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Over the past 30 years, SouthWest Transit has ferried thousands of people to Twins and Vikings games, concerts and the State Fair with special bus service from Chaska, Chanhassen and Eden Prairie.

But never to the Twin Cities Pride parade — until this year.

The agency will provide express service from its East Creek, SouthWest Village and SouthWest stations to downtown Minneapolis with two morning runs on June 30. Buses will stop at all three stations before arriving at 12th Street and Hennepin Avenue at 8:25 and 9:25 a.m., well before the parade kicks off at 11 a.m. Buses also will drop off at two additional locations on 2nd Avenue and on Washington Avenue.

Return trips back to the southwest suburbs depart Washington and Hennepin avenues at 3 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Buses also will stop on Marquette Avenue at 4th and 8th streets, and at 11th Street and Harmon Place on their way out of downtown.

Round trip fare is $6, with children 5 and younger riding free.

SouthWest CEO Erik Hansen said Pride is an important way to celebrate the diversity of the community

"SouthWest Transit firmly believes in providing services to all members of our community to take them from where they are to where they want to go," Hansen said. "After listening to our customers, service to the Pride parade was an obvious way to further support our community as a whole."

Pride may not be the only new offering from SouthWest this year.

"You will see additional events coming this summer that expand on our more traditional services," Hansen said.

Hansen didn't say what those events will be, so we'll have to wait for that announcement.

Metro Transit will run three-car trains on both the Blue and Green lines Thursday through Sunday, said spokesman Drew Kerr. The agency has been running shorter trains on both lines in recent weeks due to lower passenger demand and to give a break to a short-handed maintenance staff. Smaller trains also will help the agency save $500,000 on parts and labor.

But the agency will run three-car trains during special events like Pride when demand is high, Kerr said.

Metro Transit also is offering free rides to Pride events both Saturday and Sunday. Festivalgoers will need to download a pass from the Pride website to get the free fare. Should buses get too crowded, or fall behind schedule, Kerr said the agency will have extras on standby to pick up the slack.

Metro Transit's Pride-themed bus also will be featured in the parade, which runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Hennepin Avenue from 3rd Street to Spruce Place.

, Metro Transit

Minnesota Valley Transit Authority has no special service planned for Pride events, but riders can use existing service to connect with buses going downtown at the Marschall Road (Shakopee), Burnsville, Apple Valley and Eagan transit stations, said spokesman Richard Crawford.

Riders using MVTA's on-demand service, Connect, can now use Go-To cards to pay their fares. The agency began accepting the cards June. Rides on Connect are $3 per trip.