Friday, January 20, 2006

Straight From the Connector’s Seat

Last night, I was riding home on the Campus Connector, the only Bus Rapid Transit or BRT system in the Twin Cities, and as we were driving along Washington Avenue and Harvard St. As I was looking out the window and was noticing the amount of surface traffic in the form of buses and cars and thinking “man this has got to be difficult for the operator of this bus.” As an Urban Studies major and someone who is an enthusiastic supporter of LRT for the Central Corridor, I thought I would ask the operator of the Campus Connector whether she supported the project or even knew about it.

When we hit the transit way, I asked her if she, as a transit driver/operator, would support a project such as the Central Corridor. I tried to emphasize that the goal of the project would be to provide faster service between Minneapolis and St. Paul and effectively reduce the number of buses operating on Washington Avenue during peak hours. This would reduce the amount of 50’s and 16’s during peak hours and thus eliminating a route that the Campus Connectors contend with for space along a short distance of Washington Avenue, by running it underneath them in the form of underground LRT.

Little did I know about the fury that was about to be unleashed upon me by this operator. Apparently this operator drives Hiawatha everyday and is furious about the amount of time that everybody has to spend at a light waiting for a train to go by. This delay has made her pretty biased and she feels that the Hiawatha line is and I quote “ A complete and utter waste of time and should have never been built.” This in light of the fact that the Hiawatha line is one of the most successful LRT systems in the nation exceeding Ridership and recently having its 10 Millionth customer in November of 2005, years before its projected goal.

This isn’t the first time that I have heard/read complaints from people (mostly motorists) about signaling between autos and the Right-Of-Way ROW of the LRV. There was a major public outcry from motorists along Hiawatha when the LRT first opened regarding crossing times at intersections. Some of the problems were caused by a lack of funding for better signaling equipment that would have put the project even further over budget but would have decreased problems and future costs of improving signaling which we have had to do in the subsequent months/years of service. Having not seen any articles in the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, or other major new sources in the Twin Cities with negative opinions about LRT, I thought things had improved along Hiawatha, but I guess I had to hear from the people that know best, Transit operators.

I have to admit that the reaction that I got surprised me. You see, I was banking on the assumption that this operator would support similar investments in her field which is delivering precious cargo (human beings, mostly college students) around the twin Cities campuses; especially when these investments are intended to make her job easier by having less metro transit busses. However, I may have angered her by mentioning that bus service (her job) would potentially be reduced. However, I didn’t say or do I suspect that Campus Connectors will reduce there service if LRT is added to the Central Corridor since the University buses only operate on a small segment of Washington Avenue before turning at Oak Street towards the Huron lots and the University Transit Way.

Anyway, there has been a lot in the print media in the Twin Cities about transportation issues. In fact there are some important open houses/public meetings coming up regarding the Northstar Commuter Rail Line. For those interested here are the following dates and times:

January 25, 2006
5:30 p.m. Open House/7 p.m. Public Hearing
Coon Rapids Civic Center, Room B,11155 Robinson Drive NW Coon Rapids

January 26, 2006
5 p.m. Open House/6:30 p.m. Public Hearing
Metro Transit's Fred T. Heywood Office Building,560 Sixth Avenue North Minneapolis

January 30, 2006
6 p.m. Open House/7:30 p.m. Public Hearing
Big Lake High School Cafeteria, 501 Minnesota Avenue Big Lake

The closest one to the University is the meeting on the 26th at the Heywood office building of Metro Transit. For those students interested in things transportation related, I hope you attend. In addition there is a meeting Monday night at St. Thomas on a LRT summit in which the new Mayor of St. Paul, Chris Coleman, will be meeting and presenting with other transit supporters and politicians. I can not make it to this meeting because I have a night class, but strongly recommend others and getting involved with local affairs (as the daily puts it) “affect U”. U being you personally and the University of Minnesota community and the region.

That’s all I got for today

Kristen and I will be checking out the Mill City Museum tomorrow in the afternoon for their guided walking tour of the Washburn A Mill. I will try to get some good pictures and maybe pick up a few postcards, and tell all about it.

Until next time,


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