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Posts in Category: Community

Community METRO Green Line

Council, Transit Police, partners helping families in need 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, August 13, 2019 3:07:00 PM

Families who seek shelter on light rail vehicles are getting help finding affordable housing – and the support they need to transition to their new living arrangements.

The Metropolitan Council’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) has helped around 70 families find or begin searching for apartments since the beginning of the year. The families have largely been referred by Metro Transit police officers who work overnight on the METRO Green and Blue lines.

Families referred to the Council can have their rent partially covered through a federal housing program. While that aid is limited, there are hopes more resources will become available in the future.

For many families, though, rental assistance is just a part of the equation.

To smooth the transition, Council staff direct people to organizations that provide counseling, legal aid, furniture and groceries, among other services. A social worker from St. Paul-based Radias Health is working exclusively with individuals who sought shelter on transit.

Families also receive advice on paying bills, housekeeping, setting boundaries and getting around their new surroundings using transit.

When a family with young children moved into a new apartment, Metro HRA senior outreach coordinator Ryane Leifheit put up a bulletin board with reminders about routine tasks.

“Many of these transit riders haven’t had a home in years,” she said. “Staying in housing is a whole other battle.”

The assistance is part of a larger and ongoing effort to help individuals who seek shelter on transit find alternatives.

Officers with the Metro Transit Police Department’s Homeless Action Team are often the first point of contact. The team includes six police officers who spend their nights on light rail vehicles building trust, bringing people to temporary shelters and providing other aid.

Two Community Service Officers have been added to the team and a van used to transport individuals in need was recently retrofitted so officers can use it to provide medical attention and other assistance.

Police are also hoping to have more temporary shelter spaces reserved for individuals who seek shelter on transit. 

While homelessness is a common issue in the transit industry, the coordination between police, the HRA, local and state agencies and service providers is rare, according to one national expert.

“I think you’re on the cutting edge of this, working to get the homeless some help so they don’t keep coming back,” said Dan Boyle a San Diego, Calif.-based transit consultant who has studied the response to homelessness by agencies across the country.

Lt. Mario Ruberto, a key figure in the police department’s efforts, said the stage was set by Metro HRA Director Terri Smith.

“She said, ‘Here’s what we’re up against.’ You find out other people have finished this component. It’s breaking down barriers so we’re all coming together,” he said.    

While there are challenges, Leifheit, the outreach coordinator, is optimistic the work she and others are doing will make an impact. “There’s a place for everybody,” she said. “There’s no one who can’t be helped.”

-- Story and photo by Laura Baenen

Bus Community

Artwork highlights the connection between transit, regional parks 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, June 20, 2019 3:39:00 PM

Large, colorful monarch butterflies may give you a ride to a regional park this summer.

Metro Transit has wrapped two buses, dubbed Nature Connectors, with a beautiful painting designed by Minneapolis muralist Greta McLain and created in her studio, GoodSpace Murals. The painting prominently features monarch butterflies.

The buses are now traveling on routes that lead to some of the region’s most popular regional parks – Minnehaha and Theodore Wirth in Minneapolis and Como and Lake Phalen in Saint Paul – as part of an effort to highlight the connection between transit and parks.

A map highlighting the routes that serve select regional parks can be found at metrotransit.org/parks. Temporary sidewalk clings featuring butterflies will mark the path between each park and select bus stops.

“Helping connect folks to our amazing natural resources is beautiful and important work,” McLain said. “This is a huge honor for us.”

The Nature Connector buses are the brainchild of Amanda Lovelee, regional parks ambassador for the Metropolitan Council. Lovelee’s role is to help raise awareness of regional parks.

“We have so much nature in our cities that is accessible by walking, bicycling and transit,” Lovelee said. “These buses will capture people’s imaginations and help draw attention to the marvelous network of regional parks throughout the metro area.”

Butterflies are a continuing theme in the work of GoodSpace Murals.

