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In the News METRO Blue Line

Northern Spark brings virtual reality experience to Green Line 

Posted by jennasbennett | Friday, June 09, 2017 2:24:00 PM

With events spread throughout the Green Line corridor, light rail will play a major role in this year’s Northern Sparks arts festival.

That’s especially true for CHAOS ON THE GREEN LINE, one of 70 public art pieces that will be featured during the all-night festival that begins on Saturday, June 10, and continues through sunrise the following morning. 

CHAOS ON THE GREEN LINE invites participants to don a virtual reality cardboard viewer while riding between Snelling Avenue and Lexington Parkway. It is believed to be the world’s first virtual reality experience using public transit.

“As the train rolls by, the world as you know it will fall away from view and be replaced by a whole new world we’ve created – one affected by climate change,” said Todd Boss, executive and artistic director at Motionpoems.

Boss created the experience with help from dozens of animators and creatives from local agencies like Pixel Farm, Manufacture, Egg Creative and Fallon Worldwide.

The GPS-activated visuals reflect Northern Spark’s “Climate Chaos, People Rising” theme, which encourages people to a radically climate-altered world and actions they can take to reduce their environmental impact. 

Boss said the experience is more poetic than blunt, but that he hopes the impact will still be plenty powerful. “I don’t know that it will change people’s minds but I do think it will touch them and stir a lot of emotions and thoughts the way good art should,” he said.

Story circles, group weaving, a film festival and a night market in the Little Mekong cultural district are among the many other planned activities. Activities will be focused around several Green Line station areas, including the U.S. Bank Stadium, West Bank, East Bank, Snelling Avenue, Lexington Parkway, Western Avenue and Union Depot stations.

A light rail train that was wrapped in custom-designed artwork promoting the event will also be in service throughout the evening.

Eventgoers can ride free on all buses and trains during the event using a downloadable pass available on the event website. Green Line trains will run at least every 30 minutes throughout the evening. 

To learn more about Northern Spark or download a free ride pass, visit 2017.northernspark.org.

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

Fares In the News

Wilken recognized with Distinguished Career Award 

| Wednesday, October 19, 2016 3:11:00 PM

Revenue Operations Supervisor Bill Wilken was recognized this week with the Minnesota Public Transportation Association’s Distinguished Career Award.Revenue Operations Supervisor Bill Wilken has seen quite a few changes since he began his career cleaning buses more than 40 years ago.

Many of them were of his own making, too.

After transferring to Sales Operations in the early 1980s, Wilken led the opening of the original Minneapolis and St. Paul service centers, the conversion to electronic fare payments, set up the Metropass program and launched Metro Transit’s original online store. 

He has also helped simplify fare products, expand Metro Transit’s retail outlets, introduce Go-To Cards and shepherd multiple fare increases (regular adult fares were just 30 cents when Wilken’s career began; today, adult fares start at $1.75).

For his efforts, Wilken was recognized this week with the Minnesota Public Transportation Association’s Distinguished Career Award. The award was presented at MPTA’s annual conference in Rochester.

“As much as I appreciate this award and as grateful I am for it, the greatest reward I have is the thank you I get from customers that we serve,” Wilken said in accepting his award.

Nick Eull, senior manager of Revenue Collections, nominated Wilken for the award. It’s not only Wilken’s effectiveness as a change agent that makes his career stand out, he said.

“Through all of this change and advancement of technology, Bill’s mission has always been the same – make it easy to pay the bus, and later train, fare, and treat those funds with respect,” Eull said. “From that goal he’s never wavered.”

Wilken said he’s been fortunate to work alongside many talented individuals. Beyond having a strong team, he said he’s found success by committing to process improvement, understanding what customers want and having clear goals.

“When I started, most fares were paid in coin,” Wilken said. “Today, we offer a whole host of prepaid transit fare programs. This evolution was achieved through the process of continual improvement with help from dozens of people.”  

More recently, Wilken has played a leading role in planning for and coordinating fare sales and crowd management at Target Field, U.S. Bank Stadium and TCF Bank Stadium.

Wilken lives in Chanhassen with his wife Marcia. Outside of his work, his hobbies include disc golf and flying. Wilken also ran a marathon at age 60 and has earned a red belt in Taekwondo.

