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.