Transit center opens on Michigan Street


Pedestrians and bus riders might have noticed buses turning in irregular places downtown this week. That's because the Duluth Transit Center began operation on Feb. 7.

The center held a grand opening on Feb. 4 to commemorate completion of the $30 million construction project that began on June 19, 2014.

"I want to especially thank the public and our nearby businesses for what they've put up with these past two years. We know it hasn't been easy. We appreciate your cooperation while working with us through this project," said Duluth Transit Authority General Manager Dennis Jensen.

Buses traveling on Superior Street now take either a right or left turn off of Superior Street down Third Avenue West, then left on Michigan Street to the Transit Center and into a specific bus bay. Buses traveling east then continue up Second Avenue West and back on Superior Street. Buses traveling west turn back onto Third Avenue West and continue westward.

"We ask for everyone's patience and cooperation as these new patterns develop," Jensen said. "We know that once we get through the initial start up, we'll be able to look back and see what a great change this is for Duluth and our region."

The new transit center features a large warm lobby for passengers to wait in, indoor bike storage, 400 parking spaces and a connection to the newly reconstructed skywalk.

"When cities invest in public transportation, it says a lot about communities and it says a lot about what they value. To me, part of what this building says about Duluth is that Duluth values the public transportation experience," said Mayor Emily Larson.

Part of the motivation in moving the transit center, according to Jensen, was to decrease the amount of jaywalking on Superior Street and enhance safety for passengers. The new center houses a police substation which will be home to a few officers.

"It's a nice addition to both of our resources. It will make people feel safe and it gives the officers an additional space downtown," Jensen said.

Duluthians have similar reactions to the new center. At the open house last Thursday, a few regular bus riders shared comments with the Budgeteer.

Some are excited for the warm waiting area.

"I'm excited to see how well it works. I'm certainly looking forward to having a warm place to wait for the bus," said Tiersa Dodge.

Dodge rides the bus to and from work downtown. She spent some time at the open house figuring out her new bus schedule.

"I think I'll feel more secure waiting here with the police just over there," said regular DTA rider Debbie Dewey. "Especially if I take the bus after dark."

Lita Torgerson, who takes a bus once a week to volunteer on the other side of town, says she was pleased with the extra space and the new amenities.

"I feel like I have some room to breathe," Torgerson said. "And it has a washroom, so you don't have to walk all the way to Starbucks to go to the bathroom."

Tom Streu doesn't ride the bus regularly, but he says he'll be happy to wait in the new center for the occasions on which he does ride.

"It's very organized. It's pretty clear where all the buses will go and where you need to go to meet your bus," Streu said.

The DTA recommends all bus passengers take a look at the updated arrival and departure times for their usual route by visiting the transit center or for changes.