Saturday, June 30, 2012

I hate it when this happens

I hate it when this happens.

The annual Hmong soccer tournament and festival is going on at Como Park (well, McMurray Field) this weekend (the "Hmong Freedom Celebration and Sports Festival"). 30,000 people are expected at the park today. Metro Transit's response? Oh, we give up.

Admittedly, the bus is still running, and not too far away for people who want to come to the festival and get dropped off near the eastern edge, but I'm stuck in the middle and have to add half a mile to my journey.

Como Park has been operating their own free shuttle service for the past 2 or 3 years, and it seems to have helped with congestion on the immediately-adjacent neighborhood streets (where stricter parking restrictions have been added on weekends).  But, in my view, there's a lack of integration between the Como Park shuttle and the Metro Transit network.

Como Park visitors are now directed to park in a lot at the southern edge of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds—an area that is otherwise rarely used.  The only immediately-adjacent bus service is provided by route 3—specifically, route 3A and 3B.  That combination runs at half-hourly service on weekends.  This is a park-and-ride solution, requiring people to get to a fairly auto-dependent area in order to take a bus somewhere else.

Only the 3A bus runs through the park, so if you're on Como Horton Avenue within the park itself, you can only expect hourly service on Saturdays and Sundays.

Of course, the entire Metro Transit network shrinks drastically and runs at lower frequency on Saturday and (particularly) Sunday, so it would be tough to get transit integration working really well for the area.  Personally, I think it would be nice if the Como Park shuttle could stop at the intersection of Como and Snelling Avenues, where route 84 maintains 15-minute service on Saturdays and 30-minute service on Sundays (and it's the point closest to the park where the 3 is still half-hourly).  It would also be nice if a shuttle could run down to University Avenue either via Snelling Avenue or Lexington Parkway and pick up traffic from today's route 16 and the Green Line starting in 2014.

But, this could all be for naught if the random stuff people carry with them to the park gets in the way anyway.  There are strollers galore, toys, random folding chairs and other furniture, plus many people bring all sorts of food to the picnic tables and grills in the park.  There are some things for which public transit is impractical, and park activities push that envelope.

I haven't had to use the Como Park shuttle since I live right by the place.  It seems to have pretty good service frequency—the travel distance is only about 1.5 miles, so just a few buses can go back and forth rapidly.  I've never gotten a good look at what type of buses they use, since they're always in motion when I'm waiting at my bus stop, but one drawback is that they only have a single door at the front.  I'm sure that loading and unloading becomes slow and stressful at times.

As for rerouting the 3A when the park gets busy,  I guess I just don't think the traffic usually gets bad enough to justify that.  But I'm not the one trying to ply my way through it a dozen or so times during the day.  I can just walk around my neighborhood if I want to.


  1. this exact topic came up for discussion before the planning commission yesterday. the city is advising metro transit of the importance of connecting the new lexington bus line all the way to como park, esp on weekends. this is difficult, though, because of a robert moses-esque bridge over the "parkway" underneath which MT buses can't fit. They'll have to take some alterate route, or else go on energy park over to snelling and then back on como to the park, in a stupid stupid unnecessary jog. the other alternative it to use some sort of low buses, though that is very unlikely.

    Robert Moses strikes again!!!

  2. Huh. I guess my car fits, so I don't even think about that bridge. The signs on it say the center lanes have a clearance of 12' 8", but I suppose that's pretty tight. The outer lanes go down to just 9' 4", so a distracted driver could end up having a really bad day.

    There's another bridge at Chatsworth, 1/4 mile east, which seems to be passable -- I'm guessing that's today's detour route given the wording on the sign in my photo.

    Heh, I don't know if Robert Moses is to blame, especially since that's a rail bridge, not a highway one. Partial credit, maybe ;-)

  3. A MT transit planner told me about that bridge when I was grilling her about the new Lexington route on Thursday. She said they used to use the smaller buses for the old Lexington route, and they were able to clear that bridge. While I think it's puzzling to terminate the route at Snelling & Como (she said they were at the limit of cycle time and would have to add buses to go further), it makes more sense to me to run it down Energy Park rather than Horton. Maybe a compromise could be reached where they use small buses on Horton on the weekends but standard buses on Energy Park during the weekdays?

    But to get back to your main point, it's really crazy to detour transit away from a major destination due to heavy traffic. If things are really that bad, it's time for steps that actively discourage people from driving there (how much does it cost to park?).

    1. Yeah, parking is free everywhere at the park, even during big events (at least as far as I've been able to tell). Somebody was apparently charging $10 for parking in my neighborhood (I think it was the apartment complex next to mine), but that's all I really saw.

    2. And yes, I think it'd be a decent compromise to run the 83 down Energy Park on weekdays but have it go to/through the park on weekends.