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Posts in Category: Community

Bus Community From the GM Light Rail

Back to school with Metro Transit 

| Friday, August 23, 2013 11:00:00 AM

From Brian Lamb, Metro Transit General Manager

High school students across Minneapolis are heading back to class next week – and for many of them Metro Transit will be the way they get there.

When classes resume on Monday our successful Go-To Student Pass partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) will begin its second year, providing students with safe, convenient and affordable transportation to and from classes, extracurricular activities and other destinations.

After a successful “freshman year,” 2,200 new students from South and Southwest high schools will join the program for the first time. Eligible students at Edison, North, Patrick Henry, Roosevelt, Washburn and Wellstone high schools will also again use Go-To Student Passes, which are integrated with their student ID cards and allow unlimited rides between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.

If last year’s response is any indication, the passes should be put to good use. By the end of the 2012 school year, nearly 3,800 students were using passes nearly 7,000 times each weekday, totaling 1.5 million rides on buses and trains by the time classes let out for summer.

It takes careful planning and preparation to accommodate new student riders while continuing to deliver the safe, convenient and reliable service our commuting customers rely on every day.

To accommodate these new South and Southwest students, nearly 50 daily trips will be added to existing routes. In all, there will be around 120 scheduled trips added to provide comfortable service for students and regular customers on routes near MPS high schools.

And while transporting students safely is nothing new for Metro Transit, public transportation may be new to many of these young people. As the school year begins, Metro Transit, MPS and other partners will staff busy transfer areas and help students understand the Code of Conduct they are expected to abide by.

Based on last year’s experience, we expect students using passes for the first time to quickly adapt and make the most of transit. Students who used Go-To Student Passes gave the program overwhelmingly high marks. In response to a survey, 91 percent said they “liked” or “loved” their passes.

Additionally, 79 percent engaged in learning opportunities outside of school “very often” or “sometimes,” and 60 percent said they engaged in extracurricular activities more than before thanks to the Go-To Student Pass. Students in the survey reported using their Go-To passes to frequently travel to the library, athletics, jobs, school clubs and tutoring.

In September, Metro Transit will further strengthen the connection between the school community and our “onboard community” by welcoming the entire Minneapolis School District into the Metropass program. With the addition of MPS to this employer-based program, educators and MPS staff will be able to use a Metropass to ride buses and trains right alongside students.

Acquainting students, educators and their families with the value of our service translates into a better long-term understanding and appreciation for how public transportation links people, communities and opportunities throughout the region. That’s a lesson we think everyone can get behind.

> MPS Go-To Student Pass

> Go-To Card User's Guide

> MPS Student Pass rides surpass the one million mark

> Rosenblum: Metro Transit Student Pass is a vehicle for achievement

Community From the GM METRO Red Line Rider Information

Mid-year Progress Report: On the Right Track  

| Wednesday, July 24, 2013 12:30:00 PM

From Brian Lamb, Metro Transit General Manager

Like any good organization, Metro Transit lays out a set of annual goals and carefully tracks its own progress. Halfway through 2013, it's safe to say we're on the right track.

Ridership is up, customers are happy and buses and trains are running on time. While there's more work to do, these positive takeaways from our own mid-year review give us and our customers reason to celebrate.

Here’s a quick scan of how Metro Transit is faring on its top 2013 goals.

> Grow ridership. After a record year in 2012, Metro Transit is on pace to reach its goal of 82 million passenger boardings this year. Overall ridership is ahead of last year and Northstar Commuter Rail is experiencing the fastest growth in its nearly four-year history, with ridership up more than 15 percent through the end of June. Average weekday ridership surpassed 3,000 customers in the month of June for the first time. Ridership on express and urban buses also continues to see steady growth.

> Improve customer satisfaction. Nine out of ten customers rated Metro Transit’s service as “Good” or “Excellent” in a customer survey completed earlier this year. Customers are as likely to recommend Metro Transit to their peers as some of America's most popular and recognizable brands, including Apple, Jet Blue, Verizon and Costco. More than half of Metro Transit bus customers say they have used transit for more than five years, a good indication that once a customer gives us a try, they tend to stick with us.

> Enhance safety and security. We're proud to have received two key safety accolades -- the Transportation Security Administration’s Gold Standard and the American Public Transportation Association’s Gold Award for Bus System Safety. A safety campaign was also named “Best of Show,” by the Minnesota Association of Government Communicators. As the Metro Transit Police Department continues to grow, we believe Metro Transit will continue to serve as a national model for transit safety and security.

