As Metro Transit Leadership Cuts More Service, Bus Riders & Allies Push for Improvements
In December, Metro Transit leadership cut more service on dozens of Twin Cities bus routes. Fed up, more than 50 transit riders and supporters gathered in the cold for a rally at Metro Transit headquarters, demanding improvements to speed up buses and trains.
This is not the first time. Over the past two years, Metro Transit leadership has repeatedly made severe cuts to transit frequency, reduced service hours, and eliminated entire routes, citing an ongoing bus driver shortage.
We’re hearing from transit riders over and over about how negatively these cuts affect them, and with even more on the way, people are concerned about getting around this winter.Julie C. Johnson, community organizer with Move Minnesota
Although Metro Transit leadership is working to hire more bus drivers during the nationwide shortage, they are leaving other big solutions on the table. As the shortage continues, agency leaders must do more to improve and stabilize the transit service that people – and our climate – are counting on.
Our community relies on frequent public transportation to be able to get to work and school, see families and friends, get to essentials like groceries and health care. All of us in the Twin Cities deserve public transit that is quick and convenient and there when we need it. And even though there is a national bus driver shortage, quality transit is possible.Sam Rockwell, Executive Director at Move Minnesota
At the rally, we called on Metro Transit leaders to use every tool in their toolbox to significantly speed up local service and shorten wait times at stops and stations. We pushed agency leadership to immediately work with metro cities and counties to implement emergency bus lanes and transit signal priority — because, when buses run faster, Metro Transit will be in a stronger position to maintain quality service for riders while hiring continues.
We know Metro Transit leadership could mitigate cuts with service improvements that benefit bus riders – like other transit agencies around the country have done – but so far they’ve chosen not to, opting for harmful cuts again and again.
At December’s rally, we made it very clear: Enough is enough. And more than 20 allied organizations agreed, signing a letter this month to local and state leaders calling on Metro Transit to boost the bus.
Read the letter below and sign the petition!
January 6, 2023
To: Wes Kooistra, General Manager, Metro Transit
CC: Charles Zelle, Chair, Metropolitan Council; Jacob Frey, Mayor of Minneapolis; Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Minneapolis Public Works Director; Metropolitan Council Members; Hennepin County Commissioners; Governor Tim Walz, State of Minnesota; Melvin Carter, Mayor of Saint Paul; Sean Kershaw, Saint Paul Public Works Director; Metropolitan Transportation Committee Members; Ramsey County Commissioners
We are deeply concerned about continued cuts to Metro Transit services and the negative impact that this has on Twin Cities residents, our metro communities, and on our region’s transit system as a whole.
Over the past two years, Metro Transit leadership has made severe cuts to transit frequency, reduced service hours, and eliminated entire routes again and again, citing an ongoing bus driver shortage. We recognize that this staffing issue is part of a nationwide labor shortage and appreciate Metro Transit’s efforts to increase wages and recruit for unfilled positions. But we find it unacceptable that while other public transit systems have taken proactive steps to counteract the shortage and provide the best service possible, Metro Transit leadership has opted for harmful cuts again and again without taking these counteracting measures (for example, the Los Angeles Metro will resume full pre-pandemic service levels on December 11!). The agency’s stated intention to reduce even more service on dozens of core routes on December 3 doubles down on this approach with no real end in sight.
Especially with the current bus driver shortage, we need and expect Metro Transit leadership to do more to improve and stabilize the transit service people are counting on. We don’t need more cuts. We urgently need solutions that speed up our buses and trains instead.
We call on Metro Transit leadership to use every tool in your toolbox to make service improvements that will mitigate the current operator shortage. We specifically urge Metro Transit to work proactively with metro cities and counties to significantly speed up local service with transit signal priority and emergency bus lanes. When buses run faster, Metro Transit will be in a stronger position to maintain quality service for riders while hiring continues.
These tools—and other tools like shifts in stop spacing and location—are low cost and effective. And partner transit agencies around the country are employing them in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Boston, and elsewhere. Metro Transit should immediately and aggressively pursue them here too.
As you know, public transit is an essential service that touches every aspect of daily life in our cities. When it serves people as it should, transit does not only serve as a social service of last resort, but also expands access to housing, jobs, education, groceries, health care, connections with friends and family, and so much more. It is a critical tool in the fight for climate justice and vital for ensuring all people in every Twin Cities neighborhood can breathe clean, healthy air.
Ongoing service cuts hurt all of us in one way or another. But disproportionately it is essential workers, BIPOC residents, people with disabilities, and people with low incomes who ride Metro Transit buses and trains—and by extension have the most to lose when service is reduced again and again and again.
Twin Cities residents of every race, age, income, and ability deserve public transit that is quick and convenient and there when we need it. Continue hiring, yes. But fight for your riders, too. The time for visionary leadership is now. The time to act is now.
Sam Rockwell, Executive Director, Move Minnesota and Move Minnesota Action