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Posts in Category: Rider Information

Bus From the GM Rider Information

Service that sets the standard 

| Thursday, October 03, 2013 11:10:00 AM

Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb.

From Brian Lamb, Metro Transit General Manager

Customers boarded our buses, light-rail and commuter trains more than 81 million times last year. Despite the high volume of customers, we strive every day to ensure every person who uses our services has the best experience possible.               

Delivering on our promise of service excellence takes dedication and commitment from all members of the Metro Transit team – especially those who interact with customers on a regular basis.

During Customer Service Week (Oct. 7-11), we celebrate the bus and train operators, transit information experts, customer service representatives, customer advocates and Transit Store employees who serve as front-line ambassadors for our agency. But while we’re paying special attention to these employees over the coming week, we also know they play an invaluable role serving our customers year round.    

As the face of Metro Transit, operators have a particularly important role to play when it comes to putting our best foot forward. By being pleasant and helpful, they can do more than get customers where they need to go – they can make transit a bright spot in an otherwise hectic day (as one recent Route 5 customer said of their operator: “She just makes the morning right.”)                               

The response from customers shows operators are in large part delivering exemplary service. Over the last five years operators have received an average of 1,340 annual commendations – one for every 52,000 rides – and achieved an admirable 4:1 ratio of commendations to complaints. 

In a 2012 customer survey, nearly nine of ten riders rated our service as “good to excellent” and the number of customers who said they would recommend our service compared to such popular companies as Apple, Amazon and Jet Blue.   

Such praise is particularly impressive since an operator’s individual interactions are time-constrained. Operators must also balance individual needs against the demands of all customers aboard or waiting for the bus or train as well as others sharing the road.

Our operators have overcome these obstacles simply by doing their job well. One of the few factors under their control is the time they begin their routes. With more than 1,400 daily pull-outs, year-to-date on-time performance is nearly perfect. So far this year, there has been an average of three late pull-outs every day.

Outside of the bus and train, Transit Store employees, Transit Information Center representatives and Customer Relations are also playing a key supporting role.

TIC representatives have answered nearly 800,000 customer calls this year and expect to take another 400,000 more by the end of 2013. Customers who reach out to Metro Transit for personalized route and schedule information can expect friendly, reliable service in record time. With the use of new technology, calls now take less than two minutes to complete.

Such assistance can be invaluable for customers becoming acquainted with transit or trying to reach unfamiliar destinations. One customer who wrote earlier this year said they felt a TIC representative who helped them find their way to interviews in obscure locations “directly contributed” to their success. 

Our Customer Relations representatives are having an equally impressive impact. Through July, they have taken nearly 48,000 customer calls and responded to more than 5,100 email inquiries. They have also helped return nearly 300 bikes and more than 2,500 lost items.

Customer Advocates who play a key role introducing customers to Metro Transit have meanwhile presented to nearly 5,000 people this year.             

As our system grows and more new customers join the transit community, it will remain just as critical for Metro Transit to maintain its focus on customer service. Even as our volume grows I have no doubt the commitment to service excellence that we’ve seen on display will only continue to improve.  

> Mid-year progress report: On the right track

> Comment on Metro Transit service

> Outreach: We’re here to help

> Transit help just a phone call away

> Lost & Found at Metro Transit

> Metro Transit Stores

Carpool Go Green Promotions Rider Information Rider Profile Rideshare Transit Planning

Enjoying the shared ride 

| Monday, September 30, 2013 2:45:00 PM

Thomson Reuters carpoolers together as they prepare to leave work at the end of the day.

When Jan Kaster’s knees began to go and she found it too difficult to use the bus, she thought she might have to retire early. But the Thomson Reuters editor found a way to keep working: she joined a carpool.

Using Metro Transit’s Carpool Matching Tool, Kaster connected with fellow employee Kristen Estrada, one of more than 800 Thomson Reuters workers who have created an online profile that connects carpoolers by home address, place of employment and other preferences.

The online tool, being promoted in October as part of Carpool to Work Month, helped the then-strangers discover they lived just a mile apart and worked at the same building.

Kaster said she was thrilled to have found a match so she could continue to come to the office, get dropped off near the door and receive help loading her heavy bag in and out of the car.

