On March 7 thirteen people met for a walk along the sandy banks of the Mississippi in Crosby Lake Park. While the walk, fire and snacks were fun, the unique feature of this outing was that many participants arrived via bus and light rail.Crosby Lake lies in the southwest corner of St. Paul in the bottomlands of the Mississippi River. The park contains lakes, swamps, woodland and sandy beaches along the Mississippi across from historic Pike Island. Its trails are used for walking, biking, birding and skiing throughout the year. It also is not far from two bus lines: the #84D and the #54. Both are high frequency lines, even on Saturday (important for Saturday outings), and the 54 is a limited stop route. The #84D, starting in Roseville, serves people all along Snelling Avenue and the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul. Its last stop at Davern and Shepherd Road is just a short distance from the park entrance. The 54 starts at mall of America, stops at the airport where light rail users from Minneapolis can board it, then crosses the river into St. Paul. Its first stop after the airport is on West 7th street, about 3 blocks from the park entrance.
So here’s how some participants reached the park using transit. Five of us boarded the 84D at Grand and Snelling near Macalester College. For the three members of my family this is about a 10 or 12 minute walk from home. The two others who boarded at our stop drove to nearby and parked – but more about that later. Janet, who joined us about a mile further at Randolph and Snelling, also lives about a 10 minute walk from the bus stop. From Grand and Snelling our bus time was just under 20 minutes. Once we left the bus it was about a 10 minute walk down the bluff road with nice views out over the river into the park proper.Using a combination of bus and train two people arrived from Minneapolis. Linda, who doesn’t have a car, took the #4 bus from Whittier into downtown where she transferred to light rail. Andrea – also car-free – started with the # 6 at 25th and Hennepin Ave. S. in Uptown. She transferred to light rail at the Hennepin Avenue/Warehouse District station, and rendez-voused with Linda at the airport transit center. Here they both took the #54 one stop to West Maynard Drive and West 7th street, then walked to the park entrance road where we all joined up. The total transit time for the two from Minneapolis was about an hour. But, like many transit users Andrea indicates her transit time is not lost time. Coming from Uptown she notes that,”while it may only have taken ½ hour by car, my commute was fun! I got to see what is new for development around the LRT, catch up on some reading and figure out the transit hub at the airport.” Linda, a photographer, also was pleased to find a new park she could reach without a car.
And what of the people who drove? Unfortunately, though hearts are in the right place, transit routes and schedules are not always. Ben drove to Grand and Snelling because the #61 bus he would have used on Larpenteur comes only once an hour on Saturdays, putting him either way ahead, or behind, for our trip meeting time. Tom and Harry, coming from Crystal on the northwest side of Minneapolis, would have spent a minimum of an hour and 32 minutes in transit, according to metro transit’s route planner, and one of their buses runs only every 2 hours on Saturdays.Clearly, using transit to reach green space is a work in progress. To make it happen for you, the key is the cliché “location, location, location” (where you live, and where the park is located) with the added variable of bus schedules and routes that tend to be built around weekday commuters. Despite the challenges, we’ll continue to explore the possibilities in future outings. If you’re looking for a new type of outdoor adventure that is both environmentally and socially friendly, please join us.