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Posts in Category: Good Question

Bus Bus Rapid Transit Good Question

Good Question: How are the back doors on buses controlled? 

| Wednesday, May 06, 2015 12:00:00 AM

In most cases, Metro Transit encourages bus passengers to exit through the rear door so boarding customers can get on quickly. But customers who use the rear exit often wonder why the doors don’t always immediately open.

For safety reasons, the rear doors are locked when a bus is in motion. Keeping the doors locked also prevents them from being unnecessarily opened at bus stops where no one is exiting, which helps control the interior temperature on the bus. (Doors on light-rail trains are kept shut until a customer presses the open button for the same reason.)

At bus stops, operators are instructed to open the front door and to unlock the rear exits. 

When unlocked, customers using the back exit can open the doors by placing their hands on or near the "touch here" stickers. On newer buses, the doors will automatically open when motion is detected -- the doors do not need to be physically pushed. Older buses use an air-pressure system that is engaged when a customer presses on the door handles.

If the rear door does not open right away, customers are encouraged to say “back door” loud enough for the operator to hear. This can happen because it is sometimes difficult for operators to see customers who want to exit on a full bus.   

On the METRO Red Line and in the future on the METRO Orange Line customers can board and exit at either the front or the back of the bus. Customers can use either door on these Bus Rapid Transit routes because the buses have fare card readers in both locations.

Note: Certain express routes are designated as Pay Exit. On Pay Exit routes, customers board but do not pay until they exit at the end of the route. To pay their fares, customers on these routes exit out the front door. 

    > Good Question: Why go out the back?

Good Question METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Ridership

Good Question: How are light-rail rides counted? 

| Wednesday, January 21, 2015 1:25:00 PM

With tens of thousands of customers boarding light-rail trains on the METRO Green and Blue lines every day, it’s reasonable to wonder just how Metro Transit keeps track of all those rides.

The answer: Automatic Passenger Counters, or APCs.

Commonly used by transit agencies to track passenger boardings, APCs rely on advanced, overhead sensors inside the train to measure movements into and out of light-rail cars.  

Metro Transit began installing APC technology on its newest Siemens trains last year and the technology will be on all 59 of these trains by the end of the year. Since some Siemens trains and the older Bombardier trains don’t yet have verified APC technology, numbers from APC-equipped trains are used to estimate total ridership. (The average number of rides counted on an APC-equipped train is multiplied by the average number of cars that ran on each trip for the day, and by the total number of trips on that day.) 

Before Metro Transit used APCs, light rail ridership estimates were based on manual counts. APC technology has evolved since the Blue Line’s opening a decade ago and is more commonly used now because data can be collected more efficiently and is more quickly available.

While APCs are now being used, manual counts will continue to play a role in calculating ridership. Before a train with an APC is used in ridership calculations, its results are compared to manual counts to verify that they are consistent. Testing done by internal auditors in 2014 found the manual and APC counts were virtually identical.

Fare payments are not used to track light-rail ridership because not all valid fare payments are electronically recorded. Many customers – more than 70,000 at the end of 2014 – use pre-paid fare cards like Metropass, College Pass, Student Pass and U-Pass. Though these customers are asked to swipe their cards at fare readers, that doesn’t always happen. Transfer slips that cash-paying customers receive on the bus are also not recorded by ticket validators on light-rail platforms.

Still, the number of non-fare paying customers on light rail remains low. In 2014, Metro Transit police officers conducted more than 1.4 million fare inspections on the Green and Blue Lines and the compliance rate on each line was in excess of 99 percent.

Fare payments are used to track bus ridership, since a customer must pay each time they board (free rides provided to eligible customers or for marketing purposes are manually recorded). Northstar ridership is also based on fare payments, since nearly all customers must make an electronic payment before boarding.

Like the METRO Red Line, future Bus Rapid Transit lines like the A Line and Orange Line will use APCs to count ridership. APCs are used on BRT because these lines will also use off-board fare payment technology.

    > The proof is in the payment                                                                                

    > Good Question: Why offer transfers?

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Bus Good Question Rider Information

Good Question: Why are certain routes operated under contract? 

| Thursday, June 26, 2014 3:00:00 AM

This Good Question response comes in response to customers who ask why certain routes are operated by private transportation companies instead of by Metro Transit.  

While Metro Transit is the primary provider of regular route service in the Twin Cities, the Metropolitan Council contracts a small number of routes to private transportation companies. As of early 2014, around 10 percent of regular route service – 27 of 128 local, express and suburban routes – was operated under contract.

Most contracted routes operate in suburban areas and enjoy consistent running times and stable ridership. While these routes have fewer riders, they provide important connecting service that helps people access other routes and destinations on transit.

Route 80, which runs between the Maplewood Mall Transit Center and Park & Ride and the Sun Ray Transit Center, and Route 225, with service from Shoreview to the Rosedale Transit Center, are good examples of contracted routes that play important roles in the regional transit network.

Routes may also be operated under contract to meet new service demands, to demonstrate a new service type or because of operational constraints.

