The Quarterly Transit Report – December 2014

Unofficial park-riders (hide and ride) in the Target Store lot next to the Hamline Avenue Green Line Station.

Unofficial park-riders (hide and ride) in the Target Store lot next to the Hamline Avenue Green Line Station.

Green Line Hide and Ride

Because there are no official park and ride lots along the Green Line, it was expected that impromptu park-riding (dubbed “hide and ride”) would happen, just as it did along the Blue Line in Minneapolis. On December 3, John DeWitt and I drove the line after the morning rush hour to see how many hide and riders we could spot. They’re the cars clustered on streets and in commercial parking lots near the stations where a cluster of cars looks out of place. Identifying them is harder than along the Blue Line, because of so many nearby employers. Even so, I think our count is pretty accurate.

We found about 200 of them scattered from the Prospect Park Station to the Western Avenue Station. The most obvious concentration of 63 cars was next to the Hamline Avenue Station, mostly in the Target and other commercial parking lots on the south side of University Avenue nearest the station. Thirty cars that didn’t seem to belong to local employers were found near the Raymond Avenue Station.

Within St. Paul, quite a few streets near the stations have been signed for 2-hour daytime parking to head off hide and ride. We didn’t count cars on those streets, although a number of cars certainly looked like hide and riders who decided to risk a ticket. The table shows the breakdown by station.

Green Line Hide and Rides

StationCars
Prospect Park5
Westgate15
Raymond Avenue30
Fairview Avenue10
Snelling Avenue12
Hamline Avenue63
Lexington Parkway35
Victoria Street12
Dale Street7
Western Avenue18
Rice Street0
Total207

When Metro Transit ran the license plates of the Blue Line hide and riders, it turned out that almost all of them lived in Minneapolis a mile or two from the stations. They weren’t suburbanites. I expect that will be true along the Green Line as well.

Small Service Increases

Metro Transit’s December 13 service changes are pretty minor, but there are still a few worth noting.

Incremental improvements continue to appear in North Minneapolis.

– Route 32 Lowry Crosstown will see Saturday service for the first time.
– Route 19 Penn Avenue frequency on Sunday evenings will improve from every 20 minutes to every 15 minutes until 7:15 p.m., then from every 30 minutes to every 20 minutes until 10 p.m.
– On weekday mornings before 9:30 AM all Route 30 Broadway Crosstown trips will be extended from Golden Valley Road & Knox Avenue to Golden Valley Road & Xerxes Ave.

Meanwhile in south Minneapolis, Route 23 38th Street Crosstown will improve from every 30 minutes to every 20 minutes on Saturday afternoons.

Green Line Feeder Changes

It’s normal to put out a generous feeder bus package for a new light rail line, then trim the poor performers. That process has started.

  • Route 63 Grand Avenue weekday rush hours on Grand Ave. will be reduced from every 10 minutes to every 20 minutes.
  • Sunday service on Routes 65 Dale Street, 67 West Minnehaha-East Franklin, and 87 Rosedale-Raymond-Cleveland Crosstown will change from every 20 minutes to every 30 minutes. There is a small silver lining to this cloud, however. Route 67 Sunday service on East Franklin Avenue will improve from every 60 minutes to every 30 minutes.

The eastern terminus of Route 30 Broadway Crosstown has been shifted from the Raymond Station to the Westgate Station. This shortens the route slightly. Route 30 also shares a new layover location with Route 63, which now also ends at Westgate, although it continues to serve Raymond.

Rush Line Makeover

The Rush Line is the I-35E corridor from downtown St. Paul to Forest Lake. Until now it was divided into two separate express routes. Route 275 (3 daily round trips) served the inner portion, including Lino Lakes, Centerville, White Bear Township and the western edge of White Bear Lake. Route 285 (also 3 daily round trips) served the outer portion, Columbus and Forest Lake. Both routes carry similar loads, 180 per day on 275 and 160 per day on 285.

