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Posts in Category: Community

Bus Community Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Hussein Mohamed 

| Monday, November 23, 2015 12:29:00 PM

Hussein Mohamed had just graduated from high school when he was driven from Somali amid a violent civil war.

As a refugee in Kenya, he spent six years selling gasoline and other provisions so he could earn a modest income. In 1996, seeking a better future for himself and his family, he boarded a plane, flew 16 hours across the Atlantic Ocean, and set out to create a new life in the Twin Cities.

Nearly two decades later, the father of seven has become an active and enthusiastic leader for other Somalis who have made their homes here. He’s also become a home owner and gone back to school, studying business management at a local community college.

Getting to this point wasn’t easy. Mohamed held several jobs, as a dishwasher, janitor and taxi cab driver, before realizing that he had a calling for customer service. He’d taken the bus to work and knew a friend who was a bus driver at Metro Transit. So he applied and called until he got hired. At the time, he was one of just a few Somali-born operators.

After 14 years of driving, his message to others looking for a rewarding career is simple and unequivocal: working at Metro Transit is the opportunity of a lifetime.

“This is a job that brings hope to people from all over the world, including myself,” Mohamed said. “I send a lot of people here, telling them that the best company in the world is right at their doorsteps.”

Indeed, Mohamed has played a leading role in Metro Transit’s efforts to recruit drivers and to encourage ridership among the local Somali community. He does so both as a representative for Metro Transit and as community organizer who takes it upon himself to help Somali youth and to keep his peers informed.                                                                                            

“My father was a chief back in Somali so we always had people around and it taught me how to be a leader,” he said. “Helping people is my life.”

Mohamed offers a helping hand to those he works with as well. After being trained through Metro Transit’s peer support program, he is often called upon to work with operators who have gone through a traumatic event or are facing challenges.

“It’s all about making someone love their job when they’re down,” said Mohamed, whose warm demeanor and outgoing personality has earned him the nickname “King.”

While the job has its challenges, Mohamed said his best advice to himself and other operators is to simply take it one day at a time and to let things go easily. “When I leave home, I put my job number one so I have a fresh mind,” he said. “When I sit in the seat and press the gas, it’s a new day and it’s exciting.”

A ten-year safe driver, Mohamed has worked several routes throughout his career. Lately, he’s been driving Route 16, which continues to provide local service on University Avenue.

His hope for the future is to earn his degree, continue building his career and to expose more of his fellow Somalis to the opportunities available at Metro Transit. 

“You can tell just from my face that I’m happy and grateful,” Mohamed said. “I call myself a Minnesotan now and I look forward to raising my family here. This is my final destination.”

Operator at a Glance

Name: Hussein Mohamed

Hired: Oct. 8, 2001

Employee Number: 2406

Routes: Mohamed has driven several local and express routes, usually in Minneapolis and its immediate suburbs. Most recently, he has been on Route 16 with local service on University Avenue.

GarageHeywood Garage (previously spent time at the Martin J. Ruter and South garages)

Hobbies: Mohamed used to play soccer, but today he dedicates much of his time to his family, school and community. “My hobby is moving – constantly moving and talking to people,” he said.

To help you better get to know those getting you around, Metro Transit offers these 'Know Your Operator' profiles of train and bus operators. To suggest an operator for a future profile, please email ridersalmanac@metrotransit.org.

Bus Community Minneapolis

Waiting for the bus while lounging in the ‘Living Room’ 

| Thursday, October 22, 2015 9:49:00 AM

Pillows, a chess board, markers, books and string lighting aren’t the kinds of things people are usually surrounded by while waiting for a bus.

But a new temporary shelter that went up this week in Minneapolis incorporates all of those things, part of a broader and continuing effort to enliven public spaces in the downtown core.

The temporary shelter – called “Living Room Station – Your Home Before You Get Home” – is located at the corner of South Sixth Street and Nicollet Mall, where more than 1,000 people board a bus each weekday.

Its installation is the product of a partnership between the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District and Metro Transit, which hope to gain some lessons learned that will shape future placemaking efforts not just at boarding areas but across downtown.                                 

The “Living Room Station” near Nicollet Mall was designed by the Musicant Group and constructed with help from Onyx Cycles, a manufacturing company based in North Minneapolis. Rider feedback collected by the Youth Coordinating Board's Street Outreach Team helped inspire the design.