The last Metro Transit employee to receive MPTA’s Distinguished Career Award was Maintenance Manager Silas Sharp, who retired earlier this year. Sharp was honored in 2013.

    > Awards and Recognition

Bus In the News

Yang listed among top young transit professionals 

| Wednesday, September 07, 2016 8:55:00 AM

Assistant Transportation Manager Chang Yang at the East Metro Garage.East Metro Assistant Transportation Manager Chang Yang has been recognized as one of the country’s top young transit professionals.

Yang appears in Mass Transit magazine’s annual Top 40 Under 40 list, which celebrates transit’s “best and brightest” young leaders.

“Chang is a positive, energetic and respectful role model who has never stopped pursuing his goals,” said Christy Bailly, Director-Bus Transportation. “It’s exciting to see his efforts recognized on a national level with an expectation of more great things to come.”

Yang joined Metro Transit as a bus operator in 2004, following in the footsteps of his father, Operator Neng Yang, who also works at East Metro. Yang later worked as a Train Operator and Transit Supervisor.

In 2011, Yang became the youngest Assistant Transportation Manager in Metro Transit history, and the first of Hmong descent. He manages around 70 operators and enjoys mentoring those who hope to move into management roles.

“To see them (operators) improve on all aspects of their job and do a complete 180 is very satisfying,” Yang told Mass Transit. “I know having a positive attitude has a direct impact on their performance and I always try to put a smile on their face when they leave my office.”

Yang is also actively involved in emergency response and continuity of operations planning.

Also included on Mass Transit’s list were Lyssa Leitner, Washington County’s project manager for a planned Bus Rapid Transit line in the East Metro, and Avital Barnea, a policy analyst with the U.S. Department of Transportation whose career began in Metro Transit’s Transit’s Transit Control Center.

Metro Transit's previous 40 Under 40 winners include Kristin Thompson, Assistant Director-Scheduling, Analysis and Data Collection, Capt. Jim Franklin, Charles Carlson, Senior Manager-Bus Rapid Transit and Brian Funk, Deputy Chief of Operations-Bus.

    > Metro Transit Awards and Recognition

    > Mass Transit's 2016 Top 40 Under 40

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 In the News

Spanish classes help operators break through ‘invisible wall’ 

| Wednesday, June 03, 2015 1:24:00 PM

Metro Transit operators practice their Spanish at a recent class in St. Paul. During a recent trip on Route 21, operator Ken Peters encountered a customer who spoke limited English but needed help figuring out where to transfer downtown. 

Fortunately, Peters had spent the previous eight weeks studying words and phrases that would help him communicate basic information in the language he suspected she spoke – Spanish. It didn’t immediately click but, Peters said, the information he was trying to convey eventually registered. 

For Peters, the ability to help the customer get where they needed affirmed his decision to expand his Spanish skills beyond the few words he had in his vocabulary.

“I could tell she spoke some Spanish, so I thought I’d get into the wading pool,” Peters said of his recent experience. “It took a few minutes, but it was so nice to be able to communicate and break through that invisible wall.”

Peters is among a group of 18 operators from Metro Transit’s East Metro Garage who have been equipped to begin breaking through language barriers while interacting with customers. Over the last two months, the operators have met each week to review vocabulary, practice pronunciation and recite basic dialogue they could use to communicate with Spanish-speaking customers.

This is the first time formal language training has been made available to Metro Transit operators. A group of Metro Transit police officers recently-completed a similar curriculum that will help them communicate with Spanish speakers.

Among the words operators reviewed during a recent class: “línea” (line, or route), “silla de rueda” (wheelchair), “hora pico” (a slang term for rush hour) and “cochecito” (baby stroller). Operators also practiced how to describe when a bus will arrive, directions and numbers needed to identify bus routes.

“The goal is to just get a few phrases with the correct pronunciation so we can communicate for that 30 seconds and help someone on the bus,” said Teresa Schweitzer, a language instructor who helped lead the operators.

Schweitzer was impressed with the progress operators had made, but stressed they would all need to continue practicing to maintain their skills. Reflecting the fact that the class was more a beginning than an end, operators who completed the course were given study materials and pins that read “Yo aprendo el español” – “I’m learning Spanish” – at the end of the program.

Among those eager to continue learning is dispatcher and part-time operator Marjory Burns, who came into the class knowing little more than how to count to ten in Spanish. Her goal now is to become fluent.

