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EDITORIAL: DTA again shuts down when city needs it most

So what time was the Duluth Transit Authority's No. 7 Mainline bus running midday Friday? According to the DTA's "Webwatch Precision Real-Time Bus Monitor," buses would be stopping at Superior Street and 27th Avenue East at 12:04 p.m., 1:04 and 2:04.

So what time was the Duluth Transit Authority's No. 7 Mainline bus running midday Friday?

According to the DTA's "Webwatch Precision Real-Time Bus Monitor," buses would be stopping at Superior Street and 27th Avenue East at 12:04 p.m., 1:04 and 2:04. Useful information from a system touted by the DTA as state-of-the-art and based on GPS devices tracking the actual locations of the buses.

Except the actual position of the buses was tucked away in the DTA's barn because, once again, the transit service for a city notorious for extreme weather wimped out.

"We have just made the decision to cancel service for the day," Dennis Jensen, the DTA's general manager, said in a voice mail left to the News Tribune's editorial page staff at 4:20 a.m. Friday.

"It's really an anomaly," he continued. "If you get closer to the lake of course, things aren't so bad. But you move up on the hill, it's impossible to see -- whiteout conditions, blowing snow and so forth."

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That's fine and a prudent move for the wee hours. But why does a decision made in the early morning have to carry for the rest of the day? And why, if closer to the lake things weren't so bad, couldn't the DTA run its Mainline service, at least on a skeleton schedule? By 10 a.m., the winds had died down considerably and the plows had cleared Superior Street and Grand Avenue. In long and narrow Duluth, it doesn't take a transportation engineer to figure out that the Mainline would serve a major portion of the city.

Instead, anyone who had to get somewhere was forced to put a car on the road (a 2002 front wheel drive Mitsubishi Lancer with snow tires made it through just fine where the buses didn't go, by the way).

And that state-of-the-art "precision real-time bus monitoring" system?

Keep watching. A bus should be coming any minute now.

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