A Brief North Dakota Note

OK, Fargo is technically not in Minnesota, but it’s just across the Red River from Moorhead, which is, and I used to live there, so their bus system is fair game for this blog.

Anyway, I wanted to post about the new STEM Building bus stop at North Dakota State University. I think it’s great that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) is now considered such a priority that the building devoted to it is the main bus stop at NDSU!

In addition, the STEM Building is closer to University Avenue than the Memorial Union, thus saving precious time for the buses themselves.

Hats off (well, maybe not in this weather) to NDSU and Metropolitan Area Transit for this!

 

Duluth’s New Transportation Center

As anyone who’s ridden city buses in small towns (under 100,000 or so population) knows, most smaller bus systems have a central transfer point where all the buses meet. Often times, the buses all leave at the same time, which is called a “pulse” system. In the past, the transfer point was usually a street corner, but in modern times since Federal funding has been available for capital projects, buildings with comfortable places to wait and off-street bus pull-up facilities have been constructed by many of these systems.

The Duluth Transit Authority is finally joining that crowd. Traditionally, the main bus stop in Duluth has been on Superior Street, mid-block between 2nd and 3rd Avenues West. Westbound buses stopped in front of the Holiday Center, a formerly thriving mall that has now become a mostly deserted lobby for the Holiday Inn, and eastbound buses stopped in front of a hole-in-the-wall transit center with room to wait for the bus, and during business hours, a cashier who sold tokens and passes. However, the bus stop was still on-street and it was not a layover place as that wouldn’t have been safe.

There have always been complaints of teenagers loitering around the main bus stop, primarily on the Holiday Center side, and of people jaywalking from one side of the street to the other and causing accidents (remember, both stops are mid-block directly across from each other). Also, there have been disputes from people banned from DTA property who have been hassled for passing through the transit center on the waiting room side, even though it is a legitimate thoroughfare for pedestrians from one part of the building it is in to another. (The situation is analogous to being allowed to shop at stores in a mall but not to traverse the mall itself to get from one to another.)

Due to these and other issues, DTA has always wanted a dedicated transit center. Well, they are getting one next month. Here are the details of related service changes.

While the new waiting area will be more comfortable, and people won’t have to risk their lives crossing the street to catch a bus, things probably won’t be so nice for people who just like to hang out at the bus station. There is going to be a police precinct in the building.

One major positive aspect, though: Jefferson Lines buses (replacing the former Greyhound intercity service) will be stopping at the new terminal. This is the first time since I’ve been riding intercity buses that they’ve gone to downtown Duluth. The first terminal I remember was out by 21st Avenue West, then it moved further out to 44th Avenue West. That has never been really ideal for travelers.

New West Suburban Crosstown begins 19 Jan. 2016

Minnesota Valley Transit AuthoritySouthWest Transit, and Plymouth Metrolink are going in together on a new bus service that cuts across their territories, as well as passing through Metro Transit territory and entering Maple Grove Transit territory.

This new line, Route 494, will operate on a demonstration (experimental) basis in both directions from Shakopee to Maple Grove via Highway 169 and Interstate 494, approximately once every half hour during the morning and afternoon rush hours, from Shakopee to Maple Grove with intermediate stops in Eden Prairie, the Opus office park in Minnetonka, and Plymouth.

This is certainly an innovative idea in suburb-to-suburb commuter transit, even though it seems to me that few destinations other than Opus will be directly served, and transfers to other buses (hopefully timed!) will be necessary for most riders to benefit.

As a Minneapolis resident whose office is in his home, I probably won’t benefit from this line in a business sense, but I may well take a recreational ride out to Maple Grove once this starts and use the 494 to go south to a bus that will get me back to the city. Actually, until this new service starts, it is literally impossible to go from Minneapolis to Maple Grove and back by bus on the same day! (There was a experimental all-day, bi-directional local route from Brooklyn Park to Maple Grove several years ago but that failed.)

Do we need more bus routes in the suburbs like this? If so, please comment with your ideas and suggestions.

