Metro Transit (Minnesota)

Metro Transit (Minnesota)
Metro Transit
An articulated Metro Transit bus displaying typical livery in 2005.
Slogan Hop On
Parent Metropolitan Council
Founded 1967
Headquarters Minneapolis, Minnesota
Locale Minneapolis – Saint Paul
Service type Transit bus
Light rail
Commuter rail
Routes 127 bus[1]
1 light rail
1 commuter rail
Fleet 910 buses[1]
27 light rail vehicles
6 locomotives
18 rail coaches
Daily ridership 261,700 (Q2 2011)[2]
General Manager Brian Lamb
Web site

Metro Transit is the transit division of the Metropolitan Council, a regional governmental agency in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area of the U.S. state of Minnesota. Metro Transit is the largest operator of bus services in the seven-county region surrounding Minneapolis and St. Paul with 910 buses (including 166 articulated buses) on 127 routes, Hiawatha Line light rail, and the Northstar Line commuter rail.[1] It is reportedly the 18th largest transit system in the country, with approximately 250,000 rides provided each weekday, carrying 90 to 95% of the transit rides in the region. Several "opt-out" carriers exist in the area, including Southwest Metro Transit and Minnesota Valley Transit Authority. Metro Transit workers are organized through the Amalgamated Transit Union.



The agency was established by the Minnesota State Legislature in 1967 as the Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC). MTC's operations were moved under the auspices of the Metropolitan Council in 1994, prompting a name change to "Metropolitan Council Transit Operations," and then in 1998 to Metro Transit. The organization can trace its history back to the 19th-century streetcar systems of the region through the acquisition in 1970 of the Twin City Lines bus system from businessman Carl Pohlad. At the time of the acquisition, Twin City Lines had 635 buses: 75% of those were over 15 years old, and 86 buses were so old that they were banned from operating in Minneapolis. MTC acquired 465 new buses in the next five years and built many new bus shelters.[3]

Then there began a long battle to return rail transit to the region, and efforts for additional lines continue at a snail's pace. It took at least 32 years to see the first line implemented. In 1972, the Regional Fixed Guideway Study for MTC proposed a $1.3 billion 37- or 57-mile (sources differ) heavy-rail rapid transit system, but the then-separate Metropolitan Council disagreed with that idea—refusing to even look at the plan—and continuing political battles meant that it was never implemented. The Met Council had its own plans for bus rapid transit in the Cities. Another system using smaller people movers was proposed in the 1975 Small Vehicle Fixed Guideway Study and gained the most traction with the Saint Paul city council, but was eventually dropped in 1980. In the 1980s, light rail was proposed as an alternative, and several possible corridors were identified, including the Central Corridor which had a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) drawn up in 1982.[3][4][5] However, it took another two decades before the Hiawatha Line light rail line began operation on June 26, 2004, just over 50 years since the last regular-service streetcar ran on June 19, 1954 under the old Twin City Lines. Heavy-rail commuter service began on November 14, 2009 with the Northstar Line. The 2010s decade may finally see several new lines open.

Bus and driver on University Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota near Saint Paul

Metro Transit does not cover the whole Twin Cities area. Bus service in the suburbs was being cut back the early 1980s, and suburb-to-suburb service was limited (an issue that remains today). In 1986, cities and counties in the 7-county metropolitan area were given the option to run their own bus services and leave the MTC system. About 17.5% of the area which has regular route transit service is served by these six other "opt out" transit systems. Also about 5% of the system is contracted to private transit providers.

In the mid-2000s decade, the system claimed to have a safety record five times better than the national average, although some worried that continuing reductions in break times and increases in the length of working days could cause the incident rate to rise.


Currently Metro Transit receives the majority of its funding from the State Motor Vehicle Sales Tax, the State General Fund, fares, and federal revenues. Metro Transit prepares an annual calendar budget but most of its subsidy comes from state funds, which is on a July 1 biennial budget. Between 2001 and 2006, reductions in state general funds and state motor vehicle sales tax collections have forced a set of service cuts, fare increases, and fuel surcharges, all of which have reduced ridership.

