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City will stick with MVTA

Promises of improved service and talk of a transit station downtown have kept the city of Rosemount in the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority for at least another year.

Rosemount city council members, concerned residents were not getting enough service for their money, talked last week about opting out of the transit partnership starting in 2010. But the MVTA board this week voted to change the routes it currently has from Rosemount to Minneapolis, to improve signage for the bus stop at the Rosemount Community Center and to work with city staff this year to design a park-and-ride facility downtown. Those promises, plus the challenges that come with the city striking out on its own to provide transit services, were enough to convince at least three council members to give the MVTA another chance.

"I think it would be to our best interest and the residents' to stay," mayor Bill Droste said at a special meeting held Thursday to discuss the decision.

The city had until Feb. 15 to withdraw its MVTA membership for 2010. The city has been part of the transit authority since it formed in 1991 but it didn't get its first MVTA bus routes until last year. Those two buses, which connect the city to downtown Minneapolis, both leave the community center before 7 a.m. and go south and west to a transit station at 157th Street and Pilot Knob Road before turning north.

Council members argued last week that was not enough for the roughly $700,000 the city contributed to the MVTA last year. Currently those routes serve about 26 Rosemount residents.

Thursday's decision did not sit well with all council members. Kim Shoe-Corrigan voted to stay with MVTA but said she was disappointed with the way things came together. She called the MVTA board's decision a "knee-jerk reaction" that failed to address larger issues.

"It just irks me that the only reason they're talking to us now ... is we threatened to withdraw," Shoe-Corrigan said. "It is frustrating."

Council member Kurt Bills agreed.

"You don't want an ineffective conclusion made just because we decided to rattle a saber," he said.

Bills voted against sticking with the MVTA. He was joined on the No side of the vote by Jeff Weisensel, who said he was using his vote to "editorialize" after the decision had effectively been made. Weisensel, who rode the Rosemount-Minneapolis bus route until deciding it took him too far out of the way, said leaving the MVTA would give the city an opportunity to look at new ways to serve residents with transit -- from better routes to the Twin Cities to east-west service connecting the city to places like Burnsville Center. He said he hopes to explore some of those options with the MVTA.

City administrator Dwight Johnson said bus service in the city isn't likely to change significantly in the immediate future.

"I don't think it's realistic to expect a lot more service than we have right now, but the idea is to make it better and more usable," he said.