“I really appreciate that I’m still able to work,” she said recently from Thomson Reuter’s Eagan headquarters. “I wasn’t ready to quit yet.”

Kaster’s continued employment is just one of the many benefits that have come from the carpool, which began in early 2012 and grew to include another employee, Brandon Dandl, earlier this year.

For Estrada, the only driver in the group, providing rides to and from work helps cover her transportation costs. Kaster and Dandl each pay $3 for every 10-mile, 20-minute trip they take.

The group also gets to use a preferred carpool parking area near the building entrance – a perk that becomes especially important in winter. Though they haven’t needed it, the carpoolers are also eligible for the Guaranteed Ride Home, which covers the cost of a cab if a carpooler needs an emergency ride home.

Carpooling has also allowed the group to learn more about each other’s work. Kaster has spent 23 years as the editor of the U.S. Code Annotated, a 400-volume compilation of federal laws. Estrada sells hard copies of the books and Dandl sells electronic versions.

“When I learned that I thought, ‘Oh, great, I can ask you all about this,’” Estrada said, “I’ve been able to ask her about the book and how laws are written and have really learned a lot.”

Work isn’t the only topic of conversation among the group, however. As the trio has spent more time riding together, they have swapped advice and shared more of their personal lives. Estrada’s one-year-old baby will occasionally share the back seat with Dandl as the group rides together to drop her off.

They also listen to Minnesota Public Radio to catch up and discuss the news and have made a routine of listening to KDWB’s War of the Roses every Thursday morning (in the farcical skit, a significant other listens in as their mate is asked where they’d like to send a dozen roses).

While the practical benefits are important, the carpoolers say the camaraderie they enjoy has become one their favorite parts of sharing the ride. 

“We all get to vent a little bit, which can be very therapeutic,” Kaster said.    

> October is Carpool to Work Month

> Set up a Commuter Account

Community From the GM METRO Red Line Rider Information

Mid-year Progress Report: On the Right Track  

| Wednesday, July 24, 2013 12:30:00 PM

From Brian Lamb, Metro Transit General Manager

Like any good organization, Metro Transit lays out a set of annual goals and carefully tracks its own progress. Halfway through 2013, it's safe to say we're on the right track.

Ridership is up, customers are happy and buses and trains are running on time. While there's more work to do, these positive takeaways from our own mid-year review give us and our customers reason to celebrate.

Here’s a quick scan of how Metro Transit is faring on its top 2013 goals.

> Grow ridership. After a record year in 2012, Metro Transit is on pace to reach its goal of 82 million passenger boardings this year. Overall ridership is ahead of last year and Northstar Commuter Rail is experiencing the fastest growth in its nearly four-year history, with ridership up more than 15 percent through the end of June. Average weekday ridership surpassed 3,000 customers in the month of June for the first time. Ridership on express and urban buses also continues to see steady growth.

> Improve customer satisfaction. Nine out of ten customers rated Metro Transit’s service as “Good” or “Excellent” in a customer survey completed earlier this year. Customers are as likely to recommend Metro Transit to their peers as some of America's most popular and recognizable brands, including Apple, Jet Blue, Verizon and Costco. More than half of Metro Transit bus customers say they have used transit for more than five years, a good indication that once a customer gives us a try, they tend to stick with us.

> Enhance safety and security. We're proud to have received two key safety accolades -- the Transportation Security Administration’s Gold Standard and the American Public Transportation Association’s Gold Award for Bus System Safety. A safety campaign was also named “Best of Show,” by the Minnesota Association of Government Communicators. As the Metro Transit Police Department continues to grow, we believe Metro Transit will continue to serve as a national model for transit safety and security.

> Improve operational reliability. Despite a protracted winter, disruptive spring storms and ongoing construction, buses are running on time for 89 percent of trips. ​Although weather and traffic are not within our control, pulling buses out of garages on schedule is. Bus pull-outs have been on time 997 of every 1,000 trips so far this year. Northstar commuter trains are operating on time for more than 95 percent of trips. With the receipt of 12 additional light rail vehicles for METRO Blue Line operations, we’re now able to run all three-car trains during our busiest times. 

