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Bus Go Green

New solar array boosts commitment to renewable energy 

| Friday, April 28, 2017 9:17:00 AM

A 40-kilowatt solar array atop the Maplewood Mall Transit Center in Maplewood.A 40-kilowatt solar array was recently installed on the top level of the parking ramp at the Maplewood Mall Transit Center, near the Maplewood Mall.

The panels will help offset a portion of the energy used at the transit center, saving approximately $6,000 in utility costs annually. In addition to lowering energy costs, the system will help Metro Transit better understand how to use solar arrays at other existing and future facilities.

Proposals to install arrays atop six Metro Transit support buildings, including several bus garages, are now under review.

Open since 2013, the Maplewood Mall Transit Center also features a geothermal heating and cooling system and energy efficient LED lighting. It is served by multiple local and express bus routes.​

Solar panels are also in use at Metro Transit's 610 & Noble Parkway Park & Ride, Rail Support Facility and at several bus stops throughout the region. Metro Transit is also supporting solar energy by purchasing power produced from installations at two Council wastewater treatment plants

Metro Transit is one of a handful of agencies to obtain Gold Level certification through the American Public Transportation Association's Sustainability Commitment Program

Bicycle Carpool Car-Sharing Community Go Green Rideshare Vanpool

Commuter Choice Awards recognize sustainable transportation leaders 

| Thursday, April 28, 2016 4:01:00 PM

Most days, Matt Privratsky gets to work by taking an hour-long walk from his Midway area home to downtown St. Paul. The 3.5-mile trek might also involve boarding a bus, catching the METRO Green Line or using a Nice Ride bike – or some combination of all of the above.

“Walking all the way helps you get mentally prepared, and it’s also very relaxing,” Privratsky said. “By the time I get home, I’m in a really nice relaxed mental state. And because I stay active as part of my day, I don’t need to intentionally exercise or have a gym membership.”

The multi-modal approach reflects the habits of many of his co-workers at Fresh Energy, a St. Paul-based independent non-profit that works to make Minnesota’s energy system cleaner and more efficient. Ninety percent of Fresh Energy’s staff walk, bike or take transit to work.

While sustainable transportation naturally aligns with Fresh Energy’s mission, it also reflects a robust transportation benefits program. Employees can earn $2 per day by walking or biking to work. Fresh Energy also matches employee spending on transit.

To help car-free employees like Privratsky get to appointments and meetings during the day, Fresh Energy subsidizes annual Nice Ride memberships and has accounts with car-sharing services car2go and HOURCAR.

Fresh Energy’s efforts were recognized this week at the Commuter Choice Awards, where employers, organizations and individuals who share a commitment to sustainable transportation were celebrated.

The annual awards were presented by Metro Transit in partnership with the region’s Transportation Management Organizations (TMOs) – Commuter ServicesAnoka County Commute SolutionsMove Minneapolis and St. Paul Smart Trips. A panel of Twin Cities transportation experts evaluated nominations in selecting the winners.

“Metro Transit is proud to recognize all those who share its commitment to sustainable transportation,” Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said. “As these honors reflect, our region benefits from having a strong transit network as well as many other transportation options that provide alternatives to driving alone.”  

A list of awards presented at the 2016 Commuter Choice Awards is below. Learn how Metro Transit and the region's TMOs can help your organization here

Building Owner/Management Company: CenterPoint Energy

Directly adjacent to the Nicollet Mall Station, CenterPoint Energy’s new corporate headquarters provides employees convenient transit access. The move also presented an opportunity to create a new shared space for Meet Minneapolis and Move Minneapolis, which promotes transit, carpooling, biking and walking among downtown Minneapolis commuters, residents and visitors. The street-level retail space opened in 2015.

