Mayor R.T. Rybak is talking with Edina and Metro Transit officials about launching a marketing campaign to increase bus ridership along the city's retail spine linking Downtown with Southdale Mall.
The campaign would focus on Route 6, which serves riders traveling from Downtown Minneapolis to Edina, passing through popular shopping districts in Uptown, Linden Hills, and 50th & France.
While the ideas are conceptual at this point, Rybak said he's eager to see more shoppers use transit as a way to alleviate the area's traffic headaches.
Rybak has brainstormed strategies with Edina Mayor Jim Hovland and Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb to lure shoppers onto the bus.
“Mayor Hovland and I have talked about a vision that could either be an enhanced bus, and even someday a streetcar that could be part of the transit fix we need to keep those areas from getting too congested,” Rybak said.
The marketing campaign would be targeted to all shoppers, but especially geared toward teen-agers. Some of the ideas floated include having business associations sponsor “ambassadors” on the bus to provide information about routes and area retailers.
There's also talk of approaching merchants to see if they would be willing to provide discounts to riders, said Bob Gibbons, Metro Transit's customer service representative.
The goal is to demonstrate that “transit can drive business,” Gibbons said.
To promote the route to shoppers, Metro Transit would feature the line on its Web site and other marketing materials. Beyond Route 6, Metro Transit has started considering ways to promote businesses along other commercial corridors as well, such as Lake Street, Gibbons said.
As for the bus “ambassadors,” he said Metro Transit has two customer advocates that would be suited for the role.
Route 6 is Metro Transit's fifth busiest route with an average of 210,000 rides a month.
While it's a popular route, Gibbons said it has capacity for increased ridership.
Rybak said he'd like to see high school students take the bus to the city's shopping destinations instead of going to the Mall of America, or relying on parents.
“When I was a kid, my Saturdays in Southwest Minneapolis involved getting on a bus, going Downtown to the Y and having a burger at James Broiler and seeing a movie at the State Theater,” he said. “That's how I got to love Downtown.”
While the Southwest business community has yet to weigh in on the marketing campaign, Mark Dean, president of the Uptown Association who works for Financial Freedom Realty, said he's open to the concept.
“I think it's an excellent idea,” Dean said, who said Routes 6 and 28 were his lifeline before he got his driver's license. “It definitely connects three great unbelievable nodes of our city.”