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Posts in Category: Winter Weather

Winter Weather

Winter is coming … and Metro Transit is prepared. 

Posted by johnkomarek | Monday, November 05, 2018 3:14:00 PM

Metro Transit received four new service trucks earlier this year, including this truck at East Metro Garage. The vehicles become critical during the winter months, when technicians are sent out to recover buses that become trapped in the snow.

Anyone who lived through the Halloween Blizzard of 1991 knows that winters in Minnesota can come unexpectedly.

Metro Transit starts winterization earlier than one might expect: immediately following the end of the State Fair.

“Boy, oh boy, do we have our work cut out for us.” Paul Slesar, Heywood Service Garage Supervisor said. “We have a hard deadline in October to make sure that our buses are ready for winter.”

In a seven-county system with bus, rail, support vehicles, and stations and stops, the process of winterizing is slow and methodical, but requires a herculean effort on the part of Metro Transit employees.

At our five garages, our almost 1000 bus fleet begins the process of installing snow tires, adding 40-pound sandbags over the rear wheels, and testing the heating systems.  The fuel is also gradually changed to a mix of diesel with a thicker viscosity to handle extreme cold.

“When the weather is at its worst, that’s when we get the most calls.” Ryan Shimon, East Metro Garage Supervisor said. “No matter how deep the snow, we get to our buses and get them unstuck.”

To support our bus fleet in the snow, around 280 Mechanic Technicians prepare for increased duty on road calls. Some will ride in one of four brand new service vehicles, which have needed an update as some are decades old.

"Due to our extreme cold we're often looking for new technologies to improve reliability and on-time performance,” Director of Bus Maintenance Matthew Dake said. “It can range from different types of lubrication to a new way to get unstuck from the snow.”

Currently, two buses are testing a system called Insta-Chain to see if this could help buses drive themselves out of snowy situations. The device drops and spins metal chains under the wheel after an operator pushes a button.

Rail also needs to prepare for extreme weather by testing heating, ice scraping and cutting operations, wipers, and sand delivery systems. Sand is applied to the tracks during slippery weather, which increases in the wintertime.

“We fill our sand tanks twice a week during the winter as opposed to once a week during the rest of the year,” Keith Meisinger Light Rail Vehicle Maintenance Supervisor said.

Facilities and non-revenue support our bus and rail services by ensuring that our police have snow tires and our snowblowers are functioning and can clear stations of snow. Fleet trucks are fitted with plows and brine or salt distributors installed to the rear of the vehicle.

Whatever winter weather that awaits us, Metro Transit is ready and hopeful for, as Public Facilities Supervisor Murray Olson said, “light, fluffy white snow. We can move that easy.”

Bus Light Rail Winter Weather

Riders reminded of importance of Metro Transit during first big blast of winter 

Posted by Kathy Graul | Tuesday, December 05, 2017 1:29:00 PM

Snow and ice-covered roads led to a tricky and long commute this morning after winter’s first big blast hit the Twin Cities overnight.

Light rail and Northstar commuter rail service are not typically impacted by winter weather thanks to trains’ built-in snow clearing capabilities and the special ice-cutting equipment that's also mounted on most light rail vehicles. But, like all other drivers on the road during winter weather events, bus operators continue to put safety first and are face the same heavy traffic we all face when icy and snowy weather conditions strike.  

Despite delays across the bus system, a positive attitude among riders was apparent as the shout-outs rolled in for Metro Transit bus drivers and train operators on Twitter throughout the day. Here, we gather a few of our favorites. Only in Minnesota could there be so much camaraderie and good spirit during such a winter weather mess.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To stay up to date with service information during winter weather events, follow Metro Transit on Facebook or Twitter. “Show my bus” is also a handy feature to track the GPS location of your bus through Metro Transit’s NexTrip service.

Bus Good Question Light Rail Shelters Winter Weather

Good Question: Why do shelter heaters need to be replaced so frequently ? 

Posted by Marisa Helms | Thursday, November 16, 2017 10:26:00 AM

When the cold weather hits the metro area, customers who wait at hundreds of bus shelters and rail platforms have access to on-demand heaters that allow push-button activation when the temperature drops to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.

The heaters improve the customer's waiting experience, but they are fragile, subject to vandalism, and require constant care and replacement from maintenance staff.

Manager of Facilities Mike Maddio said every winter the 1,500 heat lamps throughout the system must be replaced again and again. This winter is no different, and Maddio estimates replacing the vandalized heaters has cost the agency tens of thousands of dollars over the past few years.

The heaters are made from one or more 12-inch glass tubes, and are targets for vandals, especially in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, Maddio said. Since early October, he said a staff of four electricians have replaced more than 400 heat lamps and are scheduled to replace another 800 in the coming weeks.

"It's daunting," Maddio said. "We fix one heater at 7 a.m. and by 2 p.m. it's destroyed again."

Catching vandals in the act isn't always possible, but, Transit Police Lt. Troy Schmitz said police will pursue criminal charges if they're are able to obtain video of the vandalism and identify suspects.

Bus Express Bus Light Rail METRO Blue Line Northstar Rider Information Safety Winter Weather

Rider refresher for flurries in forecast  

| Monday, November 04, 2013 12:20:00 PM

Snow is back in the forecast...and Metro Transit is ready.

Record-setting winter storms in 1991 and 2010 are the only times in Metro Transit’s modern history where bus service was temporarily suspended due to weather. The all-season METRO Blue Line and Northstar Commuter Rail Line are rarely delayed due to snow and ice.

Getting around in the winter does require some adjustment, though. Here are a few important things to know as the snow begins to fall:

Head out early 

Although Metro Transit adds extra buses and drivers to help keep service on schedule and often has access to transit advantages, severe weather can slow travel for everyone on roadways. Check your schedule and consider taking an earlier trip to give yourself some extra time to reach your destination.

Stay safe

During winter, it's especially important to never run alongside moving buses and trains. Brush up on this and other safety tips here.

Cleanup is prioritized to keep buses and trains moving safely and on schedule

When snow falls, bus garages, rail yards and support facilities are cleared first so that buses and trains can begin service on schedule. Park & Ride lots and ramps, Transit Centers and high-traffic customer areas like light-rail stations are cleared next. Ultimately, plans call for clearing all 700 Metro Transit-owned customer-waiting shelters throughout the seven-county metro area as well as a path that allows customers to board and exit buses. If snow has not been cleared from a boarding area, bus drivers will stop where it is safest for customers to board. Instead of standing on snowbanks, wait in a clear area near the posted bus stop sign and board there.

Heat is on, but the right clothes are still key

Busy transit centers, Park & Rides lots and train stations on the Blue Line and Northstar are equipped with heaters to keep customers warm while they wait. Buses and trains are also heated. Still, anyone taking transit should dress warmly and in layers so they can comfortably withstand low and variable temperatures. Snow boots or other winter footwear such as ice grips/cleats are encouraged as train stations, bus boarding areas, and the bus and train floors can become slippery from snow and water. Light-colored or reflective clothing can and clip-on safety flashers can also help operators see and identify customers.

Keep informed with real-time service updates 

Although buses and trains are reliable in severe weather, traffic and road conditions do affect operations. To keep customers informed about delays and detours, Metro Transit shares real-time service updates via Facebook (facebook.com/MetroTransitMN) and Twitter (twitter.com/metrotransitmn). Information is updated approximately every 15 minutes. Route-specific detours are posted online at metrotransit.org/snow.             

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

> Metro Transit on Twitter

> Metro Transit on Facebook

> Star Tribune: Transit tips for the cold

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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