West metro commuters gave Metro Transit plenty of feedback about its proposal to alter some bus routes this summer — especially plans to trim service on the earliest and latest express trips to downtown.
The proposed changes, based on recommendations from the 2012 Minnetonka Transit Study, mark a shift to providing more local service while consolidating routes and reducing hours for express routes to and from downtown Minneapolis.
The agency solicited feedback from riders for a variety of proposed tweaks at public meetings April 1 and 3.
Out of the 80 comments it had received as of last week on the West Suburban Service Changes project, the No. 1 complaint was about plans to trim express bus service to downtown, according to John Siqveland, a public relations manager for Metro Transit.
The proposed changes would include consolidating five express routes into four and eliminating duplicated route segments and those with low ridership on the fringes of rush hours. Overall weekday express service would be reduced by about 12 hours.
Routes 665 and 667E would be on the chopping block, and a new route, 667H, would carry passengers from Hwy. 7 and County Road 73 to downtown via Hwy. 169, Minnetonka Boulevard, Hwy. 100 and Interstate 394. Routes 664, 670 and 671 also would be subject to route and time alterations.
The proposal also includes three additions to local service. Route 614 would be a new service running between Ridgedale and Minnetonka Heights from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturdays. Route 615, which travels through Hopkins and St. Louis Park to and from Ridgedale, would run a half-hour earlier in the morning and two hours later at night.
Two Route 9 evening round trips would be extended to the “N” terminal in the County Road 73/Greenbrier Road area of Minnetonka. Overall, service would increase on local routes by approximately 16 hours during weekdays and six hours on Saturdays.
The Metropolitan Council’s Transportation Committee will meet May 13 to discuss adjustments to the proposals, and the final plan will be presented to the Met Council on May 22. All changes are scheduled to go into effect on Aug. 24.
Siqveland said there was a healthy turnout of a total of about 70 transit customers at the two meetings in early April. Comment acceptance ended on Sunday.
A decade of small tweaks
It had been 10 years since Metro Transit’s previous “sector study” on west metro service, which constitutes only 0.5 percent of the agency’s annual ridership, although bus schedules are tweaked quarterly.
“We’re always looking for the best match between existing resources and the markets we serve,” said Siqveland. “In this particular case, we saw that there were some new markets that could be served by additional local service, as well as some express routes that weren’t performing that well.”
Cities affected by the transit shake-up include Minnetonka, Hopkins, St. Louis Park, Deephaven, Greenwood, Excelsior, Shorewood and Tonka Bay. A full list of proposed changes is available at www.metrotransit.org/west-suburban-service-changes, and hard copies are available at the Excelsior, Minnetonka, Ridgedale, Hopkins, St. Louis Park, Golden Valley and downtown Minneapolis libraries.