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Good Question: Why is service reduced on certain dates? 

| Wednesday, July 01, 2015 10:56:00 AM

Customers board Route 767 at the Bottineau Blvd & 63rd Avenue Park & Ride.On dates when fewer customers are expected to ride transit, service is reduced on some bus routes, as well as light rail and Northstar.

These “Reduced Service” days are typically observed holidays when many major employers are closed. Most of the service reductions are on routes used by commuters traveling to downtown Minneapolis, St. Paul or the University of Minnesota.

Unless otherwise noted, light-rail, express and local bus routes operate according to Saturday schedules on Reduced Service dates. (Routes with no service on Saturdays may operate on a limited schedule.) 

In practice, that means there are usually about 20 percent fewer local bus trips and about one-third the number of express bus trips. Light-rail service is reduced less than 10 percent.

Several morning and afternoon Northstar trips are also eliminated on Reduced Service dates, since around 93 percent of those who use the commuter rail line are traveling to work or school.

Metro Transit considers historic ridership patterns when deciding whether and when to reduce service. When there was an observed holiday on Monday, July 5, 2010, ridership decreased about 60 percent compared to the rest of the weekdays that week. Service on that date was reduced by around a third. 

Service is also reduced on holidays to reflect lower demand.

Reducing service on these lower-demand days provides cost-savings that can be re-directed to other needs.

Even if service is reduced customers can continue to use NexTrip, which provides predicted real-time departure information using GPS data from in-service buses. The Transit Information Center is also open.

Reduced and Holiday service schedules are available on metrotransit.org and are also published in Connect, the on-board newsletter.

Service adjustments may be made based on customer feedback. Customers with specific concerns are urged to Contact Us

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.

Have a “Good Question” that you want answered? Email it to goodquestion@metrotransit.org.

Bus From the GM Light Rail Northstar Rider Information

Saving big by trading the car for transit 

| Wednesday, May 28, 2014 12:00:00 AM

From General Manager Brian Lamb

A recent Route of the Week story features transit customer and former auto driver Maxine Veith. Three years ago, Maxine’s vehicle started to show its age. Instead of throwing good money after bad, she decided to get a Go-To Card and started riding Route 767.

We know from customer surveys that Maxine is not alone. The cost of owning and maintaining a vehicle is among the top reasons people try Metro Transit.

According to the department of Driver and Vehicle Safety, the average age of cars on Minnesota roads is now 11.3 years. Not only are our cars getting older, but the cost of repairs is going up. The 2014 edition of “Your Driving Costs” recently released by the American Automobile Association (AAA) finds that auto maintenance costs have ticked up again – resulting in about a 15 percent increase since 2012.

AAA published the first edition of their report 64 years ago when gas was 27 cents a gallon. The Interstate System wouldn’t exist for another six years. This year, AAA estimates it will cost 59.2 cents per mile to own and operate an average sedan. This cost assumes the cost of fuel will be $3.28 a gallon (though the gas station near Metro Transit's Minneapolis offices is currently advertising $3.53).

Although insurance and depreciation costs dropped slightly from 2013, driving an average automobile 15,000 miles is still expected to add up to nearly $8,900 per year. Costs are significantly higher for SUVs, trucks and vans. And this doesn’t include parking.

These costs add up quickly. For an average family, transportation is the second-highest expense behind housing. Here are some examples of daily savings for households choosing transit. This table shows the average length of a customer trip and the average fare paid, factoring all fare levels and discounts for frequent riders using employer, student or other programs (Metropass, children and seniors, College Pass, disabled veterans, Fares Direct, etc.).

Mode Avg. Roundtrip Miles AAA est. Car Cost ($0.592/mile) Avg. Fare Savings/Day
Bus 8.1 $4.80 $2.30 $2.50
Light-rail 10.6 $6.28 $1.94 $4.34
Northstar 50.5 $29.90 $6.48 $23.42

As you can see, there are clear savings for those who choose transit – even for a few trips per week. Factoring in parking, too, the American Public Transportation Association recently reported that a multi-car Twin Cities household would save $887 each month by living with one fewer car and choosing transit or using other alternatives to driving alone.

Many of Metro Transit's customers can’t afford to drive. But more than two-thirds of customers have automobiles and still chose to take a bus or train. Without transit service, folks like Maxine would be pouring more money into the gas tank and less into their savings accounts and our local economy.

I invite you to see how much you can save by pledging to replace a drive-alone trip with transit through the Switch My Trip campaign. Fill out a pledge and start saving today!

