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 streets.mn. 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.
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
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.