Honorable mention: Normandale Lake Office Park, Hines Property Management

Employer: Fresh Energy

Fresh Energy’s commitment to clean energy and sustainable transportation is reflected in the non-profit’s transportation benefits program. Employees can earn $2 per day by walking or biking to Fresh Energy’s St. Paul offices. Fresh Energy also matches employee spending on transit. To help employees travel to appointments and meetings during the day, Fresh Energy subsidizes annual Nice Ride memberships, has a business account with car2go and has a corporate account with HOURCAR. As a result of their comprehensive transportation benefits program, 90 percent of Fresh Energy staff walk, bike, or take transit to work.

Honorable mention: Barr Engineering Co., Sovos Compliance, Be the Match

Government Entity: St. Paul Public Housing Agency

The St. Paul Public Housing Agency has gone above and beyond to encourage active transportation among residents in its housing communities. Partnering with Cycles for Change, nearly 900 free bikes, helmets and locks have distributed to youth since 2012. Residents also have access to free Nice Ride memberships, bike repair stations and workshops on bicycle maintenance. Resident-led walking groups have also encouraged residents to move more and explore their neighborhoods.

Individual: Brian Nelson

Since taking over Best Buy’s commuter benefits program in 2015, Brian Nelson has worked to enhance and expand benefits for employees at the company’s Richfield headquarters and at locations across the country. Nelson advocated for and then helped to implement a pre-tax commuter benefit program that allows employees to pay for their transit costs with pre-tax dollars. The number of employees who use transit, carpool and vanpool have risen as a result of his efforts.

Honorable mention: Jeff Hainlen, Rebecca Airmet

Organization: Minnesota Life College

Minnesota Life College offers a three-year program for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other learning disorders. As part of their life skills training, instructors teach these individuals how to travel independently on transit. By building their skills and confidence, graduates have the freedom to get themselves to work and appointments, run errands and pursue their dreams.

Commuter Choice Awards 2016
Bus Go Green

Solar power providing more shelter lighting 

| Friday, October 30, 2015 10:49:00 AM

A pole-mounted solar panel is used to provide power for lighting at this Metro Transit bus shelter.Solar panels have been installed at 17 new boarding locations, supplying energy to keep waiting shelters lit at night.

The solar-powered shelters are located at sites along Xerxes Avenue in Brooklyn Center, on Fremont, Lyndale, Plymouth and West Broadway avenues in North Minneapolis and at several locations in Brooklyn Park.  

With the latest wave of installations, there are now more than 30 Metro Transit shelters supplied by solar power. In 2010 and 2012, solar panels were installed along Franklin Avenue and at sites in Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park and North Minneapolis.

The pole-mounted solar panels feed a rechargeable battery pack that can provide up to 30 hours of energy for motion-sensored lights. Metro Transit is currently exploring options for mounting solar panels directly on shelter rooftops.

Solar panels are used at sites where the cost of powering the site through a utility connection is cost-prohibitive.

Where possible, lighting will be included at all shelters installed through the Better Bus Stop Program. By the end of 2015, shelters will have been installed at 51 locations where none had previously existed. Many of these sites will include light.

The solar-powered shelters are a small part of a broader effort to cut the amount of purchased energy used at Metro Transit facilities in half by 2020.

Large solar arrays are in place at the 610 & Noble Parkway Park & Ride in Brooklyn Park and at the Rail Support Facility in Minneapolis. In 2016, rooftop solar arrays will be installed at bus garages in Minneapolis, Bloomington and St. Paul, as well as a light-rail maintenance facility on the METRO Blue Line and a bus maintenance building in St. Paul.

    > Better Bus Stops

    > Metro Transit takes leap forward on solar energy

Bus Community Go Green

Ride & Park: Taking transit to area green spaces 

| Wednesday, April 29, 2015 12:00:00 AM

The Mall of America Transit Center seems an unlikely place to begin a hike. But, on a recent Saturday morning, that was the designated meeting point for a group of outdoor enthusiasts headed out for a morning along the Minnesota River.

