After a one-year absence, Metro Transit is bringing its Twinkle Bus back to the Holidazzle parades in downtown Minneapolis.
The popular rolling sound and light show with 23,000 bulbs that blink as stirring renditions of "Deck the Halls," "Sleigh Ride" and "Winter Wonderland" play will be featured in the parades which kick off at 6:30 p.m. tonight and continue through Dec. 23.
Twinkle Bus had been a fixture in the holiday parades since 1994, but when the Gillig Phantom bus was at the end of its 12-year service life in 2010, Metro Transit "retired" the bus and pulled it from the parade. And that left a void.
"We were nervous when we retired it,’ said Metro Transit John Siqveland. "We heard from the public and parade organizers, so it’s back. We are back in dramatic fashion."
A brand new yet-to-hit-the-streets hybrid-electric bus has been transformed into what Siqveland is dubbing "Twinkle Bus 2.0." Two mechanics spent five months installing five speakers, laying 3 miles of wire, building a frame to hold the 23,000 lights, and connecting it all to a circuit board to ready bus No. 7310 for its debut.
It cost $8,000 to retrofit the bus, which will be pressed into regular-route and express service when the Holidazzle parades end, Siqveland said.
Metro Transit employees dressed in costume will accompany the parade float as it makes its way down Nicollet Mall from 12th to 4th Street each night. Holidazzle runs Thursdays through Sundays.
The transit agency will run special Northstar Commuter trains on Saturday and Dec. 1, 8, 15 and 22. Trains will leave Big Lake at 3:06 p.m. and arrive at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis at 3:55 p.m. The train will depart at 8 p.m.
Metro Transit will offer free rides to Holidazzle on buses and the Hiawatha Light Rail from 4 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 8 and 15.