> Improve operational reliability. Despite a protracted winter, disruptive spring storms and ongoing construction, buses are running on time for 89 percent of trips. ​Although weather and traffic are not within our control, pulling buses out of garages on schedule is. Bus pull-outs have been on time 997 of every 1,000 trips so far this year. Northstar commuter trains are operating on time for more than 95 percent of trips. With the receipt of 12 additional light rail vehicles for METRO Blue Line operations, we’re now able to run all three-car trains during our busiest times. 

> Promote energy conservation and environmental stewardship. Metro Transit's buildings and bus garages are being made more efficient through retrofits while employees continue to reduce their personal energy use through simple habits like turning off their computers at the end of the workday. The use of clean soy-based biodiesel fuel blends is also expanding in the bus fleet, with testing of 20 percent blends now in progress. More hybrid buses are being added to the fleet while Metro Transit's and the new light rail vehicles appearing on tracks are lighter and more energy-efficient.

> Support and foster transit-oriented development. Development along the METRO Blue Line continues to advance, with more housing and retail space coming online. At Nicollet Mall Station, Nic On Fifth is rising out of the ground directly east of the LRT platform. The 253-unit apartment building will be the first skway and LRT-connected apartment project in Minneapolis history. New housing, offices and retail developments are also emerging along University Avenue and the University of Minnesota as the METRO Green Line's mid-2014 opening approaches.

> Recruit, retain and develop a diverse and talented workforce. A historic hiring effort to bring more than 100 new bus drivers on board is nearing completion, allowing some longtime operators to transition into new roles on the METRO Green Line. Metro Transit's Police Department is also growing to meet the demands of an evolving transit network. Nearly 20 new officers were sworn-in in April. Both the new drivers and new officers reflect our riders' diverse backgrounds.

> Be a visible and respected presence in the community. Through open houses, social media (more than 25,000 now follow us on Twitter or 'Like' us on Facebook), customer advocate engagements and other outreach efforts, Metro Transit is listening to its customers in an effort to improve its service. We're is also making an effort to share more news and better connect with customers through this new Rider's Almanac blog.  

> Advance the development of new transitways. Now 93 percent complete, the METRO Green Line is coming to life with overhead wires, tracks and stations. Near Target Field, the Interchange transit hub is also taking shape, setting the stage for the METRO Green Line extension from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie and other regional transit improvements. Minnesota's first Bus Rapid Transit service, the METRO Red Line, launched in June with promising early returns while preparations for the next evolution of bus service, Arterial Bus Rapid Transit continue to evolve.   

        > METRO: Light Rail Ridership Growth Spurs Minneapolis' Metro Transit to Expand Services

        > METRO: Q & A With Metro Transit GM Brian Lamb

Community Light Rail METRO Blue Line Minneapolis

Garden partnership blooming on METRO Blue Line 

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013 9:07:00 AM

Three years ago, volunteers planted nearly 1,800 flowers, vines and trees on an small corner lot west of the METRO Blue Line’s 50th Street/Minnehaha Park Station. The effort is paying off.

At the peak of its second full growing season, the collection of Giant Hyssops, Wild Geraniums and Purple Prairie flowers that help make up what’s now known as the Nokomis East Gateway Gardens is in full bloom.

For those behind the garden, the space has also become a meeting ground for neighbors and a point of pride that delivers a fitting welcome to the Nokomis East neighborhood.

“I walk by here every day and have a great sense of pride in the neighborhood,” said Sally Einhaus, a 17-year neighborhood resident who has worked on the garden since its inception.

Einhaus was among a group of five volunteers at the garden on a recent Saturday morning pulling weeds and enjoying the company of neighbors.

Less visible than the oranges, yellows and purples that fill the space is the partnership the garden represents.

Metro Transit purchased the small corner property northwest of the Hiawatha Avenue and East 50th Street intersection as part of the METRO Blue Line construction effort. The land was needed to build an electrical substation that provides electricity for trains.

Preparing to demolish a 1920s-era dry cleaning business that sat on the site in 2009, Metro Transit approached the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association to discuss how the land could be reused.

Neighbors viewed the site as important because it serves as an entry to the Nokomis East neighborhood and quickly landed on the idea of a garden because of its proximity to the Nokomis Naturescape Gardens, known nationally for its collection of monarch butterflies.

“Nobody wanted to see a chain link fence with weeds behind it when they turned into the neighborhood,” said Trish Schilling, one of the garden’s most active leaders. “This really is a gateway to our community.”

Local design firm colberg | tews Landscape Architecture provided complimentary designs for the site. From above, the paths form an outline of a butterfly wing.

Metro Transit agreed to install a fence around the substation, grade the site, install a water line and helped acquire the plants, trees, compost and mulch needed to get the garden off the ground.

Planting occurred over two days in October 2010 and neighborhood volunteers have maintained the site ever since. The garden has attracted several butterflies and been enhanced with the addition of pavers, birdhouses and other decorations.

