Skip to main content

'Seriously bad engineering': Stop lights slow Green Line

  • Author:
  • Updated:

By some measures, the new Green Line has been a real success since its June 16 launch – ridership is higher than expected and crime has been low. Riders seem to like it.

But a persistent criticism lingers: The train is too slow.

A forecasted end-to-end travel time of 49 minutes between the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis in reality sometimes takes more than an hour, and averages about 53 minutes, Metro Transit officials told the Pioneer Press. An early forecast had been just 40 minutes, the newspaper reports.

A big reason for the delays: stop lights. Trains currently roll to a stop when traffic lights are red. They do not have "pre-emption" — the ability of approaching trains to always trigger a light to change to green, the Star Tribune reports.

That would likely slow traffic, but shorten train travel times along the 23-station, 11-mile route.

It's "seriously bad engineering" to have trains waiting so much at lights, transportation expert David Levinson told the Star Tribune. Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb acknowledges to the Pioneer Press, "It is hard to rationalize a train with 300 people stopping at an intersection with no cross traffic."

But in consideration of pedestrians and traffic, St. Paul city officials are not eager to allow the Green Line to automatically trigger green lights on the route's 46 intersections with signals, even at the 19 with "low-volume" cross-traffic.

Still, St. Paul officials say they've been modifying the signal system and expect to make more improvements, the Pioneer Press notes.

The Pioneer Press also explains the concept of "green bands" sensors that trigger a few seconds of a new green light, or an extended green light, at some intersections, designed to give trains a better chance to sail through. It doesn't always work. But getting more trains through the green bands is an ongoing project for city officials in St. Paul, the Pioneer Press reports.

There's a lot at stake. Delays have made it difficult to coordinate departure times with Blue Line trains, which share five stations with the Green Line. Eventually, officials will want to coordinate with the southwest light rail train, too.

Aaron Isaacs, a retired longtime Metro Transit official who writes for the site, told the Pioneer Press that the Green Line's reliability is in real question, which could decrease ridership.

Isaacs advocates pre-emption for all low-volume intersections. "There are simply too many traffic lights spaced too close together for conventional signal timing ... to move the trains along," Isaacs writes.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-10-06 at 1.11.01 PM

Popular Apple Valley ice arena could be replaced

A concept plan to transform the ice arena is being considered.


Low river levels bring cancellations for St. Paul-New Orleans Viking cruises

The low water also impacted some barge traffic making its way down the river.

10.6 Tempest Weather Thumbnail

Drought tightens grip as Twin Cities reaches 'extreme' level

By this time last year, drought was fading fast in Minnesota.

Screen Shot 2022-10-06 at 11.23.49 AM

Police looking for woman missing since car crash near lake

The 49-year-old is believed to have been driving when the crash happened.

COVID-19 vaccine testing Mall of America

Minnesota's COVID-19 update for the week ending Tuesday, Oct. 4

The 7-day average number of cases has been dropping.

Life Link

Man airlifted after being pinned under truck in northern MN

The incident happened near Nisswa, Minnesota.

Screen Shot 2022-10-06 at 8.37.44 AM

St. Paul company ends corrugated manufacturing, cutting 130 jobs

The facility produces around 200,000 tons of corrugated packaging every year.

police lights squad car dark - Unsplash

Sartell woman, 94, killed in collision with semi-truck

The crash happened in Haven Township near St. Cloud.


Red light stop. Green light slow.

A power failure Sunday is hurting Minneapolis motorists today. KARE 11 reports a power outage shut down the city's central traffic system, leaving a less sophisticated backup system to regulate traffic signal timing. City officials say motorists will likely notice the difference in traffic flow over the next few days.