Whether you have been here at Macalester a few weeks or a few years, getting off campus can be a struggle. Students often have many questions, including what events are worth venturing away from Mac and how to get off campus in the first place.
I have put together a guide to the four most important transit routes you need to know and some tips on traveling throughout the Twin Cities.
Below is some general background info:
Rush Hours on the Metro Transit system run between 6 a.m.-9 a.m. and 3 p.m.-6:30 p.m. During Rush Hours, the bus fare increases to $2.25. During non-Rush Hours, the bus fare is $1.75. The buses will accept either cash, coins or a Go-To Pass. The Light Rail accepts all of these payments in addition to credit/debit card.
Remember to pay your fare, especially when riding the light rail. Metro Transit police stop people all the time, either on board or when you get off and ask to see your ticket. A fine for not paying your fare is $180. Ask the bus drivers if you have any questions; they are often extremely nice and helpful, and if they don’t know the answer to your question they can call someone who does know.
Route 84 is going to be one of your best friends. Route 84 runs between the 46th Street Station (the Light Rail Transit, or LRT) on the Blue Line (formerly known as the Hiawatha Line) to the south and Rosedale Mall to the north. There are many great locations near the line that runs along Ford Avenue and Snelling Avenue, including Minnehaha Park, Highland Park, University Avenue (at Snelling and University), the State Fair Grounds, and Har Mar Mall.
Route 84 runs every 15 minutes (high frequency) on weekdays between 6 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Route 84 is a perfect connection to the Blue Line, which connects Downtown Minneapolis to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport and Mall of America as well as other interesting communities like Lake Street at Hiawatha.
A word of caution: the 84 has several lettered lines: the 84F, 84H and 84D. The 84D does not go to the 46th Street Station, since it turns south off of Ford Parkway and goes toward West 7th Street. However, if you are trying to catch the northbound 84 from Macalester then all buses will go north towards Rosedale Mall.
Route 63 connects the University of St. Thomas to Downtown St. Paul and the Sun Ray Center in the East, running along Grand Avenue, with stops at Grand Avenue and Snelling Avenue.
The 63 runs less frequently than the 84—anywhere between every 13-30 minutes depending on the day and time. It is best to check Metro Transit’s website or Google Maps when using this route to figure out times.
Route 63 is the perfect connection to wonderful shops and restaurants at intersections along Grand Avenue (Grand & Lexington and Grand & Victoria, known as Victoria Crossing) where you can find Café Latte, Bread & Chocolate and J.Crew, which I visit all too often.
Route 63 then goes through Downtown St. Paul, passing the Landmark Center, which is one of the most beautiful sites in the area. The eastbound 63 runs along 5th Street in Downtown St. Paul, and the westbound runs along 6th Street. This can create some confusion when returning to campus—keep that in mind! Other important attractions in the vicinity of the 63 line are the Xcel Energy Center, Children’s Museum, Science Museum, and excellent dining options including Black Sheep Pizza, the Meritage, and Mickey’s Diner.
Route 63 exits downtown via 3rd Street and runs east towards the Sun Ray Center, although you probably won’t have to take it farther than Downtown St. Paul.
Route 21 connects Uptown in Minneapolis to Downtown St. Paul via Lake Street/Marshall Avenue/Selby Avenue. Lake Street only runs in Minneapolis and turns into Marshall Avenue in St. Paul.
Like Route 84, Route 21 runs every 15 minutes (high frequency) on weekdays between 6 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. You can catch Route 21 at blocks west of the Marshall and Snelling Avenues intersection: Marshall and Fry, Marshall and Wheeler, etc.
The 21 has an extensive route that hits many popular attractions in the Twin Cities including Lake Calhoun, Lake of the Isles, and finally Calhoun Square (a shopping mall) at Lake and Hennepin in Minneapolis at the route’s western terminus. Moving eastward from Uptown, it stops at the Chicago Lake Transit Center where the Midtown Exchange Building is located (a.k.a the Midtown Global Market). Once it crosses the Lake Street bridge into St. Paul, the 21 travels along Marshall Avenue and passes Izzy’s Ice Cream (one of the best ice cream places in the Twin Cities) at Marshall and Cleveland.
At the intersection of Marshall and Snelling, the 21 heads north to University where it turns right at Hamline Avenue. You will pass the Target Midway while going south.
Once the 21 reaches the intersection of Hamline and Selby it turns left and heads east towards the Cathedral Hill neighborhood and Downtown St. Paul. The Cathedral Hill neighborhood, one of my favorite neighborhoods in the Twin Cities, has many excellent restaurants: W.A. Frost, Nina’s Coffee Cafe and La Grolla, just to name a few.
After it passes through Cathedral Hill, the 21 goes into Downtown St. Paul where it again runs into the Science Museum, Children’s Museum, Union Depot and the Lowertown neighborhood.
Another word of caution: like Route 84, Route 21 has lettered lines. You can catch Route 21A, 21C, or 21D if you are heading east from Uptown. All lines will run along Lake Street, but only the 21D changes direction and runs south from Marshall on Cretin Avenue, ending at St. Thomas. If you are catching the bus at Marshall and Snelling, you will either take the 21A or 21C.
The Metro Blue Line is currently the only LRT line in the Twin Cities; it will be joined in mid-2014 by the Metro Green Line, which is currently under construction on University Avenue.
The Metro Blue Line uses the same fee structure as the bus system. Trains run from 4 a.m. to 1 a.m. everyday, arriving every 10 minutes during rush hour and around 15 minutes during non-rush hour.
The Blue Line connects Downtown Minneapolis to the Airport and Mall of America.
At the Mall of America, you can connect with many other bus routes and the new Metro Red Line. Leaving the Mall of America and heading north, the train stops at each of the two airport terminals. The train stops at several stations including the 50th/Minnehaha Park Station and the 46th Street Station where you can connect to Route 84, which will take you to Macalester.
Leaving the 46th Street Station, stops are made at Lake Street/Midtown Station where you can connect to Route 21 as well. The train passes through Cedar-Riverside and enters Downtown Minneapolis, passing the Metrodome, Government Plaza, and the Nicollet Mall Station (Nicollet Mall is a big shopping street in Downtown). It then enters the Warehouse District/Hennepin Ave Station where you can find clubs like First Avenue and the Gay 90s, as well as many other restaurants. The Blue Line terminates at the Target Field Station.
A word of caution: the stored value cards that Macalester subsidizes for students only work for the bus system–they cannot be used as a transfer to the light rail. You will have to buy a separate fare unless you use a Go-To pass.