Tuesday, May 24, 2005


I live about twelve blocks from the building I work in, which is another eight blocks away from the school I attend. I take the bus every morning, and at least 3 times a week on the way home, even though I own a car. Parking in downtown Minneapolis is between $9-11 per day and it wouldn't save me that much time anyway. Metro Transit changed the route I ride last year so that it goes down Nicollet Mall instead of using 8th and 9th streets downtown. They reason that it's a more direct route to Northeast Minneapolis. What I don't agree with is placing another route on an already over crowded street, a street that hosts a parade every night in December that requires the busses to be rerouted, as well as a Farmer's Market every Thursday in the summer that makes for a very crowded evening rush. For Metro Transit, rerouting busses means moving them to Hennepin, which is two blocks away from Nicollet and also hosts a few too many bus routes as it is. Doesn't it make sense to move the routes to Marquette, which is only a block away and has express routes on it? Southbound busses could use Marquette and Northbound busses could use Second Ave, as they are both set up to handle one way bus traffic. Another solution would be to move the express routes on Nicollet to Marquette/Second and the local routes to Hennepin. That's something that I've always wondered about, why they have express and local routes on the same street downtown. Express busses are pay-as-you-leave routes in the evening, so they don't waste time waiting for passengers to pay their fare in busy downtown traffic. But it defeats the purpose to put these same routes behind a local bus that has to wait for passengers to pay as they board. When I raised this question to Metro Transit in a recent complaint, they said it's valid but they'd never heard it before, so they weren't going to do anything about it.
Now they are running an experiment where the Nicollet routes will be on Hennepin from 6:30pm to 11:30pm over the summer. They plan to survey their customers, business owners, pedestrians and downtown residents to see what people think of the change. Oh please, let them ask me! I pay $1.75 right now each time I ride, and for that I get a slow ride on a bus with at least one person who smells, one kid who can't keep her hands to herself, and three people talking way too loudly on their phone or to another passenger. They want to raise fares for a local ride to $2.00 this summer.
So, if Personal Rapid Transit isn't coming soon to a metro area near me, then a revamp of Nicollet Mall is needed. Since we are too backward to have any kind of subway system, we need to have a bus tunnel that goes under the current Mall that only allows busses; no taxis, no pedestrians and no bikes. Bikes would be allowed in a special bike route in the middle of the Mall, which would be a version of the current street with a wider sidewalk and curbs that are much closer together. Stairs and ramps would connect the street level to the bus tunnel, and could even rise up to the skyway system. The tunnel could act as a subway station by providing information to those waiting on which busses are nearing the stop, and which ones have already left.
Instead of improving the current system, there are plans to cut back service and raise fares. It doesn't seem like such a pipe dream to me to make transit profitable, or at least reduce it's dependance on government subsidy. It would just take some passion and creativity, or maybe some privatization?


Scooter said...

I noticed while waiting for the Light Rail at 5th and Nicollet last night that they kept informing me over the station PA that the Nicollet buses would not be running on Nicollet through September. I wondered why (I'd had a little bit too much wine to concentrate clearly) - now I know!

Shakycam said...

As far as transit options go, check this out: www.hourcar.org This sounds like a very good idea to me, something I may consider.