Sweeping bus route changes will have an impact

Sweeping bus route changes will have an impact
Metro Transit

Sixteen Metro Transit bus routes are suspended as of December 4, including the once-busy Route 16. Many other routes throughout the Twin Cities transit network will have reduced trip frequency and schedule changes. The changes represent a five percent reduction on service hours.

The changes come as transit ridership has declined regionally and nationally. The ridership trends are coupled with an acute shortage of drivers.

Route 16, once one of the busiest bus routes, used to connect the Minneapolis and St. Paul downtowns via University Avenue. It was also a connection between destinations for people with disabilities. The opening of Green Line light rail in 2014 meant cutbacks to Route 16, which most recently ended at Fairview Avenue.

Transit system changes affect paratransit. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, paratransit provider Metro Mobility is required to provide service that is comparable to the service offered by the region’s all-day, local, regular-route bus and train system. Specifically, Metro Mobility must provide the federally mandated service within three-quarters of a mile of any all-day, local bus or rail route in the Twin Cities with similar hours of availability.

When the regular route system is updated with new routes or trips times, Metro Mobility does the same to align its service with those changes. Over the last few months, staff have worked to make updates to match areas or hours where service is expanding.

With this alignment, riders may see differences to the list of service areas and hours by community. Also, some trips that used to go on standby may now be guaranteed, while some trips that aren’t currently on standby may be in the future.

Anyone with questions should contact the Metro Mobility Service Center at 651-602-1111 (TTY 651-221-9886) or metromobility@metc.state.mn.us.

Metro Transit typically makes bus, rapid bus and rail schedule changes quarterly. More changes are possible in 2022.

One issue driving the current schedule changes is the challenge in hiring bus drivers. “Over the past couple months in particular we’ve had difficulty hiring bus operators, which is a challenge when you need to have 1,100 to 1,200 operators,” said Metro Transit Service Development Director Adam Harrington said. The transit agency has stepped up hiring incentives including signing bonuses.

 “Right now we’re about 80 operators short of where we need to be,” said Harrington. “Quite frankly, we’re better off than many other transit providers around the country. We still have a lot of good service on the street.”

 About five percent of existing service hours will be reduced as Metro Transit seeks to improve reliability of service, said Harrington. Many of the routes being suspended are parallel to existing rail or bus rapid transit lines.

Another issue Metro Transit officials are trying to balance is that of equity among neighborhoods.

Read a detailed review of changes at https://www.metrotransit.org/quarterly-service-changes-begin-saturday-dec-4