneapolis to reach his job near Highway 280 and University Avenue. When the METRO Green Line opens June 14, he’ll be able to ride light-rail to Westgate Station, a short distance from his office.

“A couple of months of sitting in traffic and taking two hours to get to and from work got pretty tiring,” Bastyr said. “I actually get to work quicker now than I did when driving.”

Tayu Lee, of New Hope, stopped driving alone last year when he decided he no longer needed to have his car with him during the day. Lee telecommutes once a week so he can run errands and make midday trips that require a vehicle and spends his time in Minneapolis focused on work.

Besides the convenience, Lee saves more than $100 a month in parking costs and makes far fewer trips to the gas station. An employer-subsidized Metropass costs him around $50 a month.

“This has been much better than I expected, honestly,” said Lee, who drives three miles from his home to the Park & Ride.

Maxine Veith began taking Route 767 three years ago, when her 15-year-old car started to show its age and she decided she didn’t want to put any more money into it. Today, Veith relies on transit not only to get to and from work but as her primary means of transportation.

“You get so used to it, it really doesn’t matter to me anymore,” she said of living car-free.

New Hope resident Ron Goodson still uses his vehicle to run errands and take other local trips, but said he’d never consider driving to work. Taking Route 767 allows him to relax and catch up on reading. A few times each week, he’ll also bring his bicycle on the bus and pedal home – a roughly 11-mile trip that takes around an hour.

“I like getting rid of some of the stresses of driving while fitting in a workout,” Goodson said.

Route 767 At a Glance

Type: Express

ServiceRoute 767 provides express service from Maple Grove and Brooklyn Park to downtown Minneapolis. On the north end, select trips provide local service to the residential area east of the Bottineau Boulevard and 63rd Avenue Park & Ride, located in the northwest corner of Bottineau Boulevard (County Road 81) and 63rd Avenue North. Buses run non-stop on interstates 694 and 94 to the Marq2 corridor in downtown Minneapolis. There are five morning trips that run southbound between 5:15 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. and five evening trips that run northbound between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Trips between the 63rd Avenue Park & Ride and downtown Minneapolis are scheduled to take approximately 30 minutes.         

Route Length: Approximately 15 miles

Stops: 53 southbound, 60 northbound

Vehicles: 40-foot standard diesel buses

Ridership: Total ridership of 46,742 rides in 2013, with an average of 185 passengers per day.

History: Route 767 began service in March 2007, at the same time the Bottineau Boulevard and 63rd Avenue Park & Ride opened. The Park & Ride was built with funding from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ).

Future: The Bottineau Boulevard and 63rd Avenue Park & Ride has been identified as one of 12 future stations for the METRO Blue Line Extension (Bottineau Transitway), which would bring light rail from Target Field Station in Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park along Bottineau Boulevard. Planners working on the Bottineau Transitway envision the area surrounding the Park & Ride being redeveloped with the addition of light rail. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the transitway is available for public comment through the end of May. For more information visit bottineautransitway.org.

Bus Bus Rapid Transit Express Bus METRO Orange Line Minneapolis Suburban Transit Transit Planning

METRO Orange Line more than the sum of its parts 

| Monday, May 19, 2014 12:00:00 AM

From Christina Morrison, METRO Orange Line Project Manager

Bus Rapid Transit is not a new concept for Interstate 35W. In fact, several improvements have been made to set the table for BRT, including bus-only shoulders, the 46th Street Station, MnPASS lanes and the downtown transit corridor known as Marq2.

This infrastructure was built even though the larger BRT project, the METRO Orange Line, was not fully funded. That's one great thing about BRT – it's nimble and can be built in pieces. The Orange Line combines all the station, roadway and service improvements that we’ve been building in pieces for decades to complete the BRT picture on I-35W.

Beginning in 2019, the Orange Line will deliver frequent, all-day service to job, housing and retail centers in Minneapolis, Richfield, Bloomington and Burnsville while relieving congestion on one of the state's busiest roadways. This enhanced transit service will not only serve those traveling downtown but reverse commuters accessing more than 30,000 jobs, as well as services, education and other destinations outside the downtown core.

We know the demand for transit in the I-35W corridor is strong and will continue to grow. In 2012, express and local bus routes in the I-35W corridor attracted nearly 14,000 daily transit riders. Ridership on the limited-stop bus service the Orange Line would replace, Route 535, has increased by more than 15 percent since 2011, topping more than 430,000 rides in 2013.

Existing customers ask why we don't simply put more buses on Route 535, and that’s a good question. While more buses could provide a short-term benefit, investing in the Orange Line strengthens our regional transit network while providing several key long-term benefits:

> Better station infrastructure. Like other METRO lines, Orange Line stations will be more comfortable and accessible -- with on-demand heat, ticket machines, enhanced transit information (including real-time, NexTrip signs) and security features. These stations will not only serve the Orange Line but complementary local and express routes, making transfers easier and more efficient. At the border of Richfield and Bloomington, Orange Line stations on Knox Avenue are also being incorporated into redevelopment plans that will create a more transit-, pedestrian- and bike-friendly environment.

> Reduced travel times. A complete trip on the Orange Line will take around 35 to 40 minutes, one way. Travel times are reduced by allowing customers to pay their fares before boarding and using 60-foot buses with front, middle and rear entries. A new southbound lane exclusively for transit vehicles and carpoolers from 42nd Street to downtown Minneapolis, traffic signal technologies and a new underpass bringing Knox Avenue beneath I-494 will also make for a speedier trip.

> Improved level of service. Route 535 will do the work of multiple local and express routes. The Orange Line will operate on a simpler routing that is more user-friendly, predictable and reliable. Each streamlined trip saves operating dollars that can be reinvested into additional service on the Orange Line and connecting routes in the corridor.

These benefits are explained in greater detail in the recently released draft of the Orange Line Project Plan Update. The update summarizes work that has been done to date and provides an outline of the steps that need to be taken to begin construction.

I encourage you to read through this plan and offer your feedback. Public comments will be accepted through the end of May and incorporated before the Metropolitan Council considers the project later this year.

Your feedback is important to refining plans as we look forward to construction beginning in 2016 and opening the Orange Line for service in late 2019. Please share your input and help us make the Orange Line a success.

For continued updates, subscribe to the Orange Line Project Update newsletter. You can also join the conversation on Twitter (@MetroTransitMN) as we host a "Tweet Chat" about the Orange Line between noon and 1 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20.

    > METRO Orange Line

    > Draft Project Plan Update

    > METRO Orange Line FAQs

    > I-35W Transit/Access Project

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

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.

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

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