Route 275’s ridership was concentrated at three park-ride lots; a church in Centerville, a movie theater in White Bear Township and a cramped grocery store lot at County Road 96. These have been replaced by two larger and more accessible lots at I-35E & Co. Rd. 14 in Centerville and at County Road E in Vadnais Heights. Note that this is the first ever bus service to the east half of Vadnais Heights. Growing the ridership requires more frequency, so Routes 275 and 285 are being combined, which will double the service to the new park-rides to six daily round trips. It should be noted that bus-only shoulders on I-35E will give these expresses a real time advantage over automobiles, especially when the construction is done inside St. Paul.

Three morning and three afternoon trips will continue north of I-35E & Co. Rd. 14 Park & Ride to serve Running Aces Park & Ride in Columbus and the Forest Lake Transit Center.

New Park and Rides opened

Since the last quarterly report, four new or expanded park and ride lots have opened:

On december 14 Metro Transit will open this new 290-space park-ride lot at I-35E and County Road 14 in Centerville.

On December 15 Metro Transit will open this new 290-space park-ride lot at I-35E and County Road 14 in Lino Lakes.

A 344 space parking ramp at the Anoka Northstar station, and a pedestrian bridge over the tracks.

A 290 space lot at I-35E and County Road 14 in Lino Lakes and a larger lot at I-35E and County Road E in Vadnais Heights, to serve the revised Route 275 noted above.

A new 150 space lot has opened in Newport, served by Route 364. It’s officially part of the future Red Rock BRT, but it has a bit of a history. When Highway 61 still had stoplights in Newport, there was a small park and ride lot just south of I-494 that usually had about 20 cars. Passengers would park, walk across Highway 61 at the light and board the Minneapolis and St. Paul expresses that originated in Cottage Grove.

When MnDOT replaced the signalized intersections with an interchange, serving the park-ride required a 5-minute detour off the highway, too much delay for the great majority of riders who board in Cottage Grove. The decision was made for the Cottage Grove buses to bypass Newport altogether, requiring park-riders to board a couple of miles north at the Highway 61 and Lower Afton Road lot. That lot filled up, was expanded and has filled up again. A separate express to St. Paul, Route 364, was created to serve Newport and St. Paul Park. There are only three daily round trips because the route has had to rely on walkup ridership, seldom a successful strategy in the suburbs. Now Route 364 has a park-ride lot with a very nice waiting station, which should help ridership somewhat.

The recently opened Newport Station park-ride lot next to I-494 and Highway 61. This photo was taken on the weekend when Route 364 doesn't run, hence no cars

The recently opened Newport Station park-ride lot next to I-494 and Highway 61. This photo was taken on the weekend when Route 364 doesn’t run, hence no cars.

If the Red Rock Corridor BRT is implemented, serving the Newport station will require an inconvenient diversion off Highway 61, reminiscent of the Red Line’s infamous Cedar Grove detour.

Green Line Running Time Improves

IMG_0266

The City of St. Paul has been working on traffic signal timing and it’s starting to show results. The percentage of on-time (no more than 5 minutes late) Green Line trains has increased and the average end-to-end travel time has decreased from 54 minutes to about 51 minutes.

Downtown Minneapolis continues to be a problem, but Metro Transit and the City of Minneapolis are working on better timing, particularly at 3rd Avenue North and at the 4th Street and Chicago Avenue intersection.

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24 Responses to The Quarterly Transit Report – December 2014

  1. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg December 11, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    How does Route 63 perform along Grand Avenue specifically? It seems like a mistake and myopic to reduce bus service on the best, most walkable corridor in the Twin Cities, particularly when neighbors complain so much about parking issues. If anything, service on Grand Avenue should increase, especially if the city is really serious about its streetcar plan.

    • Matt Brillhart December 11, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

      It seems they did increase frequency on Grand, and people didn’t ride it. Though 6 months seems far too short of a test. You’d figure they’d have given at least a year for the trial period. Couldn’t they find a way to settle on 15-minute service, instead of cutting all the way back to 20? That’s abysmal during rush hour.

      • Matt Steele
        Matt Steele December 11, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

        Maybe ridership would be better if it interlined with a route across Minneapolis such as the 23 or the 9.

        • Sam Newberg
          Sam Newberg December 11, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

          Maybe it is too much to ask, given that Grand Avenue is such a regional destination.

