Customers who were forced off light-rail trains Thursday morning and put on buses when ice formed on overhead power lines knocking out service were fuming about overcrowded conditions and long wait times.
Metro Transit deployed more than 20 buses to fill in for light-rail trains along the 12-mile route shortly after 5 a.m. when it became evident that train service would be unreliable or not even possible, said Metro Transit spokesman John Siqveland.
The result, some passengers say, were buses that were "packed to the gills" and too far and few between.
Scott McGee said his trip from 38th Street to his job IT business analysist in downtown Minneapolis took 2.5 hours. He said he waited more than 45 minutes for a shuttle bus. The crowded bus took 30 minutes to get him to the Franklin Avenue Station, where was told to get off and wait another 20 minutes for a train..
"I was with a group of riders this morning that took us right at 2.5 hours to get downtown from 38th Street," he said. "There are folks in my office who commute from western Wisconsin who arrived at work in less time and earlier than I did from south Minneapolis."
Light-rail cars are equiped with scrappers that normally would keep the lines clear. But the freezing precipitation that fell around 5 a.m. accumulated on the lines so fast and so thick that Metro Transit could not keep the lines clear. Running trains all night to keep them clear would not have helped, Siqveland said.
The agency deployed the buses to offer the "highest level of service" possible. "We did our best." Siqveland said.
McGee did have high praise for representatives and bus drivers who were directing and shuttling passengers. "The people at stations were fabulous. This one lady, she was great. bus drivers were great."
Light-rail service was disrupted from just after 5 a.m. until mid morning along the line from downtown Minneapolis to the Mall of America. Service from Franklin Avenue to downtown resumed just after 9 a.m. and full service was restored by 10:45 a.m.