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Bus Bus Maintenance Community

Introducing aspiring mechanics to a career in transit 

| Tuesday, May 12, 2015 12:00:00 AM

When Tony Harmon was in high school, he knew he wanted a career that involved computers. But after graduation, he found himself working at an auto repair shop where his days were largely spent performing oil changes.                                 

After 18 months, Harmon realized he needed to make a change if he was going to spend his days working with technology.                         

So, in 2014, Harmon came to Metro Transit, enrolled in Hennepin Technical College’s Medium/Heavy Truck Technology program and spent the next two years working while pursuing an Associate’s Degree.

Harmon now regularly uses computer-based diagnostics to troubleshoot and repair steering and suspension systems on Metro Transit’s buses. With the prospect of advancement and a stream of new challenges, he hopes to continue working at Metro Transit for the rest of his career.                         

“Once I got in here and saw what the mechanics were doing, I was completely sold,” Harmon said.

During a recent visit to Osseo High School, Harmon and other Mechanic-Technicians shared their experiences with about 30 seniors and juniors in the school’s introductory and advanced auto technology classes facing a similar crossroads in their young lives.

The students also heard from a representative of the union that represents transit employees, ATU Local 1005, about the job’s benefits – a starting salary of more than $24 an hour, medical coverage and a pension – and got a closer look at what working at Metro Transit might be like.

Panels and seats were removed on a bus so students could see the inner-workings and a series of exercises were set up to provide hands-on experiences that mimic work done by Mechanic-Technicians. (In the most popular test, students were timed using an impact drill to secure a ring with lug nuts.)

Similar events will be held at a handful of area schools this month as part of a first-of-its-kind effort to generate interest in transit, a field that isn’t always top of mind for young people considering a career in vehicle maintenance. The focus is on students who are participating in the Automotive Youth Educational System, which includes courses in basic automotive and diesel technology. 

For high schoolers approaching graduation, the events also offer an opportunity hear about a new training program that combines customized college readiness coursework, a Metro Transit internship and a scholarship to Saint Paul College, where they can earn an AAS degree.

The hope is to put promising students on a path toward a full-time job at Metro Transit, filling the agency’s growing need for mechanics while giving young people a head start on their careers. Metro Transit employs more than 250 mechanics and more than a third of them are above the age of 55.

“Across the industry, skilled mechanics are in short supply,” said Rob Milleson, Metro Transit’s Director of Bus Maintenance. “With a large number of our mechanics approaching retirement, it’s critical that we introduce a new generation to transit.”

Matt Beukema, who teaches auto technology classes at Osseo, said the exposure provided during the recent visit is invaluable to students deciding their next move. Students in his classes work on donated used vehicles and visit dealerships, so the chance to view a bus up close is unique eye-opening, he said.

“For these students to be able to see this is huge,” said Beukema, whose background is in auto repair and over the road truck driving. “A lot of them just don’t know what’s out there, and this isn’t necessarily what comes to mind.”

Among those who came away with a new appreciation for buses was Osseo senior Dontae Frazier, who grew up riding the bus but without realizing all of the components involved in making it run.

“I found out there is a lot of electrical work, which is actually something I want to get better at,” Frazier said.

Though he’s still not exactly sure what his future holds, Frazier said he is open to learning more about transit, particularly since it would give him more room to work.

“I didn’t think I was going to like it, but this was a great opportunity to learn about what you could be able to do,” he said. “Plus, I’m a big dude. I need space, and this has that.”

Metro Transit is hiring Mechanic-Technicians. Applicants should have graduated a two-year vocational program in diesel mechanics or related field or have a high school diploma/GED and two years of full-time vehicle diagnostic/repair experience. Learn more and apply here. To learn more about the training-internship program with Saint Paul College contact Aaron Koski at aaron.koski@metrotransit.org

Bus Bus Rapid Transit Community Safety Transit Police

Transit Police going beyond the bus in North Minneapolis 

| Tuesday, February 10, 2015 9:22:00 AM

Metro Transit police officers David Hutchinson and Sidney Jones talk with Dean Rose, who owns Broadway Liqour Store at the corner of Broadway and Penn avenues.Metro Transit patrol officer Sidney Jones didn’t grow up in North Minneapolis. But when he moved here from Kansas City a decade ago he landed squarely in the middle of the community, making his home on Russell Avenue North. 

