In 2014, Metro Transit opened the first moving KOA campground connecting St Paul and Minneapolis. Originally named the Central Corridor, we now know it as the Metro Green Line, and it offers transportation and temporary housing for residents of the metro area. Metropolitan Council General Manager Wes Kooistra proposed the idea of closing the light rail at night. It was determined that the overnight campers do not provide enough profit for the campground and Metro Transit has decided to close the campground from 2 A.M. to 4 A.M. every night for “maintenance.”
The Metro Green Line is equipped with benches perfect for resting one’s head after a long day of panhandling, as well as chairs for the less exhausted day campers that simply require transportation. For those only riding the mobile campground for a few stops or when it is overcrowded, there are rails and handles to hold on to while it moves from station to station.
The campground is very inexpensive as it is normally used for a short time and for the overnight campers the price per day is only $5. This is far cheaper than the housing anywhere else in the Twin Cities, where the average rent is more than 10 times as expensive per night. As one can lower their monthly housing cost by camping every night, many low-income people with an affinity for mobile living spend their nights moving between Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
Some day-campers going to their jobs tend to look down upon the overnight campers. They may view the unconventional sleeping arrangements as lesser than their own. This does not seem to faze the overnight campers as they seem perfectly content spreading out on the chairs and benches for a little shut eye.
One of the campers was kind enough to take the time out of his busy day to answer a few questions about the campground availability in the Twin Cities. He said that some of his fellow campers had wanted to set up an unmoving location in which they could set up tents and cook s’mores while they sat around a campfire. They created a site near Hiawatha Avenue in Minneapolis last year and there were several hundred campers that camped at the impromptu site.
“We enjoyed the serenity and natural atmosphere of the campsite while it lasted but the city shut it down as it was a ‘health hazard.’ There are some risks associated with living outdoors but the love for this lifestyle that I share with my fellow campers keeps me coming back year after year,” stated the camper who wished to remain anonymous.
With the new, shortened hours of the Green Line KOA, many campers will be forced to find new sites with vacancies. None are as ideal as the Green Line, but some local libraries offer opportunities for day campers to stay warm during business hours. The lack of overnight sites has been a detriment to some already, as many campers desire the romance of an unconventional living situation without necessarily having to sleep outside during the cold winters.
An additional problem faced by some of the campers is that the Metro Transit Police feel the need to check for tickets. Pedestrian generosity fluctuates throughout the year and as a result there are times at which many campers cannot pay for their daily rent. Many such campers have been removed from the mobile campground by police officers despite their explanation as to why they could not pay their rent.
As the period of shortened hours goes on, it appears that the brunt of the effects will be felt by the overnight campers. They will likely roam the cities at night, searching for a new place to set up camp. Perhaps some will return to Hiawatha or any of a number of less-than-optimal campsites. Expect to see the demographics on the Green Line KOA continue to change to include less and less of the true camping enthusiasts, and more and more of the day campers who only use the campground as a means of transportation.