“If anybody spoke to me in Spanish before, all I could really say is ‘si’ or ‘no’” Burns said. “It’s kind of embarrassing when someone asks you a question and you don’t know what they’re saying.”

Operator Bob Glynn hadn’t spoken Spanish since elementary school decades ago and was similarly at a loss when customers attempted to speak with him in Spanish, something he says occurs almost daily (8 percent of Metro Transit’s bus customers identify as Latino, according to the latest Customer Survey).

With his newfound language skills, Glynn is looking forward to establishing deeper connections with the Spanish-speaking customers he interacts with.

“I want them to see we care enough to know their language and that they’re someone we want to communicate with,” Glynn said. “I think that will open the door to a lot of new relationships.” 

   > Fox 9: Metro Transit drivers take volunteer Spanish lessons

   > Star Tribune: Metro Transit police are breaking through the language barrier


Lee esta historia en español...

Clases de Español Ayudan a Empleados a Romper Barreras 

Durante un reciente viaje en el bus con ruta 21, el operador Ken Peters se encontró con una cliente que hablaba muy poco Inglés la cual necesitaba ayuda para saber dónde, como, cuando y a que bus debe transferirse para llegar al centro de la ciudad. 

Afortunadamente, Peters había estado ocho semanas  estudiando las palabras y frases que le ayudarían a comunicar información básica en el idioma que sospechaba que ella hablaba (español). No fue de inmediato, pero, Peters dijo que si fue posible explicarle a la señora como transferirse al siguiente bus y llegar a su destino final.  

 La capacidad de ayudar al cliente, le dió la motivación para decidir ampliar sus conocimientos en este idioma y aprender mucho más acerca de esta nueva lengua. Pude notar que la señora hablaba español, asi que intenté hablarle en español,” dijo Peters acerca de su reciente experiencia. “La conversación solo tomo unos minutos pero se sintió muy bien poder comunicarse en otro idioma y poder ayudar.”  

Peters se encuentra entre un grupo de 18 operadores de East Metro Garage de Metro Transit que han sido preparados para empezar a aprender el idioma, y romper las barreras mientras ayudan a los clientes que hablan esta lengua. En los últimos dos meses, los operadores se han reunido cada semana para revisar el vocabulario, practicar la pronunciación y recitar el diálogo básico que podrían usar para comunicarse con los clientes de habla hispana. 

En una clase reciente, los conductores de autobus practicaron ciertas palabras tales como: "línea" (o ruta), "silla de rueda", "hora pico y "cochecito. Los operadores también practicaron cómo describir cuando un autobús llegará a su destino, direcciones y números necesarios para identificar las rutas de los buses. 

El objetivo es obtener sólo unas pocas frases con la pronunciación correcta para poderse comunicar y ayudar a alguien en el autobús", dijo Teresa Schweitzer, una maestra de idiomas, que ayudó a los operadores. 

Schweitzer estaba impresionada con el progreso que los operadores habían hecho, pero hizo hincapié en todo lo que tendrían que seguir practicando para mantener sus habilidades. A los operadores que completaron el curso se les dió materiales y pasadores que decían "Yo aprendo el español" al final del programa. 

Entre los conductores con ganas de seguir aprendiendo, hay operadores como Marjory Burns, quien ya sabía los números del uno al diez en español pero ahora su objetivo es llegar a hablar espol con fluidéz. 

"Si alguien me hablaba en español antes, todo lo que podía decir era 'si' o 'no'", dijo Burns. "Es un poco vergonzoso cuando alguien te hace una pregunta y no sabes lo que te están diciendo." 

El contuctor Bob Glynn no había hablado español desde hace décadas (desde que estaba en la escuela primaria). Se dió cuenta que había perdido u olvidado sus conocimientos acerca de este idioma cuando algunos clientes trataron de hablar con él en español y el no podía responder. Glynn dijo que esto se produce a diario, debido a que ocho por ciento de los usuarios de autobuses de Metro Transit se identifican como latinos, según la última encuesta al cliente. 

Con sus reciéntes descubrimientos de habilidades lingüísticas, Glynn está a la espera de establecer conexiones más profundas e interactuar más con los clientes de habla hispana. 

"Quiero que vean que nos importa mucho saber su lengua y que son personas con las cuales queremos comunicarnos", dijo Glynn. "Creo que va a abrir la puerta a una gran cantidad de nuevas relaciones." 

