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METRO TRANSIT

More Transit, and Less By JOHN CHARLES WILSON I’ve been writing about this for over a year now, so you should know I am excited that the Orange Line starts Saturday, 4 December 2021! There will be a Grand Opening at the I-35W and Lake St. station at 1 PM, with local entertainment and food vendors from 2 to 4. The station is already open and being used by regular buses. It is a lot better than the old stops at the sides of I-35W that were at the top of crumbling staircases. Unfortunately, along with the good news, there is bad news for transit riders in the Twin Cities. Due to a shortage of bus and train operators, schedules are being cut by 5 percent overall at the same time the Orange Line starts. Affected routes in the Phillips neighborhood are: The Orange Line will replace Route 535.Route 2 will run every 12 minutes instead of every 10.Route 5 will have schedule times adjusted to reflect actual travel times and will run every 10 minutes.Route 9 will have schedule times adjusted to reflect actual travel times.Route 11 times will be adjusted for better connections with the new Orange Line.Routes 14 and 22 will adopt the Sunday schedule on Saturdays too.Route 21 will have frequency adjustments on weekdays and Saturdays. These cuts are supposed to be temporary, until enough operators are hired to restore the old schedule. If you or someone you know wants to be a bus or train driver, Metro Transit is holding hiring events, with information available on their website at metrotransit.org. Wages start at $21 per hour, with a $1,000 hiring bonus. These have been frustrating times for transit users. Relief is in sight, however.

Onward, Funding Transit!

By JOHN CHARLES WILSON  METRO TRANSIT  October 2020 has been an excellent month for Twin Cities transit enthusiasts. We are finally getting guaranteed funding for three and a half projects:  ● The Federal Transit Administration made a Full Funding Grant Agreement with the State of Minnesota for the Green Line extension to Eden Prairie. This provides $928.8 million towards the $2,002 million needed for the project, with the remainder being funded locally. Construction has been under way for two years, and completion is expected by 2023.  ● The Minnesota House passed an infrastructure bonding bill which provides funds to start construction of the B and D Lines, which are bus rapid transit. The B Line is planned for Lake Street as a faster version of Route 21, similar to Route 53 except for using Selby Ave. in Saint Paul rather than I-94. The D Line will be a faster version of Route 5, serving the Chicago Ave. S. and Fremont Ave. N. corridors. Construction is expected to begin in 2021 on the D Line and 2022 on the B line. It should take about two years for each line.  ● Included in the bill is funding for preliminary planning and engineering work for the E Line, which is intended as a faster version of Route 6. Assuming that full funding eventually comes, construction could start as early as 2023.  This is definitely good news and a reminder that our transit system isn”™t dead, it”™s just sleeping its way through the COVID-19 pandemic. Though I am personally mad at society for believing in forcing health on people, I will be glad when it”™s over so things go back to normal, like being able to dine in at restaurants, browse books at the library, or just sit down in a public place. 

The People Are Coming Back

METRO TRANSIT  By JOHN CHARLES WILSON  Yesterday (14 September), I went for a bus ride to West Saint Paul to take a friend out to lunch for his birthday. It was one of probably less than a half dozen bus trips I”™ve taken since COVID-19 became an issue. Partly this is because of COVID and partly because of debilitating back pain which keeps me from standing or walking very much. Anyway, one thing I noticed on this trip is that transit ridership has really sprung back to life. This is a good sign.  On 12 September 2020, new transit schedules went into effect. Many routes are now back to normal, and others have seen significant improvements. As far as routes in the Phillips neighbourhood go, here”™s the scoop:  Routes 2, 5, 11, 14, 21, 22, 27, and the C Line are back to normal weekday schedules.  Route 9 has seen improvements but is still not fully back to normal.  Light Rail is back to running every 10 minutes, but does not run 11 PM to 5 AM.  Other bus routes in Phillips are still suspended (these are mostly rush-hour-only routes like the 39 and 53).  Unfortunately, or fortunately as your perception may be, paper schedules are still not being given out on the buses. Presumably this is for “sanitary” reasons.  Well, anyway, we should keep supporting Metro Transit by riding buses and trains safely” (wear masks, keep social distancing, and don”™t give the drivers a hard time about the rules), so that this nightmare ends as soon as possible. Vladimir Putin already has a vaccine, and we will soon have one too.  So much has to be restarted in our society once the virus is under control. Functional transit is one piece of the puzzle. 

Where Are We Going?

METRO TRANSIT By JOHN CHARLES WILSON Even though our buses and trains are still running on a greatly reduced schedule, Metro Transit is hard at work behind the scenes building and planning for a COVID-19-free future. That said, I wish to interrupt the good news to tell everyone that Cub Foods is running a FREE shuttle bus between its temporarily ruined Lake and Minnehaha location to their Quarry location at 1540 New Brighton Blvd. in Northeast Minneapolis. Buses leave the Lake Street Cub every hour between 10 AM and 5 PM and leave the Quarry store one half-hour later. Each bus will transport up to 20 people, allowing for social distancing and room for shopping bags. Other rules are similar to Metro Transit. Now, for what is in store for us when this debacle is over: The Green Line Extension (Southwest Light Rail) construction is continuing as normal. It is planned to be ready for use in 2023.The Blue Line Extension (Bottineau Line Light Rail) is anticipated to be done by 2024; however, a snag in negotiations with BNSF Railway for use of their right of way may cause a delay.The D Line bus rapid transit (BRT) (similar to Route 5 but faster) is expected to open in 2022.The B and E (BRT) Lines (similar to Routes 21 and 6 but faster) are expected to be built in 2022 and 2023.The Orange Line (BRT) to Burnsville on I-35W is still under construction and is expected to open near the end of 2021.The Gold Line (BRT) from Saint Paul to Woodbury is expected to open in 2024. All of this excitement gets to happen within the next presidential term, which means we all have something to look forward to no matter who wins in November”™s popularity contest.

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