“Butterflies are an easily accessible, powerful symbol,” McLain said. “They migrate every year. They represent immigration – current immigration, our ancestors who immigrated. And they connect us to the natural world.”

The painting McLain created for the Nature Connector buses also includes images of two South High School students who she met in an art class.

One of those students, Hodan Ahmed, loved the class and since landed a summer job working in McLain’s studio. While Hodan hasn’t yet seen the wrapped bus, she saw a photo of the mural and said that her portrait is a “really good” likeness.

Earlier this week, one of the wrapped buses was used to bring students from the Matthews Recreation Center to Minnehaha Park, where they met with a naturalist from the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board.

Additional events will be held throughout the summer.

Learn more

View the map of routes serving the Theodore Wirth, Minnehaha, Como and Phalen regional parks at metrotransit.org/parks. For additional trip planning help, call 612-373-3333.

 

 

 

Awards Bicycle Community Metropass

Commuter Choice Awards celebrate sustainable transportation leaders 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, May 07, 2019 2:53:00 PM

Metro Transit recognized sustainable transportation leaders at the 2019 Commuter Choice Awards.A bakery that boasts of being St. Paul’s only carbon-free carb delivery and a YMCA that rewards members for working out on the way to their workouts were recognized as area mobility leaders this week.

Metro Transit and Transportation Management Organizations (TMOs) celebrated their efforts, along with several others, at the annual Commuter Choice Awards. The awards were presented on Tuesday, May 7, at the University of Minnesota.

Brake Bread, based on St. Paul’s West Seventh Street, was named Organization of the Year. The Midway YMCA, on University Avenue, received an honorable mention in the same category.

Formed in 2014, Brake Bread makes as many as 80 deliveries a day using an electric-assist bike with a trailer attachment. In 2018, they eliminated an estimated 11,000 car trips by relying on bike delivery. Brake Bread also supports customers who bike to its store by participating in the Bicycle Benefits program.

Leaders at the YMCA Midway and YMCA Blaisdell, its sister branch, instituted the Clean Commuter Club in 2018 to encourage members to walk, bike or take transit to the gyms. Members who do not drive to the gym are rewarded with guest passes and other perks.

Metro Transit works with TMOs like Move Minneapolis and Move Minnesota to encourage the use of transit and other alternatives to driving alone. The Commuter Choice Awards were introduced more than a decade ago to celebrate government entities, building owners and individuals who support sustainable transportation.

Nominations are reviewed by transportation and human resources professionals, public officials and advocates. Others recognized at this year's Commuter Choice Awards were:

Employer: Quality Bicycle Products

Quality Bicycle Products of Bloomington offers many benefits to encourage sustainable commuting, including contributions to Health Savings Accounts and credits for bike parts, accessories and apparel. “HealthPartners estimates that Quality Bicycle Products saves $170,000 per year in health care costs by investing $45,000 in incentives,” the company said.

Employer Honorable Mentions: SPS Commerce, University of St. Thomas

Commuter Benefits Coordinator: Heather Galvin, Kari Scanlon

When Rally Health relocated, Heather Galvin worked with Metro Transit to enroll the company in the Metropass program. Kari Scanlon, director of human resources for Touchstone MH, also worked with Metro Transit to join the Metropass program.   

Commuter Champion: Katie Peters

When I Work accountant Katie Peters has coordinated outreach events with Move Minneapolis, organized the company’s Metropass participation and helped lead World Car-Free Day activities. When I Work is in the Ford Building, just east of Target Field Station.

Commuter Champion Honorable Mention: Dana DeMaster

Government Entity: Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board

Board staff responded to the opening of the METRO Green Line and other Capitol-area investments by prioritizing transportation management in an updated comprehensive plan. The plan will serve as a reference for developers and property owners seeking board approval.

