Metro Transit to cut some services Saturday, residents protest in response

People are protesting Metro Transit’s decision to cut some of its bus services.

The agency says the planned changes that will cut about 8% of bus services take effect on Saturday, and different transit advocacy groups protested the decision on Thursday night.

Metro Transit says the decision was made because of the ongoing driver shortage, but many believe it’s unacceptable.

“We are in a negative feedback loop right now and that’s really problematic,” said Sam Rockwell, Executive Director at Move Minnesota.

Sam Rockwell is the Executive Director of Move Minnesota, an agency that works for better transit across the state, and they led Thursday’s protest.

“The goal is to really get Metro Transit leadership’s attention,” Rockwell said.

Metro Transit will reduce bus service by about 8% across the board, but that’s on top of everything else they’ve gone through since the start of the pandemic.

“We’re essentially about 67% of service on the street compared to where we were in 2019 so it’s a big gap,” said Adam Harrington, Director of Service Development at Metro Transit.

Adam Harrington is the Director of Service Development with Metro Transit, and he says they’re short 74 full-time operators and could use another 300 more.

“We’re in a spot where we have to make some hard choices,” Harrington said.

Rockwell and others understand there’s a shortage, but encourage Metro Transit to be creative with city leaders with things like bus lanes and automatic green lights for buses.

“The number of drivers that we have is just one element that impacts service and so what we’re asking metro transit is to use all their tools in their toolbox to counteract the service cuts,” Rockwell said.

Despite these service cuts, Metro Transit is launching the new D Line on Saturday, replacing Route 5 between Mall of America and Brooklyn Center.

Transit advocates are stressing urgency.

“A lot of people depend on our transit system to get to everything,” Rockwell said.

While there’s no timetable for a return to normal service, Metro Transit is seeing an uptick in applicants for bus operators.

“We hope guardedly that we’ll be able to turn the corner here in the next year and start beginning to plan how we start bringing service back,” Harrington said.

Metro Transit is hosting a couple hiring events, including one on Saturday. For more information on becoming a bus operator visit here.

For more information on the service changes visit here.