Metro Transit fares Non-rush
Adults Local fare $1.75 $2.25
Express fare $2.25 $3.00
Seniors (65+)
and youth (6–12)
Local fare $0.75 $2.25
Express fare $0.75 $3.00
Disabled riders $0.75 $0.75
Downtown zones $0.50 $0.50
Children (5 and younger) free free

Local policy requires that one third of the system's funding comes from fares, and current operations slightly exceed that level. Effective October 1, 2008, fares on all buses and trains increased by 25 cents.[6] Express routes cost more (on limited-stop portions) and certain eligible individuals (such as riders with disabilities) can ride for 75¢. Many of the fares are more expensive during rush hour periods; a rush-hour ride on an express bus currently costs $3.00, for instance.

The system does not make much use of fare zones aside from downtown zones in Minneapolis and St. Paul where rides only cost 50¢. Fare transfer cards valid for 2.5 hours are available upon payment of fare. Only the Northstar commuter rail line charges fares based on distance. A number of discounted multiple-use transit pass options are available, and the system introduced a contactless smart card (the Go-To card) for paying fares in early 2007.

BRT features and research

Metro Transit symbol on a seat, new bus on University Avenue (Minneapolis-St. Paul)

Metro Transit uses several methods to speed up bus lines, which can be considered forms of bus rapid transit (BRT). As in many metropolitan areas, high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) or carpool lanes are available for buses traveling on some highways. In downtown Minneapolis, there are several exclusive lanes for buses and taxis that go in the opposite direction of regular flow on one-way streets.

Nicollet Mall had been used exclusively for buses and taxis for many years, but the number of buses is being reduced. This should allow more bicycle use of Nicollet. Metro Transit and the city of Minneapolis experimented with diverting buses from Nicollet to Hennepin Avenue in evening hours to reduce noise starting in 2005. In December 2009, the "MARQ2" project partly funded by the federal government under the Urban Partnership Agreement was completed where two-lane busways were built along the parallel roads Marquette and 2nd Avenue South.[7] A system of lettered gates was established where buses would only stop every other block along those two 1-mile corridors. NexTrip digital signs with arrival times were also added, though they weren't functioning at the beginning of the rollout. NexTrip information has also been available through the Metro Transit website since 2008, and can be accessed with mobile web browsers.[8]

Since 1991, Metro Transit buses have been allowed to use "bus-only shoulders" road shoulders to bypass traffic jams. Currently, buses are allowed to travel no more than 35 mph or 15 mph faster than the congested traffic in the general purpose lanes. Bus drivers have to be very attentive when taking the bus onto the shoulder, since that part of the road is only about one foot wider than the buses in many cases. To help with this issue, researchers at the University of Minnesota helped rig up a bus with a lane-keep system along with a heads-up display connected to a radar system to alert the driver of any obstacles. The technology was an adaptation of a system previously tested with drivers of snowplows, and made some headlines in the early 2000s decade. It appears this system will be more widely deployed under the Urban Partnership Agreement that assisted in the Marq2 project.[9]

At least two full bus rapid transit lines are in the process of being constructed. The Orange Line is currently scheduled to open for revenue service in 2012 with the introduction of station-to-station service, while the Red Line is scheduled to begin station-to-station service in the fourth quarter of 2012. These are expected to serve a mixture of Metro Transit and Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA) buses. Another corridor, the Bottineau Boulevard Transitway leading northwest out of Minneapolis was planned to be a busway, but officials re-examined the idea following the success of the Hiawatha Line light rail line and are now conducting an Alternatives Analysis to select a mode and alignment in that corridor.

Commuter and light rail service

The Northstar Corridor opened on Monday November 16, 2009. Several other lines are on the drawing board along with additional light rail projects. The Central Corridor light rail line, which will run between the downtown areas of St. Paul and Minneapolis via University Avenue, is currently under construction and is expected to begin operation in 2014.

