The Quarterly Transit Report – August 2014

Intro note: After retiring from Metro Transit in 2006, I wanted to give public officials good technical info so they could make better public transit policy decisions. Metro Transit changes schedules four times a year, so I started this quarterly report to explain the important ones. It goes to a small email list, but folks have been passing it around, so I decided to migrate it to Hope you find it useful.

The August 23rd schedule change is a pretty minor one, with Metro Transit taking a breather following the major implementation of the Green Line and its feeder bus system. Other than the usual reinstatement of school year trips, there are only two noteworthy changes.

New Route 865 Express to Blaine, East Bethel and Ham Lake


For years, there was an unsuccessful effort to create this Highway 65 express bus outside of the normal transit funding process through special state legislation. Now it’s being done the right way, with East Bethel and Ham Lake joining the transit taxing district to pay off capitol bonds, as Forest Lake and Lakeville have before them. Geographically, the new route is exactly halfway between the Northstar Commuter Rail line and the I-35W Route 250 express corridor. As such, it will draw some ridership away from each of them, while hopefully attracting new riders who didn’t want to drive so far to reach a park-ride lot. Route 865 will serve a new park-ride lot at Highway 65 and Paul Parkway in Blaine, then take advantage of new bus-only shoulders on Highway 65 to Highway 610, then down the long-established shoulders of Highway 252 and I-94 to Minneapolis. There will be 9 daily round trips to Blaine, with 3 round trips extended to park-rides in East Bethel and Ham Lake.

New expanded park-ride at Highway 610 and Noble in Brooklyn Park


Ridership outgrew the 400-car lot at Highway 610 and Noble, so Metro Transit is replacing it with a 1000-car parking ramp across the street. In the process, new express Route 768 will be spun off from existing Route 766, which has always served the portions of Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park and Champlin just west of the Mississippi River. This simplifies Route 766, reducing the number of route variations from eight to three. Route 768 will provide 21 daily non-stop round trips between Brooklyn Park and Minneapolis. It should be noted that the new parking ramp features a wall of solar photovoltaic cells, as well as geothermal heating and cooling and an electric vehicle charging station.

Chanhassen Circulator

I missed this one—back in May South West Transit started up Route 692E Chanhassen Circulator. It loops through downtown Chanhassen (the former freestanding small town) the travels down Highway 101 to the Southwest Village park-ride at Highway 212. There it connects with downtown expresses and a couple of trips to Normandale College.

New State Fair bus terminal

7339 State Fair cropped

This project goes back about 12 years. State Fair bus ridership is enormous, but has been handicapped by inadequate bus terminals. The expresses from suburban park-ride lots as well as some of the free shuttles to nearby lots unloaded at a pair of dusty, poorly paved lots on the south side of Como Avenue. This created traffic jams on Como, caused by the huge number of buses and the thousands of passengers who had to cross the street.

The free shuttles from the numerous Roseville lots all used westbound Midway Parkway, across Snelling Avenue from the Dan Patch fair gate. The parkway bus stop was too small for the number of buses, and the passengers trampled the grass boulevard and had to cross busy Snelling Avenue.

I was Metro Transit’s facility planning manager at the time and worked with the State Fair to design a new bus terminal to replace part of the parking lot at the northwest corner of the fair grounds, outside Heritage Square. This would permit all 20 suburban expresses that reach the fair via the intercampus busway to stay on the busway for another two blocks and vacate Como Avenue. The same goes for Metro Transit’s Route 960 from downtown Minneapolis. 23 of the free shuttles will also access the new terminal, many via Hoyt Avenue off Snelling. 8 will remain on Midway Parkway and one from the south will continue to terminate across Como Avenue, rather than try to travel across the fairgrounds to access the new terminal. Metro Transit’s regular routes 3 and 84 will stop on Como and Snelling Avenues respectively.

The project languished for lack of funds, but now the State Fair has completed it, along with a major reworking of the Heritage Square area. As you’ve probably heard, bus passengers will enter the fair under the historic arch sign that used to greet streetcar passengers. It was discovered in the northeast corner of the grounds and has been restored, a nice touch.

Aaron Isaacs

About Aaron Isaacs

Aaron retired in 2006 after 33 years as a planner and manager for Metro Transit, where he worked in route and schedule planning, operations, maintenance, transit facilities, light rail and traffic advantages for buses. He's an historian of transit, as a 40+ year volunteer with the Minnesota Streetcar Museum. He's co-author of Twin Cities by Trolley, The Streetcar Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and author of Twin Ports by Trolley on Duluth-Superior.

