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Posts in Category: Winter Weather

Bus Light Rail Minneapolis Shelters St. Paul Winter Weather

Snow removal pros' goal this winter: collaboration 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Monday, November 11, 2019 1:34:00 PM

Metro Transit hosted snow removal managers from across the region in October. The goal: develop a more coordinated approach to one of winter’s biggest challenges – keeping bus stops, roads and sidewalks clear of snow and ice. 

Representatives from Minneapolis, St. Paul, Hennepin County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation attended the symposium, and a snow removal consultant shared tips on how to reduce salt use. 

In addition to getting some practical advice, the biggest accomplishment may have been simply getting acquainted before the flakes fly. 

“We see this collaboration blossoming into a long-term relationship that benefits all parties,” said Marilyn Porter, Metro Transit’s director of engineering and facilities. “The Metropolitan Council takes a regional approach to transportation, wastewater treatment and affordable housing, so it only makes sense to try a regional approach to snow removal, too.’’ 

With limited resources, Public Facilities Manager Donn Rude said avoiding conflicting snow removal efforts is critical. 

“Knowing each other’s capacities and protocols is important so we’re not just trading snow all the time,” Rude said. “It’s better for our people to be close behind the snowplow when they’re digging out bus shelters.” 

Rachel Walch, senior innovation consultant for the City of St. Paul, attended the symposium to pick up tips she could share with the city’s public works department. To help this winter, Walch said the city may ask businesses to adopt a corner and provide them with snow clearing supplies and training. 

“We have 1,900 miles of city streets, almost as much as all of Hennepin County’s (main arterials), and plows can get only so close to a curb,” Walch said.

Metro Transit’s snow removal arsenal includes salt, liquid chemicals, shovels, snowblowers, skid steer loaders and a small, enclosed tractor that can operate on sidewalks. Before storms, crews pre-treat surfaces with a liquid salt mix that repels snow. 

Even with all that machinery and preparation, clearing bus stops, rail platforms and Park & Rides is a time-consuming endeavor. 

“It’s not unusual for everyone to work 12 hours or more a day for days on end,” Rude said. “Last January and February were extremely difficult and labor intensive.” 

Because there's so much ground to cover, Metro Transit is always game to try new approaches. One year, crews tried melting ice with a beet juice mix, a product that smelled awful and was easily tracked into buildings and vehicles. 

At the recent symposium, staff was intrigued by a plow that could be compact enough to get on light rail platforms with sharp, narrow turns too tight for other equipment.

Learn more about Metro Transit's snow removal procedures

Winter Weather

Winter is coming … and Metro Transit is prepared. 

Posted by John Komarek | 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

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