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Bus METRO Blue Line METRO Orange Line Minneapolis Route of the Week

Route 46: Students, sanctuary and synergy in south Minneapolis 

| Wednesday, August 28, 2013 5:00:00 PM

As classes let out at Southwest High School for the first time on Monday, buses lined up around the perimeter of the school. But they weren’t yellow. Instead, the buses came from Metro Transit and bore all the hallmarks of public transportation – including the route number.

Along with Route 6, buses brandishing the Route 46 label parked outside the brick-walled school, filling quickly with students who poured out of the building just after 3 p.m. For the first time this year, students at Southwest High School have Go-To Student Passes that offer unlimited bus and light-rail rides between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., allowing students to use regular-route service to get to and from classes and extracurricular activities.

While some students taking Route 46 home after class this week said they had used public transportation before to visit friends, get to jobs or go to the gym, others were experiencing Metro Transit for the first time.

Hasan Bteibet, a freshman at Southwest, said he used to ride his bike to school or get a ride from his mom. But with temperatures soaring on the first day of class, he appreciated the air conditioned bus and said he looked forward to the independence his new MPS Student Pass will provide.

“I can use this to get to all the places I need to go like the mall and work,” he said.

Students from Southwest High School aren’t the only ones using Route 46 to get to and from school, though. Washburn High School and Roosevelt High School are also located on the Route 46 corridor and participating in the Student Pass program. To accommodate the extra students, extra morning and afternoon runs are added to Route 46 during the school year.

Route 46 is about more than students, however. Running between Edina and St. Paul, Route 46 buses provide year-round service to several key landmarks, including 50th & France, the I-35W & 46th Street Station, the 46th Street Station on the METRO Blue Line, Minnehaha Park and Highland Village, in St. Paul.

Eric Laport, who lives near 50th and France, has used Route 46 for the last two years as a way to get to and from work in downtown Minneapolis. Boarding with his Go-To Card, Laport rides Route 46 to the I-35W & 46th Street Station where he connects with a limited stop Route 535 bus to get downtown.

Occasionally, he will also use Route 46 to get to the Blue Line’s 46th Street Station where he boards the Blue Line to get to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

“I do have a car but it’s much more convenient to take the bus,” Laport said. “It really couldn’t be any easier.”

Route 46 also serves a number of churches with limited parking, including Saint Joan of Arc, located at 4537 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis.  

JP Fitzgibbons, an administrative assistant at Saint Joan of Arc, said he regularly bikes and rides Route 46 to the church, as do several other parishioners. He said using transit can be more convenient than driving and is also in line with the church’s environmental values. 

“It really blends in with the philosophy here,” Fitzgibbons said.

Created in 2004, Route 46 combined parts of routes 4, 9 and 22, and follows a nearly identical route that began in 1947 but was discontinued just three years later. John Dillery, a Metro Transit service planner who helped develop Route 46, said the goal was to create a more seamless crosstown connection and improve service west of Nicollet Avenue.

“There are a lot of purposes for this route and a lot of passengers who get on and off a lot and make short trips,” Dillery said. “You may never that many passengers aboard at any one time, but if you ride it end-to-end you’ll see it carries a lot of people.”

In 2012, more than 349,000 customers boarded Route 46, up nearly 3 percent from the previous year. With the addition of Southwest High School, more than 500 high school students are expected to ride Route 46 every weekday during the school year.

Route 46 could become yet more popular with the advent of the METRO Orange Line, a planned Bus Rapid Transit line that would bring high-frequency service between Burnsville and Minneapolis. The proposed route includes a stop at the I-35W & 46th Street Station, improving service for Route 46 customers who transfer at that location.

Route 46 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

Service: Route 46 runs largely on 46th Street between Vernon and Eden avenues, in Edina, and West 7th Street, in St. Paul
. Buses run approximately every 20 minutes during rush hour and every half hour off-peak between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. Extra morning and evening trips are added during the school year to accommodate high school students with Go-To Student Passes. Destinations along the route include 50th & France, 
I-35W & 46th Street Station46th Street Station on the METRO Blue Line, Minnehaha Park and Highland Village, in St. Paul.

Route length: Approximately 12 miles

Stops: 106 eastbound stops and 110 westbound stops

Vehicles: 40-foot standard buses

Ridership: Route 46 saw more than 349,000 customer boardings in 2012, up nearly 3 percent from the previous year.

History: A crosstown route that mimics Route 46 was inaugurated by Twin City Rapid Transit in 1947 but discontinued three years later. Route 46 was created in 2004, assuming parts of routes 4, 9 and 22 to create a seamless crosstown connection.

Future: The METRO Orange Line, slated to be in service in 2019, would bring more frequent bus service to the I-35W corridor. Increased bus service would benefit Route 46 customers who transfer at I-35W & 46th Street Station to get to downtown Minneapolis or points south on I-35W.

Bus Express Bus In the News State Fair

Ridership strong on State Fair's opening weekend 

| Monday, August 26, 2013 12:28:00 PM

Fairgoers poured onto buses before pouring into the Midway over the first weekend of the Minnesota State Fair.

