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Service changes boost ridership to St. Louis Park’s West End 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, January 17, 2019 3:23:00 PM

Customers board a Route 645 bus at the Louisiana Avenue Transit Center in St. Louis Park. When Chris Kaukis needs to get to work, he walks out of his downtown Minneapolis condo, crosses the street and hops on a Route 645 bus. 

In less than 15 minutes, he’s arrived at his office in St. Louis Park’s West End, a growing commercial and residential area just a few miles west of downtown on Interstate 394.  

The simplicity of getting to and from work without a vehicle, he said, was the primary reason he decided to move from Austin, Texas, to downtown Minneapolis a year ago.

“I wanted to get rid of my car and live in a major metropolitan downtown with a strong transportation system,” he said. 

Kaukis is among a growing number of customers taking transit to and from the West End and the surrounding area, which boasts nearly 12,000 jobs. Ridership in the West End area has increased by about a third since late 2016. 

The increase partly reflects a growing number of jobs and residences in the area. But service changes that took effect in mid-2017 have also provided a boost. 

The changes simplified some routes and introduced new all-day, limited stop service in the form of Route 645. Route 645 trips run between downtown Minneapolis and Wayzata, serving the West End, the Louisiana Avenue Transit Center and Ridgedale. Select Route 645 trips go as far west as Mound.

On a recent weekday morning trip, several Route 645 customers who boarded downtown said they regularly rode the bus to and from work. Like Kaukis, many did not own a vehicle or aspire to do so. 

“This is the only time I have to read,” said Janet Rolfer, who rides Route 645 to her job at the Ridgedale Library. “It’s nice and quiet and I don’t get interrupted.” 

Without transit, Rolfer said, she’d likely have to get a second job to buy a car and cover increased transportation costs. 

Customers traveling to jobs downtown are even more mindful of traffic and the cost of parking. 

St. Louis Park resident Bobby Pettit said riding Route 645 has allowed him and his wife to save money by sharing a vehicle. Another customer said she likely wouldn’t have taken a job downtown if not for the midday service provided on Route 645. 

Senior Planner Steve Mahowald led the service planning effort that resulted in Route 645 and other service changes to the West End. 

His charge to simplify Route 9 – which went from six to three branches – quickly led to something bigger, he said. The goal was to create more attractive and efficient service while continuing to serve existing riders. 

That was accomplished in part by putting Route 645 on local streets that had less frequent Route 9 branch service that has now been eliminated. Route 645 also provides more consistent service at a lower cost – as a limited stop route, customers pay local fares instead of express fares. 

The changes were made without increasing operating costs. 

Serving suburban employment centers like the West End can be a challenge. But the West End is uniquely situated for the kind of service improvements needed to build and sustain ridership, Mahowald said. 

“I don’t think there’s another area like this that’s this close to downtown and connected by a freeway,” he said. 

Learn more about service to St. Louis Park’s West End at

Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Joseph Sturdevant  

Posted by John Komarek | Thursday, January 17, 2019 12:16:00 PM

After 20 years serving as a police officer, Joseph Sturdevant left the force and began to make a difference in his community at Metro Transit.

Ever since, his riders are thankful he made the switch. He is among Metro Transit's most-complimented operators.

To Sturdevant, the transition from police work to bus operations was easier than he imagined. Riders have noticed it the way he approaches his work, too. Passion, gratitude and respect are among Sturdevant's hallmark attributes. 

“Both jobs require patience and awareness of the people you’re serving,” Sturdevant said. I always remember that a rider’s problem is usually not about me, but another situation they’re experiencing.”

Sturdevant said he learned long ago that life is about relationships with people. He credits his praise to simple things like saying hello. Sturdevant said he didn’t think twice about such gestures, but that he now sees how they can make a rider’s day.  

One rider told him, “You drive well” then got off the bus. He didn’t think twice about that conversation until he later received a glowing review from that rider who compared his bus ride to the comfort of sitting on his couch at home.

As he continued to read his reviews during this interview, he needed to take a moment to let them sink in.

“I’m really glad I got the time to read these,” Sturdevant said. “They really make me feel good.”

He takes his role as a bus operator seriously because of the big responsibility it requires. A bus operator is often the first and last person a rider sees during the day.

“If you’re behind schedule or not in a good mood, your actions can have a compounding impact on someone’s day,” Sturdevant said. “I’m responsible for every single rider on my bus, and they’re depending on me.”

Currently, Sturdevant works a part-time split-shift, beginning at 4 a.m. He plans to grow into other positions with transit and has no plans to leave because he loves its democratizing affect.

“Whether you’re low- or high-income, feel powerful or powerless, everyone who rides the bus is treated the same: with respect and courtesy,” Sturdevant said.

Operator at a Glance

Hired: November 2001
Routes: 19, 721,781, 782
Garage: Martin J. Ruter
Lives: Fridley
Family: Wife and a daughter and a son – they’re twins!
Best Advice: “Be patient and aware – a rider’s problem is usually not about you, but a situation they’re experiencing.”

