After day of commuting success, car and Green Line train crash in St. Paul

Late Monday evening, a Green Line train hit a car that turned in front of the train near the intersection of Hampden and University Avenues in St. Paul, but there were no injuries, Metro Transit officials said

Belinda Hartl was happy. Guy Rehwinkel was curious. And Linda McBrayer was frankly a bit miffed.

Green Line riders expressed a range of emotions Monday as the new light-rail line connecting the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis started taking paying customers on its first weekday in operation.

Late Monday evening, a Green Line train hit a car that turned in front of the train near the intersection of Hampden and University Avenues in St. Paul, but there were no injuries, Metro Transit officials said.

Spotty train delays were reported in the morning, due mostly to fine-tuning issues, but overall the day went well, said Metro Transit spokesman John Siqveland. Extra trains were rolled out to maintain service every 10 minutes.

“It does take a couple of weeks to settle into regular operation,” he said.

Operator error contributed to the train slowdown, along with a couple broken traffic poles that measure pedestrian crossings and were hit by automobiles over the weekend.

The most serious crime report was an aggravated robbery late Sunday at the Dale Street Station. A large group got off the train, assaulted a young man and stole his phone and a friend’s, Siqveland said.

Morning commuters waiting to catch the train at Central Station in downtown St. Paul said they wanted to see how the new line worked and whether it fit their work schedules. Hartl, a Maplewood resident who takes a bus to get downtown before heading to her job on University Avenue, was sure it would.

“I’m looking forward to this,” she said. “Not having to worry about traffic, not having to worry about construction. It’s going to be great.”

Rehwinkel, a software trainer for a downtown Minneapolis law firm who lives in downtown St. Paul, said the train will take longer than his regular Route 94 express bus. But with the opening of the Green Line, the 94 bus is stopping farther away and running less frequently, he said.

“I’ll give it a try and see how it works out,” he said, adding with a smile: “It’s an excuse to get to work later.”

Some trains took longer than every 10 minutes to arrive at some stations, and the time they stopped didn’t always match that on the schedule. “I’m waiting for a train that’s not showing up,” one woman grumbled.

Otherwise, the reported troubles were mostly kinks officials said would be worked out over time.

At one point, the recorded message for an eastbound train in Minneapolis said it was going west. When the message was corrected to say it was headed to St. Paul, a woman reading the New York Times looked up and said, “Oh shoot. This doesn’t go to the airport, does it?” She got off at the next stop and transferred to the Blue Line.

McBrayer, a state employee who lives in St. Paul and works at the State Capitol complex, waited for the train reluctantly. She’s a public-transit fan, she said, but she was mad that her favorite bus routes had been reconfigured to make room for the Green Line.

“I feel like Metro Transit forced our hand to take the train,” she said. “I’m already five minutes late.”

Bill Lydell, a retired high school music teacher from Minneapolis, hopped the train for fun before a dental appointment. He didn’t mind going east.

 

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