Riding the Red Line with streets.mn

A Red Line bus boards and discharges passengers at the Mall of America Transit Station on the evening of Friday, September 8th, 2017.

A couple weeks ago, you were all invited to take a ride on the METRO Red Line. The METRO Red Line is the Twin Cities’ first bus rapid transit line. It operates between the Mall of America (where it connects to the Blue Line) and Apple Valley, stopping adjacent to an outlet mall along the way. The purpose of the ride was to explore a route most of us had never ridden before, and to offer our perspectives.

Andy Sturdevant attempts to secure his bicycle onto the onboard racks amid the crowded bus during our exploratory ride.

Eight of us, including 3 Humphrey students, joined along. When we all boarded the first time, we encountered many hurdles. One of the attendees brought a bicycle, and struggled to bring their bicycle onboard through the narrow and slow rear doors (atypical for a BRT line, by the way) and the passengers onboard, despite the theoretical ease of bicycle access. We also discovered that the reader on the rear door of our bus, which we ended up riding three times that evening, was not only placed on a horizontal orientation, but was also not working. As a result, we all had to board and pay on the front door. 

In addition to being placed in a horizontal orientation, this Go-To Card reader was also not functioning.

Shortly after, we set off towards our destination in Apple Valley. Along the way, we saw most passengers offboarding at Cedar Grove, presumably to shop at the outlet mall or to transfer to other MVTA bus routes that will take them deeper into Eagan, Burnsville, or Shakopee. Those who chose to stay along witnessed 1) the bus stop twice along the way to see it discharge and accept zero to one passenger, and 2) two digital screens above the rear door that showed rotating images (which could probably be better utilized for wayfinding).

Every Red Line bus has two screens mounted above the center door. While they normally display rotating images, these signs may be better suited for onboard transit wayfinding.

The intrepid Bill Lindeke and Andy Sturdevant interview a Red Line regular about his experience riding the bus.

At Apple Valley, we made several observations. One asked why the stations are bigger – and have more amenities – than the ones on Hennepin in Downtown Minneapolis, for example. Another asked if all of the stations were intended to accommodate future skyways to cross the excessively wide Cedar Avenue. I wondered what the reasoning was behind putting the station doors so close to the edge of the platform (which I think is useful for safety reasons, as well as for the winter).

Some of us at Apple Valley TC observing the station and its surroundings.

All stations in Apple Valley feature doors that are placed close to the edge of the station platform, presumably for safety and weather reasons.

After exploring the Red Line, we wandered through Apple Valley to get to our dinner spot/watering hole.

After our initial ride, we wandered through a residential street, cut through an office park, and ended up at Wild Bill’s. In the midst, some of us discussed doing potential future transit joytrips, such as riding every hi-frequency segment of the hi-frequency routes in the shortest time, as well as potentially riding the newly-created midnight departure trip from Wayzata. Who’s interested in a transit joyride sometime in the near future?

Two Red Line buses meet at Cedar Grove Station, an apparently rare sight.

H. Jiahong Pan 潘嘉宏

About H. Jiahong Pan 潘嘉宏

H. Jiahong Pan 潘嘉宏 (pronouns: they/them/theirs) is a Minneapolis-based introverted freelance journalist who reports primarily on their lifelong passion: transportation issues. Find them on a bus of all types, the sidewalk, bike lane, hiking trail or perhaps the occasional carshare vehicle, camera and perhaps watercolor set or mushroom brush in tow, in your community or state or regional park regardless of season. If you can’t find them, they’re probably cooking, writing, curating an archive of wall art or brochures, playing board games, sewing or cuddling with their cat. Follow on Twitter: @h_pan3 or Instagram: @hpphmore or on BlueSky: hpan3 dot bsky dot social See bylines after March 2020 in Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, Racket, Minnesota Reformer, Next City, The Guardian, Daily Yonder and MinnPost.