Moa Station

The New(er) Mall of America Station: A Temporary Solution

Most of my trips to the Mall of America aren’t to the actual mall but rather to the transit station for getting on a bus or train. For over half a year, however, I’ve made an effort to avoid using Mall of America Station, going so far as to walk from 28th Avenue Station to the nearest local bus stop outside the Mall of America. Despite the minor improvements to Mall of America Station, it continues to be, in my opinion, a health hazard. The dark station area with diesel buses going in and out didn’t bother me until I realized how harmful breathing in the particulates can be for your health. While not fully enclosed, the station is in a parking ramp that lacks ventilation. In addition to the diesel buses, there is the cigarette smoke. Despite many signs and automated announcements reminding people it’s illegal to smoke in the station area, people continue to do so anyway. The day I’m writing this post I used the station to transfer from the bus to the train– a quick walk that I was hoping wouldn’t be filled with diesel fumes and secondhand smoke. Unsurprisingly, however, a selfish smoker was standing at the entrance of the train platform. Meanwhile, the Metro Transit Police seemed indifferent towards this daily law-breaking. The police are supposed to be there to enforce the rules, including the no-smoking policy. The traveling public shouldn’t have to do it for them and risk instigating a potentially aggressive confrontation. Even if smokers go outside, the wind can bring in the secondhand smoke and trap the diesel fumes inside the station.

While for most people the new(er) Mall of America Station is something to celebrate, for me it isn’t so. While improvements have been made including the waiting area, the direct and indoor access to the mall, and the improved entrance for buses, we seem to be ignoring the broader health impacts for people using this station on a daily basis. I would be interested in knowing the exact quantity particulates are in the air in the station area which would help determine if Mall of America Station is truly a health hazard.

One potential solution to this issue could be electric buses. Although there are several drawbacks to this solution (i.e. they’re expensive and it’ll be awhile before electric buses are common on regular routes) committing to replace the diesel bus fleet with electric buses at the end of their life-cycle would be the best way to reduce harmful diesel emissions. Additionally, the police could do their job of enforcing the no-smoking rule. And by this, of course, I mean officers simply politely informing people that smoking isn’t allowed in the station area. Smokers can also do their part by not being selfish and simply waiting until they’re farther away from the station area before lighting a cigarette.

However, even if these solutions are implemented, it wouldn’t change the fact that the current Mall of America Station has the feel of a temporary station. A dark parking ramp is no place for the busiest transit station outside of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the current alignment for light rail trains makes travel time slow. Additionally, intensive maintenance is required to maintain the tight curves and track switches. My hope is that eventually the station will be relocated, hopefully to the north, where people can still have indoor waiting areas and easy access to the mall but without dealing with diesel fumes and secondhand smoke. In addition to a smoother, quicker, and more reliable route for light rail trains, it would make a western extension of light rail along the I-494 Corridor easier. Until then, if that time ever comes, I’ll be avoiding Mall of America Station as much as I can even if it means a mile long walk from 28th Avenue to the local bus stop.

About Eric Ecklund

Eric has lived in Bloomington his whole life (besides 4 months studying in Oslo, Norway). With a Bachelors in Urban Studies from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, his future career is in transportation planning and he is heavily invested in Twin Cities transit from trying different bus routes to continuously examining how to improve the transit network in the Twin Cities.

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26 thoughts on “The New(er) Mall of America Station: A Temporary Solution

  1. Bob Roscoe

    Drinking alcohol would not be permitted there, but cigarette smoke has no known minimal level of harm, compared to alcohol.

  2. Elizabeth Larey

    Really? I kept thinking there would be more to this article than the repeated statement that you don’t like second hand smoke. Outside. I did want to mention one item. I sure wish the Metro Transit Police spent more time on all the light rail lines so they could actually arrest people committing crimes. Like shooting people.

    1. Eric Ecklund

      Secondhand smoke is more than just not liking the smell. It’s also bad to breathe in and can be dangerous for people who have breathing problems.

