Transit service in downtown Minneapolis will continue "whenever possible," officials said, during the impending trial of a former police officer charged in George Floyd's death.
Jury selection in the trial of Derek Chauvin is set to begin Monday at the Hennepin County Government Center, home to several bus stops and the Government Plaza light-rail station. Metro Transit officials have been planning for a variety of scenarios in anticipation of protesters taking to the streets during the course of the trial.
The city and Hennepin County for now have erected extensive barricades and fencing by the courthouse, leaving enough room for the Green and Blue light-rail lines to operate.
Some bus detours for Routes 14, 94, 134, 353, 363, 663, 721 and 764 have already gone into effect, and more may follow depending on the course of events.
"It doesn't make sense to activate [more detours] before they're needed, but we will be ready to go," said Brian Funk, Metro Transit's deputy chief of bus operations.
If a protest spills onto light-rail tracks downtown, for example, Metro Transit can stop trains at U.S. Bank Stadium on the edge of downtown and replace light-rail service with buses.
Metro Transit customers are being urged to stay apprised of the transit landscape by checking the agency's Facebook and Twitter feeds or signing up for rider alerts on specific routes.
The primary mission during the trial, Funk said, is to protect Metro Transit employees and passengers. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, transit service remains limited to essential trips for passengers, such as commutes to work and forays to medical appointments and the grocery store.
"We don't know how this will end up. We are definitely concerned about the safety of our workforce," said Ryan Timlin, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, which represents bus drivers, light-rail operators and other Metro Transit employees.
No transit workers were injured in last summer's unrest, but some property was damaged, including the Lake Street light-rail station and several bus stops.
Metro Transit police officers are part of a law enforcement consortium called Operation Safety Net to ensure "the public's First Amendment rights while protecting people and property."
"We're very much cued in to possible scenarios," said Metro Transit Police Chief Eddie Frizell.
Suburban transit providers have backup service plans as well.
SouthWest Transit officials say they have alternate routing plans they can roll out if circumstances get out of hand. Plans include splitting off buses that serve the University of Minnesota to skip downtown if necessary "so we don't have to drive near the courthouse," said CEO Len Simich.
There are options that would have downtown buses come in on Interstate 394 and run along 12th Street only (inbound) and 11th Street (outbound) to stay on the edges of downtown. It's also possible that all buses would serve transit stations in parking ramps by Target Field but go nowhere else downtown.
"We plan on running as long as we can. If we have to pull back, we will," Simich said.
Maple Grove Transit plans to run its normal bus service and use detours or adjust service as street closures and events require.
"We are, and will be, actively monitoring the situation and communicating with our riders regarding this topic," said transit administrator Mike Opatz.
The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority has been in communication with the city on potential detours, if needed, but has not announced any definite plans, said spokesman Richard Crawford.