MN: Metro Transit Says Concerns About Green Line Speeds are Premature

May 15--In test runs, Metro Transit's new Green Line is more of a tortoise than a hare.

On Wednesday, Minnesota Public Radio reported trip times on test trains between downtown St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis have averaged 67 minutes, rather than the projected 40 minutes.

That's difficult news for transit advocates who say the light rail can be the linchpin in a virtually car-free lifestyle. On Interstate 94, a driver can make the trip between the two downtowns in as little as 15 minutes in light traffic.

"That is a concern, and that's without even stopping to pick up passengers," said St. Paul City Council member Dave Thune. "It's certainly not what was planned to be competitive, if the old buses were faster."

The light rail-line's trip times could still be reduced as train operators settle into their new routine, Metropolitan Council Chairwoman Sue Haigh said Wednesday.

She emphasized that the Green Line will be run by 120 operators, who are still in training, and the official June 14 debut of passenger service is still a month away.

She also pointed out that most transit riders will be making trips within the corridor, rather than traveling the length of it like a commuter rail line. "This is really about station-to-station service," she said.

Technology could help shave some minutes.

Nevertheless, travel times along the Green Line have been a concern since the planning stages.

In April 2006, the Green Line's alternatives analysis and draft environmental impact statement did not include station stops at Western Avenue, Victoria Street and Hamline Avenue. The District Councils Collaborative and Aurora-St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corp. joined community groups to advocate the three stops be added.

The "Stops For Us" campaign took its case to Washington, and the U.S. Department of Transportation altered the formula to award more points to projects with higher financial commitments from local government. The three "missing" stops were added.

As a result, the 11-mile Green Line has 18 new stations, in addition to five shared with the Blue Line in Minneapolis, for a total of 23 stops.

The Blue Line stops at a total of 19 stations in 12 miles.

Copyright 2014 - Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

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