Proposal: New Transit Service For Kenwood

Kenwood. That rich neighbourhood in Minneapolis where the famous Mary Tyler Moore house is. Yes, that Kenwood. Where the old bus Route #1 used to run every hour from about 6 to 6 Monday through Saturday, but where the current Route 25 only runs at rush hour because no one needs the bus any other time of day.

Yes, people who live in Kenwood can afford cars, and if we think of public transit as a form of “welfare”, there’s no point to providing more service than there is now. However, most transit advocates consider public transit to be for everyone, not just the poor. The fact is that there is potential demand for bus service in Kenwood if it’s done properly.

A friend of mine who is in the know about such things told me that a lot of Kenwood residents work at the State Capitol (I personally call it the Crapitol but the purpose of this post isn’t to condemn State politics unless it’s transit related) complex in Saint Paul. They drive east on Franklin every day and turn onto eastbound I-94 at Hennepin. The Franklin/Hennepin/I-94 area is a disaster at rush hour, partly due to the geometry of the streets and ramps.

This area is just ripe for a commuter express to the Capitol area. Imagine buses starting at W. 21st St. and Penn Ave. S., by the school and restaurant, turning east on Franklin, stopping every block or two to pick people up until Hennepin Ave., then turning onto I-94 to the Marion St. exit, then going Marion to Aurora to Rice. Local stops could be made on Marion but would likely not be used much. At Rice and University, half the crowd gets off to go to the State Office Building, nicknamed the S.O.B. (How appropriate! But that’s another issue altogether.) The bus then turns on University towards Jackson. Maybe a nurse or two gets off at Regions Hospital, but I doubt it. The bus soon reaches its final destination, the Department of Revenue at 12th and Robert.

Now you may wonder, why don’t these people just take the 25 to the Green Line or the 94? Well, because it’s awfully slow. The 25 only runs about once every half hour during the rush period, and then has to compete with crazy Hennepin Ave. traffic. The 94 doesn’t stop by the Capitol any more, making the Green Line the fastest option, which isn’t very fast. Even though the train is getting better, it won’t beat a direct express from Kenwood to the Capitol anytime soon. (We’ll just have to see when the Southwest LRT is done in a few years.)

I have a second proposed improvement for Kenwood, and that is to extend Route 2 west from Hennepin Ave. along Franklin to 21st and Penn Ave. S., the same place where my proposed commuter express would start. The Route 2 extension would run 8 AM to 10 PM Monday through Saturday, and 8 AM to 9 PM Sunday (essentially the same hours the restaurant is open).

Well, anyway….

A 46th Street Station Dream

I had a dream a few nights ago about Metro Transit’s 46th Street Blue Line station. Although the plan provides virtually no practical insights, I thought I’d post it for the hell of it.

In my dream, three things were different about the 46th Street Station:

1. The proposed A Line via Snelling to Rosedale was built as Light Rail rather than Bus Rapid Transit, as is officially proposed.

2. The Kiss and Ride was expanded to a full scale Park and Ride.

3. “Free world” sex offender housing was built near the station.

Would these changes make for a better station? Why or why not>

Metro Transit Could Deal With Reduced Service Days Better

I was recently thinking about Metro Transit’s TAKEOUT pamphlets, specifically the ones they hand out around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the 4th of July to announce the reduced service schedules for day near those holidays. Usually, Black Friday and Christmas Eve have special schedules, and usually the 3rd or 5th of July, depending on what day of the week the 4th is on. This year, Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) was also a reduced schedule due to Christmas being a Thursday and most companies taking Friday off too to make a long weekend.

Until the mid-1990s, MTC/MCTO (previous incarnations of Metro Transit) ran a regular weekday schedule for such days, and just tolerated the loss in revenue from lower ridership. Personally, I think they should go back to that policy. I’ve also wondered how much the operational savings is offset by the cost of printing the pamphlets….

This brings me to my next point. A new pamphlet is printed up each and every holiday for which this situation occurs. In part that is because the basic schedules change every three months, when the drivers have their new “pick” of work schedules. However, an examination of these pamphlets will show that there is very little change from one holiday to the next. Usually, most routes go on a Saturday schedule, a few select ones stay on a weekday schedule, and the rest either run a Saturday schedule plus a few rush-hour trips, or they are rush-hour weekday only routes which run a few trips for those poor souls who have to work.

