Have you ever passed a bus stop and thought, “Damn, I feel so bad for anyone who has to catch their bus at that stop“? Even if you never ride the bus I’m certain everyone has seen at least one bus stop where they have had this thought.
I’m deeply familiar with Saint Louis Park and Hopkins having been born, raised, and currently live here. I’ve driven and biked along Excelsior for decades. Some stops along Excelsior Blvd (what the county calls County Road 3) have been improving over the years, especially as the cities and Hennepin County reconstruct County Road 3.
There are a couple of bus stops I pass and they just depress me but I wanted to call attention to one specific bus stop that for nearly my entire life I felt bad about.
The southeast corner bus stop for the 12, 612, and 664 at Excelsior Boulevard and Meadowbrook Road.
Over the years as I’ve dwelled on this bus stop I’ve passed by I’ve been considering many of the ways the experience of bus stop could be improved, from the stop itself, to the intersection it’s located near, and access from the neighborhoods and jobs this stop is near.
There are many governments that have had roles in some piece of the whole experience, Hopkins is to the south, St. Louis Park is to the north, Minneapolis’ Parks and Recreation Board own the golf course, Hennepin County owns Excelsior Blvd, and the Met Council operates the bus.
I’ve always found maps helpful at showing off some of the context of an area so I’m going to start with some.
In the wider neighborhood served by this bus stop we see the Meadowbrook Golf Course owned and operated by the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board to the southeast. Methodist Hospital is on the east, Blake Road frames the west edge and the (so far still) naturally occurring affordable apartments, Westside Village, at the corner of Excelsior and Blake. Going north from the bus stop is concentration of jobs in an industrial area that the Minnehaha Creek winds through. In the southwest is the wealthy residential neighborhood of Interlachen Park. The apartments north of the golf course was once Meadowbrook Manor, formerly naturally occurring affordable housing that has since changed ownership, had long deferred upgrades, rents raised, and a name change to Era on Excelsior.
The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation golf course has its clubhouse directly to the south of this stop. There are no sidewalks between the clubhouse and bus stop. I’m not implying golfers would take the bus to go golfing, but is it possible some of the employees might? Maybe a resident or two could would consider busing if a sidewalk connected here. I’ve walked through on my way to the newly restored Minnehaha Greenway and was buzzed closely by drivers leaving the golf course. That was memorable.
Historical note: The golf course clubhouse is far down the street from Excelsior Blvd because the street car line that linked Lake Harriet to Hopkins once had a street car station right where the clubhouse now is. Transit accessible golf!
There has been some great improvements to the north, like the remeandering of the creek and installing of boardwalks and paths. Japs Olson had a recent expansion and added missing sidewalks around their blocks and restored some lost habitat adjacent to the creek.
But to the north of the huge Japs Olson building is a section of Meadowbrook Road and Oxford totally missing sidewalks. On mornings I’ve driven through the area I have passed by people walking to work in the street, especially in the winter. Before Japs Olson expanded their facilities the sidewalk gap extended all the way to the 12, 612, 664 bus stop.
Next I’m going to zoom in to the stop itself to show off the conditions of the stop.
Here it is. We can see the topography involved here is a big part of what adds to the poor access. To the right of the image you can see the bus stop sign on the County Rd 3 sign post. As our eyes move to the right we see a large shrub between the sign and a bus bench. Also making this unpleasant is a median with no curb cuts and on the opposite side no curb cuts up to the bus stop.
Notice the road towards the Meadowbrook clubhouse and into the residential neighborhood are missing any sidewalks. But behind me, the sidewalk built during the Japs Olson expansion is looking nice.
Next I’m going walk over to the bus stop bench now and try to get a glimpse of what it’s like to wait for a bus there.
Not ideal. The bus bench has been neglected a little bit, over the years it’s become slightly angled forward so it’s not great to sit on. Getting to the bench from the crosswalk it is a lumpy, bumpy, trip hazard. There’s no decent curb cut from the west.
Looking towards the bus stop sign we see it’s not an unused bus stop, the area in front of the bench is worn down and there is a worn path on the hill slope over to the bus sign. I walked over to see how steep it was.
Not only is it modestly steep, the grass is tall and weedy. There is a worn patch where people stand and wait. I turned around and looked back to the intersection and bus bench.
The bay is designed for buses to pull in and pull up as far as the sign, so I guess we’re supposed to stand here? It’s all a big disappointment. But this is summer, what made this bus stop stand out was the winter experience. It’s after snow plowing where this stop, like many stop, is really bad. Here we go.
Not an unusual winter scene. I want to admit there is an improvement over past winters I’ll get to below. In recent past winters snow plows have used this corner to leave huge piles where even the golf course sign was obscured. The bay for buses to pull over to has completely disappeared. It’s hard to tell but this is after the plows have made their pass and pushed the large snow banks back further. The snow banks are even quite a bit melted, they were much taller before the inch of rain.
Next, that bus stop sign? It’s actually being maintained and shoveled out!
There have been years this stop wasn’t cleared out for riders. The bus stop one stop to the west doesn’t get shoveled out and I’ve spotted riders climbing to the top of snow piles to wait or else they get the pleasure of standing in Excelsior to wait for their bus.
You can see from the photo right above what it looks like for a driver, wide lanes and no trees near the curb make it so the majority of drivers are well above the posted limit of 40. 50 mph is common during rush hour. Go stand on a curb with drivers passing at those speeds in the winter cold.
The bench is completely inaccessible in winter once snow is here.
You are not going to get to that button to ask permission to cross the road.
In the near future some projects are happening that might make this bus stop disappointment an improvement. In a couple years the residential streets of Interlachen Park will be reconstructed. The early proposed designs do not include sidewalks within Interlachen Park, but a multiuse trail has been proposed on the south side of Goodrich from Blake Road to Meadowbrook Road. That would be a perfect opportunity for the city of Hopkins to put in a sidewalk from the clubhouse to the bus stop that would also work as a connection for the multiuse trail’s east end at Meadowbrook Road up to the Minnehaha Greenway.
While I’m sad the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board ditched the more ambitious golf course redesign, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District is due to begin work on a redesign of the creek portion of the flood risk golf course. It would be a perfect time for the golf course to include space for a safer more accessible bus stop without needing to navigate a weed covered hill slope.
Hennepin County has implied this segment of Excelsior Blvd was due for reconstruction, it has already reconstructed County Rd 3 east of Louisiana and west of Blake Rd. Interlachen Park has long desired a sidewalk along the south side Excelsior. Such a sidewalk along Interlachen Park would improve access to the bus stops and likely include improved curb cuts that would make this stop safer to get to.
Saint Louis Park has been adding sidewalks and filling sidewalk gaps for the past decade. The sidewalk gap in this job center is supposed to happen in a few years.
We might see a different situation here in five years. I hope these governments have a passing thought about they contribute to making this stop a disappointment. Pity bus of the 12, 612, and 664 riders have to wait much longer.