A Metro Transit city bus glides through downtown Minneapolis. Fourteen of 17 bus routes serving Minnetonka go downtown, but that might soon change.

Brendan Sullivan, Special To The Star Tribune


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Metro Transit may expand bus service in Minnetonka

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH
  • Star Tribune
  • May 26, 2012 - 6:51 PM

More Metro Transit buses may be in Minnetonka in the near future.

As in other outer-ring suburbs, most of the buses serving the city are for commuters or students heading to downtown Minneapolis or the University of Minnesota during peak travel times. Fourteen of 17 bus routes serving Minnetonka go downtown. The rest of the routes mostly serve eastern Minnetonka during the day.

That leaves residents like Yelian Akpovo, who lives in an apartment on the north side of the city, wanting more mid-day bus options so she can run errands or shop.

"The transit here is pretty good, but I'd like to go more places," said Akpovo, who was one of several residents at a public input session last week.

Fewer than 4 percent of Minnetonka households don't have access to a car, but Metro Transit senior planner Steve Mahowald said there are places, such as low-income apartment complexes or senior housing, that could benefit from more mid-day options.

"We know there's a need," he said.

Metro Transit paid $78,000 to national company, Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates, to analyze bus services in other similar cities -- Eden Prairie, Plymouth, Blaine and six suburbs of Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle, Cleveland and Boston. It's the first time Metro Transit has conducted such a national review of local suburban services, Mahowald said.

Years ago, Eden Prairie tried local busing beyond routes to downtown Minneapolis, but couldn't sustain it and it was cut, he said. Other cities have had success by anchoring bus routes to major destinations. For example, in Minnetonka, that could mean more routes between Ridgedale and a future Southwest Corridor light rail station in Eden Prairie.

"It tends to be a challenge in communities like Minnetonka," Mahowald said of adding public transportation.

In a city questionnaire, 19 percent of Minnetonka residents said in 2011 that they'd taken a bus in the past two years, with 13 percent riding a bus daily. Of bus riders, 28 percent took it to work, 51 percent took it to special events, the State Fair or sports events and 11 percent took it shopping.

While the transit study isn't complete yet, consultants are considering possible new local mid-day routes and extended or adjusted current routes.

By the end of June, they'll present recommendations to the Met Council and the city of Minnetonka. Then, they'll work on cost estimates and continue to get public input, he said. No changes would take effect before next March.

While resident James Lorenzen mostly uses Metro Transit buses to go to downtown Minneapolis for work every day, all the proposed routes would go by his house in west Minnetonka.

"Would I use it? Probably not, but it's an option," he said. "I think it would be helpful for a lot of people."

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141 Twitter: @kellystrib

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