Green Line Feeder Buses Succeed

The Green Line is the spine of the Central Corridor, fed by a network of bus routes that were extended and given enhanced frequencies and hours of service to complement the LRT. We now have numbers that indicate that the feeder buses are doing their job, attracting more passengers to LRT.

The data source is the count of passenger ons and offs by bus stop from Metro Transit. The counts, from Fall 2013 and Fall 2014 were made by on-bus automatic passenger counters that sample the system on a regular basis and produce a statistically valid average for each stop.

I compared the 2013 (before the Green Line) counts with the 2014 (Green Line in operation) counts for most of the non-downtown stations that are bus transfer points. At these locations it seems reasonable to conclude that the difference between the two counts is the transfer passengers between bus and light rail.

OK, this is not one of the transfer points in the article, but it was the only photo I could find with both a bus and Green Line train.

OK, this is not one of the transfer points in the article, but it was the only photo I could find with both a bus and Green Line train.

At the non-downtown, non-U of M transfer points, I counted an increase of 1922 weekday passengers transferring from buses. Here’s a breakdown by station, traveling from east to west. The numbers given are weekday one-way from bus to rail, so it’s reasonable to assume the same number of return trips.

Robert Street Station
Located at 14th and Robert, this station opened up a shortcut for Route 68 Jackson Street and 71 Arkwright-Payne Avenue passengers who previously would have had to travel all the way into downtown to connect with University Avenue buses. Passengers alighting at this bus stop increased from 47 in 2013 to 194 in 2014.

Rice Street Station
Routes 3, 62, 67 and 262 feed the Green Line from the north on Rice Street. This has been a transfer point since 1887 (yes, 1887), and the original University Avenue streetcar line to Minneapolis opened in 1890. Daily transfers increased from 429 in 2013 to 504 in 2014.

Dale Street Station
With the opening of the Green Line, Route 65 Dale Street no longer went downtown, so transfers to the LRT were expected. They increased 151 percent from 117 to 294 per weekday.

Lexington Parkway Station
Route 83 Lexington Crosstown is a new service that was started concurrently with the Green Line, and it feeds 118 new passengers daily. Extending from Roseville to West 7th Street near the Mississippi River, it has attracted about 450 new daily passengers.

Hamline Avenue Station
Route 21 from parallel Selby Avenue makes a dogleg up Hamline to University Avenue to reach the Midway retail area, so the Hamline Station is where it feeds the LRT with 170 per day, compared to 117 before.

Snelling Avenue Station
Over 2000 people transfer daily between the Green Line and Routes 21 and 84 Snelling Crosstown. Surprisingly, the checks show a slight decline in transfer volume, despite Route 84’s frequency improving from every 15 minutes to every 10 minutes.  Next year Route 84 will be largely supplanted by the A Line BRT, so it’s hard to believe that won’t attract more riders. Stay tuned.

Fairview Avenue Station
The Green Line to Minneapolis is fed here by Route 67, which parallels University Avenue to the north on Minnehaha Avenue. Route 67 used to end here. Now it extends west on University to the city limits, then takes Franklin Avenue through Prospect Park, terminating at the Blue Line. Transfers at Fairview have actually declined 21 percent, but I think that’s because the Route 67 extension gets more people where they want to go directly. Also, the transfer to the Green Line is more convenient at the Raymond Station, so they may have shifted there.

Raymond Avenue Station
This station, actually located a block east of Raymond at Carlton Street, features convenient bus stops directly adjacent to the LRT platform. Route 87, the Rosedale-Cleveland Avenue-Highland Park Crosstown has seen a healthy increase in transfers. Route 67 contributes some transfers. The real story, however, is the extension of Route 63 Grand Avenue from its former terminus at the University of St. Thomas. This has opened up an entire new connection between University Avenue and Grand Avenue. According to the checks, Route 63 is carrying 330 new passengers per day on the extension.

Westgate Station
The new Route 30 Broadway Crosstown from north and northeast Minneapolis ends here, opening up another connection that never existed before. Volume is still modest, but hopefully will grow over time.

Stadium Village Station
Route 6 from Dinkytown was extended a couple of blocks to feed the Green Line. Even though the eastbound bus stop is inconveniently located, the connection has been made, attracting over 200 more daily passengers than before.

Because these 2014 counts are now almost a year old, and the Green Line was only a few months old, I expect to see more growth when this Fall’s counts are published.

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 “Green Line Feeder Buses Succeed

  1. Steve Wilson

    Excellent piece of work, Aaron. I think the Route 63 extension opens up a student residential market to St. Thomas from the student areas around Prospect Park/St. Anthony. I also find myself taking it to our office near 280 from the Lexington/Grand area if the Route 83 isn’t around.

  2. Jaron McNamara

    Great article! With Snelling Ave Station, I wonder if the 84 stops at Charles FS (Southbound) and Spruce Tree NS (Northbound) are also unofficial transfer points. From my experience riding the 84, those stops seem fairly popular on some trips. I have to imagine that there are many riders who stop to grab a snack or run an errand from those stops before heading to the Green Line platform.

