It was a cold Thursday morning, and Shakopee's Marschall Road Transit Station was quiet.

Rows of seats in the lobby were empty. Outside, a few local circulator buses idled in the bright winter sun.

Traffic is expected to pick up when express bus service starts in February. But it's happening later than some community members and local leaders had hoped.

At a joint Scott County Board and Metropolitan Council work session Jan. 20, Commissioner Barbara Marschall said she's gotten a lot of questions from the public about the delay.

"It is very difficult to explain because it's complicated," she said, "but you can tell in their faces, they're not impressed."

The approximately $6.6 million station opened over the summer. It made use of an existing building and was funded with money from Scott County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

"We were hoping, obviously, when it started that we would be able to obtain buses sooner, but we weren't," said Deputy Scott County Administrator Lezlie Vermillion.

County Administrator Gary Shelton said that in early discussions, Metropolitan Council staff told the county that the council wouldn't be able to help fund the land purchase or construction but could offer help obtaining buses. But that help didn't come through.

Shelton jokes that the station, as it stands now, is more local park than transit hub.

"It's a park without a ride," he said.

Buses are now on the way — three that Prior Lake obtained with federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) money, to be followed by three vehicles obtained by Shakopee.

Metropolitan Council staff members were unavailable for comment, but a spokeswoman said in an e-mail that the Met Council sped up the process for obtaining buses.

"There may have been some misunderstanding," she said. "However, the buses will actually arrive about a year sooner than they would have under the typical procurement process."

More buses to come

The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, which recently absorbed both the circulator and the BlueXpress bus service that served Shakopee and Prior Lake, will operate the new express buses. Service will run from the transit station, located to the south of downtown Shakopee, to downtown Minneapolis.

The Shakopee Circulator, a local shuttle connecting destination points throughout Shakopee, is currently the only bus service making connections there. It stops at the station about once every hour.

"The circulator connections will really start to happen when people come for express," Vermillion said.

Although there isn't yet express bus service, the station hasn't been left entirely empty. In addition to the circulator, the building houses administrative offices, as well as Dial-a-Ride and a private company that provides rides to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

"It's not that the building's not being used at all," Shelton said. "It's just sorry to see a park and ride … that should help with getting people to ride on buses to improve transit in the county, and it just sits there with the parking lot pretty much empty because there are no express buses."