After experiencing the neighborhood first-hand, Jones jumped at the chance to become a part of Transit Police’s new Northside Community Policing Team.

“I grew up in the inner-city, so I wanted to be able to come back and interact with my community and to be a positive person for some of the youth,” Jones said during a recent afternoon patrol.  “I wanted to be somebody they could look up to and to do the job fairly and respectfully.”

Jones has done that and more since he and fellow patrol officer David Hutchinson began working as the department’s first members of the Northside Community Policing Team last fall. The team is responsible for patrolling a swath of North Minneapolis that runs roughly from Penn to Lyndale avenues and from Olson Memorial Highway to Dowling Avenue North.

While the officers respond to calls, ride on board buses and keep an eye on major boarding areas, one of their biggest areas of focus has been simply interacting with members of the community. Since the Northside Community Policing Team was formed, Jones and Hutchinson have spent time playing dominoes with kids at Juxtaposition, attending community meetings and getting to know business owners.

Hutchinson said the interactions have already started to change the perception of Transit Police.

“People used to think we just rode buses and checked tickets on the train,” the eight-year Transit Police officer said. “It was a surprise when we came into businesses, introduced ourselves and tried to gain a relationship with them.”

Among the business owners Jones and Hutchinson have come to know is Sam Tannos, who owns a convenience store at the corner of Penn and 26th avenues. Tannos has been at the location for six years and said having a strong police presence is critical to his business.

“We love their presence here,” Tannos said during a visit to the store. “It’s a very good idea to have them stop by and see what’s going on.”

Down the street, Dean Rose is also enthusiastic about having Transit Police become a fixture in the community.

Rose’s Broadway Liqour Store was destroyed by the 2011 tornado, forcing the store into a temporary space at the corner of Broadway and Penn avenues. A third-generation North Minneapolis business owner, Rose will break ground next year on a new mixed-use project across the street.

The plan is to incorporate a new station for the C Line Bus Rapid Transit project into the development, so Rose hopes Transit Police will continue working with him on security issues. Many people in the neighborhood use transit, Rose said, and it’s important for the businesses that will be in the building that people feel comfortable riding or standing at a bus stop.

“I think it’s important for the community to see there’s law enforcement out there,” he said. “Having these guys on the street in a visible fashion will really assist us in keeping the peace.”

Establishing such trusting relationships is the entire idea behind the beat policing model. Transit Police have established beats along the Central Corridor and in each downtowns for the same reason.

Jones said he hopes he and Hutchinson are doing now will lay a foundation for future collaboration between Metro Transit and Minneapolis police, business owners, transit customers, bus operators and others in North Minneapolis.

“The more you’re in the area, the more hopefully the community will be comfortable with those officers and coming forward to talk to them,” he said. “I really think we’re breaking ground with this new beat.”

    > Fox 9: Metro Transit Northside Beat fosters community connections

Bus Community Know Your Operator

Fond memories on a final ride 

| Friday, January 09, 2015 2:40:00 PM

General Manager Brian Lamb, others joined Paul Liddicoat for his last workday as a Metro Transit bus operatorPaul Liddicoat was just out of high school, living at home and looking for work, when his mom, a longtime bus rider, suggested that he apply at what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission.

Liddicoat hadn’t considered working as an operator – he thought he’d become a baker, a chef or a barber – but the $5 hourly wage was persuasive enough for him to put in an application. The manager Liddicoat spoke with shared his birth date, which was enough of a reason to give him a chance (if, that is, he agreed to trim his beard and get a haircut).

