Metro bus service proposes route cuts

The proposed cuts would affect 70 percent of bus routes in the metro area.

Jason Juno

Fourth-year student Andy Inserra said that he and his sister take Metro Transit bus route 712 when they have an early class, from a stop in Crystal, Minn.

Other days, he said, he boards route 764 from his home in New Hope, Minn., to downtown Minneapolis and then transfers to finish the ride to the University. He also said he often takes that bus route home.

But if Metro Transit’s proposed service cuts go through, route 712 will no longer run. Route 764 would also stop running at approximately 5 p.m., instead of 5:30 p.m., he said.

The Metropolitan Council is proposing service cuts to bus routes and a 25 cent increase for bus fares on most individual rides across the metro area. The proposed cuts and fare increase would offset a $60 million deficit during two years, Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons wrote in an e-mail.

Five routes throughout the University will be hit in some way, according to the list of affected routes. That does not account for students who might see service reductions while using buses in other areas of the metro.

The proposed cuts would affect 70 percent of bus routes in the metro area. In total, it would be a 10 percent reduction in services, according to the Met Council’s Web site.

If the fares increase, the change would take effect July 1. Any service adjustments would take place in September and December.

Inserra said, “They’re cutting back and raising fares. Do one or the other, but it’s both, and it’s crazy.”

He said he has a car but does not want to drive to the University and park. Inserra said he has a U-Pass.

“It’s going to be more of a hassle,” he said. “You can’t get a direct route anymore, so you’ve got to figure more time to transfer downtown.”

If route 764 ends at an earlier time, Inserra said, it might affect his class schedule. He said he already takes a bus after an evening class that drops him off a mile from his house. To get home, he said, he then takes a local bus that runs once an hour.

Route 712 drops him off a few blocks from his house.

There will be alternate routes for route 712 if it is cut, Gibbons wrote.

After learning about the proposed fare hikes, Mary Sienko, University Parking and Transportation Services marketing manager, said she does not know if U-Pass rates will increase. The U-Pass costs $55.

The Parking and Transportation Services budget has not been set yet, she said.

Parking and Transportation Services is trying to set up a meeting on campus for students to ask Metro Transit officials questions, Sienko said.

The meeting would not be an official public hearing like the meetings the Met Council is holding around the metro area in April, she said. That means there would be comment cards for students to fill out, but officials’ comments would not be recorded, Sienko said.

Comment cards will also be available on buses in early April, Gibbons wrote.

Higher fuel, health-insurance costs and slow increases in revenue from the motor vehicle tax – a big source of transit funding – have hurt Metro Transit financially.

If service reductions take place, Metro Transit would save $15.9 million yearly, and the higher fares would bring in $6 million a year, Gibbons wrote.

With the changes, he wrote, Metro Transit expects to lose 4.2 million rides yearly.

Some people might be hurt by not taking the bus anymore, Gibbons wrote. Approximately one-third of Metro Transit’s

riders do not have cars, he wrote.

“So the proposed fare and service adjustments hit this group particularly hard,” Gibbons wrote.

The changes also hurt Metro Transit’s ability to help the area with growing traffic congestion, he wrote.