Most of my trips to the Mall of America don’t go to the actual mall, but to the transit station to get on a bus or train. For over half a year, however, I’ve been trying to avoid using Mall of America Station by walking from 28th Avenue Station to the nearest local bus stop outside of Mall of America. Despite the minor improvements to the Mall of America Station, I believe it remains a health risk. The dark area of the station with the diesel buses pulled in and out didn’t bother me until I realized how harmful the inhalation of the particles can be for your health. Although the station is not completely closed, it is in a parking ramp that is not ventilated. In addition to the diesel buses, there is cigarette smoke. Despite many signs and automatic announcements reminding people that smoking in the station area is illegal, people still do so. The day I wrote this post, I used the train station to get from the bus to the train – a short walk I hoped was not filled with diesel fumes and secondhand smoke. It was not surprising, however, that a selfish smoker was standing at the entrance to the platform. In the meantime, the Metro Transit Police seemed indifferent to this daily violation of the law. The police are supposed to be there to enforce the rules, including the no smoking policy. The traveling audience shouldn’t have to do it for them and risk triggering a potentially aggressive confrontation. Even if smokers go outside, the wind can bring in the smoke second-hand and trap the diesel fumes in the station.
While the new Mall of America Station is something to celebrate for most people, it is not so for me. Although improvements have been made, including the waiting area, direct access to the mall and interior, and improved bus entry, we seem to be ignoring the more general health effects for people who use this station every day. I would be interested to know how precise the particles in the station area are in the air to determine whether the Mall of America Station is really a health risk.
Electric buses could be a possible solution to this problem. Although this solution has several disadvantages (i.e. they are expensive and it will take a while for electric buses to become common on regular routes), the best way to reduce harmful diesel emissions would be to replace the diesel bus fleet with electric buses at the end of its life cycle , In addition, the police could enforce the no smoking rule. And of course I mean officials who politely inform people that smoking is not allowed in the station area. Smokers can also do their part by not being selfish and simply waiting until they are further away from the station area before lighting a cigarette.
Even if these solutions are implemented, this does not change the fact that the current Mall of America Station feels like a temporary station. A dark parking ramp is no place for the busiest transit station outside of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the current orientation for light rail trains slows down travel time. In addition, intensive maintenance is required to maintain the tight bends and track switches. I hope that at some point the station will be relocated, hopefully to the north, where people can still have indoor waiting areas and easy access to the mall without having to deal with diesel fumes and secondhand smoke. In addition to a smoother, faster and more reliable route for light rail trains, this would make it easier to expand the light rail to the west along the I-494 corridor. Until then, if that time ever comes, I will avoid Mall of America Station as much as possible, even if that means a kilometer walk from 28th Avenue to the local bus stop.
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