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Bicycle Community How We Roll Light Rail Rider Profile

How We Roll: Ed Alvarez, Facilities Technician 

Posted by jennasbennett | Tuesday, June 13, 2017 11:37:00 AM

Many Metro Transit employees are committed to sustainable transportation, riding the bus or train, biking or walking to work and other destinations across the region. These “How We Roll” profiles are a chance to illustrate how much we have in common with our customers when it comes to how we get around. See you out there!

Ed Alvarez, Facilities Technician

How do you get to work?

I live in Burnsville and do a mix of taking the Blue Line and riding my bike. Usually what I do is load my bike on my vehicle, drive to the 28th Avenue Park and Ride and get on the Blue Line with my bike. Depending on how much I feel like biking that day, I’ll take the light rail to either Fort Snelling or Minnehaha Park, get off and bike the rest of the way. From Fort Snelling, it’s nine miles to Transfer Road (Metro Transit's facilities team is based at this location, just north of University Avenue). Out of curiosity, one time I rode my bike from my house to Transfer Road and it took me two hours!

Why do you choose to bike?

Really, it’s for the exercise. I play hockey and biking keeps me in shape for that. It’s amazing how you can stay fit by biking just a few hours a week. I even bike in the rain and snow. I actually love riding in the rain! For rain, I wear protective gear, including booties that cover my shoes so they don’t get wet. For snow, I have a bike with studded tires and that helps eliminate my worry about hitting an ice patch. I have five bikes total – three mountain bikes, a road bike and a hybrid.

How long have you been biking?

I’ve been biking my whole life. I started biking to work in 1981 when I was at Ruter Garage and a lot younger. Then I got older, got married, had kids and stopped biking to work for a number of years and drove instead. Over the past three years, I’ve started biking again to stay in shape. I've been at Metro Transit for 37 years and I hope to keep biking to work as long as I’m able.

What do you enjoy most about your methods of commuting?

When I’m on the Blue Line, I like to use the time to listen to music. What I love about biking is that it is so relaxing and peaceful on the path. When I’m driving on I-35W it’s so crowded and stressful. When I get up in the morning for work and the alarm goes off, I look forward to starting my day with a bike ride.

Bus Community Light Rail

Tech program helps jobs seekers find new hope, career path 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, May 12, 2017 9:19:00 AM

Participants in the Metro Transit Technician program work on a pantograph at the Hiawatha Operations & Maintenance Facility.Some eager job seekers are getting an opportunity to pursue careers as Metro Transit technicians. 

The Metro Transit Technician program combines workforce readiness and on-the-job training, support toward earning a degree and an internship. Participants can enter the program with little to no experience but apply for full-time roles by the end of the two-year program. 

Participants pursuing careers in bus maintenance are currently enrolled at Hennepin Technical College while working as interns in several of Metro Transit's bus service garages. A second group of participants pursuing careers in rail vehicle and systems maintenance recently began their on-the-job training. 

WCCO recently caught up with a few of the participants working in the Hiawatha Operations & Maintenance Facility, where they were repairing a light-rail vehicle.  

    > Technician training program gets national recognition

The Metro Transit Technician program is not currently accepting new applications. Job seekers interested in learning more about career opportunities at Metro Transit should visit metrotransit.org/jobs

Bus Carpool Community In the News Minneapolis Rider Profile Rideshare

Awards recognize sustainable transportation leaders 

Posted by jennasbennett | Thursday, May 04, 2017 9:51:00 AM

Beth Reissenweber, far right, with colleagues from Augsburg College at the 2017 Commuter Choice AwardsWhen Augsburg College began building its new Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion in 2015, the college lost about 20 percent of the 1,000 parking spaces at its West Bank campus.

The sudden loss in parking led Beth Reissenweber, the school’s Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer, to take an active role in promoting a culture that placed sustainable transportation options ahead of driving.

To set the tone, she began commuting from Edina on Route 578.

“I thought it was really important to lead by example,” Reissenweber said. “I wanted to inspire others at Augsburg to try transit so I gave up my heated parking and started taking the bus.”

Reissenweber, also contacted Transit for Livable Communities and Metro Transit to create learning opportunities for her staff, including a light rail tour, Nice Ride bike rental education, and carpooling classes.

“Once construction started, we changed how we talked with our employees about commuting,” she said. “Instead of leading with parking options, we started leading with transit and multi-modal commuting options as the preferred method to get to work.”

