For the last three decades, Curt Delaney has relied on buses to get to work, appointments and shopping.
One of his favorite and most frequently used routes: Route 10, which runs north of downtown Minneapolis along Nicollet Mall and Central Avenue Northeast, serving Northeast Minneapolis, Columbia Heights and Fridley.
Returning from downtown Minneapolis with a handful of DVDs this week, Delaney said he’s not sure how he’d get around if not for the frequent, all-day service Route 10 provides.
“This is just a Godsend that the buses run so well,” said the Robbinsdale resident, who connects to Route 10 via Route 32.
Delaney isn’t the only one who has come to rely on Route 10. More than 2.7 million customers boarded its buses last year, placing it among Metro Transit’s most heavily-used routes (the route ranked sixth in ridership last year).
Beginning at the Leamington Parking Ramp at 2nd Avenue South, Route 10 buses run northbound on Nicollet Mall, downtown's main artery and open only to pedestrians, buses, emergency vehicles and taxis. Route 10 customers can ride for 50 cents in the Minneapolis Downtown Zone. (Specially-marked southbound buses offer free rides between Washington Avenue and the METRO Blue Line’s Nicollet Mall Station; Route 18 buses offer free northbound service between the Minneapolis Convention Center and Nicollet Mall Station).
After crossing the Mississippi River, buses continue north on Central Avenue and through the Central Avenue Business District, home to an eclectic mix of ethnic restaurants, grocery stores and small businesses.
Buses run every ten minutes between Minneapolis and the Columbia Heights Transit Center at Central and 41st avenues, part of Metro Transit’s Hi Frequency network that eliminates the need for a bus schedule. Trips take roughly 30 minutes end-to-end.
Steve Schmid, who uses Route 10 on a near-daily basis, said the high level of service has made it remarkably easy for him to use the bus to get where he needs to go. Without a car, he said it's dependability is key to his way of life. “If I want to see anybody I take the bus,” Schmid said. “It’s everything for me.”
Route 10 branches that run north of Columbia Heights – the 10N and 10U – offer additional service to Fridley and Northtown Transit Center at Blaine’s Northtown Mall, passing shopping destinations and employers such as Medtronic, at 53rd and Central avenues.
Transit in this northern service territory has come more recently, but transit has a longer history on Nicollet and Central avenues.
A horsedrawn streetcar ran on Monroe Street and Central Avenue until 1882. In 1891, an electric streetcar line was built on Central Avenue to 29th Avenue NE. The line was extended to Columbia Heights two years later as Thomas Lowry, president of the Minneapolis Street Railway Co., promoted real estate development in the area.
Streetcars were cut back to 37th Avenue NE in 1951 and the entire line was abandoned in 1953. Streetcars never ran on Nicollet Avenue through downtown – the area was instead served by the Nicollet-Hennepin bus line, now Route 17, which began in 1926.
Known for many years as the Grand-Central Line, buses ran from downtown Minneapolis on Marquette and Second avenues to Nicollet Avenue and East 31st Street, heading west to Grand Avenue and south to 46th Street. Buses were later moved to Nicollet Mall to relieve congestion; Grand Avenue is now served by Route 18.
Route 10 has been a part of Metro Transit's more recent history-making efforts, with electric-hybrid buses making up the bulk of the service. The buses are quieter and get up to 25 percent better fuel economy than standard diesel-fueled models. It is also one of just three routes to use a bus "annunciator" system in which stops and transfer locations are displayed and announced through speakers inside and outside the bus.
Minneapolis is now studying transit alternatives for Central and Nicollet avenues. Among the options: a streetcar that would run between East Lake Street and East Hennepin Avenue, near the intersection with Central Avenue Northeast, and could later be extended further north and south.
Type: Urban Local
Service: Route 10 offers Hi-Frequency service between downtown Minneapolis and Columbia Heights Transit Center, at 4079 Central Avenue NE. Buses run on Nicollet Mall downtown and on Central Avenue. From the Columbia Heights Transit Center, Route 10 branches run further north to Fridley and the Northtown Transit Center in Blaine.
Stops: 109 northbound and 107 southbound, including branches
Length: 12 miles
Vehicles: 40-foot hybrid buses
Ridership: There were nearly 2.73 million customer boardings in 2012, with an average of 7,448 customers per day
History: A horsedrawn streetcar ran on Central Avenue until 1882 and an electric streetcar offered service between 1891 and 1953.