Simon Koch has a 20-minute commute from Roseville to downtown Minneapolis every day. But he doesn’t waste his time sitting in traffic. Instead, riding Route 264, he reads.
“Ever since I started riding the bus the number of books I read has just skyrocketed,” Koch said before boarding at the I-35W and County Road C Park & Ride, which sits just a mile from his house.
Koch’s experience is similar to many customers who use Route 264 to get from Roseville to Minneapolis and back each day. Like Koch, customers aboard the bus on a recent 9 a.m. trip said they use their commute to browse the news on their phones, fit in extra work or simply doze off.
“The traffic doesn’t really bother me anymore because I just listen to music or read on my iPad,” said Brian Meskimen, a Shoreview resident who fits in workouts at a nearby gym before boarding at the Park & Ride.
But it’s not just comfort that’s motivating customers to get on the bus.
For Amy Hubler, riding Route 264 is a way to avoid the parking costs her employer doesn’t cover. The White Bear Lake resident started riding in June after getting a job in downtown Minneapolis. Like many Route 264 customers, her employer contributes to the cost of a Metropass. The pass is $76 a month, pre-tax, and provides unlimited rides.
“I never had the option before but now I’m just hooked,” Hubler said.
Part of the appeal for Ketam Solamki is the advantages Route 264 is one of 75 express routes that benefits from Marq2, bus-only lanes on Marquette Avenue and Second Avenue South featuring real-time bus information signs, enhanced shelters and wider sidewalks. Route 264 is also among the Metro Transit routes that use bus-only shoulders, allowing buses to bypass congestion.
“I used to hate seeing the bus on the shoulder but now I love it,” Solamki said.
The advantages have proven a compelling draw. In 2012, three years after the route began with the opening of the I-35W & County Road C Park & Ride, there were nearly 96,000 passenger boardings. Through the first half of 2013, there have been more than 78,000 boardings.
The growth has come in part as customers who used the Rosedale Center Park & Ride, which closed last fall, transition to County Road C or the Highway 36 & Rice Street Park & Ride. Increased service has also helped.
After beginning with rush hour-only service, late morning and midday trips added in 2010, and service was further expanded last year when the Rosedale Park & Ride closed. There are now 21 southbound and 19 northbound trips every weekday between 6 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.
"The midday trips are a great service for commuters who may need to get home outside of traditional rush hours," said Scott Thompson, a senior transit planner who helped develop Route 264.
While there are no plans to make any further service changes on Route 264, the area around the County Road C Park & Ride is evolving.
Land around the Park & Ride once used for trucking terminals is now being cleared to make way for mixed-use development in what the city is calling the Twin Lakes Redevelopment Area.
In May, construction began on the first new development in the area, a Walmart expected to open in 2014.
Route 264 At a Glance
Service: Route 264 provides weekday express bus service between the Rosedale Transit Center at Rosedale Shopping Center and I-35W and County Road C Park & Rid ramp and downtown Minneapolis. Morning rush-hour trips begin around 6 a.m. and the last northbound trip from downtown Minneapolis departs around 9 p.m. Midday trips leave roughly every hour.
Route length: 9 miles
Stops: 6 northbound stops and 6 southbound stops
Vehicles: 60-foot articulated buses
Ridership: Route 264 saw 95,825 customer boardings in 2012, a 153 percent increase from 2010, the first full year of operation.
History: Route 264 launched in late 2009 with the opening of the I-35W & County Road C Park & Ride. Late morning and midday trips were added in 2010 and service was further expanded in 2012.