Reissenweber moved the needle at Augsburg so quickly that she was recognized at Metro Transit’s annual Commuter Choice Awards last month with an honorable mention in the individual category. Augsburg won in the employer category.

Reissenweber attended last year’s awards to learn how to create a transit-friendly campus, and said she was delighted to come back a year later as a winner.

“I feel proud to be recognized for my small part in a huge undertaking for the college, and Augsburg’s award is a wonderful reinforcement of our passion to make a positive impact in our community,” she said.

The Commuter Choice Awards also celebrated efforts by several other building owners, employers and organizations that have supported sustainable transportation.

Among the other recipients were the Minnesota Orchestra, which offers discounts to bicyclists, and the building managers at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, which built a fitness center and bike storage area to encourage active commuting.

The awards were presented by Metro Transit in partnership with regional Transportation Management Organizations, including Commuter Services, Move Minneapolis and St. Paul Smart Trips. A panel of Twin Cities transportation experts and thought leaders evaluated the entries and selected the winners.

While Reissenweber was thrilled with the recognition, the real rewards have come from her experience using transit.

“I walk more, I feel more connected with my community, I save money, I’m less stressed, I’m helping the environment and I can multi-task while I get to work,” she said. “It’s such a win-win."

Photo: Beth Reissenweber, far right, with colleagues from Augsburg College at the 2017 Commuter Choice Awards


2017 Commuter Choice Award Honorable Mentions & Winners

 

Building Owner/Management Company

Winner: Minneapolis Grain Exchange, Inc. 

Minneapolis Grain Exchange, Inc built a new, state-of the-art fitness center with showers, changing facilities, and lockers. The new facilities complement the 700 square foot secure bike storage room; both the tenant businesses and their employers have found both amenities to be critical to the adoption of active commuting to the building.

Honorable mentions: McGough Facility Management/Butler Square and Wells Fargo

Commuter Benefits Coordinator

Winner: Brian Nelson, Best Buy

Brian Nelson led the expansion of commuter benefits at Best Buy stores across the country, providing access to pre-tax transportation accounts for all employees. Additionally, he oversaw the installation of electric vehicle charging stations at the corporate campus and established an official training for teleworkers.

Honorable mention: Samantha McKeough, HealthPartners

Employer

Winner: Augsburg College

Augsburg College lost a significant amount of parking for a construction project and employed a multi-tiered approach that engaged the campus community at all levels to change perceptions about transportation. Campus leadership implemented a broad set of proven travel demand management strategies which have led to a 76 percent increase in Metropass users along with noticeable growth in carpooling and bicycling.

Honorable mentions: Mall of America and Minnesota Literacy Council

Government Entity

Winner: Stop for Me Campaign

The Stop for Me Campaign was a yearlong collaboration among St. Paul neighborhood organizations, advocates, and police, working together to encourage safer, more courtesy driving behavior at intersections, crosswalks, and parking lots. Together the group held 60 crosswalk events during 2016 to raise awareness and improve pedestrian safety.

Individual

Winner: Marc Berg, Friends of the Downtown Minneapolis Bicycle Center

Marc Berg is founder of Friends of the Downtown Bicycle Center, sharing his vision for a public bike center in downtown Minneapolis with a many stakeholders and potential allies in the community. He has also organizing community support for bicycle facilities in St. Louis Park and is a volunteer with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.

Honorable mentions: Beth Reissenweber, Augsburg College and Nick Wright, Minnesota Life College

Organization

Winner: Minnesota Orchestra

The Minnesota Orchestra established the Bike to Orchestra Hall program, which offers a special 50% discount to future concerts to anyone who shows their gear at the Box Office. The program serves as an audience development effort that encourages people to come as they are and enjoy music comfortably.

Honorable mention: Minnesota Life College

Commuter Choice Awards

Bus Community Light Rail METRO Green Line

On transit, making an impression with poetry 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, March 31, 2017 3:11:00 PM

Michael Kleber-Diggs and Ellen Larsen with their poem and artwork at the Green Line's Western Avenue Station.For the past 20 years, Michael Kleber-Diggs has shared his poetry with a live audience, reading the room and enjoying the conversation that follows. Capturing the reaction to one of his newest poems, The Green Line, has been a little more difficult.

That’s because the poem is part of a new public art project, IMPRESSIONS, that provided local poets and artists a chance to have their work featured inside Metro Transit’s buses and trains and at select stations and shelters over the course of several months.

