Most light-rail stops are outfitted with button-activated heat, but heat remains hard to come by at bus stops outside of downtown. Based on average boardings at each stop, heated locations account for about 28 percent of daily rides in late 2013, including transit centers and park-and-rides. Some of those former bus riders along University Avenue may now be using heated light-rail stops.
Installing heat can cost between $15,000 and $75,000 extra for each shelter.
Michael McDowell, transit organizer for Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, said whether a shelter is heated or not, protection is needed in Minnesota’s climate.
“I’ve stood in negative 30 degree weather with windchill,” he said. “I can’t imagine a mother and children doing that.”
The top ridership stop without a shelter outside of the downtowns is Franklin and Nicollet avenues, where about 462 people board the No. 2 eastbound each day. A car destroyed its shelter in 2008, and the stop is on a list of priority sites for a new one.
Hennepin and 7th Street was the busiest bus stop in the entire Twin Cities until recently, when routes were changed. It now features a modest awning shelter that can fit several people, though about 4,000 people pass through the stop every day.
“There should be either a bigger one, or two of them, because one doesn’t cover for how many people are here throughout the day,” said rider Mauricio Majors, waiting for the No. 5.
Siqveland said a larger shelter with heat and light will be installed there in February 2015.
Fewer lights in North Side
McDowell, who has been interviewing North Side bus riders, believes north Minneapolis gets shortchanged with transit amenities — particularly given the area’s high ridership. Many people he has interviewed would like to see more lights at bus stops.
“There is crime on the North Side. A lot of people are concerned standing at these stops with there not being light,” he said. A map of lighted shelters bears that out, showing that just nine shelters on the North Side have light, though some others may be located at well-lit intersections. Lake Street and University Avenue, by comparison, each have several dozen.
Siqveland said it is more cost-effective to add utilities in conjunction with a major transportation project; Lake Street was rebuilt in 2008 and University Avenue was rebuilt for the new light-rail line.
Some of the corridors with high ridership stops and few shelters are along Fremont and Penn avenues in north Minneapolis, although they do have some shelters. Many of those passengers are waiting for buses headed to downtown, the northern suburbs and the Mall of America, McDowell said.
Metro Transit’s 2014 priority list includes six new shelters on Fremont Avenue, but Penn Avenue may wait until new rapid bus service comes to that corridor in 2017.
Research is limited on the impact of shelters on ridership, but McDowell thinks it makes a difference.
“If we have really nice stops, that reflects what type of transportation system we have and it makes people want to ride,” he said.