Worried about tram safety, many airport employees want to park again at MSP Terminal 1

More and more workers are expressing concerns about parking in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where many must take light rail between terminals to get to work – an arrangement some consider unsafe and unreliable.

“We all have horror stories about this train day and night,” said Rick Paulson, who sits on the executive committee of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local 1833, representing some 300 workers. from MSP. “That’s a horrible way to start your day.”

Paulson called on the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) at its meeting this week to allow employees to park at Terminal 1 again as it did during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, as it there was plenty of room due to the marked decrease in air travel.

As passengers returned to the skies in droves this summer, the MAC decided to change its parking policy on August 1, moving airport workers to parking at Terminal 2 as they did before the pandemic.

MAC officials appear to have denied the employees’ request to park on the Silver and Blue ramps of Terminal 1.

“Reserving space on one or two levels of the Terminal 1 parking ramps would further increase the chances of customers being turned away and would only accommodate a small portion of parking employees,” the spokesperson said. Mac, Jeff Lea.

Workers parking at Terminal 2 must take the Blue Line to and from the main terminal, often late at night or early in the morning. Although crime statistics show no significant increase at the two terminal stations, many say they feel unsafe on the short journey.

“I have personally experienced erratic behavior, verbal harassment and physical threats while riding public transit,” said Samantha Anderson, who works as a ramp agent in Terminal 1. “I have also been approached by strangers asking for drugs, money and proposing to me I shouldn’t have to put up with this or fear for my safety when trying to get to and from work.

Lea said the airport “needs to allow people to fly, park and have a great experience throughout their journey at MSP. Relocating employee parking to pre-pandemic locations reduces the risk of travelers are unexpectedly diverted to Terminal 2, increasing the risk of customers missing their flights.”

Paulson, who spoke during the public comment portion of Monday’s MAC meeting, also noted that parking at Terminal 2 is unreliable for employees due to erratic Blue Line punctuality. .

Some employee groups have made alternate parking arrangements that bypass the light rail. Employees of Delta Air Lines, MSP’s main carrier, park in a leased lot on 34th Avenue and take a shuttle to Terminal 1 at the company’s expense. Sun Country Airlines offers a Lyft ride for crew members who don’t feel safe taking the light rail.

And the MAC is now offering Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) employees the option to park at either terminal “depending on their work assignment,” spokeswoman Jessica Mayle said in a statement. E-mail.

“The agreement was driven by the TSA’s operational necessity for the airport,” Mayle said, noting that the arrangement is temporary and will be continually evaluated.

At Monday’s meeting, MAC Chairman Rick King said the airport is “doing everything to make the train as safe as possible. Safety is very important.”

In recent years, Metro Transit has attempted to combat crime and the perception of crime on its trains and buses. The agency has launched a multi-faceted plan to attract passengers to public transport, increase the presence of police and community service officers on trains, shorten trains to improve safety and hire private security guards. at stations with heavy traffic (except the airport).

Before the pandemic, 56 crimes were reported in 2019 at the airport’s two terminals, about half of which were serious crimes such as theft, fraud and assault, according to Metro Transit.

Overall crime reports dropped at both terminals to 46 in 2020 and 42 in 2021, when the pandemic drove down ridership. Incidents this year are on the rise; by the end of July, 43 crimes had been reported at the two terminals, roughly split between serious and less serious crimes.

Although Metro Transit has jurisdiction over light rail operations and safety, Lea said the MAC shares employee safety concerns with Metro Transit police, and airport police maintain an increased presence on train platforms in the late morning and early morning.

Jose P. Rogers