U, Metro Transit collaborate to better serve students

Heather Fors

With new parking lots in St. Paul, new bike racks along Church Street and on more buses, and new bus routes between campuses, University travellers face considerable challenges in adapting to the new systems.
Other changes include a new bus transfer system on campus and city buses, and extended night service on the campus express buses, which travel between the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses.

ù Students don’t even need a coupon to cash in on the extra half-hour the route 50U buses will save them when traveling between Minneapolis and St. Paul along Washington and University avenues.
Taking the place of the cancelled route 16U, 50U buses will run about every half hour from 5 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Where the 16U ride used to take about an hour from the first stop to the last, it now takes just more than a half-hour.
The route 50U buses stop at all points on campus where 16U buses used to stop.
The new route offers customers a “double benefit,” said Bob Gibbons, director of customer service for Metro Transit. Not only does it help people move faster along University Avenue, the 50U also takes a load off route 16 service.
The route 16 buses alone make up the second most heavily used route in the Metro Transit bus system.

ù In an effort to convert drivers into passengers, Metro Transit will be giving away goodie bags full of treats and bus information to commuters parking in the Huron Boulevard lots today.
The 2,500 bags will be given out from 6:30 to 9 a.m. or until the bags run out.
Parking officials want to encourage more commuters to ride the bus to campus. But if that’s not possible, carpooling is the next best thing, said Bob Baker, director of Parking and Transportation Services.
To promote the carpool lots, parking services employees will be handing out free doughnuts at different carpool lots throughout Twin Cities campuses.
Carpoolers can receive doughnuts in lot 33 on Sept. 28, in lot 36 on Sept. 29, in lot 94 on Sept. 30, and in St. Paul lot SC108 on Oct. 1.

ù To help ease congestion on campus and throughout the metro area, parking officials offered a few transit tips:
1) Choose the bus rather than the car. If the bus isn’t feasible, consider carpooling, which is the cheapest parking on campus at $1.25 a day in carpool lots before noon.
2) If driving is necessary, the contract park and ride lot on Como Avenue in St. Paul can save commuters quite a wad of money. The lot still has many available spots.
Not only is it cheaper than the other contract spots at $23 a month or $69 a quarter, it comes with a special bus pass that allows riders to go anywhere, any time on any bus.
3) Get here early.
“And early is not 10 a.m.,” Baker said.
4) For those who live near or on campus, Baker suggests biking and walking, reminding students that “walking burns off those beer calories.”

ù To make busing a little easier and more attractive to riders, Metro Transit initiated a new transfer system during the summer. Where transfers used to work only for buses going in the same direction, they can now be used to ride any buses in any direction for two and a half hours.
This system is more flexible for people going from one bank to another or even just taking a quick jaunt downtown, said Maria Cone, marketing specialist from Metro Transit who handles University affairs.

Another feature recently adopted by the University to make commuting by bus a little cheaper is the 10 percent discount available to students, staff and faculty on 31-day passes. Bus riders can also get 5 percent off stored value cards.

ù Bikes have also been racking up some attention with transit officials. Not only were 80 new racks installed along the section of Church Street extending from Lind Hall to the Mechanical Engineering Building, racks were also mounted to the Minneapolis route 6 buses which service St. Paul, West Bank and Dinkytown.

ù Starting this quarter, students can hop aboard the Campus Express, formerly called the 13-R. The bus takes its passengers all over campus between 10 p.m. and 1:40 a.m. Monday through Friday and from 9:20 p.m. to 1:40 a.m. Saturday, Sunday and during finals week.
In revamping, revising and improving this route, officials from parking services wanted to have the buses run faster and later.
These route changes came about because of complaints from students residing in Bailey Hall and other students who were stuck if they took night classes that ended at 10 p.m.
Anyone can ride the free express buses.
All other campus buses will also be making their rounds in full form starting Sept. 21.
The route 52 buses will keep up their established schedules from last year, and the Circulators, Connectors and Paratransit will remain basically unchanged.

ù Several parking lots and ramps have also seen changes over the summer.
The Mayo garage is now totally contract, while the Buckeye lot has been split into east and west sections, reserving half for student contract parking while the other half remains open for public daily use.
There are also two new lots open for public access on the St. Paul campus. Lot S109 and S106 are available at an hourly rate of $1.60 until 4 p.m., when the fee switches to a flat rate of $3.50. To accommodate the new parking facilities, Buford Ave. in St. Paul will permanently switch from a one-way street to a two-way street starting Sept. 21.
A little-known parking alcove on the corner of Washington and Oak also is available for public, daily parking until construction on the Gateway parking ramp begins. The rate for that lot is $2.50 a day.