Metro Transit may cut late-night service on the Green Line to make more time for rail maintenance and to crack down on rider misconduct.
The change would eliminate hourly rides between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. on weekdays, mirroring the Blue Line schedule. Full 24-hour Green Line service would continue on weekends.
Speaking to the Metropolitan Council’s Committee of the Whole on Wednesday, Metro Transit General Manager Wes Kooistra said operations maintenance staff have made repeated requests for a nighttime pause in Green Line service so they can do maintenance and repairs safely.
Additionally, he said, Metro Transit gets regular complaints from customers, staff and police about late-night conduct on the Green Line, including assaults, theft and drug use. This week, Kooistra said, a rider was found dead on a Green Line train; video showed that he had injected himself while onboard.
“Today, these violations of our Code of Conduct prevent us from meeting our fundamental commitment to provide a service that is clean, safe and reliable,” Kooistra said. “While conduct violations occur during other hours of operations, reports indicate that in these early morning hours these behaviors occur more openly and pervasively.”
The proposed schedule change has raised concerns among advocates for homeless Twin Cities residents who ride the train as a form of shelter, particularly in the winter months. Kooistra said an estimated 250 to 300 people ride the Green Line for shelter each night.
“I understand that general ridership is obviously going to be light at those hours, but you know, there are homeless individuals and the working poor that are working night shifts and whatnot,” said Brian Molohon, vice president of development for Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities. “It feels like cutting those hours could have an impact on that population.”
St. Paul City Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson rode the Green Line between midnight and 5 a.m. one night in the beginning of January and talked to people who had chosen to ride the train instead of finding a shelter bed. She said she had already reached out to her Met Council representative to express her concerns, such as the lack of opportunity for public input on the change.
“I’m empathetic to the increasing wear and tear on our trains, and I understand the goals and needs that the policy is trying to address,” Nelson said, “but I really just question if this is what’s actually going to help achieve that.”
Kooistra told Met Council members that Metro Transit will conduct onboard surveys between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. in April and report back to the council in May. Though Kooistra acknowledged that the schedule change would disrupt passengers who ride the Green Line for shelter, he said that’s not what the train is for.
“Everyone deserves better. Everyone deserves a bed to sleep in at night,” he said. “The seats in our rail cars are not beds and should never be considered as an acceptable solution to address the significant needs of people without shelter.”