Liddicoat was hired at MTC, which would later become Metro Transit, on June 17, 1974. On Friday, 40 years and 9 months after he began, Liddicoat put on his operator uniform for the final time. Just before noon, he pulled the Route 7 bus he was driving to a halt, relinquished his seat to a relief operator and called it a career.

“Everyone says it goes by fast and it really does,” Liddicoat said while making his final trip through Minneapolis. 

Joining Liddicoat on his final ride were General Manager Brian Lamb; past and current managers; Richard Maurer, who retired in 2014 with 39 years of service as an operator; and Renee Stafford, a longtime golf partner and 39-year operator.

Also on the trip was Liddicoat’s wife Jody. Going along for her husband’s final trip was especially meaningful for her because it was on a bus where she and Liddicoat met 37 years earlier.

Jody was a regular passenger on Route 5, which she took to get to her job at the Children’s Hospital on Chicago Avenue. She remembers Liddicoat as looking “wild with a big afro,” but said she was intrigued that he wore cowboy boots and agreed to go on a date.

“It was just like fate,” she said remembering their meeting. “Like it was meant to be.”    

Liddicoat, who worked at Heywood Garage, is one of many Metro Transit employees who have recently retired with more than three decades of service. In 2014, 37 employees – operators, mechanics, stockkeepers and facilities technicians – retired with more than 30 years of service (combined, these employees had nearly 1,500 years of service). Another eight employees with more than 30 years of service have already retired through Jan. 8, 2015.

There are now just 80 employees left with three-digit employee numbers, which typically indicates they started working at Metro Transit several decades earlier (more recent hires usually have four- and five-digit employee numbers). 

East Metro Operator Mark Uzpen celebrated his retirement on Jan. 6 after 42 years of service and 40 years of safe driving. Uzpen grew up on St. Paul’s East Side and grew up riding in the streetcars and buses that his father drove.

Uzpen’s father, who later became a street supervisor, retired with 46 years of service and his brother Jon retired as a safety specialist with 40 years of service in 2013.

At his retirement, Uzpen said he didn’t expect to stay as long as he did but that he enjoyed the work and will miss getting behind the wheel of a bus.

“I remember being told when I was hired that there would come a time when you’d rather be driving your bus than your car,” he said. “I thought that would never happen but toward the end that was definitely true.”

Not that retirement doesn’t have its perks. Maurer, the retired operator who was along for Liddicoat’s final ride, said he has learned to take it slow now that he no longer has to hold to a schedule. In fact, he said, he quickly dropped from his wardrobe the watch transit operators are required to wear while on duty.

“That was the first thing to go,” Maurer said. “No more watches for me.”

    > Great People 

    > Star Tribune: Metro Transit driver makes final run of his 36-year career

    > WCCO: Metro Transit driver retires to surprise after 36 years

    > Know Your Operator

    > A unique career: 50 years in transit

Bus Community From the GM METRO Green Line Minneapolis Ridership St. Paul Transit Improvements

2014: A historic year for Metro Transit 

| Tuesday, December 30, 2014 3:16:00 PM

As we prepare to close the books on 2014, I’d like to briefly reflect on all of the incredible progress Metro Transit has made over the last 12 months. It was, in short, an incredible and historic year for our organization, our customers and our region.

With so much great work going on, it is impossible to capture everything that happened this year in a single column. The list that follows contains just a few of the year’s highlights. I hope looking back will inspire you to think about what transit meant to you in 2014 – and what it will continue to mean in the years to come.

METRO Green Line opens to immediate success

It would be impossible to talk about this year without talking first about the METRO Green Line, which opened on time and on budget on June 14. Despite a soggy couple of days, more than 107,000 rides were taken during the Green Line’s opening weekend.

That great introduction was only a hint of what was to come. By year’s end, we expect to provide around 6 million rides on the Green Line, well ahead of where we expected to be just six months into service. Ride the line today and you will see students, seniors, children and every walk of life sharing the ride as they travel to class, work, a Vikings game or to one of the many unique restaurants and shops in our downtown areas and along University Avenue. You’ll also see clear evidence that the Green Line is reshaping the land around it for the better.

