The parties and celebrations marking the opening of the much-ballyhooed Green Line are over, and now it’s time to watch the impact the new light-rail line will have on commuters.
Monday is the first weekday that people going to jobs, schools and other destinations will navigate the newly revamped Twin Cities transit system. Along with the train, more than 15 bus lines have been revised in the biggest makeover of routes since the Blue Line opened in 2004.
The changes will be far reaching, affecting as many as 80,000 riders, a fact not lost on Metro Transit, said transit agency spokesman John Siqveland.
For the past two weeks, more than 40 ambassadors have fanned out to bus stops to hand out paper schedules and maps, answer questions and spread the word. Riders such as Chris Bowles said the personal touch helped reduce apprehension about having to adjust to a new routine.
“I was thinking I might just walk or get a ride,” Bowles said last week when learning that one of the buses he takes to his job on University Avenue, Route 50, was being discontinued. “The bus is a sure thing; the 50 just flies by all those other bus stops. The train might be a good thing, but I’m concerned how long it might take.”
Enter Adam Harrington, head of Metro Transit’s Service Development, the department responsible for planning bus schedules and routes. He greeted Bowles at Rice Street and University Avenue to explain the changes.
“Talking in person brings it home to make sure they are ready for it,” Harrington said. “The last piece is talking with our bus operators and making sure our customers have it.”
There is a lot to understand. There is a new route (No. 83) on Lexington Avenue in St. Paul and several others, such as the 62, 63, 67 and 84, that will have increased frequency. Others, such as Route 3, will have new downtown pickup points and run on different streets while the 16 and 94 express buses run less often. Route 50 with service to the University of Minnesota is gone.
Not everybody is happy. Amy Summer wants Metro Transit to bring back weekend service on Route 94 and reinstate the stop at Snelling Avenue, things that were cut when the Green Line started.
“I’m trying to get this more visibility and get more people to respond,” she said after a Facebook posting.
It’s taken more than two years, or nearly as long to plan the new routes as it took to build the 11-mile line from Target Field to Union Depot by way of University Avenue.
That planning included several community meetings to get input from stakeholders and carefully designing routes that take riders from their neighborhoods to and from the train and popular destinations along and near the line.
Mailings were sent to homes and businesses, open houses held, media campaigns launched and notices posted at bus and rail stops.
Rider Rochelle Perez said she was well-informed and gave Metro Transit high marks for its efforts. Still, there’s nothing like a personal touch.
“Not many companies would do that,” Bowles said as he boarded a Route 3 bus. “They should be saluted for being out here.”
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