For nearly 20 years, Leslie Ross has taken the bus to and from his job in downtown Minneapolis.
Since moving to Maple Grove in 2007, that’s meant riding Maple Grove Transit Route 781, an express service that gets him from to and from work in a little over a half-hour.
“It’s my time before and after work to just relax and read the newspaper or a book,” Ross said on a recent morning commute. “I don’t even check work e-mail because it’s just so nice to have this small amount of time that I can unwind.”
The opportunity to trade a stressful and time-consuming commute for a faster and more enjoyable ride has led many others in the north metro community to the same conclusion. In 2014, more than 788,000 rides were provided on Maple Grove Transit’s six express routes with service to downtown Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota.
Though buses and Park & Rides are owned by and carry the name of Maple Grove Transit, the service itself is operated under contract by Metro Transit. Metro Transit’s operators drive the buses, mechanics at Metro Transit’s Martin J. Ruter Garage maintain the 39-bus fleet and fare payments are made using the same system used on Metro Transit vehicles. Metro Transit’s Customer Relations department also assists with feedback from Maple Grove Transit customers.
The City of Maple Grove manages Maple Grove Transit through its Transit Administrator, who conducts transit planning, administration, customer service and marketing. The city also has a Transit Commission of eight customers who provide input.
Metro Transit has provided Maple Grove Transit services since 1990 and will continue to do so through at least 2018 after the recent approval of a three-year contract extension.
Maple Grove Transit Administrator Mike Opatz said Metro Transit has consistently provided great service and that he looks forward to building on the successes of the last 25 years. Among the improvements made this year was the addition of free WiFi to some Maple Grove Transit buses.
“We truly appreciate all of our partners throughout Metro Transit,” Opatz said. “We’re particularly grateful for the service and support we receive from the operators, garage staff and supervisors, and we look forward to continuing to work together in the years ahead.”
Maple Grove is one of 12 suburban communities that have chosen to “opt-out” and directly contract their transit services through other providers. SouthWest Transit provides service in Chanhassen, Chaska, and Eden Prairie; the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority provides service in seven south metro suburbs; and Plymouth Metrolink provides service in Plymouth. (MVTA merged with contracted providers in Shakopee and Prior Lake in 2014.)
For customers, the fact that the buses say Maple Grove Transit while the operators wear a Metro Transit uniform isn’t all that significant. Instead, they’re just happy to have an alternative to battling congestion on Interstate 94 (Maple Grove Transit routes use bus-only shoulders to bypass traffic).
On the same trip as Ross, the 20-year transit veteran, was newcomer Tara Roberts who began riding the bus just a few weeks earlier when she started training in downtown Minneapolis. Able to board just blocks from her home, Roberts uses her time commuting to text with her children instead of stressing about traffic and parking.
“I get anxiety when I drive downtown so I really didn’t want to deal with it,” she said.
After moving from Puerto Rico this summer, Carlos Muniz said he will be especially grateful that he can walk or take a short drive to the Maple Grove Transit Station near his home instead of having to drive as he faces his first Minnesota winter.
“It’s all new to me, so I think there would be a lot of complications with that,” he said. “I’m glad I’ll just be able to rely on the bus.”
Maple Grove Transit At a Glance
Routes: Routes 780, 781, 782, 783, 785 and 788 provide express, weekday service to and from downtown Minneapolis during peak periods. Route 787 offers midday and evening service on weekdays. Route 789 provides weekday express service to the University of Minnesota when fall and spring classes are in session.
Park & Rides: Free parking is available at five Park & Ride locations. Open since 2003, the largest Park & Ride is the Maple Grove Transit Station near the Shoppes at Arbor Lake; it features 926 parking spaces, a climate-controlled waiting area and bike storage. Open since 2010, Parkway Station has 800 parking spaces. Smaller Park & Rides are located on Zachary Lane, at Cross Winds Church and at the Shepherd of the Grove Church.
Ridership: Customers took 788,000 rides on Maple Grove Transit routes in 2014; ridership has increased more than 10 percent since 2010.
More information: maplegrovemn.gov
> Good Question: Why are some routes operated under contract?