2 Minnesota lawmakers unveil plan for bill to increase State Fair transit options

Two state lawmakers say they’re planning to introduce legislation next year to increase transit options for visitors to the Minnesota State Fair.

Reps. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) and Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis) say their bill would direct the State Agricultural Society, which oversees the fair, to create a transportation plan for the State Fair in conjunction with the Metropolitan Council.

That transportation plan would be due by Aug. 1, 2024, according to their drafted bill.

RELATED: Fairgoers face transit, parking challenges as attendance rises

Hansen and Hornstein said in a release that their goal is to double the current transit service level and reduce traffic and parking in an effort to improve the overall fair experience.

The representatives say their plan stems from what they called a “lack of reliable transit options this year.”

“It’s no secret that Minnesotans love our State Fair, and we want getting to the fair to be easy and accessible for everyone. After hearing from constituents and fairgoers, it is clear we should do more to support transit options,” Hansen and Hornstein said in a prepared, joint statement. “Every year, tens of thousands of visitors use park and rides, metro transit, express buses, and more to visit, and building on those options will help improve the transportation experience, reduce traffic, and promote more sustainable transportation options.”

As the lawmakers noted, Metro Transit already offers 31 park-and-ride options around the metro, as well as express buses and both their A Line and Route 3. However, demand has been high, especially for the free park-and-ride options.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS talked to several fairgoers earlier this week, many of whom noted how difficult it is to find a parking spot at a park-and-ride lot as well as how long that process can take. A State Fair spokesperson said the demand for the park-and-ride service “has been high for several years. This year is no exception,” adding that the fair doesn’t have data on usage but “it feels like we’ve bounced back to pre-pandemic demand.”

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“We’re at almost 150,000 rides just through the first six days,” Metro Transit Deputy General Manager Brian Funk told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS of Metro Transit’s own park-and-ride locations, which aren’t free. “So, you can imagine, we’re putting all of the buses and of course, our operator resources into doing this to give everybody a good experience.”

Funk added that Metro Transit calculates the number of park-and-rides based on operator and bus/equipment resource forecasts.

The lawmakers say the continued strong demand shows more needs to be done to ensure everyone can have an easier time getting to the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

The first Friday of this year’s fair set a record attendance for that day with 164,741 visitors. Through the first seven days of the 2023 fair, more than 1 million people have attended the event, an average of more than 150,000 people each day.

In the meantime, fairgoers say it’s just important to be patient.