Green Line schedule lowering travel time

A week or so ago, MPR News reported that during testing of the new Green Line light-rail route, trains were taking about an hour to go from Union Depot in Saint Paul to Target Field, well above the 39 minutes of the original projections.

Transit officials insisted that once the trains were timed with traffic lights along the route, the travel time would come down. And, apparently they have, but not as much as they’d hoped.

The official Green Line schedule has now been posted at Metro Transit’s web site and the total time for the route is slated to be 48 minutes.

There are no cases where the time between stations is any longer than 3 minutes and while 48 minutes is longer than the 39-minute projection, not a lot of people will take the train all the way from Union Depot to Target Field.

During morning rush hour, for example, anyone leaving downtown Saint Paul at 7:45, will be at the University of Minnesota in under half an hour. That’s not bad, and probably more than competitive with taking a car, by the time you find a parking place… if you find a parking place. Taking the 16 bus on the route will take longer, according to the schedule.

Similarly, anyone living near the Midway area of Saint Paul can be in downtown Minneapolis in about 25 minutes. Again, that’s not bad.

And it’s true, of course, that you can often drive to Minneapolis in a shorter amount of time, but that doesn’t tell the entire story, either. Today provides a perfect example. If you wanted to take in today’s Twins game, you could get from Saint Paul to the area of Target Field in about 25 minutes driving, but once you’re there, finding a parking place is nearly impossible what with downtown employees already using their parking spaces that are usually available for night games.

The first train to Saint Paul leaves around 4 a.m. on weekdays. The last train to Minneapolis leaves Saint Paul leaves at 2:14 a.m.

For weekend service, you’ll have to print out the entire schedule. The weekend schedule tool on the website doesn’t work yet.

Update 2:28 p.m. – There’s some discussion (in the comments section) about when Metro Transit began using the 39, 40-minute figures to be from “downtown to downtown” rather than from beginning of the line to the end of the line. Here’s a 2010 newsletter. See the bottom paragraph on page one.

  • Tyler

    Honestly, who expected this to be an express line?

    Also, was the 39-minute number estimated before or after local businesses lobbied for extra stops?

    • I think having it be express-LIKE was a natural conclusion from the announcement that a bus route that plows the identical route would continue.

      I didn’t have a spot to slip it in but it’s also worth noting it will now be a very short and efficient trip from downtown Saint Paul to White Castle for lunch or dinner.

      • badphairy

        Fie on White Castle, however Big Daddy’s and J&J’s are now easily reachable in a lunch hour from DT SP.

    • Nicholas Kraemer

      It does not matter if you expected it to be an express line or not. What matters is whether or not what was promised was delivered. As Bob points out below, depending on how the original claim is interpreted, they are meeting that goal. Be that as it may, from what was originally promised, I would have thought that I would be able to get from any station in one downtown to any station in the other in a time less than or equal to the time promised.

  • Nicholas Kraemer

    While 48 minutes is better, it still isn’t good enough. For those keeping score at home, 48 minutes is 23% slower than projected. When you look at it that way, the projections are not a little bit off, they are way off. The governor should institute a moratorium on any work on additional light rail lines until an investigation, into why and how the projections were so wrong, is complete. It really does not matter whether 48 minutes is good enough or not, Minnesotans were promised one result and, after a billion plus dollars, they have not gotten it.

    • Well, to be fair, the Metro Transit claim was 39 minutes “between downtowns.” Downtown East in Mpls to Central station in Saint Paul is 38 minutes under this schedule.

  • MrE85

    I’m willing to be the News Cut Unofficial Test Rider on Monday, June 16th. I’m not riding the route from end-to-end, but will be going from Target Field (if Northstar can get me there) to the Dale Street Station and back. My ride in will be very early, but the ride back will be in rush hour. I’ll report on my experience.

  • Gary

    I think MetroTransit always said about 40 minutes from Nicollet Mall to Central in StP. So 48 minutes from end-to-end isn’t way off from what was promised.

    Here’s a publication from January where they use the 40min figure: http://www.metrocouncil.org/News-Events/Transportation/Photos/GLFactSheet.aspx

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    I had trouble determining the start and end points for their claim over the years also.My contention has always been if we’re spending this much money for roughly the same travel time then let’s stop pretending it’s about transportation at all and admit it’s a however-much-it-cost urban redevelopment project.

    • badphairy

      While I agree, the attempt at making accountants say that out loud prompted a roomful of cold sweat and 5 voluntary resignations.

  • Allison

    I have frequently heard that the Green line is not expecting to have many of the passengers traveling from downtown to downtown. I strongly disagree. The people who live in the urban centers are the people less likely to have cars. There has also been a large shift in people moving to Saint Paul for cheaper housing prices while still working in downtown MPLS. I don’t see people needing to stop along the Midway stops that often.

    • I was just thinking the other day, it’s going to make lunch more appealing. I’m not limited to the “close at 2pm” downtown skyway joints. And I’ll use it for ballgames and just park the car at MPR.

      • Shawn

        Ahhh skyways – sounded great but were implemented poorly with no interaction with the streetscape at any hour let alone before 2PM – are negatively affecting the creation of a vibrant downtown environment. That’s a whole other discussion however.

        Agreed though, before 2pm = lame. More food choices is always a good development. 🙂

      • Matty Lang

        We can only hope that this will help the “close at 2pm” downtown skyway joints to choose to decide to move and join the “open (most of the time)” street level Green Line station facing joints that will be opening up.

    • badphairy

      I can’t WAIT for DT Mpls to be accessible again! Now I can have a couple of cocktails at a nice restaurant and not worry about driving home. Learn to 1. leave early 2. bring a book 3. stop worrying about 2-5 minutes, people, lighten up.

  • Mike Hicks

    Some downtown-to-downtown times and end-to-end times were included in the FAQ on the Met Council’s Central Corridor page a few years back. Here’s an Internet Archive page from 2011 saying 36 minutes DT-to-DT and “about 40 minutes” end-to-end: http://web.archive.org/web/20110612083026/http://www.metrocouncil.org/transportation/ccorridor/ccfaq.htm#travel

    I went to a meeting about rearranging bus service in the corridor in 2012 where this table was shown, indicating 41 minutes end-to-end: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mulad/12636665404/

    However, it’s worth comparing the travel times to the existing routes 16 (local, stopping on most blocks) and 50 (limited-stop, with stop spacing similar to the Green Line). Neither of those serve Union Depot today, so you have to drop out that stop when making the comparison. They both vary a lot through the day, while the Green Line will hopefully be much more consistent.

  • J F Hanson

    Let’s start the lottery on this one.

    As one who has driven University avenue frequently for the last nine months, I will bet that not only will they not meet 48 minutes but that the changes they will make to pedestrian and automobile/bus traffic flow will be so onerous that a whole new set of problems will emerge.

    Look for increased vehicle accidents and pedestrian injuries.

    My bet: 58 minutes with all the cheating they can do–for this billion-dollar, tax-money-wasted boondoggle.