The Quarterly Transit Report – June 2018

The June 6 schedule change includes some noteworthy improvements, both permanent and temporary.

Route 4 Johnson Street NE-New Brighton reroute

All Route 4G New Brighton buses will use 39th Avenue instead of 37th Avenue between Stinson Blvd. and Silver Lake Road. This is a classic case of diverting a route to access more traffic generators. The northeast portion of Route 4 has 15-minute peak and 30-minute off-peak service that previously split into two branches. 4B ended at the Silver Lake Village retail center and also served large apartment complexes on 39th Avenue NE. The 4G New Brighton branch bypassed all the development by taking a shorter route on 37th Avenue. In exchange for two minutes of additional running time, New Brighton passengers get access to the biggest retail concentration in the area. The apartments and Silver Lake Village get twice as many bus trips to Minneapolis. That’s a worthwhile tradeoff and it was accomplished at almost no cost.

Route 14 Bloomington Avenue-West Broadway-Robbinsdale downtown reroute

Northbound Route 14 will shift from 4th Street to 7th Street through downtown Minneapolis. This may not seem like a big deal, but it reverses an unfortunate decision that made North Minneapolis bus service less attractive. Until a few years ago, all four big routes to North Minneapolis, the 5, 14, 19 and 22, traveled through downtown on 7th Street.  Route 14 was moved to 4th Street, ostensibly to reduce the number of passengers waiting at 7th Street bus stops. Because the 14 travels across the north side on Broadway, it crosses the other three routes. With the 14 on 7th Street, if you live close to any of those crossings, you can take whichever bus comes first.

It’s also pretty obvious that 7th Street is the center of downtown and 4th Street is not. For that reason, moving back to 7th Street will be a boon to North Loop residents, because the 14 serves Washington Avenue N. I expect ridership to increase because of this move.

Route 54 extended to Maplewood

The Route 54 east St. Paul-Maplewood extension.

This is the big news. The almost-BRT limited stop Route 54 between downtown St. Paul, the Airport and Mall of America is being doubled in length Monday-Saturday to serve St. Paul’s East Side and Maplewood. Weekday frequency on the present route is increasing from every 12-15 minutes to every 10 minutes. Half of the trips, every 20 minutes, will travel all the way to Maplewood Mall Transit Center via East 7th Street, Arcade Street, Maryland Avenue and White Bear Avenue. Saturday frequency will stay every 15 minutes west of downtown and 30 minutes to Maplewood. Buses will make limited stops only, about every half mile. Travel time from downtown to Maplewood Mall is 34 minutes, compared to 40 minutes for local Route 64. The service is funded for three years by a federal grant.

Here come 35W construction detours

The I-35W South corridor is the busiest express bus market in the metro area. Buses carry the equivalent of two lanes of rush hour traffic. Starting in June, the entrance and exit ramps on the south side of downtown will be completely closed. Downtown-bound buses will be diverted to local streets north of 31st Street. This is an opportunity for transit offer an alternative to horrible auto congestion. To that end, Metro Transit is beefing up its express routes with more frequencies and a wider range of travel times. The table summarizes the changes by route:

Route Serving Current daily trips New daily trips Current AM span of service* New AM span of service* Current PM span of service* New PM span of service*
133 South Mpls 9 17 7:20-8:31 5:55-8:55 4:07-5:38 3:07-6:08
135 South Mpls 10 15 6:54-8:54 5:53-8:54 4:05-5:37 3:07-6:07
146 South Mpls, Edina 13 18 6:51-8:49 5:51-8:49 4:05-5:34 3:05-6:04
156 South Mpls 19 21 6:49-8:52 5:49-8:52 3:34-6:01 3:04-6:01
467 Lakeville 31 32 6:28-8:52 5:46-8:50 12:08-5:42 2:04-6:02
535 Mpls, Richfield, Bloomington 75 121 All day All day All day All day
552 Mpls, Richfield, Bloomington 6 14 7:13-8:18 5:52-8:48 3:57-5:10 3:07-6:00
553 Mpls, Richfield, Bloomington 10 14 6:53-8:47 5:53-8:47 3:36-5:35 3:06-6:05
554 Mpls, Richfield, Bloomington 12 16 6:50-8:52 5:50-8:52 3:28-5:34 3:08-6:04
558 Mpls, Richfield, Bloomington 6 14 7:18-8:16 5:48-8:46 4:00-5:07 3:10-6:07
578 Edina 12 17 6:46-8:53 5;46-8:53 3:28-5:41 3:08-6:01
597 Bloomington 16 16 6:43-8:50 no change 3:37-5:39 no change
Total trips 229 315