    > Switch My Trip

    > APTA Transit Savings Report and Calculator

Bus Community Links of Interest Rider Information

See another side of Metro Transit with Instagram and Flickr 

| Friday, March 14, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Screen shot of Metro Transit's Flickr page.Buses and trains are a common sight in the Twin Cities. But there's a lot more to what goes on at Metro Transit than the buses, light rail and commuter trains moving around the metro every day.

To showcase more of our activities and people, Metro Transit also posts to two photo-sharing sites – Instagram and Flickr. Like the Rider's Almanac blog, the photos are shared to take customers behind-the-scenes and to provide a fuller picture of our services, facilities and the people that keep the Twin Cities on the move.

Like all of our social media accounts, Instagram allows us to interact with members of the community in new ways. We encourage you to join the conversation by using the hashtag #MetroTransitMN or tagging us in the post. Be creative – we may feature one of your photos on our feed!

The Metro Transit Flickr page contains many of the same images but makes them available in full resolution and without significant edits or filters. These images are also organized into searchable sets. Photos posted on Flickr are available for republication by media outlets and the general public, according to our image and photo use policy.

While Instagram and Flickr are recent additions, we have already built a steady following on our other social media accounts – Twitter and Facebook. Our Facebook page has accumulated more than 40,000 "Likes" and we have around 24,000 followers on Twitter. Metro Transit's YouTube channel is also a great source for tips on using public transportation, transit safety and human-interest stories.

Wherever you chose to meet us – in transit or or online – we are grateful to be part of such an active and engaged community that cares about what we do. The interactions and feedback we receive are an important part of understanding our customer's needs and interests – and responding in the best way we can.

    > Metro Transit Social Media Policy

    > Metro Transit on Instagram

    > Metro Transit on Flickr

    > Metro Transit on Twitter

    > Metro Transit on Facebook

Bus Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Rider Information

Just the facts 

| Friday, February 28, 2014 9:59:00 AM

It can be difficult to grasp the scale of Metro Transit's operations.

The picture becomes a bit clearer in a new Fact Book that provides a snapshot of all the services Metro Transit provides. The recently-released 2013 Fact Book covers the big numbers -- 81.4 million rides, 128 bus routes, 74 Park & Rides -- as well as plenty of other lesser-known details. Here are just a couple 2013 facts included in the latest edition:

    > There were 1,498 bus drivers and 78 light-rail operators at the end of 2013.

    > Customer Advocates provided 492 "how to ride" presentations to introduce people to Metro Transit's services in 2013.

    > The Lost & Found received 22,274 unique items and customers claimed nearly a quarter of these items.

    > Real-time NexTrip departure information was requested around 49.2 million times -- a new annual record.

    > Metro Transit's fleet includes 570 40-foot diesel buses, 169 60-foot articulated buses, 132 hybrid-electric buses and 41 coach buses.

The Fact Book also highlights the growth occurring ahead of the METRO Green Line's June 2014 opening.

At the end of last year, 31 new Siemens light-rail vehicles had been received to support operations on the Green and Blue Lines. Additional bus and light-rail operators have also been hired. The total number of vehicle in-service hours -- a measure of how much time buses spend on the road -- also grew to nearly 2.29 million hours, an increase of more than 61,000 hours. The service hours came through improved bus service on routes connecting to the Green Line, a trend that will continue this year.

Explore the numbers in full at metrotransit.org/facts.

Bus Rider Information Transit Planning

Take a seat 

| Wednesday, February 19, 2014 8:20:00 AM

Metro Transit customers who use routes 6, 12 or 21 may have noticed a couple of seats go missing beginning earlier this month.

Two aisle seats are absent from in front of the rear exit door on two-dozen newly-ordered 40-foot buses, leaving each vehicle with 36 seats. The buses were ordered without the aisle seats in a trial to see if opening more space improves passenger movement when buses on these popular routes fill up.

Although removing seats may seem counterintuitive, the extra room is intended to encourage passengers to move further toward the back of the bus instead of standing near the front. The extra space can also be used by customers riding with larger items.

Clearing space in the front of the bus makes it easier for customers to board, reducing the time spent at stops and keeping buses on schedule. The seats were removed from some buses on routes 6, 12 and 21 because customers each of the routes has frequent on/off boarding activity.

Operator and customer feedback is being collected over the coming months to help decide if more buses should be similarly arranged in the future. Feedback on the trial setup can be sent to Customer Relations by commenting online here or by calling 612-373-3333 on weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

    > Good Question: Why go out the back?

    > How to ride

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 goodquestion@metrotransit.org. 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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