“In our built environment, everything can be so hard and synthetic,” said Max Musicant, the founder and principal at the Musicant Group. “Our use of durable but natural materials and color creates a sense of welcoming and invitation that I think is often missing.”

The shelter will be up through at least the end of the month and there will be live entertainment at the site each weekday from 3:30-5 p.m. (see schedule below).

Another project – which might or might not include a physical shelter – is in the works for a boarding area at South Sixth Street and Second Avenue South, outside the Capella Tower.

Ben Shardlow, the DID’s Director of Public Realm Initiatives, said downtown’s high-traffic boarding areas each present unique opportunities. Because of that, he said property owners, customers and other stakeholders should work together on innovative solutions.

“Our focus is on places that aren’t working as well as they could, and working together on novel solution that meet the need,” he said.

The project comes as Metro Transit replaces shelters in the City of Minneapolis that were privately owned until last year. New and replacement shelters are also being installed through the Better Bus Stops program.


"Living Room Station" Schedule of Events

> Friday, Oct. 23 – Singing in the Rain: music and umbrella escort from the station to the bus   

> Monday, Oct. 26 – Pumpkin Carving: decorate the Living Room for the holidays!

> Tuesday, Oct. 27 – Family Game Night: board games while you wait for the bus

> Wednesday, Oct. 28 –Singing in the Rain: music and umbrella escort from the station to the bus 

> Thursday, Oct. 29 – House Party: Live accordion, free apple cider and a good time

> Friday, Oct. 30 – Trick or Treat at Living Room Station!


    > DID: Living Room Station offers activities, new environment

    > Star Tribune: Temporary downtown Mpls. bus shelter offers the comfort of home

    > Smaller shelter shown off at State Fair

    > On West Broadway, shelters get a steward


Photo: Free cards and flowers were provided at "Living Room Station" on Wednesday, Oct. 21. View more photos courtesy The Musicant Group here

Bus Bus Maintenance Community In the News

Friends turn retired bus into RV, drive across U.S. 

Posted by Kathy Graul | Tuesday, September 15, 2015 2:00:00 PM

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to turn something unconventional into a house? How about a Metro Transit bus? That's exactly what a couple of friends from the Twin Cities did this summer before embarking on a journey in the retrofitted vehicle to San Francisco.

Kao Choua Vue was laid off earlier this year, and her friend Peter Kane was working on building a new startup business. Kane was also looking for a new place to call home, and he had his eye on the San Francisco Bay Area. Because of the high cost of rentals, he needed an alternative living space.

Kane stumbled upon a Craigslist ad for a retired Metro Transit bus. In June, Kane and Vue went to view it and “immediately fell in love." They purchased the bus from a private owner in St. Cloud and immediately got to work, spending day and night renovating it into a living space. They incorporated two mattresses and one couch, making room for about three people.

Kane and Vue decided on a Hmong name for the bus, Chao Moua, and later they both realized it rhymed with Vue’s name – Kao Choua.

A third friend would ride along with the pair to San Francisco - Tyler Hayes, who happens to be from Oakland, Calif. The group left the Twin Cities in early August.

Their 2,380-mile trip took them from the Twin Cities to Denver to Los Angeles and eventually San Francisco. The bus is now parked in Oakland, not far from Hayes’ home. Vue says that’s handy for taking showers, since the vehicle is not currently equipped to run any water.

“Driving Chao Moua was the best feeling, with a panoramic view of the open road and getting a perfect view of the sunset in the countryside, including the vast star-filled sky,” says Vue. “Almost every vehicle on the road with us would gaze with smiles while passing by Chao Moua. Whenever we gassed up along the way at the truck stops, Chao Moua was always the cool one.”

The bus needed some repairs when they hit Barstow, Calif., and the group was glad to leave the city’s 115-degree weather. But now that they’re settled in the San Francisco area, the bus has been a big hit.

“Nearing San Francisco and in the middle of their traffic, more than 10 drivers commented that we have a sweet ride. They love Chao Moua in San Francisco!” says Vue. “There's no one on the road that we saw that was as unique as Chao Moua and everyone noted that with glee.”

