Minneapolis' North Side is not getting its fair share of transit amenities, despite having a heavily transit-dependent population, a group of residents told Metropolitan Council representatives over the weekend.

At a packed meeting on Saturday in the offices of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), bus riders said that north Minneapolis lacks adequate shelters — particularly heated ones — and that increased fares have strained already tight budgets.

"Riders notice the drastic difference between service and amenities in other parts of the city like Uptown and the south side," said NOC's transit organizer, Michael McDowell, who has been surveying transit riders. "And how the service is significantly better and they have more amenities at their stops than [in] north."

Panelists Saturday also demanded that the proposed Southwest light rail line, which will touch the southern tip of north Minneapolis, provide significant benefits for the area.

They found an ally in Metropolitan Council Member Gary Cunningham, who called for a new advisory committee comprised of people of color that would make recommendations to the council. He noted that the buses with the largest ridership — such as routes 5, 9 and 19 — are dominated by minority riders.

"If in fact we're the backbone of the system, then we should get access to these shelters, we should get access — and I mean now, not tomorrow, not next week," Cunningham said. "There is no way that people of color have a voice."

Amity Foster, who lives in Northeast but frequently takes buses at W. Broadway and Emerson Avenue, said she avoids standing at the stop for very long because of safety concerns. It lacks adequate lighting, for example, or a trash can.

"If I waited for that same stop in south Minneapolis, it would be better lit," Foster said. "There would be better trash cans, there would be shelter. There would a sign that says the 18 stops here, catch it."

Metro Transit guidelines say that a stop must have 40 passenger boardings per day for a shelter and 80 for a heater to be considered. "North Side Minneapolis fulfills all of those requirements … but Metro Transit doesn't meet those needs all the time," Foster said.

Council Member Adam Duininck said the council spends a lot of time prioritizing corridors and capital projects.

Another council member, Jennifer Munt, said the council simply does not have the money to accommodate everyone. "Our problem is always that's it's in a zero-sum frame where we have to take from one community to give more to another," Munt said. She supports legislative efforts to commit more dollars to transit.

More than 300 people surveyed said increased fares — which rise during peak hours — are a problem and a barrier to using transit, said Caleb Murphy, one of the rider panelists, who urged the council to consider some free or reduced-fare buses, as well as longer transfer windows.

The event ended with a commitment from the four participating council members to support the advisory panel idea put forth by Cunningham, who is married to Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. But the concept will still have to pass muster with the full council, which has 17 members.

Eric Roper • 612-673-1732

Twitter: @StribRoper