The Duluth Transit Authority knows its riders are its biggest supporters - and, as such, its most vocal critics, too.
Bus drivers and customer service operators have been receiving near-daily feedback from riders related to the opening of the new Duluth Transportation Center, DTA General Manager Dennis Jensen said.
"When you have a project this size there are so many things you plan for," Jensen said, "and just as many you don't think about given the complexity of it all."
Since transitioning its main downtown bus stops into the newly opened center on West Michigan Street last month, ridership on the bus has already dipped and recovered to normal levels. A 31-day bus pass costs $40 for an adult, and about 6,000 passengers use the DTA on a daily basis.
Everything from amenities to schedules is being scrutinized in the early going of a $30 million facility that Jensen described as a work in progress still technically under construction. And some DTA passengers were talking this week about the changes stemming from the move.
"I don't like that it's built on a one-way street," said Brianna Hansen, 21, of West Duluth, who noted that westbound passengers who wait inside the terminal cannot see their bus come to a stop on the interior bays.
"I'm trying to get over the changes to my routes," said local seamstress Monica Douglas, who was taking the No. 10 bus to Miller Hill Mall on Monday. "It adds five minutes onto every route."
Stay-at-home mom Jennifer Itkonen of Superior wondered where the vending machines were and if there was any art coming to the walls.
The DTA representatives are hearing all of it and more.
"We're going to get it right," Jensen said. "It's going to take some time."
The DTA would appear to have an answer for almost everything so far. Monitors are coming that will show live video feeds of the westbound bus stops, and vending machines aren't far behind, said Jensen.
The schedules have been in a continual state of adjustment as the DTA responds to feedback. A look at the display rack inside the terminal showed that some of the bus schedules were reprinted just a few days ago.
College students and hospital workers are two key demographics being addressed. They generally start classes and shifts on the top of the hour, Jensen said, "and we're trying to tweak those arrival times to make sure people get through the downtown area in plenty of time."
The DTA has staffed the terminal with an employee to assist with passengers' questions and to help establish house rules - like indicating where to smoke, nudging to wake a sleeping person or making sure that bikes are walked throughout the terminal.
The old bus system pulsed through downtown Duluth with one bus following another, Jensen said, while the new center is designed to be a hub, into which all buses converge and overlap in a concrete ballet. The DTA schedule maker has been doing yeoman's work, said Jensen.
"Given the complexity," Jensen said, "it's been a great success."
There are other things on the center's to-do list: the Duluth Police Department has yet to move into its satellite office; solar panels that will line the exterior of the center facing Interstate 35 are scheduled to be put up as soon as this week; and late arriving-signage means passengers are managing without the nicety of electronic arrival and departure boards.
"We haven't been able to get any revenue out of hourly parking yet," Jensen said of the center's parking garage, citing a setback from the vandalism earlier this year that took out the general parking's payment infrastructure.
Also, Jefferson Lines and its terminal to farther-off places such as the Twin Cities won't open its new site in the center until June; they're staying put in West Duluth and waiting for yet another construction project to come and go.
Minnesota Power has a summer's worth of work scheduled on West Michigan Street that will affect the Duluth Transportation Center by forcing buses to run on Superior Street again for two weeks in May.
The work, said Minnesota Power spokeswoman Amy Rutledge, is an extension of an investment project from last season that "will strengthen the downtown underground infrastructure and improve reliability to all of our customers."
While they might grumble about it, passengers sounded tolerant of the swirling changes.
"It's just new," said Hansen, a convenience store employee from West Duluth on her way to enjoy lunch downtown, "so it's not something I'm used to."