While many retired buses are sold for parts or acquired by private bus companies, others have been used for alternative spaces such as outbuildings, a petting zoo and gardens. Based on regional and federal guidelines, the regular service life of a transit bus is 12 years. To prepare the buses for auction, all ads, logos, the bike rack, the fare box and the equipment for the overhead signs are removed.

 
Bus Community Shelters State Fair

Smaller shelter shown off at State Fair 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, September 02, 2015 10:08:00 AM

A student-designed waiting shelter with a reduced footprint and other innovative features is on display at the Minnesota State Fair. A student-designed waiting shelter with a reduced footprint and other innovative features is on display at the Minnesota State Fair. 

The shelter was designed by architecture graduate student Amy Van Gessel as part of a class at the University of Minnesota’s College of Design and School of Architecture. Mechanical engineering graduates Alex Beane and Andrew Frey also assisted in its creation.

Made of steel and recycled plastic, the shelter includes seating, a small tabletop, a bicycle rack and a light that could indicate the next expected bus departure. The shelter is four feet deep and 13-feet long, but can be adapted to site conditions and the expected ridership at a given bus stop.

Van Gessel said the design was partly inspired by a shelter from Paris that serves not just as a waiting area but a gathering space. The shelters include bike-sharing kiosks, lending libraries, tables and a few distinct seating areas.

“In most shelters, the only option is to sit,” Van Gessel said. “This is about providing more personal spaces.”

Fairgoers seeing the shelter outside the Eco Experience building have been struck by the shelter’s bold design but warm up to it on further inspection.

“It looks and feels very different than the traditional shelter, but once that kind of initial confusion wears off and people start kicking the wheels they start opening up and having some good comments and feedback,” said adjunct instructor James Garrett Jr, AIA, who led the design class. 

Garrett Jr. is the owner of St. Paul-based 4RM+ULA, which helped design stations on the METRO Green Line and Target Field Station.

Metro Transit’s Engineering & Facilities department challenged students in Garrett’s class to design a shelter that could be used in areas with space constraints and would be powered without a utility connection. Solar panels atop the shelter provide power for the shelter.

The student’s work and input received at the State Fair will help inform future shelter plans.

Metro Transit is installing 30 shelters at new locations this year through the Bus Stop Improvements Program. Another 60 new shelters are being installed at sites in Minneapolis in a continuing effort to replace advertising shelters that were privately owned and managed until last year.

Enviro-Tech, radiustrack, Mattson Macdonald Young Structural Engineers, Gausman & Moore, Rosco, Lumos and Powerfully Green also partnered on the shelter design project.

Community Light Rail State Fair

A city commute in crop art 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, September 02, 2015 8:00:00 AM

A crop art featuring a Metro Transit light rail train at the 2015 Minnesota State Fair.

Sarah Leismer wanted to bring a little bit of the city to the collection of mostly rural-inspired crop art on display at the Minnesota State Fair.

The result: a detailed representation of a Metro Transit light-rail train passing the fast-developing Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

“I wanted to embrace Minnesota and I thought what better way to do that than to do something from the city that I love,” said Leismer, a frequent transit user who moved from Washington D.C. to an apartment along the METRO Blue Line two years ago.

As an engineer, Leismer was drawn to the cranes and activity unfolding in Downtown East. She and her brother took several photos around the stadium construction site and were most inspired by a photo of the train passing in front of its still-forming frame.

Leismer made a sketch of the photo and then visited the bulk bins at Mississippi Market to make her selections. The crop art includes wild rice, poppy seeds and dyed millet. (“It’s really hard to find red and blue seeds,” Leismer said.)

Judges appreciated the dose of city life, awarding Leismer’s piece a white ribbon (third place) in the dyed or painted category. The piece can be found in the Agriculture Horticulture Building. 

This is actually the second consecutive year Leismer has entered the crop art competition with a transit-inspired piece. In 2014, she created crop art featuring the METRO Green Line and a city skyline that was given a red ribbon (second place).

“It’s a different subject matter than you usually see, so I think people like it,” she said.

    > The best route to the State Fair is on the bus


2014 Crop Art by Sarah Leismer

A crop art featuring a Metro Transit light rail train at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair.

2002 Crop Art by John Levin, Metro Transit's Director of Strategic Initiatives 

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