* Times at downtown terminal

Route 535, the all-day limited stop connecting downtown with South Bloomington Transit Center, will add first time Saturday and Sunday service running every 30 minutes.

It doesn’t appear that Minnesota Valley Transit is adding any trips to their existing express routes, although I’m told they will add some buses to maintain existing on-time departures. They expect some of their bus riders to divert to the Blue Line LRT, either by parking at the 28th Avenue and Fort Snelling park-rides or transferring from a bus. On July 2 MVTA is starting a new Route 416 which will connect the Eagan Transit Center park-ride with the Blue Line 46th Street Station. MVTA is also promoting connections to the Blue Line at Mall of America via the Red Line and local circulator Routes 444 and 495.

Getting through the construction bottleneck

Despite diversions to LRT, there will still be hundreds of 35W buses fighting traffic to reach downtown. Between downtown and 31st Street, the buses will be divided between two corridors. Those headed to/from points west of 35W will use the 1st Ave. S./Blaisdell pair in mixed traffic. All others, including MVTA, will use exclusive bus lanes on Portland and Park Avenues. At 31st Street the ramps will be reserved for buses to enter and exit 35W.

Metro Transit’s bus detours

This promises many slow and messy rush hours. I’ve always contended that bus riders will bail out and drive if they think they can make the trip faster on their own. Of course, that only makes traffic worse. I’m hoping the Portland/Park bus lanes, the exclusive 31st Street ramps, plus the 35W MnPass lanes, will provide enough of a transit advantage to keep riders on the bus and hopefully lure some from their cars.

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.

14 thoughts on “The Quarterly Transit Report – June 2018

  1. Eric Ecklund

    I know its too late to do this now, but this 35W construction would’ve been a good opportunity to create a couple rail and bus bridges to give people an alternative to this mess with the current bus routes or people ditching the bus and driving and creating a bigger mess.

    Add more buses and have the Red Line continue to downtown, then maybe the Blue Line won’t be so overcrowded and (heaven forbid) if something was wrong on the Blue Line the Red Line can assist.

    Much more outside the box is a quick rehab of the Dan Patch Line between Savage and Minneapolis and through-routing Northstar trains. Of course this would only work if; 1) the host railroads agree to it, 2) the cities agree to it, 3) a connection is built from CP to BNSF in St. Louis Park, 3) DIY station shelters that are ADA can be built in a few places along the line (pretty much just a wood platform and an old bus shelter). This was done similarly on Shore Line East in Connecticut, and it was so successful that its still operating. Of course with our bureaucracy and extremely slow studying this idea would be difficult to get off the ground in a tight timeframe.

  2. Scott

    I no longer will take the 22 bus from south Minneapolis into downtown at rush hour because of the route down 7th Street. It is centrally located, but buses are over crowded and get stuck in traffic. making the trip painfully slow. Several times it would have been faster to hop off on the edge of downtown and walk. Do 7th & 8th Street buses get signal priority? Sure doesn’t seem like it.

  3. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    Route 54 news is HUGE. I heard from the MT spox that the reason it was delayed for 2 years is because of one turning radius issue at Maryland and Arcade. It was finally resolved, and MT is finally making this massive improvement to the 54. It’s basically another aLine only without the high-profile buses or nicer stations.

    1. Frank Phalen

      I wondered why the SE corner was busted up and re-poured recently, Makes sense now.

    2. GlowBoy

      I’m a big fan of the #54 (rode it this morning, in fact), and excited about the improvements.