Route 83, which runs on Lexington Parkway, is operated under contract not just because it is a new service but because a railroad overpass near Como Park requires the use of smaller buses. Many contracted routes use small buses because of such operational constraints or because ridership does not warrant the use of a larger, 40-foot bus.

Even if a route is operated under contract, customers pay the same fares and use the same fare payment technologies (Go-To Cards, Metropass, etc.) as they would when riding a bus operated by Metro Transit.

Routes have been operated under contract since transit service began in the Twin Cities. Private companies such as Medicine Lake Lines and Lorenz Bus Service received operating subsidies from the Metropolitan Transit Commission after the agency became public. The practice continued with the introduction of the BE Line in Bloomington and Edina and a Roseville Circulator in the early 1990s.

Photo: Route 87 is operated under contract by First Transit, Inc. The route runs from the Rosedale Transit Center to Highland Village, with service to the University of Minnesota's St. Paul Campus and the METRO Green Line's Raymond Avenue Station.

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Fares Good Question

Good Question: Why no sales tax on fares? 

| Tuesday, January 07, 2014 9:26:00 AM

This 'Good Question' comes from Candace Seidl, who e-mailed to ask why sales tax do not apply to fares.

Similar to cab fares or parking fees, sales taxes are not charged on transit fares. Generally speaking, such services are not taxed in Minnesota.

While sales taxes do not apply to fares, they are a common source of revenue for transit agencies across the country and are an important source of revenue for Metro Transit.

Nearly half of Metro Transit’s operating revenue comes from the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax, which applies to new and used car sales. The Counties Transit Improvement Board, which provides around 7 percent of Metro Transit’s operating revenue, is funded by a $20 motor vehicle sales tax and a quarter-cent sales tax that has been levied in Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington counties since 2008.

Metro Transit’s other sources of revenue include customer fares, state and regional funding and federal grants.

    > Fares & Passes

    > Metro Transit Fact Book

    > Facts and funding for the Northstar Commuter Rail Line

    > Ready, Set, Go-To

Bus Community Good Question Rider Information

Rider's Almanac: Insights and Inspiration 

| Friday, January 03, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Unless you’re a regular rider of Route 23, you probably wouldn’t know Melanie Benson. You also wouldn’t know that she’s been driving for nearly 40 years, celebrating milestones and mourning losses with customers she has come to regard as family.

Thanks to Rider's Almanac, readers can get a glimpse into Benson's world.

The ability to tell the backstories of those who dedicate their lives to transit is just one of the reasons we created this blog a year ago. The 120 stories that have appeared here over the last 12 months are intended to provide a more complete picture of what Metro Transit does, why it does it and the customers and communities we do it for. I hope the picture is better coming into focus. It is for me.

Before I joined Metro Transit and took over the blog six months ago, I used the same bus route to get to work each morning and took occasional trips on the METRO Blue Line. Because I had previously reported about transit and regional development, I had also boarded the Northstar Commuter Rail Line before dawn, followed construction of the METRO Green Line and was familiar with plans to build out new transitways like the Green Line Extension and A Line (Snelling Avenue Bus Rapid Transit).

But there's a lot more I didn't know. I didn’t know about bus operators like Randy Finch who dedicate their careers to making sure their peers are prepared to handle anything they encounter on the road. I didn’t know about the track maintainers who manually inspect every inch of the METRO Blue Line every week. I didn’t know that someone could spend 50 years making sure buses get from A to B – or just how well it was working. I didn’t know that Metro Transit promoted carpooling and vanpooling. And I didn't know that Minneapolis high schoolers had ridden buses more than 2 million times thanks to the Student Pass program.

These are stories that can't be told merely through a fact book. But they are also the kind of stories that are invaluable to understanding the benefits transit brings to Twin Cities. As I look forward to 2014 -- one of the most exciting years in this organization’s 138-year history -- I will continue to share what I learn here so that the understanding of what we do becomes even richer.

The Green Line’s opening is a milestone that I and many others are looking forward to. You'll no doubt hear plenty about this landmark project, the development it's inspiring and the lives it's changing. But it’s not the only story you’ll find here.

In the year ahead, I will continue spotlighting routes through our growing collection of Route of the Week stories, to continue introducing readers to operators like Benson through our Know Your Operator series and to find many other ways of putting customers behind the scenes of our operation. I will also answer more of your Good Questions, share the stories of the Metro Transit Police Department and highlight the ways our services continue to evolve to meet customers’ needs.

As the blog enters its second year, I’d like to ask for your help in making this space as insightful and valuable as it can be. Ask questions on Twitter, Facebook or e-mail us at Tell us about your favorite driver. One-up the story of the couple that met and became engaged on Route 6. In short: engage.

Thank you for reading Rider’s Almanac in 2013. It’s been a fun ride but it’s hardly over yet.

-Drew Kerr, Public Relations Specialist

Five posts to revisit from 2013

    > Know Your Operator: Melanie Benson

    > Route 21: A crosstown with culture, community

    > Using ‘Keys’ to put safety first

    > Good Question: Why offer transfers?

    > The Love Bus

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