The reason: meeting at the mall gave hikers multiple travel options that would allow them to reduce their impact on the very environment they were about to enjoy. Several hikers took the METRO Blue Line to the Mall of America and the entire group rode Route 539 to get within a short walk of Pond Dakota Mission Park, the beginning of a six-mile riverfront hike through the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

The trip is one of more than a dozen outings suggested by the Sierra Club’s North Star Chapter. Volunteers with the group began organizing and promoting trips that combine transit and hiking or biking as part of the Transit to Green Space in 2008.

“The goal is to show people that they can enjoy nature, but also do so in a way that’s environmentally sound,” said Deborah Alper, a Sierra Club volunteer who has led several trips. "We also want to show non-drivers and people without cars that they can access parks across the region with transit."

Earlier this year, Alper organized and led a trip that took hikers from Lowertown to Battle Creek Regional Park on Route 63. The group rode one-way to a bus stop at McKnight and Upper Afton roads, then hiked six miles back along the Mississippi River and through Indian Mounds Regional Park.  

Other trips that have been suggested by the Sierra Club include Route 10 to the Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley, Route 3 to St. Paul’s Como Regional Park and Route 68 to Dakota County’s Thompson County Park. Directions and photos from past trips are available on the Sierra Club website and in a printed pocket guide. An interactive map is also in the works.

    > View photos from the "Bus, Bluffs and Bottom Lands" hike through the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Many parks in Minneapolis and St. Paul are well-served by transit, including Theodore Wirth Regional Park, the Chain of Lakes, Lake Como and Minnehaha Park, which is just east of the Blue Line's 50th Street/Minnehaha Park Station. But because transit is more prevalent in dense areas, taking the bus to parks outside Minneapolis and St. Paul can sometimes require a little more creativity.

On the recent hike from the Mall of America, hikers got off the bus and walked about a mile through a residential neighborhood to reach the trailhead. At the end of the hike, there was a short walk on Old Shakopee Road between the trail and the Mall of America.

“You’ve got to have the mindset that you’re going to have a transit adventure in addition to a hiking adventure,” Alper said.

The extra walking and time on transit didn’t dissuade hiker Rachel Erickson from immediately signing up when she saw the outing listed on the website for the Twin Cities Hiking Meetup group.

Erickson regularly rides the Blue Line to downtown Minneapolis and was surprised to see it could also be part of a trip to the Minnesota River. “I never would have thought of coming all the way out here,” she said.

Like Erickson, Edina resident Janice Richardson also takes most of her transit trips to and from downtown Minneapolis. But she has enjoyed several organized Transit to Green Space hikes and hopes to do more of them in the future.

“Every time we get on the bus, I think we’re going to skew the statistics for that route,” she said. “But it makes it fun and I like having a destination.”

Transit to Green Space Trips to Try

The Sierra Club's North Star Chapter has recommended more than a dozen outings that involve taking transit to an area park. Details about their suggested trips can be found on their website. Routes and schedules can change, so advanced Trip Planning is recommended. For assistance, contact a transit expert at 612-373-3333 or use the Interactive Map

Minnesota River Valley Wildlife Refuge

From the Mall of America Transit Center, board Route 539 and travel south to 98th Street. Exit and head south toward Pond Dakota Mission Park, then hike north along the Minnesota River and Long Meadow Lake toward Cedar Avenue. To return to the Mall of America, exit at 86th Avenue and continue north on Old Shakopee Road.  The bus ride will take approximately five minutes; the return hike is about 5.5 miles and can take up to several hours. The Minnesota Valley Wildlife Visitor Center is also located about a half-mile east of the Blue Line’s American Boulevard Station. A map from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is available here.


Battle Creek Regional Park

Board Route 63 in Lowertown St. Paul and travel east to McKnight Road and Larry Ho Drive. Follow the trail along Battle Creek west toward the Mississippi River and Indian Mounds Regional Park. Re-enter Lowertown using the new trail between the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary and Prince Street.  The bus ride will take about 20 minutes; the return hike is about 5 miles and can take up to several hours.


