Metro Transit is out with its quarterly schedule revisions, and new timetables show that Green Line trains will be 3 minutes faster between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Trip times between Target Field in Minneapolis and Union Depot in St. Paul will drop from 48 minutes to 45 starting Saturday, the same day that adjustments to 23 bus routes take effect.
At least on paper they will.
Trains won’t be rolling any faster along University Avenue, so Metro Transit hopes to shave time off the 11-mile trip by eliminating as much dead time as possible.
When Green Line trains began rolling in June, it was not uncommon for trips from one end of the line to the other to exceed 50 minutes. Even now — nine months later — they occasionally still do. But transit officials say they’ve identified places where trains have been forced to sit unnecessarily, sometimes for up to a minute or two at a time. For riders, that makes a long trip seem even longer.
In recent months, new technology called Predictive Priority was installed at five intersections with low traffic volumes between the State Capitol and Westgate Station. It allows a train to “call” a traffic control box and signal its arrival. While the technology does not give trains priority over vehicles or pedestrians at stop lights, it prompts the traffic control unit to complete its cycle and serve trains as soon as possible, thus giving trains a better chance of hitting a green light.
So far, “it’s been working fantastic” at keeping trains rolling and needing less time to get between some stations, said Brian Funk, director of light-rail operations for Metro Transit.
The current schedule, for example, allows westbound trains 20 minutes to travel from Union Depot to Snelling Avenue. With fewer or shorter red lights, the trip has been averaging 18 minutes.
But when a train arrives early at Snelling, it sits for 2 minutes so it doesn’t run ahead of schedule. If anything happens after that, say excessively long red lights farther down the line, trains lose time and trips take longer than the published 48 minutes, Funk said.
“That’s not good for anybody,” he said. “We could be doing better if we were not holding ourselves back, so we’ve shifted time to better reflect the conditions.”
Funk said Metro Transit can save an additional minute by better coordinating trains running between the Warehouse District and Target Field stations in downtown Minneapolis where the Green Line shares tracks with the Blue Line.
In January, the Green Line provided 643,211 weekday rides and 190,892 rides on weekends and holidays.
Meanwhile, digital ads will be coming to rail platforms soon. Metro Transit renewed its contract with Titan, the advertising giant that has managed the advertising on Metro Transit buses, trains and platforms for the past seven years. As part of the deal that will bring the agency a minimum of $23.45 million over the next five years, Titan is planning to install small high-definition screens that will flash everything from lottery numbers to special events to messages from nonprofits and local retailers, said Marcus Bolton, general manager of Titan’s Minneapolis operations.
Likely locations include Target Field, Nicollet Mall, Union Depot, Mall of America and busy park-and-ride lots, he said.