The Green Line was decades in the making and there remains significant work to realize the vision that has been set for the Central Corridor. But just six short months since service began, it’s clear this transit project has had a major impact on our community.

Website redesign improves trip planning, mobile experience

A redesigned, mobile-friendly website that provides enhanced trip planning features and an improved interactive map was also introduced in June. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. By the end of the year, we expect to have had nearly 12 million website visits and around 7.5 million online trip plans – both record-setting numbers.

Sustainability efforts continue, win praise

A new Park & Ride in Brooklyn Park came as the latest sign of Metro Transit’s continuing commitment to sustainability. The 1,000-space Park & Ride that opened in August features a geothermal heating & cooling system, electric vehicle charging stations and a solar array that offsets energy use at the site.

Recognizing our ongoing efforts to reduce our environmental impact, the American Public Transportation Association in August placed Metro Transit among a distinguished group of 12 transit agencies to earn Gold Level certification through their Sustainability Commitment program.

Visitors from around the country experience transit network

In July, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game drew thousands of visitors to the Twin Cities, many of whom used Metro Transit to get around. Nearly 45,000 additional light-rail and Northstar rides were generated by events during All-Star Week, including around 6,000 rides on light rail to the All-Star Game at Target Field.

In September, the Rail~Volution conference drew another 1,400 people to the Twin Cities to explore transit and witness the development our system is inspiring. Our story is now being shared as an example in cities across the U.S.

On top of these special events we provided nearly 512,000 rides to and from the Minnesota State Fair and it’s new Transit Hub and doubled ridership to Minnesota Vikings home games at TCF Bank Stadium.

Metro Transit Police Department grows, becomes more diverse

The Metro Transit Police Department grew to more than 200 part- and full-time officers, allowing police to focus on community-based policing along the Green Line and to establish the Northside Community Policing Team, a new beat that is already having an impact North Minneapolis. The growth also led to new diversity, including the department’s first Hmong officer.

Taken together, these efforts and a continued commitment to our Guiding Principles will drive year-end ridership to around 84 million, a 33-year high.

That’s a significant achievement that all transit customers and supporters can be proud to have been a part of. While we celebrate how far we’ve come, we also recognize our work is far from over. In fact, much of the activity that occurred in 2014 was focused on setting the framework for future success.

As we look forward to 2015, I’m excited to see construction begin on our first arterial Bus Rapid Transit line, the A Line, and for service to begin later in the year. I’m also eager to see us expand our commitment to transit equity, enhance the customer experience through improved transit information and bus stop amenities and continue our sustainability efforts. 

Thank you for everything you did to make 2014 one of our best years ever. We look forward to serving you in 2015 and beyond. 

 

 

2014: The Year in Review


January

> Metro Transit announces 2013 ridership grows to 81.4 million, one of the highest levels in 30 years.

> Council Chair Sue Haigh delivers her State of the Region address, saying the region must “think regionally and act equitably” in order to grow.

> Transit Information Center representatives handle 118,521 calls, setting a new record for calls handled in a single month.

> Metro Transit’s Twitter account reaches 10,000 followers.

February

President Obama talks transportation at Union Depot.President Obama visits St. Paul and receives the METRO Green Line’s first honorary ticket.

A combination of rail and enhanced bus is recommended as the best long-term transit improvements for the Midtown Corridor.

Metro Transit starts sharing photos on Instagram.

March

Service begins on Route 30, a new bus route serving North and Northeast Minneapolis and connecting with the Green Line in St. Paul.

The American Public Transportation announced transit ridership is at its highest level in 57 years.

April

Metro Transit, Xcel Energy and the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce recognize Earth Day at the new Operations & Maintenance Facility in Lowertown.

The Twins season opens and a Twins Family Pass is introduced as a new cost-effective way of getting to the game.

