Metro area transit agencies have hired extra drivers, adjusted schedules and are putting more buses on the streets to serve thousands of riders who are expected to take express buses to the Minnesota State Fair.
Started two decades ago after Metro Transit pioneered the park and ride service for large events at the 1992 Super Bowl, the popular service was used by 467,000 times last year by patrons who either went to or from the fair. Over the past few years, SouthWest Transit and Minnesota Valley Transit Authority also shuttled fairgoers from park and ride lots, boosting the overall number of rides transit agencies provided last year to more than 588,000.
The three agencies will provide the service again this year. All will charge $5 for a round trip ticket that takes riders from parking lots and bus stations in the suburbs to the south gate of the State Fair on Como Avenue. Here are specifics for each agency:
Metro Transit will have 60 additional buses on the streets on weekdays and 70 on weekends to get people to and from the fair. Service will operate from 13 park and ride lots throughout the metro from 8 a.m. to midnight each day of the fair.
Daily service runs every 15 minutes from the National Sports Center in Blaine, Brookdale Square in Brooklyn Center, Parade Stadium in Minneapolis, across from the Mall of America in Bloomington and the I-394 and County 73 Park and Ride in Minnetonka.
Daily service will operate every 30 minutes from the Fridley Northstar Commuter Station lot, Marcus Cinema in Oakdale, Signal Hill Shopping Center in West St. Paul, the Maplewood Mall Transit Center and the Cottage Grove Park and Ride.
Weekend service will be provided from the Maple Grove Transit Center, Best Buy Lot at Knox Avenue in Richfield and Dunwoody Technical College in Minneapolis.
Metro Transit also will provide a special State Fair route No. 960, which will run along Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. This route formerly ran on Nicollet Mall.
Other regular route service that stop at the fairgrounds include Route 3, Route 61 and Route 84. Regular peak or off-peak fares apply.
The agency has hired 45 additional drivers and will deploy two new coaches when State Fair service begins on Thursday. SouthWest also will contract with First Transit so it will have extra buses dedicated for fair service.
New this year is that the last bus will leave the fairgrounds 15 minutes later than in past years, departing at 11:30 p.m. This will give those attending concerts and fireworks extra time to get to the bus stop on Como Avenue.
Last year SouthWest provided 72,000 rides. This year it will offer weekday service every 30 minutes starting at 8 a.m. from Wooddale Church, 6630 Shady Oak Road in Eden Prairie.
On weekends and Labor Day, service every 30 minutes will begin at 7 a.m. from SouthWest's Eden Prairie Transit Station at 13500 Technology Drive in Eden Prairie and SouthWest Village at Hwy. 212 and 101 in Chanhassen.
Cash only here as Metro Transit vouchers and advanced tickets will not be accepted.
Minnesota Valley Transit Authority
MVTA will offer State Fair service from three locations. Buses to the fair will run from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and return trips will operate from noon to midnight.
Weekday service will run every hour on the hour on weekdays from Burnsville High School, 600 E. Hwy. 13, and from the Burnsville Transit Station, Hwy. 13 and Nicollet Avenue.
Weekend service will be offered from the Burnsville Transit Station and the Eagan Transit Station, Yankee Doodle Road and Pilot Knob Road.
Riders are asked to use the Burnsville High lot on weekdays as space at the Burnsville Transit Station will be tight since commuters will be using the lots.
Metro Transit advanced bargain tickets will not be accepted on MVTA State Fair buses.