Bus riders of Franklin Avenue, REJOICE! As of the June 9th schedule change, the bridge over I-35W will be reopened. Route 2 will lose that pesky detour through Stevens Square and its customers will win five minutes of their lives back with every trip from one side to the other.
People in the Southside Pride readership area will see a lot of buses on surface streets that normally run on I-35W between 31st Street and downtown Minneapolis. This is due to construction blocking off the downtown entry/exit ramps and narrowing the roadway. Metro Transit Routes 135, 146, 535, 578 and 597 will run via the Blaisdell/1st Avenue South one-way pair, with one stop at Lake Street to drop off only going northbound and to both pick up and drop off going southbound. Metro Transit Routes 133, 156, 467, 552, 553, 554, 558, and all MVTA (Minnesota Valley Transit Authority) service via I-35W will use the Park/Portland one-way pair, non-stop, from 31st Street to downtown.
Along with these detours, there will be service increases on all of these routes except 597, to at least once every 30 minutes from 6 to 9 AM to downtown and from 3 to 6 PM the other way. Route 535, which currently runs all day Monday through Friday, will be expanded to seven days a week. This means the 46th Street bus station in the middle of the freeway will be open every day.
Route 14 towards Robbinsdale will run via 7th Street instead of 4th Street in the downtown area.
Route 46, and several suburban crosstowns, will have minor schedule changes to better coordinate transfers to and from Route 535.
On July 2, MVTA will institute a new Route 416 from Eagan Transit Center to the 46th Street light rail station to provide commuters with another alternative which will avoid I-35W altogether. At this time, I don’t know the planned routing, but since there is already a Route 446 with the same endpoints that turns on Yankee Doodle and Lexington, and goes all through the industrial parts of Eagan and Mendota Heights, I am speculating that it will go straight down Pilot Knob Road to Highway 55.
Will all this disruption be worth it in the long run? This is Minnesota, and we have two seasons: winter and road construction. Of course, the road construction is normally for the benefit of cars and doesn’t do much for people getting around by other means. In this case, it is different: Transit improvements are being built into the new freeway. The Lake Street stops at the top of long, decrepit stairways that were state of the art when they were built in 1967 are being replaced by a bus station in the middle of the road, with an elevator to the street below. It will be like the 46th Street bus station, except the freeway is above rather than below.
This is part of the planned Orange Line, a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line, similar to the one I wrote about in the March issue, down I-35W from downtown Minneapolis to Burnsville. This will greatly improve access from the Southside Pride readership area to the southern suburbs.
In another piece of transit-related news, thanks to our illustrious Editor, I found out there is a Transit Riders’ Union in the Twin Cities. They held a forum last month for Hennepin County Board candidates in Districts 3 and 4. I attended as both a transit fanatic and as Southside Pride’s representative. Here’s what I learned:
Marion Greene (Dist. 3) uses transit. She went without a car for 1.5 years, but bought one eight months ago. She is concerned that a drop in real wages is making transit fares unaffordable. She wants to privatize suburban routes and provide for Metro Mobility (paratransit for persons with limited mobility) from the General Fund rather than transit-specific funds.
LaDonna Redmond (also Dist. 3) doesn’t use transit regularly due to lifestyle and parenthood issues. She supports fare increases in exchange for better service, specifically better connections to jobs.
Peter McLaughlin (Dist. 4) uses transit when feasible, depending on his daily schedule. He blames the State Legislature for not funding transit, especially Metro Mobility. He agrees with Marion Greene about Metro Mobility funding.
Megan Kuhl-Stennes (also Dist. 4) also uses transit when feasible, but notes that it is not all the time. She is concerned that free Park and Ride lots benefit the suburbs at the expense of the central cities.
Angela Conley (also Dist. 4) doesn’t use transit due to parenthood and job issues. She does walk for recreation, and her kids don’t want to be dependent on cars when they grow up.
All of the candidates support the Transit Access Program (TAP), which provides discounted rides to people who have low incomes.