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Metro to the Twin Cities

Aside from being a major hub for Delta Airlines, Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport is only a few miles from the Mall of America, the largest shopping centre in the United States. Since 2004 the Metro Blue Line light rail service has operated between downtown Minneapolis and the Mall of America, serving both airport terminals on the route.

Landing in the depths of a Minnesota winter, with -35C showing on the thermometer, it was time to take the Metro.

The Route: Arriving at the airport, the Metro Blue Line will take you to one of the three destinations a typical visitor would have in mind:

  1. The other terminal – free, 24 hours a day.

  2. The Mall of America – the southern terminus of the Blue Line.

  3. Downtown Minneapolis – the northern terminus of the Blue Line.

If you are staying in the city, most major hotels are in the downtown core, which you can access from one of five Metro stops, conveniently highlighted on the line map. Journeys into the centre of the city are scheduled to take approximately 25 minutes; roughly the same as the journey by road.

On train Metro map

On train Metro map

The Stations: The Metro has been constructed to serve both airport terminals; however, arriving passengers from the two terminals will face a very different welcome to the system:

Passengers on a main network airline (Delta, United, American,  Air Canada, etc.) arrive into Terminal 1 (Lindbergh). A free, driverless tram shuttle operates from the terminal building to the lavish, underground Metro stop.

Directions to the Lindbergh terminal tram shuttle

Underground Terminal 1 (Lindbergh) Metro station

No need for any weather insulation here.

Passengers arriving on a charter or low cost airline (Southwest, Spirit, Sun Country and Icelandair) arrive into Terminal 2 (Humphrey). The route to the Metro station requires a passengers to follow a series of moving walkways/travolaters around the car park before they descend into an open-air station. Despite the presence of overhead heaters, on my visit, passengers and commuters were seen sheltering inside the stairwell to keep warm.

The Information: In order to board the Metro, signage throughout the airport terminals guide you on to the system. Once on the network, comprehensive fares and timetable information is available. If you are used to taking public transport, you will find the system easy to navigate: if you want to go shopping, it’s south to the Mall of America; and for everything else, it’s north towards downtown.

The Ticket: It’s unlikely you’ll have a Go-To card as a visitor to the city so you’ll pay $1.75 to use the Metro, rising to $2.25 during rush hours. There is no ticket office at the airport so you will need to use a ticket machine. These are simple to use and can also sell you tickets for destinations on the North Star heavy rail service which continues north from downtown towards the suburbs of Elk River and Big Lake.

The Service: Blue Line services operate every 10 minutes during the day, rising to every 15 minutes evenings and weekends. Apart from the 24 hours shuttle between terminals, the last service from the airport into the city is at approximately 02:15.

From downtown Minneapolis connections are available to the Green Line service across the Mississippi, to the University of Minnesota and onwards towards downtown St. Paul. The Blue Line also connects to the North Star commuter rail service at its current terminus at Target Field.

The Experience: The handy thing about the Metro is that the system is spacious. Arriving at MSP airport, you can easily take your luggage with you without fear of stairs or crowds. If you are arriving at peak times, it’s certainly worth considering in order to avoid traffic on the highway; however, the long walk from Terminal 2 may add to your downtown journey time – be sure to wrap up warm…


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