Fewer stops and branches could leave some riders stranded
Frances Rockymore got a car two years ago because she was tired of how long it takes to transfer from the Blue Line to Route 22 to reach her home by the V.A. Hospital.
“I used to ride it every day, and then when I started riding it, they were really slow—it wasn’t on time. I lost several jobs trying to catch the 22,” said Rockymore. “I can be waiting for a bus for 20 minutes, you know, and it’s very annoying, you know, trying to get home in zero-below weather.”
Metro Transit hopes to change that come August. They want to remove 46 stops along the route, most of which are on odd-numbered streets, and moving a few across the street to keep the buses moving.
The remaining stops will receive a makeover, which includes having nearby parking removed to allow the entire bus to pull up to the curb so people getting off at the back don’t have to step into the street before making their way to the sidewalk.
They also plan to install concrete bus pads that go over the boulevard so people in wheelchairs can board easier. Some stops may also get shelters.
It’s part of a years-long effort by the agency to streamline individual routes throughout the system that appear frustrating to use because of the many stops and branches.
The agency evaluated 20 routes to receive treatment similar to the 22. They say they plan to do the same to the 4 and 17 in the coming years. They’ve done something similar to the following routes in the past, in order of occurrence: 9, 71, 2, 63, 3.
At close to 46 miles round-trip, including all branches, the 22 is the longest local service route in the system that operates seven days a week as of August 2021. It connects the V.A. Hospital to Brooklyn Center Transit Center, making stops in the Nokomis East, Standish-Erickson, Corcoran, Phillips, Cedar-Riverside, Downtown, Near North, Hawthorne, McKinley and Camden neighborhoods of Minneapolis.
Past Webber Park, the route splits into four branches, with one going through the Shingle Creek neighborhood to join Route 5 and the C Line on Brooklyn Boulevard, and the remainder through the Lind-Bohanon neighborhood on Humboldt and Bryant Avenue.
The fourth branch follows Bryant Avenue to Dupont Avenue into Brooklyn Center, ending a block from the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
Altogether, Route 22 topped 5,542 average weekday boardings in Fall 2019, and 60% of that in Fall 2021, making it the eighth-busiest route in the system over the past two years, excluding rapid bus lines.
The plan also calls for removing the Shingle Creek and Dupont branches, designated respectively as the A and D branches, as well as the G branch that dodges under Lake Nokomis on E. 57th Street.
Not everyone is on board. Pam Begin lives near the A branch in the city’s Shingle Creek neighborhood and uses it twice a week to shop at Cub and Walmart in Brooklyn Center, both of which are shorter walks from the branch and don’t require transferring from Brooklyn Center Transit Center.
“I guess I’ll be either walking the seven blocks to Brooklyn Boulevard to catch a bus and then, you know, bring my stuff back walking another seven blocks back home. Or more likely I’ll take a cab, which is going to be a little expensive,” said Begin.
Data obtained from Metro Transit shows the branch is the lowest-performing of the three, with an average of 20 boardings in fall 2019 and seven boardings in 2021 on 49th, Penn, and 51st Avenues alone. In December 2021, Saturday service on the 22A was eliminated.
The Metropolitan Council adopted standards in its transportation policy plan in 2014 calling for routes that serve major corridors and neighborhoods to be revised or eliminated if they do not have at least 20 riders for every hour the route is in service, like the 22A.
But the route is a lifeline for people like Begin, who does not have a car and feels safer riding the bus. “You’ve got the driver there. You’ve also got 911 [that] tends to respond pretty quickly to the buses,” said Begin. “But just out walking around doesn’t always feel so safe, or standing on a corner waiting for a bus.”
It’s unclear how frequently the 22 will run when the changes are done, although some riders who spoke to the MSR thought it should run more often. It’s also unclear how much time it will save once the changes are made.
One thing that will certainly happen: Citing its ongoing driver shortage, Metro Transit is not waiting for August to make changes. Starting March 26, the 22 will run every 20 minutes instead of 15 during the rush hour. Trips on the G branch will be reduced from six to two in the morning, and from six to three in the afternoon. The D branch will also see reductions, from seven to five in the morning, and from five to four in the afternoon.
The project won’t address delays caused by trains crossing just north of 42nd Avenue, requiring the 22 to detour on I-94. “That is a uniquely challenging intersection, with the railroad tracks crossing Lyndale Ave. at grade, then immediately bridging over I-94 and then under 42nd Ave. N.,” said Padilla. “Our strategy has focused on mitigating delays with a standing detour, so that when an operator sees a train delay they can reroute to I-94.”
Metro Transit aims to finalize the changes by May 2022 but say they are always open to making recurring changes. “We hope to hear from as many people as possible, but if people miss this outreach period, we are always receptive to feedback even after service launches,” said Padilla.
Riders who wish to provide Metro Transit feedback on these changes can complete a survey online at www.metrotransit.org/route-22 by March 23. They can also email Metro Transit’s community outreach department at communityoutreach[at]metrotransit.org.
Those without internet access can complete the survey or provide feedback by contacting the agency’s customer relations department at 612-373-3333. The agency says it is not doing in-person outreach because of the pandemic.
H. Jiahong Pan 潘嘉宏 (pronouns: they/them/theirs) is a Minneapolis-based introverted freelance journalist who reports primarily on their lifelong passion: transportation issues. Find them on a bus of all types, the sidewalk, bike lane, hiking trail or perhaps the occasional carshare vehicle, camera and perhaps watercolor set or mushroom brush in tow, in your community or state or regional park regardless of season. If you can’t find them, they’re probably cooking, writing, curating an archive of wall art or brochures, playing board games, sewing or cuddling with their cat. Follow on Twitter: @h_pan3 or Instagram: @hpphmore or on Mastodon: @firstname.lastname@example.org.