Metro Transit currently offers Night Owl bus service on 4 routes (5, 14, 16 and 19). Routes 5 and 19 are interlined and provide service on Chicago Ave. (Rt. 5) in South Minneapolis and form a loop on Emerson/Fremont, 44th Ave. (Rt. 5), Penn Ave. and Olson Memorial Highway (Rt. 19) in North Minneapolis. Route 16 operates along Washington and University Avenues between Downtown Minneapolis and Downtown St. Paul. Route 14 has one trip leaving downtown at 3:10 am that is designed to serve airport cargo terminal workers. Most Minneapolis bus routes start between 4 and 6 am, and end between 12 and 2 am, leaving a 2-6 hour gap in bus service.
Night owl bus service should be viewed as an asset, and less subject to elimination from low ridership or performance. People will be more willing to use public transit if they know that there will always be a bus, no matter the time of day (or night). It would also provide access to jobs that start or end early in the morning, provide 24 hour service to the airport and serve bar-goers who do not have an alternative to driving.
Metro Transit had a more expansive Night Owl bus network between 1998 and sometime before 2003. Routes that had night service were the 5, 6, 7, 10, 16, 18, 21 and 64.
In my proposal most of these routes would come back, and would operate hourly. Here they are:
- 5: Trips on the south end of the route would extend to the Mall of America.
- 6: New Owl service between Downtown Minneapolis and Uptown via Hennepin, 36th, Bryant, 31st, Lyndale, back to Hennepin into downtown.
- 7: Would not come back, replaced by LRT owl bus.
- 10: New Owl service from Downtown Minneapolis and Central/41st.
- 16: no changes
- 18: New Owl service from Downtown Minneapolis to Nicollet and 46th or Nicollet and 66th.
- 19: no changes
- 21: New Owl service from Uptown to Downtown St. Paul.
- 54: New Owl service from Downtown St. Paul to the Mall of America and the Airport along W. 7th St.
- 55: New Owl service replacing train service at night. Would serve all stations, and could potentially operate along Cedar, Riverside, 27th Ave., Minnehaha, 46th St., 34th Ave., 54th St., to the VA, then back to the normal route between the VA, the Airport and the MOA. The local routing would provide night service for 7 and 27 riders, and would likely attract more riders than a Hiawatha alignment.
- 64: New Owl service between Downtown St. Paul and Hillcrest via Payne, Maryland and White Bear. In Downtown St. Paul would continue as Route 74 Owl.
- 74: New Owl service between 46th St. LRT and Downtown St. Paul via 46th/Ford Pkwy., Cleveland, Randolph, W. 7th.
- 84X: New Owl service between 46th St. LRT and Snelling/University via 46th/Ford Pkwy and Snelling Ave.
Most routes would have timed transfers, at Downtown Minneapolis, Downtown St. Paul, Uptown, Lake-Nicollet, Lake-Chicago, Lake-27th, 46th St. LRT, Snelling/University, and the Mall of America. In the future routes could operate every 30 minutes at night, and some could be extended further out.