Test trains begin full-schedule testing on the Green Line.

May

Target Field Station opens north of Target Field, providing additional boarding capacity on busy event days and creating a new public space in the North Loop neighborhood.

Several of Metro Transit’s retired buses are purchased for creative re-uses, including a new mobile learning center.

Thrive MSP 2040 approved by the Met Council, setting a framework for regional economic development. 

June

The METRO Green Line opens on time and on budget. “Often history is defined in terms of great moments of transportation and this is no exception,” Mayor Chris Coleman says at the ribbon-cutting.

Service improvements are made on several connecting bus routes throughout the Central Corridor, following years of outreach and planning.

20 new part-time officers sworn in as members of the Metro Transit Police Department.

Metro Transit’s top operators recognized at the annual Ovations Awards Ceremony, including the organization’s first 30-Year Elite Operator.

A new parking ramp and pedestrian overpass opens at Northstar’s Anoka Station.

Nicollet Mall Station as seen from The Nic on Fifth.The METRO Blue Line celebrates its ten-year anniversary.

July

Metro Transit serves events throughout All-Star Week, providing around 6,000 rides to and from the All-Star game at Target Field.

Met Council approves plans for A Line (Snelling Avenue BRT), which secures all necessary funding to begin construction and go into service in 2015. 

16 new full-time officers sworn in as members of the Metro Transit Police Department, bringing the department’s total number of officers to around 200. Approximately half of the new officers are bilingual, including the department’s first officer fluent in Cambodian.

August

The Highway 610 and Noble Parkway Park & Ride opens in Brooklyn Park. The 1,000-space Park & Ride includes solar panels and other sustainable features.

The Gophers and Vikings begin their home seasons at TCF Bank Stadium, served by the Green Line. Ridership to Vikings games nearly doubles from previous seasons.

A new State Fair Transit Hub opens on the west side of the fairgrounds, providing customers more convenient access. Record State Fair attendance helps boost ridership 15 percent, to nearly 512,000 rides. 

APTA awards Metro Transit Gold Level status for efforts to conserve energy at facilities and improve fuel efficiency.

Metro Transit and MVTA partner on a free ride promotion to help customers get to the new Twin Cities Premium Outlets, which opens near the METRO Red Line’s Cedar Grove Station in Eagan. Ridership reaches a new record 1,031 average weekday rides.

Metro Transit debuts new system map that is simpler and easier to read.

A record 529 Northstar tickets are sold online in advance of the Paul McCartney concert at Target Field.

Metro Transit’s re-designed website sees 310,317 unique visitors and the online Trip Planner is used 723,936 times, a new monthly record.

METRO Green Line Extension (Southwest LRT) receives municipal consent from all five cities along the proposed alignment.

Route 865 begins providing express service between downtown Minneapolis and Anoka County.

Jerry Olson, 2014 Minnesota Public Transit Association Bus Operator of the Year.September

Metro Transit Operator Jerry Olson is named Minnesota Operator of the Year by the Minnesota Public Transportation Association. Deputy General Manger Mark Fuhrmann recognized as Transit Professional of the Year.

U-Pass sales surpass 17,500, beating total sales from the fall 2013 semester.

Metro Transit awarded $3.14 million Ladders of Opportunity grant to make bus stop improvements.

Rail~Volution brings around 1,400 people to the Twin Cities for a week-long conference on transit-oriented development.

Green Line tops 1 million monthly rides for the first time.

Metro Transit launches its fall campaign, including a TV commercial highlighting transit's ease of use.

Residents begin moving into Nic on Fifth, a new 26-story apartment building directly adjacent to Nicollet Mall Station. The development leads to the creation of a new platform for light-rail customers (opening 2015).

October

Draft Service Improvement Plan outlining 10- to 15-year vision for local, express and suburban bus service improvements released for public comment.

Metro Transit buses travel an average of 9,971 miles between maintenance road call, a new record.

Car-sharing service Car2Go secures dedicated parking spaces at three Blue Line stations.