      1. Walter

        Its dangerous in repeated occurrences over a long period of time. But once or twice over the course of a week for a healthy user ain’t gonna kill you. Stop being paranoid

        1. Eric Ecklund

          What about the people who use the station everyday and have to breathe in secondhand smoke? Maybe you should stop pretending that smoking where you’re not allowed to is okay.

  3. Aaron IsaacsAaron Isaacs

    All bus drivers are required to shut off their engines while laying over between trips at MOA. Also the new station gets more ventilation and ambient light than the old station because it’s located closer to the edge of the parking ramp. Lastly, bus emissions have been reduced by about 97 percent in the last couple of decades. I think any emissions testing would fail to detect any close to a health hazard.

    1. Eric Ecklund

      Well I hope bus drivers are following that requirement considering some of the people who smoke at the transit station were/are bus drivers. There’s also the fact that buses need to have their engines running in order to move, and while diesel emissions are cleaner than in the past it’s still diesel. Feel free to prove me wrong with an actual emissions test in the parking ramp, but perhaps Metro Transit wouldn’t want to because if particulates were too high that would be pretty bad PR after spending millions to upgrade the facility.

      1. Mark

        Testing has already been done, that’s why there are specific codes that require ventilation when exterior open coverage is less than x%. In the case of the MOA ramps there are significant openings that provide massive quantities of fresh air that dilute the CO2 emissions from the buses. Obviously electrification of the fleet is the best long term solution, but short term Metro Transit should focus on proper maintenance of their fleet, ensuring drivers aren’t idling, and working with law enforcement to eliminate smoking.

        1. Eric Ecklund

          Do you have the results of this testing? I want to believe you, but it would be nice to have the actual data.

          1. Walter

            Do you realize how many codes and tests are in the construction of anything. Of course they tested this

  4. Monte Castleman

    Would the alternative proposal when the Mall initially balked at having the light rail actually enter Mall property to have a station at the northwest corner of 24th and 82nd have been better? It would have been a more open design with straighter track, but would have required a very long walk through a skyway across 24th to get to the Mall.

    I don’t see a good option for building a station to the north of the Mall at this point. Maybe for just a station the Mall can get back their lease from Sears and put it there, but if the goal is to extend the line to extend beyond the station you’re now boxed in by Cray, Marriott, the Cedar Ave flyover ramps, the Lindau Lane tunnel, and soon the connection to the waterpark. Putting it even farther north, along American, would mean it could use the American tunnel under Cedar but the it’s at the back side of the waterpark and way, way too far from the main shopping area of the Mall.

    1. Eric Ecklund

      The original alignment proposed to the Mall would’ve definitely been better in terms of having fresh air and being more open. Either a skyway would have to be built or an underground walkway with direct access to the Mall (similar to the new direct entrance to the Mall from the transit station), though I assume when this alignment was originally proposed riders would’ve had to cross that huge intersection and through the parking ramp to access the Mall, which is probably why that alignment was scrapped in favor of the existing alignment.

      My idea for a new alignment is reroute to Lindau at-grade, and that would mean closing the current 28th Avenue Station and building a new station, but also closing Bloomington Central Station simply because there are too many stops in such a short distance and the 229 riders (from Fall 2019 ridership data) currently using Bloomington Central can easily use the stations at 28th Avenue or American Boulevard.

      Just west of the intersection with 24th Avenue the tracks would go up a grade, and the new station would be right above the bridge over Lindau that is the north entrance to the mall. Since this location already has bus shuttle pick-up/drop-off it would be relatively easy to reroute all buses to this new location. However the water park you mention may make this more complicated.

      West of the new Mall station there would have to be a massive flyover bridge for trains to continue west.

      1. Monte Castleman

        My recollection is the original proposal the planners wanted light rail to go all the way to the Mall. Whether it was to use the existing transit station or build a new one immediately adjacent I don’t know and might not have been decided. The Mall initially balked at the idea, fearing “park and hiders” using parking spaces in the Mall ramps intended for shoppers, so the idea was to move it across the street with a less direct connection. It would have definately been a skyway as opposed to a tunnel or a surface crossing. Then the Mall changed their mind and asked for a the direct connection, and it was early enough in the planning process it was easy to revert to the original concept.

