This has been quite a year for Nadine Babu. First she was named as the Woman of the Year by the Minnesota Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
On Thursday, she was honored as the 3 billionth customer to ride on Metro Transit buses and trains during a ceremony at the Uptown Transit Center in Minneapolis.
Babu, 34, of St. Louis Park, has been a bus rider since 1996 and was rewarded with a card that will allow her to take all the free bus rides she wants for a year.
" I love not having to pay for parking," she said as one of the reasons she rides the bus. "I can put on makeup, text, Facebook. I like the camaraderie on the bus."
Nobody knows for sure if Babu was the rider who pushed the transit agency over the big milestone, but she was the winner of a contest to pick the 3 billionth rider.
Ironically, as winner of the Leukemia Society's highest honor for raising more than $37,000 for blood cancer research, Babu got her face on scores of advertisements for the society that appear on Metro Transit buses. It's only a coincidence that she won the contest entered by more than 100 people, said General Manager Brian Lamb.
A team of transit agency employees judged Babu's story about the time she was razzed by fellow passengers for wearing a Green Bay Packers jersey while heading to a Vikings-Bears game two years ago at the Metrodome during a snowstorm as the most creative and exceptional.
Metro Transit was formed in 1967 when it began acquiring many of the routes operated by local bus companies. It started service in 1972 at the Metropolitan Transit Commission and reached 1 billion rides in 1984. It hit 2 billion in 1999.
An average of 260,000 people board Metro Transit buses and trains each day and more than 76 million ride annually, Lamb said.
The Vikings will try to beat the Green Bay Packers and clinch a playoff spot at 3:25 p.m. Sunday at the Metrodome.
If you're of those going to the game, here are a few tips on getting to and from the game:
For those who drive, the City of Minneapolis will block off the following streets in the vicinity of the Metrodome beginning at 10 a.m. and keep them free from traffic until 2 hours after the game ends, roughly 7 p.m:
5th Street between Park Avenue and 11th Avenue.
Chicago Avenue/Kirby Puckett Place from 3rd Street to 6th Street.
4th Street between Park Avenue and I-35W
Norm McGrew Place between 3rd and 4th Streets.
The Hiawatha Light Rail has been a popular way for fans to get to the game. But as game time approaches, cars are packed, so the best advice is to catch an early train.
Free parking is available at the 28th Avenue, Fort Snelling and Lake Street/Midtown stations. Northbound trains run about every 13 to 18 minutes until 10 a.m., then the frequency of service increases to about every 10 minutes.
Metro Transit will agument train service with Route 55 buses, that will shuttle passengers to the Metrodome and back to their vehicles after the game. The buses go directly to Fort Snelling and 28th Avenue Park & Ride lots.
Regular rail fare of $1.75 applies, or buy a 6-hour rail pass and avoid having to buy a second ticket to get back home.
The following Metro Transit routes serve the Metrodome:
From the north or south, Routes 5, 7, 14, 19 and 22
From the west, Routes 7 and 9
From the east, Routes 3, 16 and 94.
It's always congested around the Metrodome, so the best advice is to park away from the stadium and walk or catch a Metro Transit bus or light rail for 50 cents from your favorite ramp or lot.
It's also cheaper as lots closest to the dome charge $20 or more. Here are links to downtown ramps, http://www.minneapolismn.gov/parking/ramps/index.htm
Here is a link to downtown Minneapolis parking meters and rates, http://www.mplsparking.com/CurrentMeterMap.pdf
Parking for people with a handicap is available at the Hennepin County offices between 5th and 6th Streets on Park Avenue. Handicap street parking is also available between 3rd and 4th Streets on Chicago Avenue.
Outside bicycle parking is available cost free. The parking attendants at the loading dock entrance at 11th Avenue and 5th Street can direct you.