The Apple Valley Transit Station parking ramp is now bigger, better, and as of Monday, back open.

Bus riders have been using nearby temporary lots for the past six months while the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority carried out an $8 million expansion and renovation project that included adding two levels to the parking structure at Cedar Avenue and 155th Street.

On Monday, parking will be allowed on the first two levels only. The third level will open in about a week, and the newly added fourth and fifth levels are anticipated to open by the end of the month or in early January, said Richard Crawford, transit agency spokesman.

"Customers have been patient with us, but they have been looking forward to getting it open," he said.

They also are looking forward to having an easier time finding a place to park.

Last year more than 668,000 passengers began or ended trips at the Apple Valley Transit Station. The station is served by six local and express bus routes that provide service to neighboring suburbs and downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The Metro Red Line, which provides rapid bus service from Apple Valley to the Mall of America, also stops at the station.

With many of those riders leaving their cars at the park-and-ride lot, the ramp's 768 spaces were constantly full.

Over the past two years, 96 to 99% of parking spaces were occupied daily, according to Metropolitan Council reports on park-and-ride usage.

It was one of the metro area's most used park-and-rides, and bus riders often had to use nearby overflow lots to find a parking spot, Crawford said.

With the addition of two more levels, the transit station will have more than 1,100 parking spaces, which should ease the crunch, Crawford said.

As parking resumes, crews will be finishing work on a second elevator and the structure's new facade. Other improvements include new LED lighting, additional security cameras and changes to make it easier to get access to the ramp at main entrance points.

It's the first major update since the ramp opened in 2009.

MVTA routes 475 and 480, which have been stopping at the old transit station a block away on Gaslight Drive during construction, will continue stopping there for the next few weeks.

The express lines will shift to the parking ramp when the fourth level opens, Crawford said.

The reopening of the ramp is another milestone for MVTA. The agency serving seven suburbs south of the Minnesota River in October was named the Transit System of the Year by the Minnesota Public Transit Association.

In June, MVTA launched an on-demand ride service that allows passengers to schedule a trip through a smartphone app or companion website and go anywhere within the boundaries of Savage.

In August, the agency debuted its Ride MVTA app that provides mobile ticketing options, trip planning and real-time bus information.

The agency also saw record State Fair ridership, providing 97,291 rides to and from the fair, an increase of 13% over the previous year.

A new shuttle service to Vikings games launched this year, too.

Even with all that, overall ridership is down about 1% over the first 11 months of the year when compared with the same period in 2018, Crawford said.

MVTA serves Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan, Prior Lake, Savage, Shakopee and Rosemount.

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