Metro Transit adjusts bus service near Interstate 394

A Route 9 bus passes through The Shops at West End in St. Louis Park. Metro Transit plans to implement major changes to the route and other bus routes in the area Saturday, Aug. 19. (Submitted photo)

A reshuffling of bus service along Interstate 394 beginning Saturday, Aug. 19, will lead to direct rides between The Shops at West End and downtown Minneapolis but fewer options along Route 9.

Metro Transit will change the name of Route 675 to Route 645 and run it on city streets between the Louisiana Transit Center and Park Place Boulevard. After picking up passengers near The Shops at West End, the buses will run directly to downtown Minneapolis.

“You’ll be downtown in about six minutes,” said Metro Transit Senior Planner Steve Mahowald. “We say approximately 10 minutes because it depends on where you’re getting off downtown.”

On weekdays, the West End will benefit from service every 15 minutes during peak periods, every 30 minutes during the middle of the day and about every hour in the evenings. Service will vary on weekends but will be about hourly.

Metro Transit has been studying the change for about three years.

“The West End area currently supports about 12,000 jobs paying $40,000/year or less, so Metro Transit saw this job growth as a great opportunity to provide faster service for Minneapolis and suburban residents who are transit-dependent and working or seeking jobs in the West End area,” said Metro Transit Communications Specialist Marisa Helms in a statement.

A Metro Transit map details the many bus changes that will be implemented Saturday, Aug. 19. (Submitted map)

Passengers boarding the route farther west will have about 4-5 minutes more travel time than they had experienced previously, but the bus route will be reclassified as a less-expensive local route instead of an express route.

Riders boarding in Wayzata will have the option of using two new outbound trips. On weekdays, the Route 645 bus will leave the Wayzata Park and Ride at 9:14 p.m. and arrive at Second Avenue and Sixth Street in downtown Minneapolis at 10:12 p.m. A second extra trip will leave Wayzata at 12:09 a.m. and arrive in downtown Minneapolis at 12:56 a.m. An existing Route 675 trip leaving Wayzata at 10:12 p.m. weekdays will remain in place under the Route 645 schedule.

Helms said that “eastbound Route 645 will offer direct access for riders in Wayzata, Minnetonka, and Mound who commute or want to have a night out in downtown Minneapolis.”

Metro Transit officials decided to add the additional trips from Wayzata after hearing from the city manager of Wayzata and the Greater Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce, according to Mahowald.

“They had been contacted by restaurant owners and management regarding the concern of their employees being able to use transit,” Mahowald said. “They said, ‘We could really use some later service.’”

The additional trips will also benefit restaurants in the Ridgedale area of Minnetonka and the I-394 corridor in St. Louis Park. Metro Transit would like to add more late westbound trips between Minneapolis and Wayzata in the future, Mahowald said.

Route 9 changes

However, some riders who use Route 9 will have fewer options. Metro Transit is eliminating three of the six branches of the route.

“The updated Route 9 will become a much simpler route that’s easier for operators and customers to understand,” Helms said in her statement.

The Route 9 branches to be eliminated include a section on Cedar Lake Road between Penn Avenue and Glenwood Avenue and the 9H service south of I-394 along Cedar Lake Parkway, Cedar Lake Road and Ewing and France avenues.

Route 25 will be rerouted to replace the Route 9H service on 26th Street and Barry Street. Instead of turning south on France Avenue at the Jones-Harrison Residence to terminate at West Lake Street and France Avenue, the Route 25 bus will travel northbound on France before heading westbound on 26th Street, taking a right on the frontage road near Benilde-St. Margaret’s, traveling to Cedar Lake Road and heading east toward the Sabes Jewish Community Center. Route 649, which currently provides service along part of that route, will be eliminated.

Route 649 has provided weekday express service between downtown Minneapolis and the West End, including the section near the Sabes JCC, during peak periods only.

“Metro Transit must pay for two peak buses to service this route,” said Helms in a statement after consulting with Mahowald about the route. “We want to reinvest our resources into routes with more potential for ridership growth.”

About 140 riders, or 75 percent, of the riders of Route 649 will receive service that is as good or better on Route 645 while about 35 riders, or 25 percent, will have increased travel times.

In addition to replacing a segment of Route 649, Route 645 will replace Route 9D service on Wayzata Boulevard west of Zarthan Avenue.

Metro Transit officials decided not to eliminate Route 9B entirely, but the branch will have limited service. Route 9B, which travels along Glenwood Avenue and Xenia Avenue in western Minneapolis and Golden Valley, will provide only two trips in each direction on weekdays, moving from 13 total daily trips to four total trips weekdays.

Metro Transit considered eliminating the branch entirely, Mahowald said. Metro Transit officials proposed the elimination of Route 9B because it serves a low-density, high-income area that is unlikely to be redeveloped into a high-density area in the future.

As a result of community input, Metro Transit decided to provide limited service instead of eliminating Route 9B.

“It’s difficult because, obviously, we never enjoy this,” Mahowald said. “We know we have folks out there who have very consciously chosen transit as their way to get to work. It’s always a difficult thing for us to put out there, but the reality of a limited budget is we’re looking to reinvest.”

He added that riders “took a good look at the plan” that had been proposed for the area.

“They weren’t happy with what we were proposing, understandably,” Mahowald said of Route 9B proponents.

About 150 people in all weighed in about the overall changes at a variety of public meetings.

“I think folks were very gracious,” Mahowald said.

Most of the area included in the Metro Transit changes will continue to have some level of service, but Mahowald noted that no buses will serve France Avenue and Ewing Avenue between 26th Street and Wayzata Avenue. About five riders in the section will be farther than a quarter-mile from another bus route, he said.

He anticipated the changes will clear up some confusion about Route 9. Mahowald related a story about meeting a rider on a Route 9 bus near Penn Avenue and Cedar Lake Road.

“He said, ‘This is the most complicated route I’ve ever seen. You guys need to do something about it,’” Mahowald recalled. “We went through the process.”

A growing West End

The planner emphasized the benefit of the changes to the West End in particular.

“There’s a huge concentration of jobs in this area, in an area that’s mixed-use,” Mahowald said. “It’s got retail, it’s got office, it’s got entertainment and then all the jobs that go with that entertainment, and then it’s got residential. How do we improve access to this node, this concentration, and the tremendous level of service we have in downtown Minneapolis? That was a major part of the process.”

To let people know about the upcoming changes, Metro Transit staff members have been hopping on buses to make brief announcements. Fliers have been added to buses and information has been posted at bus stops.

Staff members also plan to personally alert riders on the day of the change.

Mahowald said, “We’ll also be out on the street the day that we implement the changes to make sure folks are in the right place and not looking for 675 when they should be looking for 645.”

For more details, visit metrotransit.org/west-end.