Learn how Metro Transit and area TMOs can help promote transit and other alternatives to driving alone 

Community Minneapolis Northstar

In Coon Rapids, hobbyists create scaled-down Northstar 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Wednesday, April 03, 2019 12:08:00 PM

Maria Dierks of Elk River and her grandchildren admire miniature Northstar commuter rail operations and maintenance facility in Big Lake, Minn.Customers who ride the Northstar Commuter Rail Line must look up to take in the nearly 300,000-pound, 16-foot tall locomotives that pull passenger cars between Minneapolis and Big Lake. 

But in the basement of a former Coon Rapids grocery store at 1929 Coon Rapids Blvd., the dimensions of Minnesota’s only commuter rail line aren’t nearly as daunting.

There, the North Metro Model Railroad Club has included miniaturized versions of Northstar’s Operations and Maintenance Facility, locomotives and passenger cars in a sprawling, 5,000-square-foot display of railroads from the Twin Cities to north central Minnesota.

As lifelike as it is, Maria Dierks of Elk River astutely observed a small disparity between the model and the reality it represents. Dierks, who attended a recent open house with her grandchildren, pointed to a Big Lake grain elevator that she said was out of place.

“That’s just where it fundamentally fit in our layout,” said Mitch Pierson, a Coon Rapids resident who built the Northstar model with Jeff Dombrowski of Maple Grove.

Pierson, Dombrowski and other members of the North Metro Model Railroad Club opened their private space to the public last month, responding to interest from a recent feature on WCCO. The club hosts public open houses occasionally throughout the year.

The misplaced grain elevator may not be noticed by most, but the model has other obvious distinctions from its real-life counterpart. The model omits Northstar’s stations and features 25 passenger cars, as opposed to the 18 that the real Northstar uses.

But model railroading is a hobby where there’s always more to do. Dombrowski said he’d like to add motorized doors and lighting to the 3-foot-by-2-foot maintenance facility. If a proposal to extend Northstar to St. Cloud comes to fruition, that too could be represented in the model.

The Northstar model was built in 2013, four years after the real-life service began. The club’s display also includes the Northtown Yard in Fridley and the Shoreham Yards Roundhouse in Minneapolis, among other freight railroad lines and facilities.

To cover expenses, the club’s 45 members pay up to $40 a month in dues. Members have access to the building and can control the trains through apps on their smartphones. Almost $80,000 has been invested in the display since work began in 2011.  

For more information, visit the North Metro Model Railroad Club’s website, nmmrc.org.

 

Bus Community St. Paul

On Transit Driver Appreciation Day, admiration goes both ways 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, March 19, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Transit Driver Appreciation Day was designed to put the focus on operators like Shelly Logelin, who started working at Metro Transit in 2013.

But when students from Saint Paul Public School’s Focus Beyond Transition Services visited Metro Transit’s East Metro Garage on Monday the support went in both directions.

The students, frequent bus riders, visited the garage to hand deliver gift bags filled with snacks and decorated with one of the custom thank you cards they helped design.

But, like several operators in attendance, Logelin said picking up Focus Beyond students is just as much of a highlight for her as it is for the students.

“Even though it’s our appreciation day, we’re giving it back to them to make sure they know they’re appreciated, too,” she said.  

Focus Beyond is a transitional school where students learn how to become more independent. Students often ride in large groups, filling entire buses on routes 54, 70 and 74, as they ride to and from school, work and other destinations.

The students were invited to East Metro after taking the initiative to deliver handmade cards and gift bags to drivers on Transit Driver Appreciation Day in 2018.

Tina Potvin, a teacher who helped organize the efforts, said students ride so frequently that they often develop relationships with the drivers. The kindness, patience and smiles they offer make sure the students always feel welcome, she said. 

“Many of the drivers greet our students by name and learn about all the individual needs they may have,” Potvin said. ”They really go out of their way to make both the students and the staff feel so much more comfortable and welcome.”

Help us recognize great operators

Help Metro Transit recognize great operators by submitting a commendation through our website or by sharing messages on Facebook or Twitter. If you don't know your operator's name, include the operator number on their shoulder so we can share your feedback with them.

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