    As an aside, the increased service on the feeder lines has been wonderful for me. I have little use for the Green Line myself, as I usually either walk from a bus stop or drive to my destinations on University. However with the increased service on some of the local lines, they have been much more useful. For example I choose taking the bus vs. driving or getting off the bus to stop and pick up something, vs. riding through. Now if we could get all the local lines on a minimum 10-15 minute frequency for most of the day…

    1. Aaron IsaacsAaron Isaacs Post author

      You raised a good point about the secondary stops near Snelling & University, so I went back and checked. To my surprise, their 2014 passengers counts were almost identical to 2013, so there hasn’t been growth so far. However, Charles Street southbound and Spruce Tree northbound combined for 500 daily passengers, so your point about them being alternate transfer points is correct.

  3. Kyle

    The 87 went from every twenty minutes to every thirty for a while after the Green Line opened. I ended up walking to the Green Line instead of the 87. Additionally, since the 87 stops at every block for a few stretches, it ends up going off schedule often. It needs half as many stops and twice as many buses, and ridership would double.

  4. David MarkleDavid Markle

    This is as it should be, with connector lines. (Except that the Green Line itself is a billion-dollar train being used as a half-assed sreetcar line.)

  5. Monica Millsap RasmussenMonica Rasmussen

    Regarding the 84 and the 21 transfer points, I’m wondering what the numbers are for transferring from Snelling and St Anthony to the 94 and the 53 to get downtown in previous years compared to now having to transfer to only the Green Line. It may not change the numbers much, but when you say, for instance, that the Hamline Station increased transfers with the 21 from before, I would guess that many people, if timing was good, preferred the 94 or the 53 to downtown versus transferring on University to a 16 or 50.

    1. Aaron IsaacsAaron Isaacs

      For those who aren’t aware, the 94 express ceased stopping at Snelling Avenue when the Green Line opened. Routes 21 and 84 fed 188 daily passengers to the 94 at Snelling & St. Anthony. The Route 21 transfers may have shifted to the Green Line Hamline Avenue station. I can’t account for the whereabouts of the missing Route 84 transfers.

  6. Matt Brillhart


    Do you have any data to share on Route 16? It wouldn’t be very useful to compare pre-LRT with post-LRT, but it might be interesting to track Route 16 ridership over time, month-to-month (starting in June 2014).

    Without any data on hand, I would theorize that ridership has tracked steadily downward on Route 16 buses, as folks realize that it’s not quite as far a walk to the next LRT station as they may have once perceived it to be.

    1. Aaron IsaacsAaron Isaacs

      Before the Green Line, Route 16 carried about 17,000 weekday passengers. as part of the green Line service plan, it has been shortened, extending only from downtown St. Paul to 27th & University SE in Minneapolis. Ridership is about 2200 per day. Route 16 doesn’t really have rush hour peak ridership anymore. It’s become more of a “shopper” service, with the highest ridership during typical store hours.

      There’s no question that the Green Line has diverted more riders than originally expected. If the Midtown Greenway line ever gets built, I predict it will have a similar impact on the Lake Street buses.

      1. Matt Brillhart

        Thanks. Are there any discernible trends in ridership in the ~15 months the “new” Route 16 has been running? I’m curious if ridership has grown, shrunk, remained fairly flat, etc.

        Do you think the route is possibly being over-served by current frequencies?

        If ridership fell enough, presumably Metro Transit would reallocate some of that service elsewhere in the corridor.

        1. Aaron IsaacsAaron Isaacs

          I don’t have trend data on Route 16 ridership. However, the lack of traditional rush hour ridership caused Metro Transit to trim frequency this year outside store hours from 20 minutes to 30 minutes. Also, almost no one was riding all the way to Stadium Village Station, so they shortened the route a couple blocks to 27th Ave. SE to layover at a better restroom facility for the drivers.

          I’m guessing they’ll be watching the ridership to see where 20 minute service continues to be justified. It might also be shortened on the Minneapolis end.

  7. Nathan Roisennate

    Aaron, do you know the level of ridership on the 83 that would warrant an extension to Rosedale Mall?

    It is strange to me that the 83 terminates at the Har Mar Target, within 1/2 mile of Rosedale but completely inaccessable to it by foot or bike. I’d assume that this endpoint was chosen because more buses would be required to run the route if it was any longer. Given some success, I’d hope that an extension happens soon.

    1. Aaron IsaacsAaron Isaacs Post author

      You are correct that it stopped short of Rosedale to avoid adding another bus to the schedule. A previous pre-Green Line incarnation of the Lexington Crosstown died for lack of passengers, so there is concern that a Green Line connection won’t be enough to make the difference. I can’t tell you the magic number to add service, but much will depend on the next legislative session. The GOP House is trying to dramatically cut transit funding, which would prevent service additions and could easily threaten a marginal line like Route 83.

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