December service changes
Once again it’s a pretty quiet service change. There are two suburban route extension stories.
Route 722 has always been a short 2-mile shuttle from the Brooklyn Center Transit Center to the apartment concentrations near 65th Avenue N. and Dupont. It runs every half hour. Now hourly service has been extended seven days a week to the Target North Campus via Humboldt Avenue, Brookdale Drive, Zane Avenue and oak Grove Parkway. This adds first time off-peak service to portions of Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park.
Shakopee Reverse commute
South West Metro Transit and Minnesota Valley Transit are exploring the limits of transit reverse commuting. You’ve probably heard about the big Amazon distribution center in Shakopee that has 1500 employees and is trying to add another 1000. Not surprisingly given low unemployment, they’re trying to attract employees from closer-in suburbs and the central city. Other large Shakopee employers such as St. Francis Medical Center and Mystic Lake Casino have similar employment needs.
An earlier joint attempt to create suburb-to-suburb commuter expresses along the Highway 169 corridor from Maple Grove to Shakopee last year attracted almost no riders and was quickly aborted. Now they’re trying again, and hoping to leverage ridership by connecting to their strongest transit hubs. South West Metro is running Route 638 from Eden Prairie Station. Minnesota Valley has Route 495 from Mall of America and Burnsville Station. Both serve Amazon and make other local stops within Shakopee. Both routes are timed to arrive simultaneously at the Marschall Road park-ride lot in Shakopee, where they connect to each other and a new Mystic Lake shuttle. Both routes offer hourly all-day service, and hopefully will attract riders in the other direction as well.
The biggest obstacle to attracting riders is the length of the trip. The shortest group of potential trips would be from Burnsville and Eagan via Burnsville Station, which is only 20 minutes from Shakopee. Most passengers would have to transfer from connecting buses, but the trip could be done in an hour.
Trips that originate almost anywhere else are problematic, simply because of the distances involved. These new services are non-stop expresses that take the fastest available routes. Even so, it’s 35 minutes from MOA to Shakopee and 42 minutes from Eden Prairie Station. That wouldn’t be too bad if MOA and EP were the starting points for these trips, but they probably aren’t. If any of these riders live in Minneapolis, St. Paul or even an inner ring suburb, add at least another half hour to the one-way trip, and one or maybe two transfers. Trips in excess of one hour are not popular with anyone, and transfers can be unreliable, especially in bad weather. Unless the Shakopee jobs offer wages and benefits that can’t be found closer to home, it’s hard to see why anyone would take on such a long and challenging commute.