Too many riders and not enough seats, that's the situation some afternoon commuters who ride Maple Grove Transit Route 785 are facing.
The transit agency operates nine trips from downtown Minneapolis to the newly expanded Parkway Station in Maple Grove. Passengers who take the third and fifth trips at 4:08 p.m. and 4:40 p.m. respectively have had standing room only conditions while northbound trips departing a few minutes later have seating available. To that end, transit spokesman Mike Opatz is encouraging riders on trips three and five to consider waiting five to seven minutes for a bus which has seating available.
"This is the behavior we are encouraging," he said. Trips at 4:13 p.m. and 4:47 p.m. "are by no means empty, but only half to 3/4 full."
The route has been extremely popular since a new ramp was opened at the Parkway Station off I-94 and Maple Grove Pkwy. From August 2013 to August 2014 ridership on the line rose from 13,900 a month to 15,300, Opatz said.
Some riders have wondered why Maple Grove Transit just doesn't add another bus or two. It's not that simple, Opatz said.
For starters, the agency has only so many buses and there are budget constraints. The agency may get up to four new buses in 2015 those could be added to Route 785, allowing the agency to restructure trip times, Opatz said
Additionally, the 2nd Avenue bus lane downtown allows for only one to two buses per minute to keep things flowing. Maple Grove Transit has to share that corridor with other providers, including SouthWest Transit, Metro Transit and Minnesota Valley Transit Authority.
With 4 p.m. being the most popular time for downtown workers to catch Maple Grove Transit buses, the agency is moving up trips four and six by 1 minute to close the gap between trips three and four and five and six. All four trips operate between 4 and 5 p.m. Opatz hopes that will help balance the ridership on those runs.
Another option for riders is to use the park and ride ramp at Arbor Lakes and catch a ride on Route 781, he said.
A survey of license plates showed that riders who use the Parkway Station come from 28 different cities from the northwest suburbs and exurbs such as Otsego, Monticello, Albertville, St. Michael and Hanover.
Here is the current northbound schedule for Route 785.