New park and ride expected to relieve congestion
A new park and ride location near Interstate 94 is expected to relieve congestion at existing facilities with 10 additional express bus trips leaving from Woodbury.
Metro Transit officials said they are in the process of acquiring a property at I-94 and Manning Avenue that will have 550 parking spaces for commuters to downtown Minneapolis.
"There will be expanded service to Woodbury," said Maurice Roers, manager of facilities planning at Metro Transit. "We'll be adding new express service, but we won't be adding any mid-day (service)."
Metro Transit had previously considered expanding the most used park and ride lot at Woodbury Theatre into a parking ramp. The $13 million project would've been funded in part by the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality federal program.
But Metro Transit officials decided not to submit the grant application in 2011 since they were already planning to start construction on the new Manning Avenue facility in 2014.
"We think we maybe would've been competitive for the funding," Roers said, "but we likely would've gotten funding for something that we didn't need."
So the organization decided to wait and assess new demand after opening the Manning Avenue park and ride in late 2014.
And since nearly doubling the number of spaces at Oakdale's Guardian Angels Catholic Church in 2009, demand for the Woodbury Theatre location has decreased.
"After the Guardian Angels (park and ride) was expanded we found that growth at the Woodbury Theatre kind of plateaued," Roers said.
According to a 2012 Metro Transit survey, the Woodbury Theatre park and ride, which has 550 spaces, was at 86 percent of capacity, while the Guardian Angels site one was almost full with 405 out of the 435 spaces being used.
Metro Transit expects about 200 of those using existing locations, including Christ Episcopal Church and Woodbury Lutheran Church, will use the new park and ride on the northeast side of Woodbury.
The new location was also chosen based on anticipated population growth, Roers said, and it's conveniently located to tie into existing I-94 bus service.
Five additional trips are planned for the morning rush hour and another five will run during the evening. Metro Transit isn't planning midday service at this point since ridership projections, based on population, employer locations and other factors, don't call for it.
"In the case of Woodbury there is likely a lower demand," Roers said.
Service has been added as ridership in the east metro has grown. According to Metro Transit figures, from the end of 2007 to the end of 2012, the number of trips on routes 351, 353, 355, and 375 has increased from 54 to 64. Two more trips were added to Route 355 in May, bringing the current total to 66.
Studies are under way for expanded transit as part of the Gateway Corridor project. Planners are currently assessing the social, economic and environmental impact of a dedicated bus rapid transit or light rail transit line along Hudson Road from downtown St. Paul to Woodbury.
The 20-month study began in June and is the second phase in the process of identifying the best transit system for the east metro. Depending on federal and local funding, a new system could be operational by 2022.