        1. Eric Ecklund

          I don’t know the full story, but from what I read the original alignment was outside the Mall. Then in order to get federal and/or state funding for the Hiawatha Line it was requested they find a new alignment for the Mall and the planners came up with the existing alignment. I assume 28th Avenue Station was enough to convince the Mall that no one would park & ride at the Mall ramp.

  5. Brian

    Does anyone really think that millions were just spent for this to be a “temporary” station.

    I doubt any LRT stations will be closed. Developers built buildingsnear LRT because there was an implicit promise that it would be there for many years. I suspect a lot of building owners would be mighty upset if their access to LRT was removed.

    1. Eric Ecklund

      Mall of America Station has two purposes; serve the Mall, and serve as a major transfer point between the light rail and several bus routes. If you relocate the station, it will still serve the same purpose as long as it’s close enough to the Mall and the buses stop next to the station for easy transfers.

      1. Brian

        My comment was about those who say to reroute the line away from both Bloomington Central and the 28th St station.

        I doubt stations will close as an implicit promise was made to developers that stations would be there long term. Building values could drop if tenants no longer have a quick walk to LRT. I don’t recall if 28th has any housing nearby, but Bloomington Central has housing nearby.

        As a rider who doesn’t use Bloomington Central it seems silly to have so many stations so close together.

        1. Eric Ecklund Post author

          If/when there’s a realignment at Mall of America they wouldn’t reroute the line away from Bloomington Central and 28th Avenue stations.

          If Bloomington Central was closed, 28th Avenue Station is a quarter mile away and American Boulevard Station is 0.3 miles away. However most of the new development is concentrated near American Boulevard Station, so for most people it would be slightly longer or the same amount of time walking to American vs Bloomington Central.

        1. Eric Ecklund

          He’s not stating a fact, in his opinion the station isn’t going anywhere, but unless he can see into the future he doesn’t know that. Will the station be relocated tomorrow, or even a few years from now? Of course not, but long term (10+ years) no one knows for sure.

  6. Aaron IsaacsAaron

    “Dream on” means “be realistic”. $25 million has just been spent on a new facility that is more customer friendly, operationally better and esthetically inviting than the previous one. Because you have unsubstantiated reservations about it they’re supposed to scrap it and start over? At a time when transit dollars are scarce and service cutbacks are a distinct possibility? This is the kind of wishful thinking that makes our critics think we’re not serious.

    1. Eric Ecklund

      Aaron, I’m not saying we should scrap this station immediately. One improvement we could literally do tomorrow is cracking down on smokers at the station, and if you used this station you would know that this is a problem and no amount of renovating can fix that. However seeing as the smoking problem has been going on for months I don’t see Metro Transit Police doing anything about it at this point.

      As for diesel fumes, hopefully when the D Line is in operation the fleet will be electric buses, or at least most of the fleet will be electric buses. Fingers crossed the Riverview Corridor will be on schedule and electric trains will replace Route 54.

      Like I said, this station isn’t being relocated tomorrow or in the near term. However in the long term is this really the best location for one of the most utilized transit stations in the state? No. As transit planners we need to think about not just the short term but also the long term.

      If you like this station and enjoy using it then great, but after one too many instances of waiting for the bus or transferring between modes and smelling cigarettes and diesel fumes I’ll avoid it, even if that means walking from 28th Avenue to the local bus stop on 86th Street.

  7. Matt Brillhart

    Regarding secondhand cigarette smoke, I’ve noticed that the odor now permeates into the mall interior, due to the new direct escalator connection between the station and 1st floor of the mall. The smell dissipates pretty quickly as you walk further into the mall, but it’s definitely noticeable within a couple hundred feet or so. Heading towards the station, you get blasted in the face with smoke odors before you even set foot on the escalator. I would not be surprised if mall tenants in that wing began complaining about the smell to mall management. That would likely be enough to get MOA security and/or Bloomington PD to intervene where Metro Transit apparently won’t.

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