> Promote energy conservation and environmental stewardship. Metro Transit's buildings and bus garages are being made more efficient through retrofits while employees continue to reduce their personal energy use through simple habits like turning off their computers at the end of the workday. The use of clean soy-based biodiesel fuel blends is also expanding in the bus fleet, with testing of 20 percent blends now in progress. More hybrid buses are being added to the fleet while Metro Transit's and the new light rail vehicles appearing on tracks are lighter and more energy-efficient.

> Support and foster transit-oriented development. Development along the METRO Blue Line continues to advance, with more housing and retail space coming online. At Nicollet Mall Station, Nic On Fifth is rising out of the ground directly east of the LRT platform. The 253-unit apartment building will be the first skway and LRT-connected apartment project in Minneapolis history. New housing, offices and retail developments are also emerging along University Avenue and the University of Minnesota as the METRO Green Line's mid-2014 opening approaches.

> Recruit, retain and develop a diverse and talented workforce. A historic hiring effort to bring more than 100 new bus drivers on board is nearing completion, allowing some longtime operators to transition into new roles on the METRO Green Line. Metro Transit's Police Department is also growing to meet the demands of an evolving transit network. Nearly 20 new officers were sworn-in in April. Both the new drivers and new officers reflect our riders' diverse backgrounds.

> Be a visible and respected presence in the community. Through open houses, social media (more than 25,000 now follow us on Twitter or 'Like' us on Facebook), customer advocate engagements and other outreach efforts, Metro Transit is listening to its customers in an effort to improve its service. We're is also making an effort to share more news and better connect with customers through this new Rider's Almanac blog.  

> Advance the development of new transitways. Now 93 percent complete, the METRO Green Line is coming to life with overhead wires, tracks and stations. Near Target Field, the Interchange transit hub is also taking shape, setting the stage for the METRO Green Line extension from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie and other regional transit improvements. Minnesota's first Bus Rapid Transit service, the METRO Red Line, launched in June with promising early returns while preparations for the next evolution of bus service, Arterial Bus Rapid Transit continue to evolve.   

        > METRO: Light Rail Ridership Growth Spurs Minneapolis' Metro Transit to Expand Services

        > METRO: Q & A With Metro Transit GM Brian Lamb

Community Northstar Rider Information

Let history be your guide on the Northstar Commuter Rail Line 

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013 11:40:00 AM

From Ford Motor Co.’s downtown Minneapolis factory to the Oliver H. Kelly Farm in Elk River, a trip on the Northstar Commuter Rail Line is rich in history. 

And now there’s more of it.

Minnesota Public Radio’s audio tour of the 40-mile commuter rail line, part of its Sound Point® series, was recently expanded to provide customers additional history about the sights along the corridor (which we learn began as a route for ox carts delivering furs from northern Minnesota and Canada...). 

The 25-minute tour is accessible by smart phone, allowing transit customers to listen and look as they travel the line. Passengers with WiFi-enabled devices can also access the tour using Northstar's new WiFi service later this year.

In Ramsey, where Northstar’s newest station opened in 2012, the tour tells the story of one of Minnesota’s first paved highways, Highway 10. The road was built in the 1920s to serve wealthy city residents who wanted to drive to their lake homes.

> Listen to the Northstar Commuter Rail Line audio tour

The tour also touches on the 1986 tornado that hit the Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley, which circled for 16 minutes and is considered one of the most-photographed tornadoes in history. Other anecdotes include the story behind the Rum River’s name, a mix of spiritual and spirit-driven inspiration, and the construction of the United States’ first rural nuclear power plant, in Elk River.

Jeff Jones, Engagement Editor for MPR's Public Insight Network, created the audio tour. Jones said he hopes the history will give customers who regularly ride Northstar a greater appreciation for the corridor, which he said “exemplifies the story of Minnesota’s development.”

“I want someone riding it (Northstar) to understand what connects Minnesotans together,” Jones said. “Whether you live in the city or live out in the exurbs of Big Lake, there’s so much that we depend on each other for. But more simply than that, I want people to know what they’re looking at every day, to be able to look at a factory and say, ‘I know what’s going on in there.’”

Jones hopes to continue building the series, adding additional audio and information Big Lake, at the north end of the line. Anyone who would like to share information is invited to contact Jones at jjones@mpr.org.