          Matt, it would take some pretty amazing interlining and increased frequency to work well, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be explored.

  2. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg December 11, 2014 at 10:29 am #

    Delays on the Blue/Green line in downtown Minneapolis need to be addressed. Most of my trips in to downtown on the Blue line include at least a 2-minute delay at or just after the Cedar-Riverside station to “establish proper spacing between trains.” Adding two to five minutes to a 15 minute journey means quite honestly I may start driving more. I don’t think that’s an outcome anyone wants, and signal preemption even if it results in more congestion is absolutely the right policy solution.

    • Matt Brillhart December 11, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

      We really ought to push back against that shortsighted pedestrian bridge that Metro Transit and the MSFA are planning at Downtown East. Put that $8MM into speeding up the trains throughout downtown, and maybe not worry so much about possible train delays on 8 Sunday afternoons a year. We really ought to be paying someone to start planning eventual grade-separation downtown, even if it’s 30 years away. At the very least, let’s figure out where it might go and then not put any more shit in the way.

      • Matt Steele
        Matt Steele December 11, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

        Just think how efficient it would have been to use major excavation for a baseball stadium on one end of downtown and a football stadium on the other end of downtown to prepare for portals to an underground alignment…

        • Sam Newberg
          Sam Newberg December 11, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

          Yeah, just think. Sorry, it’s not snark week anymore.

    • Aaron Isaacs
      Aaron Isaacs December 11, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

      The Blue and Green Line trains are scheduled to enter downtown Minneapolis 5 minutes apart. When the Green Line is about 4 minutes late, that delays the Blue Line. The signal for the junction is activated by whoever gets to the previous station first (Green Line at the West Bank, Blue Line at Cedar-Riverside). If the Green Line gets back on schedule, or closer to it, the problem goes away.

  3. Monte Castleman
    Monte Castleman December 11, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    I’m not surprised that the “Hide and Riders” are present and are predominantly from Minneapolis. It makes no sense for suburbanites to drive into Minneapolis and park on a random street as opposed to the provided park and ride lots. And the people that won’t ride buses aren’t going to start because there’s a light rail station at the end of the bus. Similarly there’s no real reason for suburbanites to park along the green line (unless they’re trying to sneak free parking for downtown). If they’re out in the car that far might as well go all the way to downtown.

  4. Sarah December 11, 2014 at 11:13 am #

    “When Metro Transit ran the license plates of the Blue Line hide and riders, it turned out that almost all of them lived in Minneapolis a mile or two from the stations.”

    Metro Transit has a huge opportunity to seriously address the fact that bus service is really inadequate for these riders. Unfortunately, the draft Service Improvement Plan doesn’t go far enough. What use is a 10-minute LRT headway if you have a 20-45 minute bus headway to get to the station in the first place?

    Also: note to NiceRide MN that, in season, extending its station network within a two mile radius of all LRT stops would be an excellent idea.

    • Matt Steele
      Matt Steele December 11, 2014 at 11:46 am #

      My wife is a frequent hide and rider to the 46th Street station, though she takes a bus to DT St. Paul (which could easily be interlined with a crosstown bus in Minneapolis).

      If we think it’s bad forcing a transfer from a 10 min hdwy train to 20-45 min hdwy bus, it’s even worse to have a transfer from a 20-45 min hdwy bus to a 20-45 min hdwy bus.

      No wonder so many people in our transit-served residential neighborhoods hide and ride (though most chide and drive).

      It’s absolutely correct that we need to do some massive improvements of frequency for local buses.

    • Aaron Isaacs
      Aaron Isaacs December 11, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

      Metro Transit hasn’t had the money to beef up the Blue Line feeders. However, those improvements are in the draft Service Improvement Plan. That’s why this legislative session and passing the long-overdue transit sales tax increase is so important. No major bus service improvements will happen without it.

  5. Alex Porter December 11, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    One more new park & ride wasn’t mentioned here, and that’s in Maple Plain. The 674 is being extended to serve it beginning on 12/15. Notably, this is the furthest west on US-12 that there has ever been a Metro Transit park & ride, and could attract many riders from further west, particularly from Delano.

