Metro Transit will offer perks to win back riders

Britt Johnsen

Third-year law student Lori Buchheim said she is happy to see buses return, but is upset about the politics of the Metro Transit strike.

“I’m glad they’re back,” she said. “But it’s ridiculous and a bit selfish of people. Obviously, (Metropolitan Council and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005) wanted an impact.”

She said that during the strike, she spent an “astronomical amount of money on parking and parking tickets.”

Along with approximately 14,000 other U-Pass holders and 1,500 Metropass holders, Buchheim had the option of taking the bus again Monday. The 45-day bus strike ended Friday and 740 metro buses on 135 routes returned to the roads early Monday.

Lori Ann Vicich, marketing manager for the University’s Parking and Transportation Services, said parking demand was down, as the office expected.

She said it is still working on details of the U-Pass refunds.

U-Pass holder and sophomore Yana Grinberg said she is relieved the buses are back. She commutes from Maple Grove, Minn., and said money was an issue during the strike. She said she once had to pay $14 for an hour of parking.

“I’m glad they’re back, especially when gas prices are so high,” she said.

Money was also an issue for junior Lindsey Kary. Because there were no buses, she said she had to cut hours at her St. Paul job in half.

“I just barely made rent,” she said.

Kary said she is thrilled the buses are back.

Transit-dependent or not, anyone who chooses to ride the bus might notice some changes. Metro Transit will spend $500,000 on a campaign to win back riders, its spokesman Bob Gibbons said.

Officials have said this is necessary, as ridership will probably drop approximately 7 percent. The $7 million Metro Transit saved by not running buses during the strike will fund the campaign.

Part of the campaign includes temporary suspension of a rule that bans beverages on the bus. Metro Transit is also giving out free newspapers, offering discounts on monthly bus passes and will randomly give away coupons for Twins tickets starting Wednesday.

Gibbons said it is important to offer perks to increase ridership.

“We want to speak to those who are coming back to offer a sort of ‘Thank you,’ ” he said. “For those people who were our riders before the strike and are doing something else now, we want to give them a nudge in thinking about coming back.”

Whether customers return, drivers are back on the job. Many said though the contract they got could be better, it is good to get back to work.

“We’re glad to be back,” Metro Transit driving instructor Loree Cullen said. “We’re hoping ridership will come back. We need to see them. We miss them and we feel bad.”