Help make an operator's day with a commendation

Submit a commendation for good work on our website or on Facebook or Twitter. If you don't know your operator's name yet, check for their operator number on their shoulder. It helps us get the good news to the right person.

D Line

METRO D Line begins pre-construction survey 

Posted by John Komarek | Tuesday, January 08, 2019 1:46:00 PM

Jared Gazda takes a moment to setup his surveying equipment at the corner of 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis. The information he gathers will aid in station construction, including ADA compliance and drainage. 

Before the first shovel breaks ground, there’s a lot of work that goes into any new METRO Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line.

From planning through final engineering, each step ensures that the line is built to specification. Beginning this month, the METRO D Line is entering the engineering phase. During this phase, stations and other improvements will be designed and translated into detailed construction plans.

As a first step in designing D Line stations, Metro Transit has contracted with several firms to assist with field survey. Starting on January 7, crews from Stonebrooke Engineering began surveying planned METRO D Line station locations.

During this phase, surveyors gather information at the ground level, to create accurate measurements and learn more about the existing space and utilities below the ground at future D Line stops to help designers and construction crews avoid foreseeable problems before construction.

Over the next few weeks you will see trucks and members of our project team in the area conducting field surveys and making field observations and measurements to help engineer and design the project.

If you see a surveyor on the job, thank them for their hard work to help bring fast, frequent service to your corridor. If you have questions about the D Line or survey activities, contact Cody Olson, Community Outreach Coordinator at or 612-349-7390.

The D Line is currently set to begin construction as early as mid-2020, pending full funding for the project. The D Line will substantially replace Route 5, the highest-ridership bus route in the state of Minnesota. Customers take about 16,000 daily rides on Route 5 between Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, Richfield, and Bloomington.

To get the latest D Line news, subscribe to our newsletter.

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line

Plastic seats being tested on some light rail vehicles 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Tuesday, January 08, 2019 10:21:00 AM

Responding to customer feedback, Metro Transit is trying something new on some Blue Line trains – plastic seats. 

Technicians put plastic seats in the upper seating area of a Blue Line train a few months ago and plan to install them in the same area of several additional trains in the coming months. 

The seating is being swapped out to get a better idea of whether customers prefer plastic to the cloth that is now used across the fleet.

 “The hope is to generate customer feedback and to test the plastic seats for durability and ease of maintenance to help us make an informed decision on whether to potentially pursue a cloth-free option,” said Ryan McTeague, director of light rail vehicle maintenance. 

Customer Relations Manager Pam Steffen said customers frequently suggest plastic seats.

Plastic seats may also be easier to maintain. To sanitize cloth seats, cleaners must remove them, steam them and wait a day for them to dry before reinstalling them.

Crews replaced all the seats on six Green Line vehicles a few months ago. Thousands of seats have been replaced over the past several years. 

In addition to the plastic seats, light rail vehicle maintenance is testing a new fabric with a protective coating that is expected to be more durable and do a better job of keeping the foam underneath it dry. 

Electro-Mechanical Technician Chris Kostohris recently installed new plastic seats on a light rail vehicle at the Blue Line Operations & Maintenance Facility in Minneapolis.

To comment on the plastic seats or the new fabric seats with protective coating, please contact Customer Relations

Star Tribune: Metro Transit testing plastic seats on light rail vehicles

E Line

METRO E Line open houses, surveys provide meaningful feedback 

Posted by John Komarek | Monday, January 07, 2019 10:25:00 AM

The proposed METRO E Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is planned to run between downtown Minneapolis and Lake Street.

Where it goes from there, however, is still being decided. It could connect with the Green Line extension, or it could travel further south. It could connect the U of M to downtown and south Minneapolis.

“We’re dedicated to finding out what will make BRT work best in the communities it serves,” Supervisor of Public Involvement Sophia Ginis said. “An important step in that process is getting community feedback.”

At two open houses in the affected corridors and in an online survey, community members provided feedback for a route that would serve than 118,000 people  in Minneapolis and Edina.

More than 550 transit users and community members responded with 90 percent of the online survey responders representing regular riders and 75 percent of them who live or work in the corridor.

Online and in-person feedback supported a northbound routing along 4th Street and University Avenue SE that serves the University of Minnesota with numbers between 80-100 percent in favor.

"Extending the E Line is incredibly important to our neighborhood because of the significant population increase in Marcy-Holmes over the past decade,” Chris Lautenschlager, Executive Director of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association said. “These new residents—as well as the long-time residents that have lived here for decades—want the convenience that the E Line offers."

Southbound, respondents favored a terminus at the Southdale Mall, however, they were split on which road should take them there: France Avenue, Xerxes Avenue, or a combination of both.

Metro Transit will continue evaluating potential E Line routing options, including ongoing public outreach and engagement, throughout 2019. A final recommendation is planned for fall of 2019.

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