A proposed commuter bus service from Forest Lake to Saint Paul seems to be picking up steam and may bring public transportation to the area. Chisago County has already voted to set aside money for operating costs and three others expected to follow suit. That would be Ramsey, Washington and Anoka counties.
It is hoped that the separate county boards will approve funding for the bus service within the next two weeks. Each county would pay $118,050 to fund the service in 2009. Buses on the line are expected to start running in January with a projection of 400 riders daily.
The commuter bus service would be similar to one already in place between Forest Lake and Minneapolis. Those buses will continue next year with money from the metro area's new transit sales tax. More than 400 commuters a day ride those buses as well.
The Rush Line route would begin at the Forest Lake Transit Center and end in the vicinity of Union Depot in St. Paul, with a stop in White Bear Lake. Coaches seating 55 passengers would make four trips in the morning and four return trips in the afternoon and evening. Current plans have a one-way fare at $3.50, but that could change before the buses hit the road. Ridership studies for the route project 400 commuters a day.
For 2010 and beyond, counties will attempt to secure grants from the new Counties Transit Improvement Board or seek arrangements with the Metropolitan Council to take the route over.
Transportation planners envision a refurbished Union Depot in the Lowertown area of downtown Saint Paul as an ultimate metro hub for buses and trains.