  4. Pine SalicaNicole Salica

    Huh. I wonder who made the request to get stops on Lake st for the 1st/Blaisdell busses, and why they didn’t tack on a request for Park & Portland as well.

    1. Sam

      As I understand it this is because the bus lanes on Park/Portland are the far left lanes, so buses would have to cross two (probably unusually crowded) car lanes and the bike lane to get to and from an extra Lake St stop, which would best case majorly slow them down/worst case be unsafe.

  5. John Charles Wilson

    Love it (Mostly)!

    The improvement on the 4 is especially good for not having to know the letter if your destination is Silver Lake Village.

    I’m ambivalent about the 14, I’ve always thought there should be more buses by the Library, not less, but I see Aaron’s point.

    The 54 is really great news! Even though I live in Lowry Hill, I go to Maplewood at least once a month. This route will be a blessing!

    Now if only the 824 could be extended to all day (or at least shopping hours) to lessen the crowding on the 10 to Northtown….

    The beefed up expresses also sound good but won’t affect me much personally. I’m on the 6, so I usually take that to Southdale when I need to access the southern suburbs. Or if my needs are farther east, I take the 2 to the Blue. Without a Franklin stop, the 35W routes take longer to access than any time they would save me.

    Will the 416 go straight down Pilot Knob?

    1. Aaron IsaacsAaron Isaacs

      I haven’t seen the 416’s route. Because it’s intended to be non-stop, I’m sure they’ll pick whichever route is the faster, Pilot Knob or I-35E to Hwy. 55.

    2. carl

      They should run all the #4 to SL VILLAGE every15mins to 35W/46th St no branches.In SE via Univ Ave to capture the 6U riders #3 can run to 10th AVE SE via Univ SE connecting with 4 there and 2 eliminate 6U in SE .
      Run the #4PL branches as connector to 35W/46th St connecting to #11/535
      The4G run as branch of 25 with added Sunday Services using 4G trips (Sat25N to SL VILLAGE)This is cheaper since the 25 is contracted on weekend

  6. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    Are they going to be done with the road/stop work on 7th by the 6th? Because right now traffic is down a lane and pretty backed up in the morning.

  7. Frank Phalen

    The 54 is huge news. It should get some auto commuters to switch, since the 64 can take all day during the rush hour. I’d favor it making it’s last stop at Phalen Blvd & Johnson Parkway, then shoot down Phalen to downtown. But serving Metro State is good too.

  8. devin

    All buses should run to Maplewood Mall with faster services for the eastside.The current routes need to to restructures to so they ar e not competing with each other There arent enough riders to fill all these buses .
    Keep the #64 on Payne to 71K pair with Robert St for hi-freq
    Reduce 74SG to every 30mins since 54 will cover the main portion , the 74A can run every15mins again.
    71H can terminate at Timberlake Rd via LArp replacing the#68M
    Rt3 move to Jackson since 62 is now hi-freq on Rice.IN SE replace #6U now that GreenLine is operating .
    Arcade #61 terminate at Arcade/E 7th St ,this route is poorly partonize on Arcade with 54 will be mostly duplicated now.
    64ND branches can serve with an expanded 80 at HILLCREST as circulator .
    Coverage for everyone with better services to more riders.

  9. GlowBoy

    I’m happy to see the 35W-related increase in service on express buses, particularly the improved frequency on #535.

    Although I prefer to take the 553 because it passes near my house, and often ride it in the evening, in the mornings I’m usually a few minutes too late to catch the last one going by (about 8:20am). I guess Minnesotans really do work earlier schedules here than I was used to on the West Coast, if MT is adding a 553 before 6am (!) and yet they think the demand is gone by 8:30. If people really are going to be working flex schedules, you’d think they’d add at least one later morning run.

    Anyway, once I’ve missed the 553, the quickest way for me to get downtown is not to take the #5 (which takes nearly 40 minutes), but to bike the couple miles to the 46th Avenue station and get on the 535. Who knows if that will still be true with the new detour, but doubling the frequency to 15 minute intervals will certainly help.

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