Schilling said the effort has been sustained “in the spirit of community service” and that the garden has taken on a “look, feel and personality” as it has evolved.

The garden has also helped build connections between the community and Metro Transit.

“Just from a relationship-building standpoint it’s been really valuable,” said Julie Quinn, a planner in Metro Transit’s engineering and facilities department who helped organize the garden project.

> Metro Transit's Adopt-a-Shelter program

Community Safety Transit Police

Security officer who helped Metro Transit police nab suspect honored 

| Friday, June 21, 2013 3:43:00 PM

Sabrina Banks is an observer.

It’s that quality that led her to a job working security at St. Paul’s Alliance Bank Center – and to the Metro Transit Police Department on Friday, where she received a Civilian Award of Commendation.

Banks was recognized for identifying a suspect in an armed robbery of a Roseville group home and alerting Metro Transit police officers Peter Peterson and Leo Castro, who made an arrest following a foot chase through the St. Paul skyway. Metro Transit police had provided Banks with a photo of the suspect and asked her to be watchful, believing he might show up in the area.

The arrest later led police to three other robbery suspects, charges and subsequent convictions. Banks successfully identified another suspect earlier this year and has also worked with beat officers in St. Paul to address electronics thefts. (Above: Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington presents Banks with the award)

Before accepting her award, Banks said she has always had a keen eye and is constantly aware of her surroundings. “I look at everyone all day long and I never forget a face,” said Banks, a Woodbury resident who has worked security since 1996.

Recalling last year's arrest, Banks said it was an exciting moment and that she was proud to have helped officers make their arrest. “I like it when they get the bad boys,” she said.

Other citizens won recognition at the 16th annual event for chasing down a suspect who had smashed a transit shelter window with a skateboard and helping to prevent a suspect from entering a METRO Blue Line tunnel near the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Along with the citizen awards, nearly two-dozen Metro Transit police officers received accolades for extraordinary service. The group included two officers and a Metropolitan Council project manager who developed a system that provides better coordination with the Minneapolis Police Department, saving officers hundreds of hours in paperwork every year.

Adam Marvin, who joined the Metro Transit Police Department in 2009, was named Police Officer of the Year for his dedication and attention to detail. Officer Marty Williams was awarded the Timothy Bowe Memorial Award, which is given to a part-time Metro Transit Police officer.

Presenting the awards, Police Chief John Harrington described the officers as the “best of the best” and heralded them for being a “voice of reason and calm when things seemed to be completely out of control.”

“These are the people who make our world – the transit world – a better, safer place,” he said.

Star Tribune: Metro Transit honors top cops

> Metro Transit Police Honor Top Officers at 16th Annual Ceremony

> Previous award winners

Community Northstar Rider Information

Let history be your guide on the Northstar Commuter Rail Line 

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013 11:40:00 AM

From Ford Motor Co.’s downtown Minneapolis factory to the Oliver H. Kelly Farm in Elk River, a trip on the Northstar Commuter Rail Line is rich in history. 

And now there’s more of it.

Minnesota Public Radio’s audio tour of the 40-mile commuter rail line, part of its Sound Point® series, was recently expanded to provide customers additional history about the sights along the corridor (which we learn began as a route for ox carts delivering furs from northern Minnesota and Canada...). 

The 25-minute tour is accessible by smart phone, allowing transit customers to listen and look as they travel the line. Passengers with WiFi-enabled devices can also access the tour using Northstar's new WiFi service later this year.

In Ramsey, where Northstar’s newest station opened in 2012, the tour tells the story of one of Minnesota’s first paved highways, Highway 10. The road was built in the 1920s to serve wealthy city residents who wanted to drive to their lake homes.

> Listen to the Northstar Commuter Rail Line audio tour

The tour also touches on the 1986 tornado that hit the Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley, which circled for 16 minutes and is considered one of the most-photographed tornadoes in history. Other anecdotes include the story behind the Rum River’s name, a mix of spiritual and spirit-driven inspiration, and the construction of the United States’ first rural nuclear power plant, in Elk River.

Jeff Jones, Engagement Editor for MPR's Public Insight Network, created the audio tour. Jones said he hopes the history will give customers who regularly ride Northstar a greater appreciation for the corridor, which he said “exemplifies the story of Minnesota’s development.”

“I want someone riding it (Northstar) to understand what connects Minnesotans together,” Jones said. “Whether you live in the city or live out in the exurbs of Big Lake, there’s so much that we depend on each other for. But more simply than that, I want people to know what they’re looking at every day, to be able to look at a factory and say, ‘I know what’s going on in there.’”

Jones hopes to continue building the series, adding additional audio and information Big Lake, at the north end of the line. Anyone who would like to share information is invited to contact Jones at jjones@mpr.org.

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