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|Locale||Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area|
|Transit type||Light rail (LRT)
Bus rapid transit (BRT)
|Number of lines||2 LRT lines
2 BRT lines
|Line number||Blue Line
|Number of stations||41|
|Website||What is METRO?|
|Began operation||26 June 2004|
Minnesota Valley Transit Authority
Metro (styled as METRO) is a high-capacity transport network serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. As of 2016, the system consists of two light rail lines (the Blue and Green Lines, operated by Metro Transit), along with the Red Line, a bus rapid transit extension of the Blue Line operated by the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority. The three lines connect Downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul with Bloomington and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, with several extensions in the planning stages.
Service along the entire length of the Green Line operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, a rarity among light rail lines in the United States, but present on some heavy rail lines such as the New York City Subway and PATH. Metro Transit also provides 24/7 service between the stations serving the Lindbergh and Humphrey terminals of MSP Airport.
In the 1970s, roughly contemporaneous with the construction of Washington D.C.'s Metro system and San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit, the newly formed Metropolitan Council contemplated the creation of a similar mass transit for the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, but the idea was eventually abandoned due to opposition from the Minnesota Legislature. For the next few decades, there were repeated proposals to build light rail along several corridors, particularly the University Avenue corridor between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul (the present Green Line), but the idea of light rail only gained steam in the late 90s.
In 1999, the Minnesota Legislature approved funding for the first line (the present Blue Line) along Hiawatha Avenue (initially named the Hiawatha Line) in south Minneapolis, which opened in 2004. In 2011, in anticipation of the opening of the Red Line and Green Line, and in order to help passengers better identify with each of the routes, Metro Transit announced that the system would be rebranded and each line assigned a unique color. The first phase of the Red Line opened in mid-2013, and the first phase of the Green Line (also known as the Central Corridor) in mid-2014. Extensions are planned to bring the system into the western metro area, with construction anticipated near the end of the decade.
The current Metro system consists of three separate projects. There are two light rail lines (the Blue Line and the Green Line), which together run on a little more than one-mile of shared track through downtown Minneapolis. The BRT Red Line serves as an extension of the Blue Line across the Minnesota River, where it connects with southern suburbs at four different stations. Low ridership projections would have made the required bridge for an extension of the Blue Line economically infeasible.
Together, the two light rail lines run on 21.8 miles (35.1 km) of route. There are a total of 41 stations; 5 shared between the Green and Blue Lines, 1 shared between the Blue and the Red, 4 exclusively for the Red, 13 for the Blue and 18 for the Green. The main hub of the system is Target Field Station in Minneapolis, though Union Depot in St. Paul is envisioned as an additional future hub.
Trains run approximately every 10 minutes throughout the day, with reduced schedules at night and on weekends. All stations have electronic displays that show predicted real-time departure information, known as NexTrip. Predicted real-time departure information is also available through Metro Transit's website.
Metro uses a proof-of-payment system, requiring riders to carry tickets at all times. Fares are purchased before boarding, either at ticket machines located in the stations or by scanning a Go-To card at dedicated pedestals. Tickets are valid for 2 1/2 hours after purchase, with transfers available to other Metro lines as well as any Metro Transit bus routes. Within the two Downtown Zones of Minneapolis and St. Paul, tickets are 50 cents; otherwise they follow normal Metro Transit fares:
In addition, passes are available for various lengths of time or numbers of trips at appropriate discounts. In addition, students at the University of Minnesota have the option of purchasing U-Passes, which give unlimited rides throughout the semester.
Several expansion projects are planned for the Metro system, at various stages of completion.
The C Line is a planned bus rapid transit route to run from downtown Minneapolis to the Brooklyn Center Transit Center.
Construction was originally targeted for 2017, pending full project funding. As of April 2016, the timeline for the C Line has been adjusted to target 2018 construction instead. Full funding for the project has still yet to be identified, and a 2018 construction schedule offers better opportunities to coordinate C Line construction with other road projects on Brooklyn Boulevard and Penn Avenue. Metro Transit is working to advance project engineering over 2016-2017 to begin construction in 2018.
The Green Line extension (also known as the Southwest LRT) is a planned expansion of the Green Line, to run from Target Field Station to several southwestern suburbs. The project is in late planning stages and is expected to be completed by 2021. The project is expected to cost approximately $2 billion USD.
The Orange Line is a planned bus rapid transit route to run along I-35W from Minneapolis south into Richfield, Bloomington and Burnsville, with plans to later extend into Lakeville. The Orange Line will parallel the Red Line approximately 3 miles to the east. It is expected to be in operation in 2019.
The Gold Line is a planned bus rapid transit route to run along Interstate 94 from St. Paul Union Depot to Woodbury.
There are also numerous proposals in early planning stages for routes along Interstate 394 from Minneapolis to Wayzata, Highway 169 from Minneapolis to Shakopee, Interstate 35 from Minneapolis and St. Paul to Forest Lake, Highway 36 from St. Paul to Stillwater and Highway 61 from St. Paul to Hastings (Red Rock Corridor).
The Metro system's rail lines use a combination of exclusive and shared right-of-way, depending on the circumstances. Within the two Downtown Zones, trains run on surface streets in an exclusive right-of-way, without preemption. The Blue Line runs primarily alongside Hiawatha Avenue (Minnesota State Highway 55), along land originally acquired for expansion of that highway, except for a brief stretch in a tunnel underneath Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The Green Line runs along the median of University Avenue in an exclusive right-of-way, except for a brief stretch of the Washington Avenue Transit Mall where its tracks are shared with buses. The Blue Line's at-grade crossings are protected by automated grade crossing gates; the Green Line's crossings move in regular traffic, with signal priority but no preemption.
Since the completion of three-car station extensions in winter 2010, Metro Transit operates one-, two- and three-car trains on the Blue Line, depending on the time of day and ridership needs. Many stations on the line were initially built to be capable of serving only one- or two-car trains, as a cost-saving measure; all of the shorter platforms were designed and built with future extension in mind and currently all stations are capable of serving three-car trains. The Green Line was built with three-car platforms at all stations.
Currently two models of LRVs run in the Metro system.
Type I LRVs were manufactured by Bombardier Transportation, in its Flexity Swift design, utilizing a low floor for accessible boarding at all stations. Metro Transit operates 27 vehicles on the lines, numbered 101 through 127. Initially painted with Metro Transit livery, all have been repainted as of 2015 to reflect the Metro system branding. During this time, Type I cars also were retrofitted with colored LCD headboards for route destination displays and other improvements.
Type II LRVs are manufactured by Siemens in their S70/Avanto model. 59 vehicles have been ordered, primarily to serve the Green Line. Type II LRVs are mechanically, but not electronically, compatible with the current fleet of 27 "type I" vehicles, so while the two generations do run on the tracks at the same time and both types are able to push a malfunctioning unit of the other type, multiple-unit consists may only be assembled of one type.
Media related to Metro Transit (Minneapolis-Saint Paul) at Wikimedia Commons