Bus Good Question Light Rail Rider Information Winter Weather

Good Question: How does Metro Transit prioritize winter storm cleanup? 

| Thursday, February 21, 2013 10:49:00 AM

When winter weather hits, customers often ask us how Metro Transit organizes snow clearance.

photo metro transit bus in snow

 

Prioritizing the Metro Transit To-Do List

With a modest staff and large winter storm workload, snow clearance is prioritized to keep the transit system moving and safe. For a comprehensive description, visit Metro Transit's snow removal procedures.

Priority #1 – Operations

  • Clear the way for trains and buses by servicing bus garages, rail yards and support facilities. No one will be moving if our buses and trains are snowed in. 
  • Plow bus roadway at park-and-ride lots and transit centers and areas where buses layover or turn around. If a bus gets stuck, it takes a lot more than a friend to help push it out.
  • If there is a lot of a snow accumulation, plow the light rail track area.
     

Priority #2 – Passenger Movement

  • Clear snow and ice from customer areas with the highest activity including light-rail stations, Northstar stations, transit centers and park-and-ride lots. 
  • In very heavy snowfalls, clearing passenger paths is done in two stages. First, crews will clear walkways to bus loading areas and the edges on rail platforms, returning later to complete the work.photo transit center winter
 

Priority #3 – Customers with Limited Mobility

  • Clear snow and ice from customer areas that have high use by limited mobility customers. Metro Transit is able to track this information by reviewing data where those paying fares with limited mobility Go-To Cards are boarding. 
 

Priority #4 – Customer-Waiting Shelters

  • Clear the 700 Metro Transit-owned customer-waiting shelters throughout the seven-county metro area.
  • Remove snow and ice within a 6-foot radius of the Metro Transit-owned shelter.
  • Shovel a 4-foot-wide path from the curb through the plowed snow on the road side to provide a clear path for loading and unloading.
 

Priority #5 – Revisit and Groom

  • Continue to revisit areas to plow, chip ice and shovel out paths from the curb for bus loading and unloading. 
     

Partnerships are Key in Keeping Transit System Moving

 

Park & Rides, Bus Stops and Transit Centers

Not all bus stops and transit facilities are maintained by Metro Transit. Other transit agencies also maintain bus service, bus stops, transit stations and park-and-ride facilities.

Here is contact information for providers other than Metro Transit.

Clearing Sidewalks 

Clearing snow and ice from sidewalks is the responsibility of the property owner adjacent to the sidewalk. Many cities require snow and ice to be removed to bare concrete from back of sidewalk to curb within 24 hours of accumulation.

Each city has it own policy on snow removal:

Bus Shelters

Shelters or benches with advertising on them are not maintained by Metro Transit (except for Marquette & 2nd avenues in downtown Minneapolis). Shelters and benches with advertising are owned by private companies that are responsible for their maintenance. 

photo bus shelter not owned by metro transit   photo metro transit bus shelter
Maintenance of shelters with advertising is not the responsibility of Metro Transit.    Snow clearance and maintenance of Metro Transit shelters are performed by Metro Transit staff.
     

Let Us Know about Winter Cleanup Needs at Metro Transit Facilities

photo of man clearning snow in 1951 in St. Paul

Depending on the severity of winter storms, Metro Transit staff may be required to focus on the first few priorities on our to-do list to ensure that transit operations are maintained. Please be patient as our employees make the rounds to clean up after winter storms and consider conditions following a snowfall that may further hinder cleanup progress, such as freezing rain and drifting snow. 

Metro Transit wants to hear from customers if problems persist at particular locations following a snowfall. Please call Customer relations at 612-373-3333, option 3, or use the online contact form. If cleanup is needed at a Metro Transit location, we send crews to address the issue. If the cleanup needed is on property managed by a different municipality, agency or private shelter company, we will pass along the cleanup request.

 

Photo left: Snow is nothing new to our transit system. Pictured left a man clears a sidewalk in front of his business as a streetcar filled with passengers goes by in the background. Photo taken outside St. Pierre Liquor Store, 256 West Seventh Street, St. Paul, 1951. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society.

 

 

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