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Monday January 22nd 2018

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Transit: Reduced Schedules and Minimal Shelters

BY JOHN CHARLES WILSON

Good news for Nicollet Mall bus riders: The Hennepin Avenue detour that has plagued you for the past two years finally ends the 2nd of December!

My primary topic this month is “Reduced Service” days, which vary from year to year but usually include Black Friday, Christmas Eve (or the day after Christmas if Christmas is on a Sunday), and either the 3rd or 5th of July, depending on what day of the week the 4th is. Last year there were also some reductions for New Year’s Eve, which weren’t as severe as for the other days. I don’t know if that’s intended to be a new, ongoing trend.

Usually, the Reduced schedule is a “Saturday plus” schedule, where most routes are on Saturday schedule, with a few extra buses on some routes, especially the rush-hour expresses, because some poor suckers still have to work. The 2016 New Year’s Eve schedule, however, was more of a “weekday minus” – regular schedule minus a few buses.

Obviously, the purpose of these odd schedules is to save money. Ridership, especially at rush hour, is predictably less than a regular weekday, but not low enough to justify a Sunday/Holiday schedule. About two weeks before each of these special schedules, a pamphlet is made available on the buses to warn people. This is well and good, but if the goal is to save money, it is also counterproductive.

Since the Reduced schedule is essentially the same for Black Friday, 24 or 26 December, and 3 or 5 July, it could simply be incorporated into the regular printed schedules by adding a statement that on Reduced Service days a Saturday schedule is in effect, plus the buses indicated by a symbol on the weekday schedule. A different symbol could indicate which buses are skipped on New Year’s Eve. Voila, no more extra printing costs!

On another topic, this is Minnesota. We’ve already had a few days that are colder than #%&**#)…well, the days before. Metro Transit really needs better shelters than what it has. The 6-inch gap between the bottom of the shelter and the ground lets the cold wind swirl around our feet needlessly. And most shelters have only three sides. Not much protection in a Minnesota winter. Some Canadian cities, specifically Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Fort McMurray, have fully-enclosed bus shelters with doors. Considering that our winter weather is comparable to that in Canada, similar shelters should be considered here.

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