For the last seven years, Leslie Gordon has left her Southwest Minneapolis home to board a Metro Transit bus bound for her job in Mound. So when she learned this week that the line she rides is among those facing elimination by the Metropolitan Council, Gordon felt her life dip into uncertainty.
As it is, Gordon has trouble getting to Mound on weekends, when Metro Transit buses only run as far as Wayzata. An outright elimination of the route would, she said, cause dramatic change for her.
“It’s not cool that they’re thinking about cutting this,” she said. “I don’t know how I would get to work. I’d probably have to get another job, and it’s hard enough as it is trying to find a job.”
Sierra Limfort is also from South Minneapolis. She was on her way to Mound on Thursday afternoon to visit friends, and she said elimination of the bus routes serving Lake Minnetonka would “change her life.”
“I ride this bus a couple of times a week, at least,” the 17-year-old said. “All my friends live in Mound, and I live in Minneapolis, so I ride this bus to get out and see them.”
The driver behind the wheel of Thursday afternoon’s bus, who asked not to be identified, has spent a career with Metro Transit. The driver heard for the first time Thursday afternoon the scope of proposed cuts to suburban bus routes.
“It’s not because of (the Met Council), it’s because of the government,” the driver said. “They are the ones who want to make cuts. That’s where it’s coming from.”
Nearing retirement, this driver isn't worried about being among the 500 Metro Transit employees who could lose their jobs under the current proposal, but says many friends and co-workers would be out of work.
“I’ve never seen cuts like the ones they’re talking about here,” the driver said. “I don’t see how they could do that.”
The Metropolitan Council is bracing to lose 85 percent of its 2012-2013 Metro Transit funding if the Minnesota state legislature passes the latest budget plan at the end of the state government shutdown—a worst-case scenario reduction of $109 million for 2012-13 transit operations.
If the eventual budget that ends the current state government shutdown echoes these projections, the Met Council says it will be forced to slash or limit 130 of 146 bus routes across the Twin Cities. It also faces elimination of most suburban local and crosstown bus routes, along with raising fares 25 to 50 cents per ride. Met Council officials haven’t named specific routes for proposed cutting or reduced scheduling. Overall, a 25 percent reduction to service hours could be seen across the transit system.
Chelsea Bresey rides the bus a few times each week between Lake Minnetonka and Minneapolis and said she would be severely affected by the proposed cuts on the table.
“I can’t believe they’re thinking about cutting this—this is people’s transportation,” she said. “I don’t have a car, so bus is the main way that I get around. It would definitely affect me, and I know it would affect a lot of other people.”
Matthew Burgess is moving to Chicago this fall, but has lived in Mound all of his life. He rides Metro Transit regularly and, while relieved he will move to Chicago before any cuts are implemented, Burgess was concerned about the effects on fellow riders.
“I’m someone who is reliant on the Metro Transit system, and its helped me to get to jobs and see friends in Minneapolis,” he said. “It just kind of sucks that we’re going to have to cut this, but we can’t raise taxes on the richest 2 percent. It’s a bummer, and it’s going to be a big blow to Mound. A lot of people are going to be hurt.”