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Maplewood reevaluates support for Purple Line; seeks 'post-pandemic ridership data'

The City Council may host a workshop next month to figure out what data needs to be collected and which stakeholders need to be involved before backing the project.

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. — A 15-mile Bus Rapid Transit line called the Purple Line is proposed to begin in St. Paul and run through east metro communities, including Maplewood, where public transportation lacks compared to south and western areas of the metro. 

At a Maplewood City Council meeting Monday, council members shared their opinions on the project and heard public comments before unanimously voting to seek more data. The proposed project is priced at around $450 million. 

Part of the proposed Purple Line would run alongside the 12-foot-wide Bruce Vento Trail. A city spokesperson explained that there would be fencing and/or vegetation between the trail and the bus line to serve as a buffer between the two paths. Several environmentalists said they were against this part of the plan.

"It would make the most sense to find a way to do that in a way that also preserves preexisting commitments and priorities like the environment," one speaker said. "Reevaluate the location of where this line can go."

Council member Nikki Villavicencio, who uses a wheelchair, said she depends on public transit to get around.

"[The Purple Line] will bring a consistency that the lines we currently have do not have," Villavicencio said. "Our bus stops are not unified. Few have shelters, some have benches and some stops leave you in the middle of the street, literally."

"We need to fix the bus stops and make them usable for people," fellow council member Rebecca Cave said. "We don't need to reinvent a whole new line."

Mayor Marylee Abrams explained that one reason for the council's hesitation is that it believes key information is still missing.

"What we were expecting was that we were going to get data, ridership data, post-pandemic… in terms of who is riding buses and who is working virtually," Abrams said. "We need to know who needs transit, where do they need to travel from, point A to point B? We need to certainly talk to our businesses."

The Purple Line was expected to open in late 2026. Met Council, MnDOT and Ramsey County would design and construct the line, while Metro Transit would own and operate it. Met Council spokesperson Terri Dresen sent the following statement in response to the developments:

"The Met Council is committed to being transparent in this process and the resolution passed by the Maplewood City Council underscores the importance of our continued discussions with the city to make sure we fully understand their concerns. 

We will continue to listen and work with our partners to ensure there are transit options availability for everyone. This work cannot be done alone, and we look forward to finding a solution that will serve generations to come."

Abrams says the city council may host a workshop in November to figure out exactly what data needs to be collected and which stakeholders need to "have a seat at the table" to continue its support of the project.

Earlier this year, the city of White Bear Lake withdrew its support.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the Maplewood City Council withdrew its support of the Purple Line project. It has been updated to reflect the council's motion to request more data.

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