As of Sunday, nearly 80,000 customers had boarded Metro Transit's express State Fair buses or used regular route service to get to the fairgrounds. That’s up about 3 percent compared to the same time period of last year’s State Fair.

In all, about 14.5 percent of fairgoers used Metro Transit to get to the Great Minnesota Get Together over the first four days of the 12-day event.

Express State Fair buses are running from more than a dozen Park & Ride locations across the Twin Cities metro. Parking is free at the sites and a round-trip fare is $5.

A new Park & Ride site added this year is Northstar Commuter Rail's Fridley Station, where more than 1,800 customers had boarded as of Sunday. Customers can incorporate Northstar into their State Fair commute this coming weekend with a Northstar Family pass - an $11 to $20 roundtrip fare good for two adults and up to three children ages 6-17 (children under 5 ride free).  

The most popular express bus location has been the Park & Ride at I-394 & County Road 73, in Minnetonka (pictured above). Nearly 14,000 people boarded at that location over the first four days of the State Fair. The Bloomington Park & Ride, near Mall of America connection between the METRO Red Line and METRO Blue Line, has seen nearly 13,000 customer boardings.

> Metro Transit: The fast and friendly way to the State Fair

> Star Tribune: Transit agencies ready for State Fair

> State Fair Express service

> Regular Route bus service

Good Question Light Rail METRO Blue Line

Good Question: Why doesn't the METRO Blue Line have NexTrip? 

| Friday, August 23, 2013 2:00:00 PM

This week’s Good Question comes from William Lindeke (@BillLendeke), who asked: Why don't we have NexTrip technology on the METRO Blue Line?

Adding NexTrip to light rail on the METRO Blue Line has been a lower priority than adding it to buses. This is because light-rail trains operate most hours of the day – typically every 10 minutes – and are very rarely delayed due to weather or traffic congestion (on-time performance is 95 percent).

However, NexTrip will be added to the Blue Line next year as technology upgrades are implemented for the METRO Green Line. When installed, the system will display real-time departure times on existing digital signs at every station platform on the Blue and Green lines.

NexTrip information is also accessible by calling 612-373-3333 and at metrotransit.org. Third-party developers who use the GPS-based data from buses and Northstar trains to build their own mobile apps can incorporate real-time departure information into their software as well.

NexTrip technology was introduced to Metro Transit customers in 2008 and has been available for all Metro Transit buses and most regional buses since 2009; Northstar was added to the system in 2012. The system uses GPS technology on vehicles to track their location and predict departure times.

NexTrip displays are currently installed on Marq2, regional Park & Ride lots, select transit centers and the Union Depot in St. Paul. Future plans call for the use of NexTrip displays on Arterial Bus Rapid Transit corridors, including Snelling Avenue.

> About NexTrip

> Apps put transit in the palm of your hand

Have a “Good Question” that you want answered? Email it to goodquestion@metrotransit.org.

Bus Community From the GM Light Rail

Back to school with Metro Transit 

| Friday, August 23, 2013 11:00:00 AM

From Brian Lamb, Metro Transit General Manager

High school students across Minneapolis are heading back to class next week – and for many of them Metro Transit will be the way they get there.

When classes resume on Monday our successful Go-To Student Pass partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) will begin its second year, providing students with safe, convenient and affordable transportation to and from classes, extracurricular activities and other destinations.

After a successful “freshman year,” 2,200 new students from South and Southwest high schools will join the program for the first time. Eligible students at Edison, North, Patrick Henry, Roosevelt, Washburn and Wellstone high schools will also again use Go-To Student Passes, which are integrated with their student ID cards and allow unlimited rides between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.

If last year’s response is any indication, the passes should be put to good use. By the end of the 2012 school year, nearly 3,800 students were using passes nearly 7,000 times each weekday, totaling 1.5 million rides on buses and trains by the time classes let out for summer.

It takes careful planning and preparation to accommodate new student riders while continuing to deliver the safe, convenient and reliable service our commuting customers rely on every day.

To accommodate these new South and Southwest students, nearly 50 daily trips will be added to existing routes. In all, there will be around 120 scheduled trips added to provide comfortable service for students and regular customers on routes near MPS high schools.

And while transporting students safely is nothing new for Metro Transit, public transportation may be new to many of these young people. As the school year begins, Metro Transit, MPS and other partners will staff busy transfer areas and help students understand the Code of Conduct they are expected to abide by.

Based on last year’s experience, we expect students using passes for the first time to quickly adapt and make the most of transit. Students who used Go-To Student Passes gave the program overwhelmingly high marks. In response to a survey, 91 percent said they “liked” or “loved” their passes.

Additionally, 79 percent engaged in learning opportunities outside of school “very often” or “sometimes,” and 60 percent said they engaged in extracurricular activities more than before thanks to the Go-To Student Pass. Students in the survey reported using their Go-To passes to frequently travel to the library, athletics, jobs, school clubs and tutoring.

In September, Metro Transit will further strengthen the connection between the school community and our “onboard community” by welcoming the entire Minneapolis School District into the Metropass program. With the addition of MPS to this employer-based program, educators and MPS staff will be able to use a Metropass to ride buses and trains right alongside students.