Bus Bus Maintenance Community In the News

Old buses get new life 

| Thursday, April 24, 2014 12:00:00 AM

A 12-year-old bus with more than 400,000 miles might not sound like a dream come true. But for Ann Kay and Bill Jones, it represents just that.

The Minnetonka duo recently purchased a retired Metro Transit bus to use as a mobile computer lab that will be parked at the North Community YMCA and other Twin Cities locations, allowing students to engage in a unique learning initiative called The Rock ‘n’ Read Project. Using computer programs, students sing out loud to boost their reading skills.

“The bus is the key, because the bus is exciting,” Kay said as she and Jones recently took possession of the bus at the St. Paul property near I-94 and Snelling Avenue where Metro Transit stores some of its retired vehicles. “Plus we’re able to go right to the kids in their community.”

Kay and Jones said they were inspired to use a transit bus because of the large windows. Though it will be painted and stripped of its seats, they also believe the bus will remain a familiar sight in the community.

“They are highly recognizable even if they don’t have the big T on them,” Jones told the Star Tribune, which wrote about the purchase. “They know that is a city bus. We are going to marry the bus they see every day with the fun and reading success.”

The conversion from people mover to mobile learning site is just one example of how Metro Transit’s buses have been creatively reused after their regular in-service life.

While many retired buses are dismantled and sold for parts or acquired by private bus companies, others have been used as outbuildings, a petting zoo and gardens. Others have gone to smaller transit providers, some shipped as far as Africa.

D.J. Jones, of Hollandale, Minn.-based Jones Auto, recently brought one of the buses he purchased to Chicago to be used in the filming of Transformers 4. The bus was used in hundreds of takes over a month of shooting, he said. Though largely painted over in orange and green, Jones captured a photo with the "Circle T" still visible on the vehicle's roof.

While most of the buses Jones has purchased over the last decade have been scrapped, he has held onto this one to help celebrate the movie’s premiere this June.

“I'm taking my kids and we’re going to drive that bus to the movies when it comes out in the theaters,” he said.

The bus that Kay and Jones purchased last week was among 23 that were put up for online auction earlier this year.

Other buses from the auction will be converted into a mobile grocery store that will serve St. Paul's East Side and a roaming artist studio with space for youth to paint, draw and practice a number of other mediums.

Artist Mary Carroll is the organizer of the non-profit behind the so-called "Art Bus" and the organization behind it, ART ASAP (After School Arts Programming). ART ASAP is a partner of St. Paul Public Schools but the bus will be driven throughout the metro to reach underserved youth at multi-family housing complexes, youth centers and other areas where transportation can be a challenge.

Youth will be able to take eight week classes with mentors as early as July, concluding with an exhibit and a portfolio of work to call their own.

On the bus, most of the seats will be removed to make way for easels and other equipment. Solar panels will be installed on the roof to supply power. After the bus was sold to the organization, volunteers immediately set to decorating the outside, which Carroll said will be painted "very vividly."

“When you see it, you’ll know that it’s the Art Bus,” she said.

Based on regional and federal guidelines, the regular service life of a transit bus is 12 years. Metro Transit's buses are typically used for a year or two to provide service to the Minnesota State Fair and have more than 400,000 miles on their odometers by the time they are sold.

"Obviously, these buses have been running up and down the street for many, many years," said Rob Milleson, Director of Bus Maintenance. "Many of them are still operable but the cost of maintaining them for service doesn't make sense."

To prepare buses for auction, Metro Transit removes the fare box, radio, bike rack and equipment used to program the overhead signs. All advertisements and logos are also painted over to avoid potential confusion if the buses go back out on the road.

Kay, of Rock 'n' Read, said taking an old bus and giving it new life is a fitting start for her and Jones' fledgling program.

“This may seem like the end of the line, but it’s the start of the line for us,” she said.

    > Star Tribune: Old buses keep on truckin’ after leaving Metro Transit

    > Star Tribune: Bringing art to youth via bus

    > Lillie Suburban Newspapers: Food on a bus?

    > Business Journal: Wilder Foundation converting retired Metro Transit bus into mobile grocery store

    > BringMeTheNews: Converted bus to roll affordable groceries into food deserts

    > More maintenance, more miles

 

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