A Loring Park leader has proposed expanding the Downtown bus fare zone to include the neighborhood's outer edges.
The 50-cent fare currently applies to riders who get on and off the bus within Downtown's business core. Its borders are roughly 3rd Avenue North to the Metrodome and the Convention Center to Riverplace on the East Bank.
The zone's boundaries exclude most parts of Downtown's surrounding neighborhoods, including Loring Park, North Loop and Elliot Park.
The rush-hour bus fare for those outside the zone is $1.75, or $1.25 during off-peak hours.
John Van Heel, president of Citizens for a Loring Park Community (CLPC), is pushing to add six stops south of the current zone: three along Hennepin Avenue as far as the Walker Art Center, 725 Vineland Place, plus three on Nicollet Avenue extending to Downtown's I-94 border (see accompanying map).
The neighborhood activist walks to work at the BKV Group, an architecture, interior design and engineering firm at 222 N. 2nd St.
In pitching the plan at a May CLPC Land Use Committee meeting, Van Heel said the idea sprang from discussions with business leaders on the Nicollet Avenue Taskforce.
Said Van Heel, "I think it is a small, but important step in helping the Loring neighborhood realize its potential to support a vital and successful Downtown. A Downtown defined as strictly the business core is fast becoming outmoded. Many of this city's greatest institutions are sprinkled in a ring around the edge of the business core."
He said the city should work to make bus commuting more affordable and viable for people who choose to live in Downtown neighborhoods.
"If we want to compete with places like Seattle and Atlanta, there is nothing we could do that would be more valuable than focusing on how our Downtown functions as a combined live-work habitat," he said.
Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons said the agency would be "happy to review any proposal."
However, the Downtown bus zone wasn't created to facilitate commuting, he said. It's designed to move people around the core for shopping and lunch, not to move people from surrounding neighborhoods to work.
Such a change would have to be reviewed by Metro Transit's Policy Board, he said.