When Karl Gehrke began a new job at the Hmong American Partnership last fall, he started riding to and from the organization’s offices at University and Western avenues on Route 67.
From his home, it’s a short, five-minute trip that leaves little time to review lesson plans or get any other significant work done. But the tiny window provides just enough space for Gehrke to sit back, relax and mentally prepare for the day.
“I just like to take a few deep breaths,” he said on a recent eastbound trip into the office. “Usually by the time that’s over, I’m there.”
Gehrke was one of several commuters recently about Route 67 trip who said they valued the relative peace and quiet their bus trips afforded them. Others said they chose to use transit to cut their transportation costs or because it was simply more convenient.
Traveling eastbound, Route 67 runs largely along Minnehaha Avenue and brings residents in St. Paul’s Midway area to and from their jobs or other activities in or near downtown. Traveling south from downtown, buses cross the Wabasha Street bridge into West St. Paul, serving more residents bound for work or connecting bus routes downtown.
Like Gehrke, several early-morning commuters said their favorite part of the ride is the opportunity to unplug while traveling to and from work, school or other destinations.
“A lot of times, I’ll just slow down and space out,” said David Nichols, who boarded south of downtown St. Paul to his job near Minnehaha Avenue and Victoria Street. “It’s a definite perk.”
Route 67 customer Prakash, who lives in West St. Paul, began taking Route 67 a year ago after getting fed up with the stresses of driving. Prakash rides the bus to downtown St. Paul where he catches a Route 94 bus to Minneapolis. For the final leg of his trip, he travels from the METRO Blue Line’s Downtown East/Metrodome Station to the Franklin Avenue Station, a short walk from his job at the American Indian OIC.
Though the trips includes two transfers and take nearly an hour, he said it’s still preferable to getting in his car every morning.
“I just decided that I was tired of driving,” Prakash said. “In the winter, with traffic, it was taking two or three hours. I tried it [transit] and found that I really liked it.”
For Midway resident Jackie Lannin, Route 67 is more than just a relaxing way to get around. Lannin doesn't own a vehicle and has used Route 67 to get to work, shopping and other destinations for the last 12 years.
"It was either a house or a car and I decided to go with the house," Lannin said.
When the METRO Green Line opens on June 14, Lannin and other Route 67 customers will benefit from something else: direct rail connections. Route 67 will connect with three downtown St. Paul stations – Central, Tenth and Capitol/Rice – as well as the Fairview and Raymond stations on University Avenue.
Service will also be improved to every 20 minutes Monday through Saturday, up from every half hour on weekdays and ever hour on nights and weekends. The route will extend to the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station, taking over an area previously served by Route 8.
Route 67 will no longer continue into West St. Paul but Route 62 will be extended to provide the same service, with buses running every half hour. Routes 68 and 75 also provide service in West St. Paul.
Among those excited about the impending changes is Lauren Thomas, who was on the bus earlier this week traveling to visit her mom. In addition to the new rail service, Thomas said she is looking forward to Route 67's increased frequency.
“That is great news,” she said. “It can be hard to ride when the bus only comes every hour.”
Route 67 At a Glance
Type: Urban Local
Service: Traveling eastbound, Route 67 buses begin their trips at the corner of Gilbert and Prior avenues, just south of University Avenue, in St. Paul’s Merriam Park neighborhood. Buses travel north on Fairview Avenue before continuing east on Minnehaha and Thomas avenues, entering downtown St. Paul via Rice Street. Buses exit downtown St. Paul on Wabasha Street, connecting with Smith Avenue via Winifred and George Streets. In West St. Paul, the route serves a largely residential area with service on Thompson Avenue, Robert Street and Moreland Avenue. On weekdays, buses run every 30 minutes during rush hour and midday and every hour in the evenings. Service runs from approximately 5 a.m. to midnight. Route 67 buses also run every hour on weekends.
Route Length: Approximately 11 miles
Stops: 109 northbound, 106 southbound
Vehicles: Standard 40-foot
Ridership: Nearly 431,000 customer boardings in 2013, with an average of 1,180 passengers per day
History: Streetcars ran south of downtown St. Paul on Wabasha Street and Smith Avenue from 1890 to 1952. Streetcar service was introduced on Minnehaha Avenue in 1906. Route 67 was extended south to Highland Park in the 1950s, but that service was later incorporated into Route 87. Route 67’ was extended into West St. Paul in the 1970s.
Future: When the METRO Green Line opens on June 14, Route 67’s will travel west to the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station. This area had previously been served by Route 8, which will be eliminated. Route 67 will no longer travel south of downtown St. Paul; an extension of Route 62 will replace that service. Weekday service on Route 67 will improve to every 20 minutes Monday through Saturday and every hour on Sundays. The route will serve five METRO Green Line stations – Central, Tenth Street and Capitol/Rice Street stations in downtown St. Paul, and the Fairview and Raymond avenue stations on University Avenue. In West St. Paul, Robert Street has also been identified as one of a dozen corridors suitable for arterial Bus Rapid Transit service. If BRT is implemented, new stations, buses and technology would be built on Robert Street south of the State Capitol, speeding trips up to 21 percent.