November

METRO Orange Line receives federal approval to enter project development, advancing the project toward a 2019 opening.

For the first time, Metro Transit and other fixed-route transit providers provide fre rides on Election Day.

Northstar trains take country music fans to and from all 11 Garth Brooks concerts at Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.

Met Council approves $6.5 million in Livable Communities grants to support transit-oriented development.

December

Metro Transit decorates buses and light-rail and Northstar trains with holiday lights and encourages customers to take “selfies” while riding.

Two new Park & Ride’s open on Interstate 35E with express service to downtown St. paul provided by Route 275.

Northstar Service Guarantee introduced, providing registered Northstar commuters fare refunds for any regularly-scheduled Northstar trip that is 11 or more minutes late in January. 

Community METRO Green Line Minneapolis Safety St. Paul University of Minnesota

Strong ridership defines first six months of METRO Green Line service 

| Tuesday, December 16, 2014 2:41:00 PM

There were around 6 million rides on the METRO Green Line during its first six months of service.Strong and growing ridership is the hallmark of the METRO Green Line’s first six-months of operation.

Customers have taken about 6 million rides since service began on June 14, including more than 1 million rides in both September and October. Average weekday ridership in November was 36,240, near the 2030 projection of 41,000 rides. 

“The community response to the Green Line is even better than we imagined,” Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said. “In less than one year of operation, the Green Line has clearly had a major impact on the way people get around, interact with and enjoy the Twin Cities.”  

Combined ridership on the Green Line and routes 16 and 94, which also serve the Central Corridor, has nearly doubled from last year. The Green Line replaced limited-stop Route 50 that ran on University Avenue and service was enhanced on several routes that connect with Green Line stations.

The most popular stops have been East Bank Station, in the center of the University of Minnesota campus, and Nicollet Mall Station in downtown Minneapolis. Stadium Village Station, near TCF Bank Stadium, has also become a hub of activity on gamedays. Around 25 percent of Minnesota Vikings fans took the Green Line to and from the game this season, double the ridership from previous years.

Combined with other rail and bus service, the Green Line is expected to drive Metro Transit’s total year-end ridership to around 84 million, the highest it has been since 1981.

In addition to strong ridership, the first six months of Green Line service are noteworthy for the focus on public safety, enhanced performance and community development.  

Metro Transit continued to educate pedestrians, motorists and others about light rail safety through presentations and a robust marketing campaign, including a billboard on University Avenue.

Transit Police hired 22 new officers to patrol the Green Line and the neighborhoods it serves. Transit Police say there has been no significant change in crime along the corridor since the Green Line opened.

Light-rail operations have also improved through coordination with local partners. Technology called predictive priority has been successfully implemented at 18 low-volume intersections along the Green Line corridor. Predictive priority gives trains their best chance of getting a green light, reducing the amount of time trains spend waiting at signalized intersections.

Transit-oriented development has also continued along the corridor.

Project for Pride in Living started construction in August on its 108-unit Hamline Station Project, which replaces a vacant auto dealership immediately north of the Hamline Avenue Station. On Dec. 19, Surly Brewing Co. will open its new beer hall just east of the Prospect Park Station.

In November, seniors began moving into The Terrace at Iris Park at Episcopal Homes’ new Midway Village development immediately south of the Fairview Avenue Station. In December, move-ins began at Midway Pointe, the second of three new residences at Midway Village. The third residence, Episcopal Church Home – The Gardens, will be ready for occupancy in January 2015.

Residents of the entire campus began using light-rail as soon as it opened, CEO Marvin Plakut said.

“Interest in our community increased even before the Green Line’s opening and continues to grow now that the service is up and running,” Plakut said. “People are excited by the freedom that waits right outside their door. Episcopal Homes is the only senior community that can offer it.”

    > New York Times: Despite cheaper gas, public transit ridership is up 

    > Explore the Twin Cities using our Green Line A to Z guide

    > Green Line tops 1 million rides, again

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