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This winter, ride the bus

A snowstorm on April 3, 2014 did not deter bus service. (Photo by Richard Thomas/Duluth Budgeteer News)

The winter of 2013-14 was one for the record books. It featured the second-coldest average temperature of all time (3.9 degrees) and was the third-snowiest.

Last winter the Duluth Transit Authority (DTA) suspended service only three times. In early December, a snowstorm took over the Twin Ports and dumped nearly 2 feet on the area. On Dec. 4 at 5 p.m., the DTA began running the Emergency Mainline Service. This limited service operates during major weather events along Grand Avenue and Superior Street between Gary-New Duluth and Lester Park.

The second winter event that impacted service was on Jan. 12. Slick ice made the roadways very treacherous and the DTA suspended service until noon that day. Once the ice melted from the midday sun, buses returned to regular-route service.

The last major weather event occurred Feb. 21, when the DTA had to postpone regular service until 7 a.m. due to snow-covered roads. Once the snowplows caught up, buses provided regular service on schedule.

When that first winter storm of the upcoming season arrives and you awake to see a foot of fresh snow in your driveway, you can shovel out your car or you can sit back, relax and enjoy the warm confines of a bus.

Whether it's snow, ice or extremely cold temperatures, the DTA is ready for whatever the winter may bring. In October, mechanics started checking the heaters on each bus to ensure passengers get a warm welcome as they board. Several shelters downtown also have heaters.

The operations department is reminding bus drivers how to proceed safely. DTA equips all its buses with snow tires. When a winter-weather event occurs, supervisors drive along bus routes during the early morning hours to determine if conditions are safe.

Once the operations department makes a decision on the level of service, the Winter Weather Communications Plan goes into effect. University of Minnesota Duluth will often cancel classes if buses aren't running, because that's how so many students get to campus. Many employees who work at the mall ride the bus. The Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce needs to know what service the DTA will provide. They relay this information to their membership.

Radio is utilized first, along with social media. KDAL 610 AM is the DTA's primary radio partner, providing live on-air interviews to inform the public.

The DTA's primary television partner is KBJR-TV Channel 6. Meteorologist Adam Lorch receives updates via text messages and relays the information to the public during the News Today program at 5-7 a.m.

The DTA takes great pride in providing safe, convenient, efficient and affordable service regardless of the weather conditions. Still, providing reliable public transit during winter weather can be a double-edged sword. Some riders thank us for being dependable. Others get annoyed at us for being so dependable that their employers never call a snow day.

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