Other potential projects in the future include commuter rail lines: Northern Lights Express, Red Rock Corridor, Rush Line, and the Bethel Corridor; light rail lines: Southwest Corridor, Northwest/Bottineau Boulevard Transitway, and the Robert Street Corridor.

Route list

Metro Transit, the regional opt-out providers, and the University of Minnesota bus system use a unified numbering scheme for transit routes, so there should not be any numbering collisions between the systems.

Hi-Frequency Network and night owl services

Metro Transit Hi-Frequency logo.svg

The Hi-Frequency Network was created on September 9, 2006. It includes routes that run 15 minutes or faster on Monday–Friday 6 am–7 pm and Saturday 9 am–6 pm. The routes that are included are portions of routes 5, 6, 10, 18, 19, 21, 64, 84, 515, and the entire length of routes 16, 54, and 55.

A small number of routes run 24 hours a day in "night owl" service. These include routes 5, 16, and 19.

The play 21A by local humorist Kevin Kling is based on his experiences taking the 21 bus, which runs along Lake Street in Minneapolis and Marshall and Selby Avenues in Saint Paul. The play ran locally and in Louisville, Kentucky before running off-Broadway in New York City in 1986.[10]



Metro Transit operates the Gillig Phantom (majority of the fleet), Gillig Advantage, New Flyer D60HF, D60LF, D60LFR and MCI D4500.

In the middle of the 2000s decade, most buses had a largely white livery with a predominantly blue strip running horizontally along the side. In addition, buses have a large white "T" inside a red circle on their roofs. Diesel-electric hybrid buses introduced toward the end of the decade spurred new color schemes with yellow at the front and the blue line moved above the side windows. The Hiawatha Line light-rail vehicles have a different color scheme, being predominantly black and gray, with yellow used on each end. Metro Transit uses vehicle wrap advertising on some buses and light rail cars, which can lead to a different appearance.

All of the buses are handicapped-accessible, either using hydraulic lifts or a low-floor design. The Metropolitan Council also operates the Metro Mobility paratransit system for door-to-door transportation.

Additionally, all Metro Transit buses, light rail, and heavy rail have bike racks installed[11]


Bombardier Flexity Swift vehicles are operated on the Hiawatha Line light rail line. New vehicles for the Hiawatha Line and all vehicles for the future Central Corridor light rail line will be Siemens S70 Avanto vehicles.[12][13] . Rolling stock for the Northstar Commuter Rail line, and consists of Bombardier BiLevel Coaches pulled by MotivePower MP36 locomotives.

See also

Other Metropolitan Council services:

Opt-out and regional providers:


  1. ^ a b c "About Metro Transit". Metro Transit. Retrieved April 27, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Ridership Report Archives". American Public Transportation Association. Retrieved October 31, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "A bold experiment: the Metropolitan Council at 40". Metropolitan Council. Retrieved December 16, 2009. 
  4. ^ Jeff Severns Guntzel (May 19, 2008). "A train linking Minneapolis and St. Paul? We had that scoop in 1984". City Pages. Retrieved 2010-02-17. 
  5. ^ "ALL ABOARD: For the Transit Study that Never Ends". City Pages. September 5, 1984. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Faster express service is coming to downtown Minneapolis". Metro Transit. Retrieved December 16, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Exactly when is my next bus departing?". Metropolitan Council. May 14, 2009. Retrieved December 17, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Minneapolis Urban Partnership Agreement". Urban Partnership Agreement and Congestion Reduction Demonstration Programs. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  10. ^ Walter Goodman (May 21, 1986). "Theater: Kevin Kling in '21A' Off Broadway". New York Times. Retrieved January 8, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Metro Transit - Bike Options". 
  12. ^ "Central Corridor Contracts Awarded". Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  13. ^ "FTA Signs Agreement to Fund Central Corridor". Retrieved 20 September 2011. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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