BY JOHN CHARLES WILSON
Metro Transit is facing one of the worst crises I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been a transit fanatic since the 1970s. This crisis isn’t caused by a lack of funding or ridership, but because of a shortage of drivers.
Quite a few routes in the Southside Pride readership area will be cut beginning on Dec. 3. Route 27, which serves 26th and 28th Streets between Hiawatha and I-35W, was suspended as of Oct. 15. Routes getting the (hopefully temporary) ax this winter include:
• The Orange Line will run once every half hour instead of once every 15 minutes during the midday on weekdays.
• Route 94 will run once every half hour instead of every 20 minutes during rush hour.
• Routes 7, 9, 23 and 67 will run once an hour instead of every 30 minutes when it’s not rush hour.
• Route 7 will be run by a private contractor, which usually means smaller buses will be used and the drivers will either be non-union or from a different union than the one representing Metro Transit drivers.
• Route 46 will be suspended between 46th Street Station and Highland Park.
• Route 23 will run once an hour instead of every 30 minutes when it’s not rush hour, and on weekends won’t cross the bridge into Highland Park.
• Routes 363 and 755 will have some trips suspended.
There is some good news, however: The new D Line on Chicago Avenue goes into effect at the same time all these cuts are being made. The D Line will be like Route 5, except it won’t stop every block. Stops within the Southside Pride readership area will be at 8th and Park (southbound), 7th and Park (northbound), Chicago and 14th, Franklin, 24th and 26th, Chicago-Lake Transit Center, Chicago and 34th, Portland and 38th (southbound), Park and 38th (northbound), Chicago and 42nd, 46th, 48th, 52nd and 56th, and Portland and 60th. The stops at 38th on Portland and Park are temporary until a final decision is made on what to do with the corner of 38th and Chicago, currently known as George Floyd Square.
The D Line will run once every 10 to 20 minutes, and mostly replaces Route 5. However, the regular Route 5, stopping every block, will still exist, running once an hour as far south as 56th Street. Riders going farther south will need to transfer there to the D Line. As the original plan was to run Route 5 every 30 minutes, I presume the driver shortage has affected this as well.
Metro Transit is hiring bus and train drivers and is offering a bonus to new employees: $5,000 if they already have a commercial driver’s license, and $3,000 if they have a regular driver’s license and need a commercial learner’s permit. Half is paid when they complete training and the other half after the probationary period. Information is available on their website, https://www.metrotransit.org. I also have information that they are raising wages next year from a starting level of around $21 per hour to about $26 per hour.
I fervently hope most Southside Pride readers don’t suffer too much from these extreme cuts in transit service. Metro Transit has cut service in hard times before, but it was usually on less-used routes in the suburbs or a bus running at midnight with one person on it. These cuts seem to be hitting Franklin Avenue unusually hard and will really impact people going from the Southside of Minneapolis to St. Paul.