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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 University at the 2017 Commuter Choice AwardsWhen Augsburg University 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 University 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 University

Augsburg University 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 University 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.

 
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