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DTA plans changes to 3 of 5 experimental routes

Passengers alight and mingle outside the Duluth Transportation Center in downtown Duluth. News Tribune file photo

The Duluth Transit Authority is proposing changes and, in one case, elimination of experimental bus routes brought online in 2017.

The routes were added as part of a state-funded grant program which intended to reach more people in Greater Minnesota with public transportation.

Publicly funded for two years using a portion of $23.7 million in Minnesota Department of Transportation grants, the original goal was to see the routes become self-sustaining.

To date, two have become self-sustaining, two more are scheduled to be altered, and a route from the Lakeside neighborhood in Duluth to Miller Hill Mall is ticketed for discontinuation. That route, DTA officials said, is getting fewer than eight boardings per hour on average.

"There are three routes that will be modified in various forms," said Phil Pumphrey, general manager of the Duluth Transit Authority. "They haven't met the performance requirements for riding usage. They're low ridership."

The proposed changes would go into effect June 2, with a public comment period open throughout the month leading up to a public meeting from 1:30-3 p.m. March 27 at the Duluth Transportation Center at 228 W. Michigan St. 

The route proposals in question are as follows:

• Route 20: from Downtown to United Healthcare and the airpark; planned to go from six weekday round trips to two morning departures at the Duluth Transportation Center in downtown Duluth and two evening departures from the Duluth International Airport. The goal is to continue to accommodate workers, Pumphrey said.

• Route 21: Lakeside to Miller Hill Mall via the University of Minnesota Duluth is scheduled to be discontinued.

• Route 22: Lincoln Park to Lakeside: route proposed to be adjusted from old Lincoln Park Middle School to originate at the Duluth Transportation Center out to 26th Avenue East. "Ridership did not materialize at the middle school," Pumphrey said, describing less than one rider per hour boarding there. The bus will also no longer reach as far as Lakeside.

• Route 5: Gary-New Duluth to the Miller Hill Mall will remain as-is. Ridership is strong going to Walmart since the close of Kmart in West Duluth, Pumphrey said, with 12 riders per hour on average.

• Route 23: the UMD maroon and gold circulators from the Central Hillside neighborhood to campus will remain intact for having strong ridership, with 28 riders per hour on average, Pumphrey said.

Following the comment period and public meeting, the DTA board of directors will vote on the proposed changes at one of its upcoming spring meetings.

Describing the proposed changes compared to original intentions, Pumphrey said, "It's not all in vain. Sometimes it just doesn't materialize."

Comment to the DTA

Riders and others who want to comment to the DTA about proposed changes can do so one of three ways:

• Call: 218-722-7283

• Email: planning@duluthtransit.com

• Mail comments to: DTA headquarters at 2402 W. Michigan St., Duluth, MN 55806

Comments will be received through March 27.

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