Isn’t it time for better transit?

All this talk about sustainability in Duluth, and how the DTA was named Best Transit Provider in Minnesota, and it wins all the Sustainability Points it can get (biofuels, paper reduction, hybrid busses, new technology, etc) – but..

Why can’t a car-free-sustainable-person like me take a bus downtown or to a movie on a Saturday night?

Seriously… is anyone else feeling the pinch of poor transit options for the car-less or car-free of us in Duluth? Some of us make the choice to be sustainable and car-free, and then what?  We get to sit at home every Saturday and Sunday evening, because our busses stop operating around 7pm!  How does that make a “sustainable city” or attract sustainability-minded folks?  Now service is cut on the 24th during the week (no service after 7:15pm), yet not New Year’s eve.  Huh?

Have there been any attempts at better transit in the past? Advocacy groups?  Sustainability groups that take action rather than pat politicos on the back or host “seminars”?  Any ideas on organizing a Bus Rider’s Union or getting a Car-sharing program going in Duluth?

Or, as I asked the mayor in an email, as well as the DTA – “Should a guy like me just buy a car and ‘shut up’ in Duluth?”

Ideas are welcome, as are interested organizers! Send email to [email protected].

27 Comments

MJ

about 13 years ago

The DTA knows riders would like expanded service.  The problem is money:

Heilig and other DTA officials have heard from riders who want more night and weekend routes to help them get to work. If that's going to happen, then riders might have to pay for the expansion themselves.

"There is no more state money and there is no more federal money that we can add to the pot," Heilig said. "One of the things that the board is evaluating is that should we look at raising fares so that we can add on the services that people are asking for. At this point, we are looking at 100 percent funding on our own."

http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/155071/publisher_ID/36/

Taking a cab home from a movie on the weekend is still a lot cheaper than owning a car.  Any solution is going to come down to funding.

Barrett Chase

about 13 years ago

I would gladly pay double fare if I could easily ride the bus to work at night, especially in winter. As it is, the West Mainline bus stops 6 blocks from my workplace just before my scheduled start time, provided that it's not running late. The bus prior to that one comes an hour earlier. It's simply not worth it to me.

If the Ramsey/Raleigh bus ran later, I would probably ride it every day. But even on weeknights, the last one leaves the Holiday Center at 6:20pm.

wildgoose

about 13 years ago

When I was a mid-level bureaucrat at a certain educational institution I proposed that we should consider subsidizing a bus that ran from downtown, canal park and possibly lincoln park back to East Hillside and certain educational institutions to help keep drunks off the road.  This is "harm reduction" thinking, very practical and not very welcome if people are just looking at costs and logistics, there has to be a certain morality or ethics brought into the equation to make it sensible.  Thing is, it wasn't even my idea, we had something like it when I was in college, it was called the "safety bus" and whatever it cost, it was worth it.  No one on that bus ever died of hypothermia walking home from a party or in a drunken crash and before the safety bus every year we had at least one or two of those.  So does Duluth.  

Suggestions like that ended my tenure there

wildgoose

about 13 years ago

Oh I should say suggestions like that and a few boneheaded mistakes and occasional bad attitude.  I wanna give credit where credit is due.

Resolutionary

about 13 years ago

Yes it's time for better transit.
 
In order for riding busses to be feasible extended hours and more frequent service is needed, even if many of those off-peak busses are nearly empty. Extended offerings will draw riders to the system and fill up the busses, increasing the efficiency of the system.

But much like the road and highway system, transit is heavily subsidized by the government. Fares pay only about 30% of operating costs. Duluth experience of a diminished operating budget for transit is shared by every major city in the country.  It's not without irony that while the political will has suddenly emerged to expand transit infrastructure the funds for operation have been slashed (even as ridership increases across the board).
 
That said, I cannot wait for the Grand Ave/Superior Street Light Rail Line extending from Fond Du Lac to 60th Avenue East to open.   Imagine how transformative LRT will be for Duluth.

Bad Cat!

about 13 years ago

I have a car so am not affected by the bus schedule now, but I do remember being annoyed when I was a full-time bus rider. It seemed that if you were travelling to/from downtown/the mall during week day business hours, then you were golden. If you had to travel outside of those restrictions, expect long waits and multiple transfers, or more likely, no bus coverage at all.

