Uptown transit center.

The Quarterly Transit Report: June 2024

During COVID, I stopped doing these Quarterly Transit Reports because it was all bad news — nothing but service cuts. That is finally turning around thanks to a better funding source from the legislature. A tight labor market remains a constraint, but Metro Transit and the Metropolitan Council’s contract providers are gradually hiring more employees.

Source: Metropolitan Council report, Q1 2024

June Service Improvements

Route 25, Silver Lake Road: On weekdays, hourly midday service and reverse commute rush hour service has returned between downtown Minneapolis and Silver Lake Village in St. Anthony.

Route 32, Lowry Crosstown connects Robbinsdale and Rosedale via north and northeast Minneapolis. Since July 2023, no fares have been charged on Route 32 as an experiment. It has resulted in a roughly 20 percent ridership increase. Now the frequency will improve from every 30 minutes to every 20 minutes seven days a week. That’s the most frequent in the line’s history. I’m hoping this is the start of running the crosstown lines more frequently, which would improve transfer connections to other routes. Running infrequently suppresses transfers, making them just too inconvenient.

Route 805 connecting Northtown Transit Center with Anoka will improve from every two to three hours to hourly on Saturdays.

Here’s a notable service improvement from earlier this year: Route 801 connects Rosedale Transit Center, Columbia Heights Transit Center and Brooklyn Center Transit Center. Until this year, the Columbia Heights-Brooklyn Center portion ran only during rush hours. Now it provides hourly service all day on weekdays, creating a new shortcut between the northern suburbs. Connecting the suburban transit centers with one another opens up new trip options and is a requirement to make the system more user friendly.

Two-Car Light Rail Trains

Starting June 15, Green Line and Blue Line light rail trains will run with two cars most of the time, except for sporting and other special events. This will reduce wear and tear on the fleet and save some money, but there’s another reason. It has been harder to monitor anti-social behavior in the middle car of a three-car train, so it has become more prevalent there. Hopefully, more people on slightly less spacious trains will help discourage rider misconduct.

Minneapolis Bus Lane Agreement

Metro Transit has reached an agreement with the City of Minneapolis to pay for the creation and maintenance of new bus lanes and give traffic signal priority to buses. This is important given the rapid build-out of bus rapid transit, and can also be applied to conventional bus routes. Bus lane construction will be split 50/50, with Metro Transit funding ongoing maintenance. Metro Transit will pay the entire cost to install and maintain traffic signal priority.

2024 Ridership Trends

Source: Metropolitan Council report, Q1 2024

The 2024 First Quarter Ridership Report to the Metropolitan Council show steady ridership increases across the transit system. The most recent four quarters have seen an overall ridership increase of 13 percent. Here’s how it breaks down:

11%     Local bus

31%     Bus Rapid Transit

16%     Express bus

12%     Light rail

24%     Northstar commuter train

-1%      Metro Mobility

25%     Transit Link/Microtransit dial-a-ride

Because ridership is growing faster than service increases (except on Northstar and Route 32), empty seats are being filled, and overall productivity is rising.

Source: Metropolitan Council report, Q1 2024

An Experiment to Watch

Street construction in Uptown has closed part of Hennepin Avenue and made the Uptown Transit Center temporarily inaccessible. The center was the terminus for Route 23 (38th Street Crosstown) and Route 612 (Excelsior Boulevard). Rather than search for alternate layover locations, Metro Transit has combined them end-to-end, creating a one-seat ride from Hopkins across St. Louis Park and south Minneapolis to Highland Park in St. Paul. This eliminates the need to transfer between the two routes. If made permanent, it will create a 38th Street feeder to the Southwest Light Rail line when it opens in 2027, perfect for encouraging commute trips to the southwest suburbs.

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.