For the last 12 years, Shana Hansen has used Route 270 to get to her job in downtown Minneapolis. The practice has left her with a certain distaste for driving to the office, reinforced this week after spending nearly two hours traveling to the city from her home in Vandais Heights.
“I felt like leaving my car in the middle of the road and just walking away it was so aggravating,” Hansen said the following day, back in her usual habit of riding the bus.
Hansen was one of several customers sharing the ride on a recent southbound Route 270 trip who have turned to the express bus to avoid frustrating traffic. Others said they have opted to take the bus to avoid the high cost of parking downtown and so they could remain active while on their way to or from work.
Route 270 runs from the Maplewood Mall Transit Center and Park & Ride to downtown Minneapolis along the Highway 36 and Interstate 35W corridor. Using bus-only shoulders, buses can bypass congestion and be in Minneapolis in as little as 35 minutes. Route 270 also uses the Marq2 corridor in downtown Minneapolis to get in and out of downtown more quickly.
The service dates to 1976, when one morning and one afternoon rush-hour express bus trip was offered between White Bear Lake, Maplewood Mall and Minneapolis. At the time, it was called Route 36 because it used Highway 36.
Aaron Loss lives in Maplewood and has used Route 270 for the last five years. He said saving time on the road is important since he has children he needs to pick up and drop off at school every day, among other responsibilities. A Metropass customer, Loss estimates that he also saves around $100 a month on parking.
“It’s cheaper, it’s quicker and I get to sleep a little longer,” Loss said. “It’s a lot better than stop-and-go traffic.”
Loss was among the customers who boarded at the Maplewood Mall Transit Center and Park & Ride, which sits just west of Maplewood Mall and was expanded earlier this year. The facility now includes 1,000 parking spaces, more than half of which are covered, and is a connecting point for several other bus routes.
Route 270 also has trips serving the Highway 61 and County Road C Park & Ride, which has more than 225 parking spaces. There is limited service extending to Mahtomedi, and three trips that stop at the Highway 36 and Rice Street Park & Ride.
Among those who got on at the Highway 61 and County Road C Park & Ride was Carmel Funk, who said she started taking the bus five years ago when gas topped $4 a gallon.
“It was a really hard transition but then I found that I really liked it,” said Funk, who uses her time on the bus to read, crotchet, text and even pay bills online.
While Funk was among several customers who have spent years riding the bus, newcomers continue to arrive. In 2012, there were more than 357,000 customer boardings, up around 2.5 percent compared to 2011.
Responding to the rising demand, four morning and five afternoon trips were added to Route 270 as part of service changes that went into effect Dec. 7. Service now arrives in downtown Minneapolis from about 5:50 a.m. to 8:50 a.m., and departs from about 2:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Non-stop trips from Maplewood Mall were also added as part of the service changes.
Shannon Severson is among those who have just started using Route 270. Though she’s been riding for less than a year, it hasn’t taken her long to discover the advantages. “The benefit is I don’t have to sit in traffic or pay $24 a day to park,” she said.
Route 270 At a Glance
Service: Route 270 runs from the Maplewood Mall Transit Center and Park & Ride to downtown Minneapolis along Highway 36 and Interstate 35W. Route 270 also has trips serving the Highway 61 and County Road C Park & Ride, which has more than 225 parking spaces. There is limited service extending to Mahtomedi, and three trips that stop at the Highway 36 and Rice Street Park & Ride. There are a total of 22 trips that travel inbound to Minneapolis between 5:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. and 22 afternoon outbound trips that depart Minneapolis between 2:45 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. Service runs each weekday. A trip from Maplewood Mall to Minneapolis is scheduled to take between 35 and 40 minutes. Travel times are improved through the use of bus-only shoulders on I-35W and the Marq2 in downtown Minneapolis.
Route Length: Approximately 15 miles (from Maplewood Mall to Minneapolis)
Stops: 72 westbound, 72 eastbound
Vehicles: 60-foot articulated and coach buses
Ridership: More than 357,000 customer boardings in 2012, with an average of 1,327 passengers per day
History: Route 36, renumbered as Route 270 in 2001, began in July 1976 with one morning rush hour trip and one evening rush hour trip. The route served White Bear Lake and Maplewood Mall, which has included a Park & Ride since its opening. A one-way fare was 60 cents – today express bus fares are $3 during rush hour. As ridership grew, more trips were added, reaching the present level of 22 morning and 22 afternoon trips. To accommodate the growth, the Maplewood Mall Transit Center Park & Ride was expanded in 2013.
Future: Highway 36 is among eight corridors included in the Metropolitan Council’s Highway Transitway Corridor Study. The study looks at the possibility of all-day, station-to-station bus service similar to the METRO Red Line. A draft final report is due in early 2014.