    Unfortunately, Route 674 doesn’t take the direct route down US-12, but instead heads south to serve areas of southern Orono near Lake Minnetonka before eventually serving local streets in Long Lake and Wayzata before finally heading express down I-394. Because of this, I suspect that the Maple Plain Park & Ride will be underutilized. Right now, the closest park & ride to Delano is in Mound, but that’s out of the way and most people will instead park in Wayzata or at one of the several park & rides along I-394.

    While it would be much more direct to follow US-12, this would have two main problems of its own:

    – A new route would be required, as southern Orono and Long Lake still need service.
    – There is no exit from the US-12 Long Lake bypass onto Wayzata Blvd in Wayzata, which would allow a route to easily serve just the Maple Plain and Wayzata Park & Rides before running express to Minneapolis. Instead, a bus could take US-12 to the County Road 6 exit and follow the old US-12 route through Long Lake and Wayzata, but that would still take more time than an express US-12 route.

    Perhaps a good solution would be to have a bus serve only Maple Plain and one or two of the I-394 Park & Rides. As it is now, it’s going to be a rather long trip from Maple Plain to Downtown Minneapolis via arterial roads through southern Orono, Long Lake, and Wayzata, which probably won’t be appealing to very many people.

    • Aaron Isaacs
      Aaron Isaacs December 11, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

      I didn’t bother listing the Maple Plain park-ride because the service is so circuitous. I doubt it will attract more than a handful of riders.

    • Matt Brillhart December 11, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

      It should also be noted that service to Maple Plain is being implemented because they voted to join the metro transit taxing district (property taxes). Their residents have been paying in since 2011, and haven’t had any service until now. They’re a small town (pop. 1800) probably not contributing a ton of funds, so I have to wonder how that all pencils out for the region – especially if the ridership is poor.

      And as a semi-relevant sidebar, the map I linked to is a good one if we were ever going to come up with a definition for the “actual metro area”, as it pertains to urban services and especially transit. It would be super helpful if we could just admit that a huge portion of the 7-county area is never going to be served by transit or sewer and should just be freed from Met Council oversight (and conversely freeing the “actual metro area” from a bunch of anti-transit folks).

  6. Matt Brillhart December 11, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    “Meanwhile in south Minneapolis, Route 23 38th Street Crosstown will improve from every 30 minutes to every 20 minutes on Saturday afternoons.”

    In a few years, I’d love to read this instead:

    “Meanwhile in south Minneapolis, Route 38 will improve from every 20 minutes to every 15 minutes for most of the day.”

    You see, I didn’t even have to say “38th Street Crosstown” because it is just so painfully obvious to rename this to Route 38.

    • Matt Steele
      Matt Steele December 11, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

      Meanwhile there are 40+ minute gaps in service on the 14 south of 38th Street due to the darn E branch that goes east to 38th Street Station. How that is acceptable for a bus that connects Richfield and downtown via neighborhoods over a mile away from another downtown-running bus is acceptable is beyond me.

      • Sam Newberg
        Sam Newberg December 11, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

        simply increasing service on the 14 and 23 would solve this issue.

        Sounds like we need to form a Friends of the 38!

  7. Matt Steele
    Matt Steele December 11, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    Regarding the 63 at Hamline… I’ve heard many retailers require their employees to park against the back of the parking lot to ensure space up against the store for patrons. Which makes sense. But that may explain some or all of the cars in Target etc lots far away from the retail front doors.

    • Joseph Totten
      Joseph Totten December 11, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

      I’ve heard this too, but my personal experience shows that even then, people do not park in this auxiliary lot. Usually this is a semi-layover, and Black Friday retail load employee parking, but usually does not have that much other parking.

      https://www.google.com/maps/@44.9548804,-93.1546597,240m/data=!3m1!1e3

      • Aaron Isaacs
        Aaron Isaacs December 11, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

        The cars at Target are clustered in the NE corner of the lot, closest to the station entrance, so that’s why we counted them as transit users. There was plenty of room in that same overflow lot closer to the store that would have been better for employees.

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