New plan would alter Downtown bus service

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December 3, 2002 // UPDATED 1:34 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Robyn Repya
Robyn Repya

8 routes cut, 9 changed, new 35W service added; still time for public to comment

Getting to and from Downtown via bus might become a lot easier, say Metro Transit officials, if a newly released route plan takes effect.

Metro Transit's so-called "Sector 5" plan -- which includes parts of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Edina, Bloomington and Richfield -- would:

- Cut eight routes currently serving Downtown

(most from Bloomington)

- Change and consolidate nine existing Downtown routes

- Add two major express routes and all-day shuttle

service connecting Downtown to the southwest suburbs.

The plan was released for public comment Dec. 9.

The plan's authors say the express buses -- which carry half of all Downtown commuters --make service to and from the suburbs more efficient while improving service for neighborhoods along 35W.

The plan also cuts Downtown routes that will become redundant when light rail opens in 2004. That's when most of the Minneapolis Sector 5 plans would take effect.

Adam Harrington, Metro Transit's manager of route and system development, said the biggest Downtown changes would be more frequent service along I-35W. "It's our strongest commuter market," he said, "It carries 13 percent of all employees into Downtown."

Bob Gibbons, Metro Transit director of customer service, said improved I-35W service would better connect Downtown and south-metro suburbs.

Gibbons said that while the plan mostly redistributes current service, a $13.4 million federal grant allowed some service expansion for the next three years. After that, Gibbons said, there's no guarantee added service can continue.

Harrington said that if people like the revised service, they would support state funding once the federal funds run out.

Gibbons acknowledged that the state's projected $4.5 billion shortfall through 2005 could alter transit funding, but said his agency would still send the plan out for public comment (see schedule, below left).

Frank Hornstein, who represents south Minneapolis on the Metropolitan Council, which governs Metro Transit, said the new plan was very feasible because it was not a massive expansion. Hornstein, who join the legislature in January, said the plan was made to withstand some funding cuts. However, Hornstein said if transit's budget is significantly cut, "we can't do this."

Hornstein offered hope because transit has public support and from groups such the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

Although Governor-elect Tim Pawlenty has expressed doubts about transit funding, and appoints Met Council members, Hornstein said he doesn't anticipating any problems with the Sector 5 plan going into effect. However,

Hornstein acknowledged a new council's reaction to the plan isn't certain. "It will be interesting," he said.

If everything goes as planned, Gibbons said St. Paul routes would be changed first in September 2003. In the meantime, he said Metro Transit will be soliciting public input through community meetings. The public comment period lasts until Feb. 14. For more information, visit www.metrotransit.org.

Routes cut

-For all route cuts, alternative routes could provide similar service.

Route 8, which connects Downtown to the northeastern portion of the University of Minnesota campus.

Routes 556, 586, 541 and 547, which connect southwest Minneapolis, Richfield and Bloomington to Downtown.

Route 587, which connects Edina and Bloomington to Downtown.

Routes 594 and 597 connecting Bloomington to Downtown.

New routes

Route 535 B, C and D, a new all-day express shuttle from Downtown to Richfield and Bloomington, stopping at transit stations along 35W.

Route 599, a new express bus between Bloomington and Downtown.

Route changes

Route 4E -- which connects Downtown to Edina thru Southwest Minneapolis following Hennepin, Lyndale and Bryant avenues to 50th Street -- would be shortened and redirected, no longer going to Edina, but turning south on Penn Avenue at 50th Street into Richfield.

Route 6 and 28 service -- from the University of Minnesota across the Hennepin Avenue Bridge through Downtown and southwest Minneapolis to Edina via France Avenue (6F) and Xerxes Avenue (6E), would be consolidated into one route. The change eliminates east-to-west service between France and Xerxes on South 44th Street. More buses would cut waiting time in half during weekday peak hours.

Route 7, between Downtown and Minnehaha Park, would change its route out of Downtown, using Washington Avenue to Cedar Avenue, instead of Hiawatha Avenue, which becomes the light-rail line.

Route 18 would be streamlined from Downtown through southwest Minneapolis into Bloomington and the Mall of America. The Nicollet Avenue route would remain, but Grand Avenue, 56th, 58th and 60th streets detours would be discontinued. Bus frequency would not change.

Route 19 would be diverted from 7th and 8th streets in Downtown onto Washington Avenue, to Cedar Avenue, then connect with southeast Minneapolis. The current route goes to Hiawatha Avenue where the future light-rail line will be. The weekday peak wait time for the route would increase from 12 to 15 minutes.

Route 133 would replace existing route 148 and push service further west. Instead of going from the University of Minnesota straight into Southeast Minneapolis and bypassing Downtown, the route would now run through Downtown on Marquette Avenue and 2nd Avenue, connecting via I-35W to southeast Minneapolis. Buses would run every 30 minutes during weekday peak hours.

Route 156, which connects Downtown with southwest Minneapolis and Edina, would be integrated into a new route 558. Fewer buses would increase weekday peak waits from 15 minutes to 30 minutes.

Route 554 would replace 35 L, S and U, although the route would remain unchanged, still connecting Downtown via Marquette and 2nd avenues to Bloomington following I-35W. Buses would come approximately every 30 minutes.

Community meeting schedule:

Tuesday, Jan. 28, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.: University of St. Thomas, Thornton Auditorium, 1000 LaSalle Ave. S., Minneapolis

Tuesday, Jan. 28, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.: Macalester College, Weyerhaeuser Chapel, 1600 Grand Ave., St. Paul

Wednesday, Jan. 29, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.: 10 Southdale Center (Lower level), 6601 France Ave., Edina

Thursday, Jan. 30, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.: Richfield Community Center, 7000 Nicollet Ave. S., Richfield

Monday, Feb. 3, 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.: Creekside Community Center Auditorium, Room 116, 9801 Penn Ave. S., Bloomington

Tuesday, Feb. 4, 7 p.m.-9 p.m.: Midtown YMCA, Community Rooms 155 and 156, 2121 E. Lake St., Minneapolis