Transit spins its wheels in the East Metro

The Pioneer Press’ well-documented story of a failed — so far — bus stop raises an important question for a region that often struggles to find its mass transit footing: Can you develop support by running so few buses?

If you take a bus from the suburbs in the East Metro, you have to adjust your schedule to the bus. And that’s the problem. There aren’t many buses and if you have an ordinary life, it’s better to drive.

The Pioneer Press documented the “new” Newport Transit Station, which opened almost three years ago. Nobody uses it. How can they? There are only three buses a day in each direction.

For $6.5 million, the few riders got a nice facility with plenty of parking, rest rooms, and air conditioning, something that comes in handy when the fumes from the nearby rendering plant are blown in its direction.

It was supposed to be a stop along the Red Rock commuter rail line, but the train idea was nixed a few years ago in favor of bus rapid transit. Someday.

And that’s the way transportation mostly works in the east metro. Someday it will be efficient.

“The station is not based just on today, but based on the direction that transportation is moving as a whole,” county transportation planning manager Jan Lucke tells the paper.

Now? If you don’t need to be in St. Paul between 6:38 a.m. and 7:52 a.m., the bus isn’t for you. On the trip home, if you’re not out of town between 4:05 p.m., and 5:25 p.m., you’re stuck.

Spiffy park and rides are nice. Buses are better.

Next month, Metro Transit will add service to Minneapolis, but service, too, will be limited to a too-narrow window.

Officials have big plans for the neighborhood. An apartment building is going up for those who want to live next to a busy freight train route, in the shadow of I-494, and downwind of the rendering plant.

  • Sam M

    Every time I drive by I shake my head. Such waste. Truthfully I don’t even know that I could tell you the best way to get to it and I think by the time you drive down there it would be faster to drive up the road a couple of more miles to the next park and ride.

    • It’s not the building that’s the waste, though. It’s the lack of service that makes it a waste. It’s hard to see the way forward for east metro transit. Just up the road you have this overloaded lot, which, not coincidentally, gets more buses in it.

      As I’ve noted over the years, Woodbury’s buses are full, but you can’t get one after 7:50 a.m.

      It’s a “which comes first” situation.

      But worth noting there’s no signage at all up on the interstate for the station.

      It has great possibilities but at some point you have to actually run a bus to get it to live up to the potential.

      • Sam M

        You are correct it wasn’t the building or the idea that’s a waste it is the execution that makes it a waste.

  • Gary F

    Maybe the Newport station needs other stuff going on to make it more active

  • Doug

    Why would Metro Transit add more buses, when the current service is so underused? I understand your point, but the pick up times you mentioned seem likely to be the most commonly used by commuters. If those times aren’t popular, I don’t blame the schedulers for not adding more off peak routes.

    • Jay T. Berken

      “likely to be the most commonly used by commuters”

      All work is not like factory work anymore, one does clocks out AT 4 to 5pm anymore.

      • 212944

        SD 833 is huge, juggling elementary students who live in Cottage Grove, Newport and Woodbury with a single fleet of buses (plus middle and high school, same fleet). While elementary start times will shift around a bit for CG and Woodbury schools, the administrators keep the buses for the Newport elementary students consistently tied to traditional shift work schedules, as the parents in Newport are most likely to have those inflexible schedules and they recognize that parents in other parts of the district are more likely to have some flexibility in their work schedules.

        As you write, all work is not factory work anymore. As Bob writes and has written for years, the Woodbury transit buses – all two of them in the morning – are packed.

        The SD 883 folks get it. They survey and ask questions and adjust to the needs of their community.

        Those running the public transit buses don’t. Or aren’t willing to admit it. Regardless of reason, they continue to fail at their task.

    • Well, again, that’s the problem with planning out a transit system. It’s a case of “who’s going to go first?” The expectation that people should adjust their lives in order to show support for a transit route, is a questionable. Also, it doesn’t work. The Woodbury buses (the last one leaves at 750) have been packed to the gills for years. They never added additional buses.

      If you look three miles up the road (at Afton and 61), you’ll see park and rides packed. Why? Because the Minneapolis express bus stops there. Later this month it’ll start stopping in Newport. But it was kind of insane to wait 3 years to figure out that people need to go to Minneapolis for work more than they need to go to St. Paul