There is another way… and that is the way King County Metro in Seattle, WA deals with this issue. They put the information in the bus schedules themselves rather than in a special pamphlet. Twin Cities Metro Transit could use the same approach. Every schedule says about the major holidays either: “No service on (the 6 major holidays)” or “Sunday schedule on (the 6 major holidays)”. Why not add a blurb: “Reduced service on Black Friday, Christmas Eve, and other days to be announced near major holidays. On reduced service days, this route will run on (whichever one of the following applies),” The options would be “Weekday schedule”, “Saturday schedule”, “Saturday schedule plus (designated extra trips)”, or “designated trips only”. A letter icon in the schedule similar to ones used for “school days only” and other special remarks about individual trips would be used to designate which trip would run on such days.

Well, have a nice day.

Metro Transit Service Changes, 13 Dec. 2014

The full list of changes can be seen at the Metro website here:

I’m just going to mention the changes that I think are most important/useful, and which I have opinions on:

Routes 19, 23, 67, and 87 will have more frequent service on Sundays, especially Sunday evenings (one of the worst times of the week for bus riders). I support this because even on Sunday night, people want to get home without freezing for half an hour at a bus stop.

Route 30 will be extended from Knox Ave. N. to Xerxes Ave. N. in the mornings. This is good, as I believe the 30 should eventually take over from the 14 branch which runs on Golden Valley Road.

Route 32 will now run on Saturdays as well as weekdays. This is the Lowry Ave. crosstown which runs from Robbinsdale to Rosedale. This is especially a blessing to people wishing to access the Roseville Post Office.

Route 46 will extend its last runs on weekends all the way to the Edina Library. This is probably good for people who live at the west end of the route.

Route 54 will have a new run at 3:05 AM, 7 days a week, from downtown Saint Paul to the Airport for people who work the early shift.

Route 84 will get a few extra runs in the early evenings, Monday through Saturday.

Routes 275 and 285 are being combined into a new Route 275. The old Centerville and Lino Lakes Park and Rides are being replaced with new ones closer to I-35E. As a practical matter, this may be more efficient, but personally I will miss the old route because it was descended from the “Commuter I” route of the old North Suburban Lines, which started in the late 1970s. Another piece of history down the drain….

Route 764 is being extended to Maple Plain! Unfortunately, the route between Long Lake and Maple Plain goes quite far out of its way to avoid running through Medina, which isn’t a member of the Metropolitan Transit Taxing District.

Routes 805, 831, and 852 are being better coordinated. I absolutely support this, as I have had to transfer at Northtown from the 852 to the 805 and have had close calls with missing the bus. Sometimes I-94 is congested and that makes the 852 unreliable. A 15 minute window at rush hour instead of the usual 8 minutes is a blessing.

Metro Transit’s Service Improvement Plan

This month is the comment period for Metro Transit’s Service Improvement Plan. Currently, Metro Transit lacks the funding to implement this plan, but as I understand it, that may change if there is a rearrangement of transit funding in the Twin Cities. From what I’ve seen, the plan looks and sounds good. If it is implemented, there would be tons of new routes and the existing service would be more frequent and have a longer span of service. Several more routes would start running 24 hours a day. Please read about and support the plan.

“Second Story” Transit For Duluth?

I had a weird dream about a week ago. In my dream the Duluth Transit Authority went to 24-hour service on the East and West Main Lines, from Lester/Crosley to New Duluth. Unlikely as that is to ever happen, since it would most likely become a rolling homeless shelter, that wasn’t the weirdest part. I also dreamed that on Tuesday nights/Wednesday mornings only, there was another all-night route which provided free smartphone app assistance to passengers and ran on the “second story” of Duluth, going in a clockwise loop from Downtown out to the Piedmont, on Haines Road to the Mall, then across to UMD and over to Woodland before returning to Superior Street and heading Downtown.