As Metro Transit struggles to increase its driver ranks, which were ravaged by the pandemic and safety concerns, riders will see several service changes that the transit system plans to roll out in the coming months. Although the immediate changes won’t be as drastic, down the line passengers may see more significant changes in service as local communities rebuild streets and more drivers start working.
Metro Transit expands micro service area
Metro Transit’s door-to-door ride-hail service, micro, which operates in a three-square-mile area of Near North Minneapolis, expanded its service on February 26, in an attempt to attract more riders in response to high satisfaction ratings.
Micro, which is branded ‘micro’ by the transit agency, expanded northward to 34th Avenue N. and eastward towards the Mississippi River north of West Broadway, serves landmarks such as the North Regional Library and Farview Park. With 6,844 rides as of the end of January, and 1,000 app users, the average wait time has been under seven minutes. On average, passengers use it to travel roughly a mile and a half.
The busiest stop? Cub Foods on West Broadway, which makes up one of the top 10 passenger destinations for the service.
The service is also pretty expensive to run because it makes door-to-door stops and serves fewer riders than a regular bus route. At $29.04 per passenger, it exceeds the costs of operating Transit Link, a similar service that serves the rural parts of the Twin Cities.
But the expansion of micro service will come with a tradeoff. Because of low ridership in the early morning and late evening hours, micro service hours were cut back on February 26. The service now ends earlier, at 10:30 p.m. Weekend service also begins later, at 7 a.m. And with the expanded service area, riders may also have longer wait times, as the agency doesn’t plan to add any more drivers or buses to the service.
Northside resident Johnny Hedgepeth welcomes the expansion, but thinks it needs to go farther because it doesn’t necessarily offer service where it’s needed. “[They should] expand it to 42nd or 45th…and down by the [US Bank] stadium. Then that would be very helpful,” said Hedgepeth as he rode the D Line to his Southside church.
Route and schedule changes
Metro Transit isn’t yet bringing back service routes it cut since the pandemic began. They continue to struggle with a driver shortage compared to pre-pandemic levels; they say they now need 200 more drivers.
The major changes will happen on Route 7, and eventually Route 5 and the C and D lines. Route 7 buses will no longer serve the VA Medical Center, located just north of the airport, during rush hour due to low ridership.
And, riders leaving the Trailhead in Theodore Wirth Park, located to the west of North Minneapolis by Route 7, may experience delays as the Minneapolis Park Board asks the agency’s drivers to take their breaks as they leave the park to relieve parking lot congestion. “Shifting the location where buses lay over will help provide a clearer, safer path [for] bikers, walkers, skiers and golfers of all ages,” said Park Board spokesperson Robin Smothers.
For much of this year, Route 7 buses will also be rerouted off of Plymouth Avenue between Washington and Lyndale Avenues because of bridge construction, which also includes building a curb-separated bike lane.
The Route 5, C and D lines will receive “schedule adjustments” across all days of the week. The adjustments do not seem to account for the extra three-to-five-minute detour buses will have to take through Robbinsdale, as Hennepin County reconstructs Osseo Road for bike lanes, as well as the additional C and D line station at 47th Avenue.
However, Metro Transit plans to add buses to the routes to maintain its current frequency. Once construction wraps up, Route 5 will no longer serve Brooklyn Center.
In August, Metro Transit plans to realign and eliminate some stops served primarily by Route 17 in St. Louis Park and Northeast Minneapolis, to ensure buses go faster and better connect to other transit options. The route served just over 3,000-weekday riders in late 2021.
Though riders interviewed by the MSR were mostly positive about the changes, Sean Solomon wondered why Metro Transit planned to remove the stop at 15th and Nicollet, which serves Loring Park, the 19 Bar, local restaurants, a school and a convenience store.
“It’s a legit hot spot, if anything,” said Solomon as he rode the Route 17 back home.
The agency conducted surveys on proposed changes. For more information about the project, visit Route 17 – Metro Transit. The agency also plans further changes to the transit system over the next five years, and invites riders to take an online survey to help inform those changes.
Route 17 stops proposed for elimination from North to South:
- Washington St NE at: 27th Ave NE, 26th Ave NE, 23rd Ave NE, 20th Ave NE, 15th Ave NE, Broadway St NE
- 7th St NE at 26th Ave NE
- Broadway St NE at Jefferson St NE
- Monroe St NE at: Summer St NE, 3rd Ave NE
- Nicollet Ave at: 15th St, 22nd St
- W 24th St at: Pillsbury Ave, Harriet Ave
- Lagoon Ave/Lake Street at Irving Ave
- Lake St at Thomas Ave
- Lake St at Drew Ave (eastbound only)
- Minnetonka Blvd at: Joppa, Monterey, Natchez, Princeton, Quentin, 5621, Xenwood, Blackstone, Brunswick, Florida, Jersey, Nevada and Rhode Island
- Texas Ave at: 31st St, 33rd St, 35th St
- W 36th St at: Utah, Zirnan
- Aquila Ave at: 36th St, 37th St (relocated to Boone)
- W 37th St at Boone
- Blake Road at Oxford St
- All F branch stops except Beltline Blvd at Park Glen Road
Mico Bus Top Ten StopsMetTransitChanges.MicroTop10Stops-1
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