For the last two years, Jeanine Wilson has used Route 262 to get from Blaine to her job in downtown St. Paul. The daily commutes have given her plenty of time to make friends and collect stories.
“If all of us are awake, this is a very interesting bus,” Wilson said during a recent southbound trip. “It’s unlike all the others. This is more of a community, actually.”
Wilson, who boards at the 95th Avenue Park & Ride, has been collecting stories in the hopes of creating a Route 262-themed comic strip tentatively called Bus Buzz. Take just one trip on the route and it’s easy to see where the material would come from, too.
While many customers spent their early morning commutes buried in a book or phone, several also laughed, joked and shared stories about their work life. The friendships created on the bus have even led to off-board meet-ups for dinner or drinks.
The camaraderie between passengers helped put Mollie Henefin's mind at ease when she she got a new job in St. Paul and began riding the bus last year.
“The only time I ever rode the bus before was when I was in school, but now I feel pretty good about it,” Henefin said.
Sue Maxey lives and works within a block of Henefin and has become one of her trusted “bus buddies.” Maxey has been riding the bus since 1996 and said she enjoys not just the friendships but also the convenience and cost savings.
She's put just 100,000 miles on her 1996 vehicle by taking the bus instead of driving to work.
“I appreciate the bus because it’s cheaper and there’s a lot less wear and tear on the vehicles, especially with all the potholes,” she said.
Cost is what drove Karl Rosenquist to Route 262 seven years ago. The Shorview resident initially drove to his job in St. Paul but turned to transit when he realized he could save money and get there in roughly the same amount of time.
With limited-stop service on Rice Street, the trip from Shoreview to St. Paul takes around a half hour.
“And in rush hour I can get there even quicker (on the bus),” Rosenquist said.
For Jan Kinney, the motivation to take the bus came when she broke her foot this winter and could no longer drive. Her foot has since healed but she’s still taking the bus to work each day.
“Ever since then, it’s just that I don’t want to drive,” said Kinney, who was spending her time on the bus knitting a pair of socks for her granddaughter.
Whatever led them to transit, Route 262 customers all agreed that they’ve stayed because the experience is preferable to driving. For many, the alternative would be driving on Interstate 35E, frequently congested during rush hour.
After three years riding the bus, Mary Locht doesn’t like the idea of getting back behind the wheel. Besides saving money to spoil her 14 grandchildren, she says her commutes are considerably more relaxed.
“When I’m driving, there is more honking than laughing,” she said. “I think my stress level is much better when I’m not driving.”
Route 262 At a Glance
Type: Limited stop
Service: Route 262 buses run between the 95th Avenue Park & Ride and downtown St. Paul, serving commuters in Blaine, Shoreview and Little Canada. Buses run along Hodgson Road and Rice Street. There is limited-stop service on Rice Street between County Road C and University Avenue. There are three trips each weekday morning (departing the 95th Avenue Park & Ride at 5:54 a.m., 6:21 a.m. and 6:50 a.m.) and three trips each weekday evening (departing Union Depot at 4:07 p.m., 4:37 p.m. and 5:07 p.m.). Route 62 provides complementary local service on Rice Street between St. Paul and Shoreview.
Route Length: Approximately 19 miles
Stops: 76 southbound, 77 northbound
Vehicles: Standard 40-foot buses
Ridership: 36,224 total passenger boardings in 2013 with an average of 143 rides per weekday.
History: Transit service on Rice Street dates to 1888, when horse-drawn streetcars operated between downtown and Maryland Avenue. Electric streetcars arrived three years later and were eventually replaced by buses. North Suburban Lines, the last of the private suburban bus companies, ran a bus line on Rice Street to Circle Pines, which is now served by Route 262.
Future: Route 262 will connect with the METRO Green Line’s Capitol/Rice, 10th Street and Central stations. The route's southern terminus is Union Depot, which will also be served by the Green Line's Union Depot Station.