Cassi

about 13 years ago

I quite agree. After living near Chicago and getting used to their much more expansive transportation system, I feel house-bound back home here in Duluth!

jim

about 13 years ago

Oddly, I just had a dream last night of lrt in Duluth.  One of the main things about Portland, Oregon that I like is the light rail system. Duluth would be far more livable if the line you outline existed. Heck, run a line from park point up over the hill to the mall area and airport, as well! (Car-free trips to the beach, anyone?) Most medium and up sized cities in the country, Duluth Included, had electric rail transit at one time, and people got around easier, and used less fuel. It was a good idea then, and its a good idea now. Oh, and in Portland you can easily take your bicycle on the train. Think of the possibilities!

mevdev

about 13 years ago

Having a dedicated transit system would be a great start. Duluth used to have a really nice streetcar system with electric streetcars, but we needed more room for cars. 

Buses are part of the traffic *problem*. They don't get you there faster than a car. Light rail does! Subways do! That said, I'll take what I can get.

mevdev

about 13 years ago

Does anyone know how much money was spent in Duluth maintaining roads vs. maintaining public transit?

David

about 13 years ago

What would it cost to keep the Sunday hourly schedule running an extra 3 hours on Saturday and an extra 4 hours on Sunday?

I lice where I can walk places - if I didn't, I'd be homebound or driving.

Shane

about 13 years ago

In Duluth, cars are faster than taking a bus and cars are also fairly cheap or free to park. 

If these two things ever change in Duluth, public transportation will succeed as it has in cities where traffic is a problem and cars are expensive to park.

Bob

about 13 years ago

get a car, commie. make the bars pay for drunk transit like the warehouse used to do.

Sean

about 13 years ago

What comes first, the chicken or the egg?  

This is a very valid post and question, but it comes down to one very simple point: transit will not gain wide-spread, popular acceptance until the price of gas goes way up.  Fares alone can't pay for what you're asking.  It's not realistic and given the current national political situation probably not the best place to put your energy.  Instead, lobby for a carbon tax or a substantial increase in the gas tax.  Lobby for our military to stop subsidizing our gas usage.  Asking for increased transit without any sort of assurance that those buses will be (nearly, completely) full is like banging your head against a brick wall.  

There's just not the money for it right now.

scotts

about 13 years ago

I love the "Get a car, commie" post! LOL.

In a letter I sent the mayor, I actually asked him "Should I just buy a car and shut up?  Move to the twin cities with all the other hippies and commies?"

I really do think that parking meters are CHEAP here, city owned parking ramps are CHEAP here, and parking tickets are just really LOW for cars who offend.  Double the rate for all of those things (the tourists have money, and maybe businesses would start caring about parking and transit incentives for employees), and raise the transit fares to $1.00 and $1.50 for peak time - or more.. (keep the old rates for seniors and disability), and we could have us some funding for better transit, bike, and other transportation funds locally.

Mac

about 13 years ago

"Some of us make the choice to be sustainable and car-free, and then what?"

You made the choice.  Live with the consequences of that decision.  You seem educated enough to figure out what would happen if you didn't have a car.  To complain after the fact is a lousy way of going about things.  It may suck that you don't have that option, but as you said, that's the choice you made.

David

about 13 years ago

1.  Buses have to be full to be viable?  That would make then unique among transit options.

2.  I would wholeheartedly support increasing parking tickets and even meter fees.  Structure fees, less so, because I'm still thinking my taxes covered some of those monsters.

That said, hooray for the cheapness here.  I woulf not endorse an increase in fares unless pass rates would remain the same (for monthly and possibly weekly passes).

wildgoose

about 13 years ago

I'm all for transit.  I've traveled the world's longest rail trip (Beijing to Moscow) and just about every size trip in between in my day.  When I was a kid I rode the bus a few times each day.  Like downtown after school to swimming lessons at the y and back again.  Never once did I have a safety issue, btw.  So yes, I am in favor of more transit. I grew up broke, in a single parent family and the DTA of those years transformed my childhood from one of isolation into one of opportunity. public transit adventures elsewhere have done the same.  I love it.  