Acquainting students, educators and their families with the value of our service translates into a better long-term understanding and appreciation for how public transportation links people, communities and opportunities throughout the region. That’s a lesson we think everyone can get behind.

> MPS Go-To Student Pass

> Go-To Card User's Guide

> MPS Student Pass rides surpass the one million mark

> Rosenblum: Metro Transit Student Pass is a vehicle for achievement

Bus Bus Rapid Transit METRO Green Line Minneapolis Route of the Week St. Paul University of Minnesota

Route 61: From the city to the farm and back again 

| Wednesday, August 21, 2013 9:00:00 AM

Bucolic farm views aren’t what customers expect to find while riding one of Metro Transit’s urban bus routes.

But that’s what they’ll find on Route 61 as it passes the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. Acres of corn, tomatoes and other vegetables come into view as the bus rolls down Larpenteur Avenue and past the fields adjoining campus.

The agrarian environment is just one of the scenes customers encounter while riding Route 61, however. The crosstown bus also passes through quiet, tree-lined residential streets, past large industrial warehouses and over the Mississippi River as it makes its way between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul.

For two weeks every summer, it also passes near one of the state’s largest events: the Minnesota State Fair. The fairgrounds sit just south of Larpenteur Avenue, between Cleveland and Snelling Avenues and can be reached by Route 61 customers willing to walk a short distance to the entrance. (Regular service on Route 3 and Route 84 can also bring customers to the fair; see all available transit options here.)

Even without that extra attraction, though, Route 61 is seeing its fair share of customers. Nearly 780,000 customers boarded Route 61 buses last year, up around 3 percent from 2011.

Among them is Ritesh Katwal, a 25-year-old University of Minnesota student who uses the bus to travel between school and his home in St. Paul. Without a car, Katwal said the bus is so important to him that he plans his classes around the bus schedule.

“The 61 is the only bus I take and I take it all the time – to school, libraries, wherever I can go,” he said recently as he returned home from class.

Chuck Weber moved to St. Paul just two months ago but has already made a habit of riding Route 61. Weber said he boards once or twice a day, usually to get to the YMCA in downtown St. Paul. Though he has a car, he says he prefers to ride the bus for environmental reasons and to avoid paying for parking.

Now retired, Weber also benefits from a 75-cent senior fare, available to customers who are at least 65-years-old.

“I like the bus because it’s environmentally more sound but it’s also a lot cheaper,” Weber said.

Route 61 was created in 2001, when a series of service changes went into effect. A number of routes were either eliminated or consolidated, allowing Metro Transit to create a more direct crosstown route. One of Route 61's primary purposes is to link residents in east St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis. But the route also provides local service to businesses along Larpenteur Avenue and downtown St. Paul.  

Responding to strong demand, weekday spans on Route 61 were expanded in early 2013. Plans are now in place to improve station areas in downtown St. Paul, including the transit center at Fifth and Minnesota streets, where passengers board Route 61 and several other routes.

Future service improvements could be made to East Seventh and Arcade streets, once home to a streetcar line that ran between St. Paul and White Bear Lake. The streets have been identified as candidates for Arterial Bus Rapid Transit, which would improve travel time along a nearly 9-mile stretch between the METRO Green Line in downtown St. Paul and the Maplewood Mall Transit Center.

A Metro Transit study suggests more than 13,000 weekday passengers could use ABRT by 2030.

As that planning continues, longtime customer Michael Chappell said he's happy with what's already in place. Now 51-years-old, Chappell has been riding the bus since he was a child and finds himself amazed with the consistency of service he's experienced.

"It's never too late, never too early -- always on time," he said.  

Route 61 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

Service: Route 61 runs between the Ramp A/7th Street Transit Center in downtown Minneapolis and the Smith Avenue Ramp near downtown St. Paul. Buses run along East Hennepin Avenue, Larpenteur Avenue, Arlington Avenue, Arcade Street and East Seventh Street. In St. Paul, Route 61 stops at Fifth and Minnesota streets, adjacent to the METRO Green Line's Central Station. Buses run between roughly 5 a.m. and 11:30 p.m., approximately every 20 minutes during rush hour, every half-hour midday and every hour in the evening. Downtown Zone fares apply in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Route length: Approximately 15 miles

Stops: 132 eastbound stops and 134 westbound stops

Vehicles: 40-foot standard buses

Ridership: Route 61 saw nearly 780,000 customer boardings in 2012, with an average of more than 2,531 daily passengers.

History: Route 61 launched in 2001 following a series of service changes that led other routes to be consolidated or eliminated. It was created primarily to provide a direct connection between east St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis and to provide service to businesses along Larpenteur Avenue. Parts of Route 61 -- East Seventh and Arcade streets -- were once home to a streetcar line between downtown St. Paul and White Bear Lake.

Future: East Seventh and Arcade streets are under consideration for Arterial Bus Rapid Transit, which would bring faster service to the corridor along with new technology, buses and improved station areas.

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