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Stuck buses inspired MPS parents to coordinate their own snow emergency

After getting tired of waiting for the city to take action — and multiple stuck buses — a group of parents started knocking on doors.

MINNEAPOLIS — More than a week before the city of Minneapolis announced a one-sided street parking plan to deal with snow and ice-clogged roads, parents in one neighborhood took matters into their own hands.

"Eventually, after the multiple, sixth time that a bus got stuck, I just was like, 'I'll text the people on my block because I know almost all of them and it will be faster,'" said Rachel Ulfers, who has a daughter who got stuck on her Minneapolis Public Schools bus several times in the last three weeks.

"There was a period of time where the bus was stuck almost daily for a week," said Molly Leutz, who has two children who ride the same bus in the Tangletown neighborhood.

The first time, Leutz says the issue simply led to an altered bus route, but as January continued, along with snowfall after snowfall, all of the neighborhood streets seem to be closing in.

"The bus just gets stuck everywhere," Ulfers said. "It's a big chunk of road on both sides of the roads that we just don't have."

One day, she says the bus was so stuck so badly that parents organized alternative transportation. 

"Some of the neighbors that were at the bus stop that were able to be working from home, we just texted them and said, 'How many (kids) can you fit in your car?'" Ulfers said. "So everybody got to school that day, but the bus was there for probably an hour and a half."

Despite multiple calls and 311 requests, there was no indication that the parking mess on their streets would come to an end, which is what led the parents to organize a door-to-door campaign for one-sided street parking.

"It was great that we were able to knock on neighbors' doors, but that's not really a citywide plan," Leutz said.

On Wednesday, that type of plan finally became reality. Minneapolis Public Works announced a city-wide, one-sided street parking plan that will last for the remaining of the winter months.

"We are about as wide as we can get right now," said Minneapolis Public Works Director Margaret Anderson Kelliher.

During the announcement, officials with Minneapolis Public schools announced that buses across the city have been experiencing similar issues navigating crowdy, clogged roads ever since the first major storm in early January. That includes 19 buses that needed to be rescued by tow trucks on the first day of school following the biggest snowfall, a new record for stuck buses on a single day.

Since the Tangletown bus stop is already less tangled thanks to neighborhood cooperation, the only question the parents have now is, what took so long? 

"Like, 'What the hell is wrong?' is probably not the right question and that's the only other question I had," Ulfers said.

"Everybody is in the same boat, we're all driving on these streets and we realize how terrible it is," Leutz said. "It's frustrating that it takes so much effort sometimes, to get something basic done."

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