“When I heard about the project, I was completely enchanted with the idea that I would be, in a way, speaking to people without really knowing that I’m doing it,” Kleber-Diggs said. “That the poem has a life of its own is really the best part.”

Kleber-Diggs’ poem is among the first six pieces to emerge from the project, which began last year with a call for entries that drew more than 350 responses. Community editors with Saint Paul Almanac, which initiated the project, ultimately selected 24 poems to be showcased over the next year.

The poems are accompanied by illustrations by local artists who were partnered with poets and asked to offer their interpretations of the work. Kleber-Diggs' poem is accompanied by artwork created by Ellen Larsen, and can be found at the Green Line's Western Avenue Station (right). 

Kimberly Nightingale, Saint Paul Almanac’s executive director, said the idea for IMPRESSIONS came from a desire to share the kind of work that has been included in the organization’s annual books over the last decade with a broader audience.

“Not everyone is going to buy a book but everyone should be able to enjoy poetry and art, especially local poetry and art, which is our focus,” she said.

The idea got off the ground when Saint Paul Almanac received a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Metro Transit and Intersection, the company that manages transit advertising, are also partners.

The City of Saint Paul is supporting the project with funding for multiple events featuring the poets and artists whose work is featured (the next event will be held in June, when a new batch of poems and artwork are released).

There’s some precedence for combining poetry and transit, too. The Poetry Society of America’s Poetry in Motion effort has brought poetry onto transit systems across the country, including Metro Transit, which participated in that effort more than a decade ago.

Unlike Poetry in Motion, IMPRESSIONS involves only local poets and artists, giving it a distinct community orientation that organizers hope will resonate among passengers. “Hopefully, for the people who are riding, this allows them to say, ‘I can create my own poetry and my own art, and it can be a part of the community, too,'” Nightingale said.

While there isn’t an obvious connection to the Green Line, other than the title, Kleber-Diggs’ poem was partly inspired by his experience riding light rail and using transit over the past 30 years.

Exploring the forest on a camping trip, he began to humanize the trees and imagine them riding the train.

However people interpret his work, though, Kleber-Diggs hopes it serves as a welcome interruption from the norm.

“As an artist, you always want to see art out in the world,” he said. “I’m really exhilarated by the idea that someone will get on the bus and see not just my piece but the other pieces as well and have a chance to connect to them in some way.”

Discover the IMPRESSIONS art!

Take a photo of each IMPRESSIONS piece and send the collection to info@saintpaulalmanac.org with your name and phone number to enter a drawing for a for a $20 Go-To Card and other prizes! The next IMPRESSIONS release party will be held on Thursday, June 1, at Black Dog Cafe. 

    > Learn more about poets and artists whose work is being featured through IMPRESSIONS

Community METRO Green Line

Artist's vision comes to life on light rail train 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, March 07, 2017 1:56:00 PM

Artist Andrea Carlson with the "Water is Life"  train artwork she designed for Northern Spark 2017. Andrea Carlson isn't used to chasing her artwork around. But when her canvas becomes a 100,000-pound light-rail vehicle, it's about the only way to get a glimpse of the finished product. 

Carlson managed to catch up with the train twice last week, traveling down University Avenue and at an informal gathering at the Green Line’s Operations & Maintenance Facility in Lowertown.

Seeing the design come to life, she said, was overwhelming. 

"Of course I'd seen it on the computer screen but this is totally different," the St. Paul- and Chicago-based artist said. "When I got on the train I actually cried a little."

The "Water is Life" artwork was commissioned by Northern Spark organizers to promote the annual arts festival and to bring attention to the event's theme, climate change. The all-night celebration will focus heavily on the Green Line, with more than 70 events happening in neighborhoods along the light rail corridor between sunset on Saturday, June 10, and sunrise on Sunday, June 11. 

Carlson's design has images of a Thunderbird and a Water Spirit, along with two messages about water – Mni Wiconi, Dakota for "water is life," and Nibi gaa-bimaaji’iwemagak, Ojibwe for "water gives life."

The design both reflects the parallels between urban streets and pays tribute to the Native lands the Green Line traverses. It also recognizes efforts by the University of Minnesota's American Indian Studies Department to revive Native languages that are endangered.

“It’s really a love letter to people working on language revitalization,” said Carlson, who studied the Ojibwe language Anishinaabemowin at the U of M.

