Transit spins its wheels in the East Metro

The Pioneer Press’ well-documented story of a failed — so far — bus stop raises an important question for a region that often struggles to find its mass transit footing: Can you develop support by running so few buses?

If you take a bus from the suburbs in the East Metro, you have to adjust your schedule to the bus. And that’s the problem. There aren’t many buses and if you have an ordinary life, it’s better to drive.

The Pioneer Press documented the “new” Newport Transit Station, which opened almost three years ago. Nobody uses it. How can they? There are only three buses a day in each direction.

For $6.5 million, the few riders got a nice facility with plenty of parking, rest rooms, and air conditioning, something that comes in handy when the fumes from the nearby rendering plant are blown in its direction.

It was supposed to be a stop along the Red Rock commuter rail line, but the train idea was nixed a few years ago in favor of bus rapid transit. Someday.

And that’s the way transportation mostly works in the east metro. Someday it will be efficient.

“The station is not based just on today, but based on the direction that transportation is moving as a whole,” county transportation planning manager Jan Lucke tells the paper.

Now? If you don’t need to be in St. Paul between 6:38 a.m. and 7:52 a.m., the bus isn’t for you. On the trip home, if you’re not out of town between 4:05 p.m., and 5:25 p.m., you’re stuck.

Spiffy park and rides are nice. Buses are better.

Next month, Metro Transit will add service to Minneapolis, but service, too, will be limited to a too-narrow window.

Officials have big plans for the neighborhood. An apartment building is going up for those who want to live next to a busy freight train route, in the shadow of I-494, and downwind of the rendering plant.