At the Green Line grand opening on June 14, one of the first people I talked to on the platform at Raymond station was a young woman heading home from the pet store.
She’d come from Midway and said the ride was pretty quick. Other first-day riders came from farther away, including a couple from Fridley who were headed back home on the Northstar train. Later that day, I boarded with my bicycle, rolled past another bicycle and hooked mine into a vertical parking space.
The new Green Line light rail running 11 miles between St. Paul and Minneapolis offers tons of new opportunities for urban exploration. The 18 stops are each themselves new points of arrival and departure, especially when you consider how much is within a short walk or bike ride of the station.
For example, a map of Raymond station, showing zones a half-mile and mile from the station re-shapes mental ideas of what is nearby. Anything in the half-mile zone is easily walkable and anything in the 3-mile zone is a breeze to bicycle. There are Nice Ride stations all along the line and at points north and south, making it easy to hop-scotch through neighborhoods and back. Metro Transit also expanded connecting bus service to the corridor. And there are more HOURCAR stations in range of easy transit.
— From the Raymond Station, it’s a 10-minute walk to the Hampden Park Coop. Or bike a little farther along Raymond Avenue, turn left on bike lanes on Como Avenue and find yourself after only 1.5 miles of bicycling in St Anthony Park, home of Muffuletta’s, Micawber’s Bookstore, Dunn Brothers, and St Anthony Library.
— The new Charles Avenue Bikeway provides a pleasant bicycling option parallel (two blocks north) of University. The Charles Bikeway intersects with the Griggs bikeway, to be completed later this year. From the Hamline Station on the Greenline, take these bicycle boulevards to Summit Avenue in just 1.5 miles. Grand Avenue is just a block farther south.
— Going to Hamline University? Take a Nice Ride from Snelling station and park it in the dock on Englewood Avenue. Check out another bike to return to Snelling. Stop in to eat at Fasika Ethiopian. Jump back on the light rail and explore farther down the line.
— Are the kids ready for some fun at Como waterpark, with the fantastic climbing wall? Take the train to Lexington Parkway station and catch an 83 bus for the short trip up to Como Park. Buses run every half-hour and Green Line light rail runs every 15 minutes, with more frequency during rush hour.
— Heard about but never visited Little Mekong, at the Western Avenue station? Stop for some food from Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and China. Grab another Nice Ride bicycle to ride the Charles Avenue bikeway to the Capitol.
If you’re thinking all this sounds great if you only lived near the Green Line, take a look at the connecting bus service. From Rice Street, the 62 bus runs every 30 minutes during the day, six days a week, from Shoreview on the north to West St Paul on the South. The Robert Street station connects to the 71 bus, which runs every 15-30 minutes six days a week from Little Canada to Inver Grove Heights. From East St Paul, bus route 63 runs every 10-30 minutes every day of the week and into the evening, connecting Battle Creek Regional Park and Sun Ray Transit Center with Union Station. Farther west, at the West Bank Station, bus #7 connects with North Minneapolis and the Crosstown, while bus #22 runs every 15-30 minutes seven days a week from Brooklyn Center to the VA Medical Center.
While the Twin Cities still lags behind some cities in transit, the opening of the Green Line shows how much more connected the metro can be, especially with intersecting bus and bike routes and walkable destinations. We still have more plans on paper to transform to reality over the coming years, but the system is taking shape.
Hilary Reeves is communications director for Transit for Livable Communities.