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SouthWest Transit CEO calls for end to downtown Minneapolis bus gridlock

He has written a letter to Mayor Jacob Frey.

The CEO of a Twin Cities transit service has blamed a "lack of proper traffic control" and failure to prioritize buses for the gridlock that's causing delays in downtown Minneapolis.

SouthWest Transit CEO Len Simich wrote a letter to Mayor Jacob Frey concerning downtown construction that is causing significant holdups to bus services, in some cases up to an hour long.

The construction in question is the closure of Marquette Avenue between 10th and 11th Streets, which is resulting in bus services detouring via South 2nd Avenue.

While Simich notes the city had given transit operators plenty of notice at the work and worked with them to minimize the impact prior to it starting, "the cooperative planning effort did not lead to a positive outcome when put into practice."

"A significant part of the plan was to station traffic control officers at key intersections to ensure buses moved on schedule," he wrote. 

"While traffic control officers were stationed at key intersections, it became clear on the first day that the officers were not directed to prioritize transit above any other mode.

"This lack of follow through by the city has resulted in significant delays to transit service throughout downtown Minneapolis during peak traffic hours, which has left our customers frustrated wondering why more is not being done by the city."

Simich notes that 40 percent of downtown workers take public transport to work, and further delays could exacerbate the current downturn in bus users across the Twin Cities metro.

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Help is on the way though, with a meeting between the city and transit operators taking place on Thursday evening.

As KSTP reports, the city agreed to "tweaks" that will create additional travel lanes, different signal timings, and open up a bus-only road allowing them to access 3rd Avenue South.

These changes should go into effect at 6 p.m. Friday, with work on Marquette wrapping up next month.

On its Facebook page, SouthWest thanked the city and Mayor Frey for its prompt response to its concerns.

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