By Nick Longworth and Rose Schmidt
PublishedMarch 14, 2023 3:20PM
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) – Public safety is a big challenge right now for Metro Transit. As a result, transit officials have decided to temporarily close another indoor waiting area at a transit station.
The indoor waiting area on the east side of the Uptown Transit Station, a busy transit center along Hennepin Avenue in the heart of Uptown Minneapolis, will close beginning at 10 p.m. Wednesday.
Indoor waiting areas were built to shelter passengers waiting to catch the bus or train, but spokesperson Drew Kerr said other people are using the spaces, too, for unwanted behaviors.
“Over the last couple of years, these places have become more and more of a problem for us,” Kerr said. “There aren’t a lot of locations like this that are open right now for the public to just be and to stay warm. And that’s not what they’re intended for.”
Metro Transit officials said in an announcement Tuesday the closure of the Uptown station is also due to property damage and litter. The space will be reopened later in the year when contracted security officers are in place at the station and five other locations. Those stations include the Vertical Circulation Building/Central Station in downtown St. Paul, the Blue Line Lake Street/Midtown and Franklin Avenue stations, the Chicago-Lake Transit Center and the Brooklyn Center Transit Center.
The building near the Central Station in St. Paul already closed in December after a double homicide.
“There’s been a lot of frustrations around safety and different issues at these locations,” said Ryan Timlin, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005.
The union representing the bus operators said many of them don’t feel safe inside either, as they face continued threats of violence on buses and other issues they want to see addressed.
“The amount of open drug use is the largest thing right now. Homelessness, as well. And we’re not social workers,” Timlin said.
Across the transit system, crime rose by 54 percent between 2021 and 2022. Metro Transit officials said last year, about a quarter of the calls for service were at the six stations where they’re bringing in security.
In the meantime, to help shield Uptown riders from the wind, they’ve added outside shelters and plan to make other improvements.
“What we’re doing is responding to things as they happen. This isn’t the elegant or perfect solution: closing facilities. This is not what we want to do, but it’s feels like it’s what we have to do right now in order to get things back on track,” Kerr said.
On Wednesday the Metropolitan Council has a vote on its agenda for a proposed contract that would bring additional security to the six locations.
If approved, security officers would be in place as early as this spring and would be there for a year if not longer, according to transit officials.
The initiative is part of Metro Transit’s Safety & Security Action Plan, which identifies nearly 40 actions to “improve conditions of its systems, training and supporting employees, and engaging customers and partners.”
As businesses continue to both open and close throughout the heart of Uptown in Minneapolis, Target announced Monday its Uptown location would close in May