17 thoughts on “The Quarterly Transit Report – August 2014

  1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

    $10 million for a park & ride in Blaine for 600 net-new riders (nearly $17,000 per new rider) but we can’t build bus shelters or put useful signage at urban walk-up stops. #Priorities

    1. Aaron IsaacsAaron Isaacs

      Each new rider at the Blaine park-ride will remove a daily 34 mile auto round trip from the roads, along with the congestion and pollution that causes. Even if those trips are diverted from the Northstar trains or the Route 250 express buses, daily round trips of 12 and 10 miles respectively will be eliminated.

      As for shelters, Metro Transit has now committed to install numerous additional shelters at center city bus stops, so it’s not a zero sum game.

      1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

        So our choice is to subsidize a commuter from Blaine to Minneapolis, either by providing an insanely expensive parking space for transit, or providing insanely expensive roadway capacity? That seems like a false choice. Maybe if we stop pandering to the suburbs, it would allow the proper feedback loop in the market that would tell people that maybe this isn’t the best idea.

            1. Froggie

              I’m with Aaron on this. You’re trying to make an apples-to-apples comparison when it’s really more like an apples-to-oranges comparison. Plus, anything that will reduce regional VMT (as indicated by Aaron) is a net plus.

  2. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Aaron, great write-up. The new bus terminal should be a huge improvement.

    What consideration does Metro Transit and the Met Council give to encouraging people to ride bicycles to the new Park and Ride lots?

      1. Aaron IsaacsAaron Isaacs

        A flat lot space probably costs about $5000. A parking ramp space is more like $12,000, although that can vary a lot. Don’t know how much a bike rack costs but it can’t be much–a couple hundred dollars maybe.

        1. Janne

          An installed bike rack from Dero (which accommodates two bikes) is about $200. That can of course scale. It needs pavement on which to be placed — but it’s very cheap in comparison.

    1. Aaron IsaacsAaron Isaacs

      I haven’t been to either of these new park-rides to check, but Metro Transit policy is to install bike racks and usually bike lockers as well. All the buses are equipped with bike racks.

      1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

        If I remember there’s a rack for four bikes at Maplewood. That’s for the four people who are brave enough to ride through the road gauntlet to get there. These park & rides and the areas around them are inhospitable to people riding bicycles. What good is a bike rack if you can’t get to it.

        I did a very quick survey of people at Maplewood some months ago and numerous come from within 2 miles — a 10 minute bike ride. I’d guess that over half come from within 5 miles.

        Imagine if 30% of the people who use it rode a bicycle instead of drive? The parking monstrosity could be much smaller, less expensive, and still serve the same number of people. Totally beside the benefits of less traffic, noise, pollution, road wear & tear, need for fewer lanes and turn lanes, less obesity and the $1800 per year per obese person it costs us. What if 50% rode bicycles? 70%?

        They should be making these and the area around them bicycle friendly instead of bicycle inhospitable. EVERY one of these should have a web of save segregated bicycle paths and crossings going out like a web in to the surrounding residential areas.

  3. Alex

    Hopefully the new bus terminal will allow the Como bike lanes to be used year-round rather than erased in the summer as they are now.

  4. Janne

    Aaron, I have another State Fair bus/bike question.

    I’ve been biking to the fair for about 15 years, and while the bike/bus sharing of the Transitway is a rider’s dream (those MetroTransit drivers are really well trained, and the Transitway is nice), it dumps you out on Como a couple blocks shy of one of the bike corrals. The bike corral I’m thinking of is another two blocks up the Transitway, where it T’s into the U campus. As a bike rider, I always find myself trapped on Como, trying to navigate the snarled traffic (wistfully eyeing the temporarily-erased lanes Alex mentions in his comment), or going blocks the opposite way — still on Como — to access the hilly St. Paul campus, where you then have to turn around and come right back.

    So – my question: will this new arrangement allow for continued bike/bus sharing all the way up the Transitway to the corral?

  5. Froggie

    Last time we made it to the State Fair (2006), we took the bus over from near campus (I want to say from one of the parking lots behind the new TCF Stadium). Just made a lot more sense and less stressful than fighting to park at/near the fair, as our family did back in my childhood.

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