The train wrap will remain up through the conclusion of Northern Spark. Northern Spark organizers are encouraging people to take photos of the train and to share them on social media with the hashtag #catchatrainNS. A Northern Spark juror will review photos shared before March 31 and the winning photographer will receive two tickets to the Northern Spark launch party

To learn more about Carlson’s inspiration visit the project page at 2017.northernspark.org and read an interview with Northern Spark Curator Elle Thoni

Northern Spark Art Reveal

Community Transit Police

Police put youth on a new path through Youth Diversion Program 

| Friday, December 02, 2016 11:59:00 AM

Metro Transit officer Brooke Blakey with participants in the department's Youth Diversion Program.A juvenile diversion program piloted this year has helped Metro Transit police build relationships with youth offenders.

Officers involved in the Youth Diversion Program work directly with juveniles (ages 12 to 18) facing their first charges from Metro Transit police for minor, non-violent violations such as fare evasion, fighting or disorderly conduct. 

“Our goal was meeting these kids where they are and peeling back the layers to find out why they are getting in trouble, often more than one time,” said officer Brooke Blakey, who has a background in social work and child psychology. 

“What we found was that with a little help and guidance, these kids can turn for the better and make better choices that may impact their whole lives.”

Youth are screened and given the choice to participate in the program. Follow-up actions are customized to the individual’s needs, and participants can also access services like counseling, education and family support. 

Youth who successfully complete the program have their charges dismissed. In most cases, it takes four to six months to satisfy program requirements.

Services are provided in partnership with Minneapolis-based Headway Emotional Health Services and Saint Paul Community Ambassadors, a city-funded outreach unit dedicated to improving safety on city streets.

Blakey said many of the kids’ she’s worked with struggle with truancy, jobs, learning disabilities and sometimes mental health issues.

“A lot of these kids are looking for structure and support and stability but haven’t had that in the past, or not much of it,” she said. 

In one example, Blakey said a youth could “barely exist” in the same space with their mother. The relationship issues were addressed through anger management, family therapy, money management and a parenting class for the mother. “It was like night and day, and only a few months later,” Blakey said.

Another rewarding moment was when two juveniles came downtown to visit Blakey on the night of their high school graduation ceremonies last June wearing their caps and gowns (photo).

“That was really something,” she said. “I was so impressed that they reached out to me in that way and on that night instead of being with other friends. It shows a lot of promise to me.”

Thirty-eight cases have been managed through the program since it launched in January. Several cases remain ongoing.

Gwen DeGroff-Gunter, a retired Minneapolis police officer, was hired to develop the diversion program. She said a lot of lessons have been learned since work began, including the importance of face-to-face interactions, consistency and follow-up. 

“It has been an interesting and valuable program,” DeGroff-Gunter said. “The overall highlight, I think, was discovering the potential this program has to truly make a difference in a young person’s life.”

Looking ahead, DeGroff-Gunter hopes officers can continue to engage more directly with area schools and be more directly involved with juvenile participants.

“This is a critical demographic for us in several ways, and we all want to increase safety for the riding public,” she said. “There is a huge opportunity here.”

Bus Community Light Rail Minneapolis St. Paul

Reflections on November in the Twin Cities 

Posted by Kathy Graul | Wednesday, November 30, 2016 10:13:00 AM

Does anyone else feel like November has flown by? A presidential election, unseasonably warm temperatures and Vikings games in the new stadium are just a few of the highlights. We at Metro Transit are thankful for the opportunity to look back and reflect on this month through the stunning photography featuring public transportation in the Twin Cities that we've admired on Instagram. 

Here we offer a look back at some of our favorite images from this month - which is your favorite? 

And by the way, are you following us on Instagram? It's a great place to connect with us and see the creative side of transit. We might also feature your photo if it catches our eye! (Just be sure to tag us!)

Purple skies over the Vikings stadium, with the Blue Line featured in the foreground

Reflections of a Route 6 bus heading over the Hennepin Avenue bridge

 

"The old cathedrals are good, but the great blue dome that hangs over everything is better." -- Thomas Carlyle

A photo posted by Joe -- St. Paul, MN (@theuptown5) on

Snow finally falling in downtown Minneapolis

Super-speedy Green Line

Moody morning light rail shot in downtown Minneapolis

 

Early mornings are a little darker these days.

A photo posted by Jeremy (@jeremy.delane) on

Green Line train passing through Government Plaza

 

The green line.

A photo posted by Max Webb (@webbwonder) on

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