Equity Advisory Committee Questions Decision to End 24-Hour Green Line Service
This month, Metro Transit made public an already near-final decision to eliminate 24-hour service on the Green Line light rail starting later this year.
Last night, members of the Met Council’s Equity Advisory Committee (EAC) raised significant concerns about the process and impact of that decision.
Outlining a number of “Service Developments,” Metro Transit shared its proposal to eliminate weekday service on the Green Line from 2 to 4 a.m. to the Met Council at its April 3 Committee of the Whole meeting. Coupled with a presentation on “People Sheltering on Transit” it was clear that, in addition to the maintenance and worker safety issues emphasized by General Manager Wes Kooistra, the agency is concerned about the use of the Green Line by riders experiencing homelessness. Unfortunately, because the cuts constitute a small percentage of the Green Line service, even the Met Council members are not being allowed to vote to approve or reject the “administrative” decision.
Last night, the EAC expressed strong and unified concerns about the service cuts.
Aarica Coleman, EAC member and a Senior Project Coordinator for Housing Policy & Development at the City of Minneapolis, noted the juxtaposition of the agency’s actions and a recent report charting the dramatic rise in homelessness across the state. “It’s bad timing,” she noted. “We need more time and engagement and cooperation from other entities that address [housing]. This looks like retaliation against homeless people using the trains for shelter.”
She also noted that the decision is in direct conflict with the agency’s own values. “How does this align with the Thrive 2040 plan and its outcomes?” she posed. “Stewardship, prosperity, equity, livability, and sustainability — this plan meets none of those.”
Metric Giles, EAC member and co-director of the Community Stabilization Project, also questioned both the impact and the process. “The responsibility of doing good is to do no harm or the least amount of harm,” he said. “When I look at this proposal, I see a lot of harm… [But] the thing I’m concerned about most is the process. We are an equity table here and the process being used to make this decision is not equitable at all. It’s an insult that you’re bringing us something to rubber stamp once the decision has been made. You need to go back and check your concept; when you have a concept that’s when you include the most impacted people. Clearly, you have not included the most impacted people who are the most invested and who have the most to lose in this process.”
Nelima Sitati Munene, EAC co-chair and Executive Director of African Career, Education and Resource (ACER), agreed. “This is the reason the EAC exists,” she said. “The way decisions have been made in the past is why we have the inequity that exists today. We need to start thinking about about how we make decisions in a better way. When we’re categorizing decisions, impact should be the driving factor around what does and doesn’t warrant community engagement.”
Sitati Munene also highlighted the disconnect within the Met Council itself. “We deal with these issues in little pieces, compartmentalize them instead of looking at them holistically,” she said. “We’re discussing transportation separate from housing in the same institution that makes those decisions. Let’s solve the real issue and make these decisions holistically.”
For Shirley Cain, an EAC member who works in the American Indian Unit of the Behavioral Health Division at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the current approach to police and push out unsheltered riders will only exacerbate the challenges for unsheltered riders. “A lot of these people are victims themselves; they’ve been raped or assaulted,” she said. “I would recommend some type of victim services, mental health or peer support workers. It looks like a lot of people riding at those times are addicted or have mental health issues. To make them criminals is not the answer either.”
And Cain also echoed the overall consensus about process: “What concerns me most is that there was no prior notification, no opportunity for us to give feedback before this decision was made.”
General Manager Kooistra noted that the agency is conducting outreach on the trains during the hours proposed for service elimination and will report back to the full Met Council in May. But, he acknowledged that the “decision has almost been made” and that the agency is “feeling strongly about this.”
In addition to working with our coalition partners toward systemic solutions to housing instability and inequity, the Alliance will continue to actively monitor the situation and share our questions and concerns with you and with decision-makers. We encourage you to do the same.
Met Council Chair
Governor Tim Walz