Beginning Sunday, September 19, customers will be able to exchange unused passes, tokens and change cards at the Metro Bus Transit Center in downtown St. Cloud. Smart Ride Cards will also be free during this time. The option to redeem passes, tokens and change cards will last until Saturday, October 16, after which Smart Ride Cards will cost $3 in addition to the cost of any passes or stored monetary value purchased to the card. All previous unused passes, tokens and change cards will be obsolete after October 16. The new fareboxes will no longer offer change.
In early September, Northstar Link will announce the date customers can begin to purchase the new Smart Ride Cards online, at the Transit Center and at other community locations. The date the free Smart Ride App will be available to be downloaded will be announced at the same time.
A new federal mandate and accompanying directives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) make failure to wear a cloth or fabric mask on a bus or in a facility for public transportation a violation of federal law.
On Sunday, January 31, 2021, the TSA issued a memorandum including Security Directive (SD) 1582/84-21-01: Security Measures – Face Mask requirements. The memo and SD clarify and implement the January 21, 2021, Executive Order on promoting measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by travelers within the United States. This SD also supports enforcement of the CDC Order mandating masks that was issued on January 29, 2021. The SD applies to passenger railroads, intercity bus services and public transportation.
Regarding wearing masks on public transportation, the directive states, “A properly worn mask completely covers the nose and mouth of the wearer. A mask should be secured to the head, including with ties or ear loops. A mask should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face. Masks do not include face shields. Masks can be either manufactured or homemade and should be a solid piece of material without slits, exhalation valves or punctures.”
The CDC mandate includes three exceptions to the masking mandate:
Children under the age of 2,
People with disabilities who cannot wear a mask, or cannot safely wear a mask, because of the disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.), and
People for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to workplace health, safety, or job duty as determined by the relevant workplace safety guidelines or federal regulations
Passengers must stipulate they qualify for one of these exceptions if they are not wearing a mask.
Masks are available to the public at the Metro Bus Transit Center.
Northstar Link Commuter Bus will not operate on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays and will run a modified schedule for Friday, Nov. 27 and Thursday, Dec. 24 to coordinate with the Northstar Commuter Rail train schedule, Route 888. Metro Bus service will not be available when the last trip arrives in St. Cloud on Dec. 24.
Northstar Link is preparing for installation of new fareboxes for all buses in its fleet. The modern fareboxes will bring new ways for passengers to pay their fare. Touchless pay options will be available using the new Metro Bus Smart Ride Card and mobile phone application known as the Smart Ride App. Cash fares and Smart Ride Tickets for short-term use will also be available across all services.
The current Northstar Link fareboxes are over 20 years old. The new fareboxes, Smart Ride Cards and Smart Ride App will modernize the way Central Minnesotans are able to pay their bus fares. More information is available at https://www.ridemetrobus.com/home/smart-ride/.
The farebox transition will take place overnight on a weekend late in 2020. The date is yet to be determined. The date of the transition will be announced in the coming weeks. Service will not be interrupted for the transition.
We encourage customers to begin to use up their “old” fare media, including 31-Day Passes and 10-Ride Passes. The current passes will no longer be valid. Change cards will no longer be available or accepted after the transition.
Stay tuned to catchthelink.com and follow Northstar Link on Facebook and Twitter for more updates regarding the fare payment changes.
As part of the nation-wide effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19, Northstar Link will reduce its schedule to match the Northstar Rail. There will be two southbound trips in the morning to meet the train along with two return trips northbound. There will also be two northbound trips in the evening after meeting the train as well as the two preceding southbound trips each afternoon to meet the train. There will not be Fabulous Friday (887F) or weekend service.
We encourage customers to only make essential trips at this time. Reducing the number of people on buses will make it easier for passengers and employees to follow social distancing guidelines.
Stay tuned to this website and our social media accounts for more information and updates.
Northstar Link prioritizes the health and safety of our passengers and employees. To that end, we want to keep our passengers and the public informed on the steps we are taking in regards to COVID-19, otherwise known as the Coronavirus.
We are continuously monitoring reports provided by federal, state and local government agencies and communicating with various organizations and affiliations, including the Minnesota Safety Council and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We encourage everyone to educate themselves on the recommendations of the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
Based on what has been communicated, we are taking the following preventative measures:
We have been cleaning and will continue to clean our buses regularly.
All efforts will be made to allow as much fresh air as possible into buses.
All Metro Bus services will remain status quo, unless directed otherwise by our federal or state partners.
In honor of their service, all Veterans and active military ride free with a military ID on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
Northstar Link Commuter Bus will not operate on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays and will run a modified schedule for Friday, Nov. 29 and Monday, Dec. 24 to coordinate with the Northstar Commuter Rail train schedule, Route 888.
Route 887F will not operate on Friday, Nov. 29. Regular fares apply for all routes.
Northstar Link respects the privacy of our passengers. To protect their privacy, Northstar Link requires written authorization from passengers regarding who may communicate with Northstar Link on the passenger’s behalf. This requirement is effective May 1, 2019, and impacts all passenger communications discussion about issues or concerns.
How to provide authorization: Northstar Link is a service of St. Cloud Metro Bus service. The authorization is provided through the completion of the Metro Bus Passenger Release of Information form. This form is available for everyone on the Northstar Link website. If the passenger has a legal guardian (Power of Attorney, Conservator, etc.) who is responsible for their well-being, proof of the legal guardianship is required.
Special Note for Caregivers, Health Care providers, Social Workers, Group Homes and Nursing Homes: This requirement impacts staff who set up rides for their patients/residents. In order for staff to talk about any issues with Northstar Link on behalf of the facilities’ clients, the facility or caregiver must be listed on the Passenger Release of Information form signed by the passenger or their legal guardian. Remember, if a legal guardian is authorizing, Northstar Link must have proof of the legal guardianship.
A St. Cloud Metro Bus city transit bus will be used as a short-term Northstar Link bus due to mechanical issues on the coach buses. This impacts the style of the vehicle only. The schedule is unaffected. Sorry for any inconvenience.
Northstar Link Commuter Bus will not operate on the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays and will run a modified schedule for the Friday after Thanksgiving and Monday, Christmas Eve to match the Northstar Commuter Rail train schedule, Route 888. Route 887F will not operate on Nov. 23, the Friday after Thanksgiving. Regular fares apply for all routes.