Writer’s Block: Green Line ride painfully slow

I had such high hopes for the Green Line rail between Minneapolis and St. Paul, but my first experience was not so great.

Eric Hagen
Eric Hagen

My commute is less than 8 miles between Ramsey and Coon Rapids, and I could need my car at any moment to cover breaking news or go to an interview. Northstar Commuter Rail is not meant for me on weekdays unless I am going to a Minnesota Twins game. It makes more sense on the weekends, but its limited schedule can make it difficult to get around.

Nevertheless, my experiences on Northstar have been positive and I can see the value of having it as the northwest metro and beyond continues to grow and people need to commute downtown. And it does come in handy for those Twins games. It would even be nice to have a second train because people are packed in like sardines.

It’s nice to be able to get downtown in about 35 minutes without having to deal with the hassle of traffic.

The Blue Line (formerly called the Hiawatha Line) takes about 40 minutes to go 12 miles from Target Field to its end stop at the Mall of America. Therefore, a trip to the Mall of America takes about one hour and 15 minutes. I can get there faster by car most of the time unless it is rush hour, but I do not have to worry about finding a parking spot, and the $7 round trip is less than paying for gas and wear and tear on my car, especially with gas being around $3.50 a gallon.

The Green Line is 1 mile shorter, yet it takes about 10 minutes more to travel the whole distance compared to the Blue Line.

And it took a lot longer than the advertised 48 minutes to go from Target Field in Minneapolis to the Union Depot in St. Paul.

It took over an hour for me to get from Target Field to St. Paul Saturday afternoon, June 14.

Part of this can be attributed to it being the first day the Green Line was open and rides on any Metro Transit rail and bus being free all weekend. A stalled vehicle on the tracks also cost us some time.

I also was surprised that the Green Line and Blue Line share the first four stops in Minneapolis (Warehouse District/Hennepin Avenue, Nicollet Mall, Government Plaza and Downtown East by the Vikings stadium). Blame me for not following the story closely enough, but I didn’t know these tracks would be shared. It seemed to really slow everything down to be waiting for the different trains.

The Blue Line has 18 stops on its 12-mile route while the Green Line has 23 stops in 11 miles. That’s a huge contribution to the increased time with there being a stop every half-mile in some areas.

There originally were not going to be stops at Hamline Avenue, Victoria Street and Western Avenue, but neighborhoods wanted stations every half-mile from Snelling Avenue to Rice Street.

I can understand why they wanted this because the light rail essentially was meant to replace bus routes along University Avenue. Bus route 50 only took a little over half-an-hour when I rode it a decade ago between the University of Minnesota and downtown St. Paul when I was taking a class twice a week at the Pioneer Press, so this was similar to riding the Green Line. This bus route no longer exists.

Bus route 16 took over an hour because it stopped almost every block if somebody needed it to. That route is still around. I think it would have made more sense to eliminate a few stops on the rail line and if people cannot walk the extra distance, they could take a connecting bus route. Extra stations cost more money.

You can still have fewer buses than before to cut down on pollution, but rail should be a faster alternative.

Eric Hagen can be reached at  [email protected]

  • SteveInMinn

    I am not sure why your first-person experience about riding on the Green Line on its first day was published two weeks late. Be that as it may, with all due respect, you need to pay a lot more attention.

    Times have improved since the first day. Come try it again, and not at a time when it was mobbed with curious riders who paid no fare as part of a promotion.

    The train was not designed to go between downtowns; there is an express bus for that. It’s designed to pick up and drop off people along the way – like those of us who live between the downtowns, near the stops you mentioned. Lots of people work here, too.

    You factored a lack of need to park into your Blue Line analysis. Did you do the same for your Green Line critique? Did you factor in the time spent walking from your parking space (once you find one) to your destination? The Green Line is, in fact, a time-saver when used properly. Let’s face it, there is no worse waste of time than driving around a parking garage. I’d rather spend the time walking to and from train stations.

    You’re surprised the lines share four stations downtown Minneapolis? Seriously? If you had paid any attention when downtown the past say, four years, you would’ve noticed they were not, in fact, building any more stations.

    And light rail was not meant to replace bus routes. Data released before your story was published online show 12,000 more people a day are riding public transit in the area.

    • elkriverscott

      You forgot $$$$. Must be a democrat.

  • elkriverscott

    I have a tidy reward for anyone anytime anywhere to print the actual cost per person per ride, one way, on any rail system in the state. You will never, ever hear about the actual cost not coming from the rail crowd. Eric does not know, nor his editor. A real world non biased estimate will be removed from any news article. The system cannot and will never ever even break even. It does not relive congestion whatsoever. This is a foolish and immoral waste of money. NO facts, no problem, right Eric?