But this talk of penalizing cars through regressive fees, such as parking fines, smacks of elitism and in my view it damages the argument by eliminating the very poorest of people (and me) from the advocacy table.  If you have a Duluth-ish wage job you may need a modest car to stay in your job and survive and that car, the fees, the gas, and the parking tickets need to be affordable for poor people.  The median income in this area is like $30K for families of all sizes, people.  Few of us are rich, and many are downright poor.  Yes, transit is a social justice issue, but so is being able to get to work and back home safely and efficiently, and in many cases that requires a car. 

A better tack would be pressuring the large employers, SMDC comes to mind, but some of the nursing homes, factories, United Health and others quickly follow ... anyway, create a free/cheap feeder shuttle system shuttling to and from FREE park and ride lots at the edges of town around shift changes.  Offer it as a free or low cost benefit to employees and quite tearing down houses in the hillside to put up more parking lots.

Resolut

about 13 years ago

It's legitimate to choose to live without a car for either financial or sustainable reasons, and then subsequently advocate for better non-car options.

It's true that relatively low congestion, cheap or free parking, and heavily subsidized gas prices incentivizes cars.  Our auto-dependence has influenced most aspects of our lives, where we live, where we shop, and how our cities are designed.  But what happens when a crisis in the Middle East pushes gas to $6/gallon? Can we redesign Duluth overnight to be less fossil fuel dependent? A couple years ago Paul Krugman wrote a piece called "Stranded in Suburbia" where he argues long after the SUV is nothing but a museum piece, the suburbs built around the automobile will continue to immobilize and impoverish its inhabitants.  Establishing viable alternatives and transit corridors now will influence development that is going to allow us to continue to be mobile down the road.  Busses meet a need, but they don't influence sustainable development or generally attract ridership from people that can choose cars.  LRT rail does.
  
Duluth needs to begin the arduous process of reorganizing around transit, biking, and walking.  At least this challenge will be mitigated by the fact those are the transportation options we were built around in the first place.  

The infrastructure drives the use, and the users demand the infrastructure.  An astounding 37% of commuters in Copenhagen get to work on a bike.  That is because they built the infrastructure to make that option safe, and imposed the real costs on driving that we opt to socialize in America.
 
Or I suppose we could keep driving the only reasonable option because who cares if we poison the air we breathe and the water we drink, keep getting fatter, continue to live isolated & sedentary lives, fund lunatic-fundamentalist-petro-dictators who want to kill us, and complacently accept the daily carnage caused by careless drivers in 3000lb hunks of steel.  Hey it's convenient!

mevdev

about 13 years ago

Glenwood Avenue on its redesign will have a bike lane. Why not make it a separated bike lane as to protect motorists and bikers?


http://www.streetfilms.org/physically-separated-bike-lanes/

wildgoose

about 13 years ago

Clarification, I wasn't advocating complacency.

lojasmo

about 13 years ago

Well, here are your options as I see them.

1) Call your city council member.
2) Call the DTA
3) Have your friends do the same
4) Bike.
5) Do you have friends who drive?  Invite them to a movie.
6) Get a car.

db

about 13 years ago

I'll withdraw the idea of raising meters, but hold onto increasing fines.  After all, fines are avoidable if you pay your meter (park legally).

That's a fairish compromise, wildgoose?

huitz

about 13 years ago

What cracks me up, is the ratio of trucks to cars compared to other cities.  I had a buddy that insisted he needed a truck because he had to "haul stuff."  Sold it a year later, and not for monetary reasons.  One of the more funny stories I've heard.

wildgoose

about 13 years ago

I'm ok with that, parking meters weren't the big regressive issue for me, anyway.  In fact, I laugh at how much people whine about paying for parking in Canal Park, and I cry at the folks who are up in arms and criticizing the city about paying $4 for Bentleyville parking.

HN

about 13 years ago

I agree with the idea of having park and ride stations in other parts of town and QUIT tearing down the Hillside.  As a person just visiting Duluth for the first time it really stands out that that the area around SMDC 6th Avenue East and west of that is ONE BIG PARKING LOT. It is really UGLY it it a shame to do this to a beautiful city.  It looks terrible

Brian

about 13 years ago

Shane and Bob are my new Heros!

Leave a Comment

Only registered members can post a comment , Login / Register Here

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Read previous post:
Am I the only one …

... who spends most of the winter fighting the urge to sneak through parking lots, compulsively kicking ice chunks off...

Close