New England Patriots fans Kerry and Wendell Orton flew into Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Sunday morning from Florida and opted to take the free shuttle replacing Blue Line trains from the airport to downtown Minneapolis.
It was not a fast ride, as their late-morning trip from MSP to Washington and Hennepin avenues took 56 minutes, more than double the usual 22 to 25 minutes. But the price was right.
“I like free because the rest of this is not free,” said Wendell, a former Boston resident who came to Minneapolis to attend his first Super Bowl. “It’s great. We have a whole bus to ourselves.”
While regular Sunday rail riders rode fairly empty replacement buses, Metro Transit’s Gameday Fan Express was filled with riders, nearly 20,000 in all departing from the Mall of America in Bloomington and Stadium Village at the University of Minnesota. Fans paid $30 for a pass that included a nonstop trip to the U.S. Bank Stadium rail platform after passing through security.
Some praised Metro Transit for a smooth trip to U.S. Bank Stadium. Despite long lines at the Mall of America, the boarding process went smoothly, said a fan tweeting under the handle @holygrailbanks.
“20 minutes and kudos to the folks here in Minny,” the fan said in a tweet to the Star Tribune.
Amy Karger, of East Bethel, boarded the first train at the U and called the experience a “terrible implementation.” She arrived 45 minutes early as instructed by Metro Transit only to be left standing outside.
“There were angry fans, and some were not dressed for the weather,” she said. “Fans were angry why they were told to come 45 minutes early.”
Lines at Stadium Village had dwindled by 1:30 p.m.
Regular LRT riders forced onto replacement buses put up with the inconvenience and much longer trip times; they said they were thankful the disruption was only for a day.
With 70,000 people who need to get to the stadium, “it seems logical to let them have the train for a day,” said John Imgrund, who took a 10 a.m. shuttle to his job at the Mall of America. “I left an hour early, just in case.”
Immediately after the game, fans filed out of the stadium and onto the light rail and buses without any apparent problems, guided by signs and volunteers.