Theodore Wirth Regional Park

Several local bus routes serve Theodore Wirth Regional Park in North Minneapolis, including Route 9, with service on Glenwood Avenue, and Route 7, with service to the historic Wirth Chalet. The park features many trails for hiking, biking and cross-country skiing, as well as a public beach and the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Outside magazine ranked this one of the country’s “Top 10 Outdoor Adventures Via Public Transportation.”

 

Bus Community Go Green

Metro Transit putting electric buses to the test 

| Friday, April 17, 2015 8:30:00 AM

Metro Transit was among the first transit agencies in the country to put hybrid buses into service in 2002. A decade later, two of the country’s first next-generation electric-hybrid buses were added to the fleet.

Now the time has come to explore the industry’s next emerging technology – electric buses.

Three manufacturers will showcase their all-electric buses in service in April and May, giving customers, local leaders and Metro Transit opportunities to learn more about the vehicles. The buses rely solely on on-board energy stored in batteries. Because there is no diesel engine, the buses produce no emissions.

Metro Transit has made no commitments to purchase electric buses but hopes to gain a better understanding of their potential future use in the Twin Cities by putting them into service and allowing staff to familiarize themselves during garage visits.

    > Photos: Electric bus demonstrations

“Electric buses are an exciting, emerging technology that we want to learn more about and introduce to the community,” General Manager Brian Lamb said. “Metro Transit is a proven sustainability leader and is committed to building on that success as new technologies become available.”

Demonstration buses will complement but not replace regular route service. Customers will be allowed to ride for free and can board at designated Metro Transit bus stops.

The demonstration project began on Tuesday, April 21, when an electric bus made by New Flyer made its regional debut. The bus was also in service on Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22.

An electric bus made by Proterra will be demonstrated on Tuesday, May 12, and Wednesday, May 13; a BYD electric bus will be demonstrated on Tuesday, May 19, and Wednesday, May 20.

At the end of 2014, there were more than 900 buses in Metro Transit’s fleet. Approximately 15 percent of the fleet is hybrid vehicles, which get better fuel economy and have lower emissions than traditional diesel buses. Hybrids are primarily used on urban, local routes.

Metro Transit’s fuel efficiency has improved 15 percent fleetwide since 2008 through the expanded use of hybrid buses and improved performance on all vehicles.

In 2014, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) recognized Metro Transit as an industry leader in sustainability for its efforts to reduce energy consumption. Metro Transit is one of just a dozen agencies that have earned Gold Level status through APTA’s Sustainability Commitment program. Environmental responsibility is among Metro Transit’s Guiding Principles.


Where to find electric buses

Below is an approximate schedule outlining where demonstration buses will be in service. Please check back for updates. Details will also be provided through Metro Transit’s Twitter account, @metrotransitmn, during the demonstration period. 

New Flyer

Tuesday, April 21-Wednesday April 22 (Earth Day)

Bus was in-service between downtown Minneapolis and the 46th Street Station (Route 18).

> Learn more about New Flyer's Xcelsior® Electric Bus


Proterra

Tuesday, May 12

In-service throughout the morning on Grand Avenue (Route 63) and in the afternoon on West 7th Street, St. Paul (routes 54 and 74).

Wednesday, May 13

In-service on Robert Street during the morning (Route 68), in the afternoon on University Avenue between the Green Line's Raymond Avenue Station and downtown St. Paul (Route 67) and in the evening on Grand Avenue (Route 63).

> Learn more about Proterra's Catalyst electric bus


BYD

Tuesday, May 19

In-service throughout the morning on Lake Street (Route 21) and in the afternoon on West Broadway Avenue between downtown Minneapolis and Robbinsdale (Route 14).

Wednesday, May 20

In-service between the Southdale Transit Center and downtown Minneapolis (Route 6), in the afternoon on Central Avenue (Route 10) and in the evening on Lake Street (Route 21).

> Learn more about BYD's electric bus


In the news

> Star Tribune: Metro Transit to test drive electric buses

MPR: Metro Transit testing electric buses for faster routes

> KARE-11: Metro Transit tests electric buses

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