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Posts in Category: Bus Rapid Transit

Bus Bus Maintenance Bus Rapid Transit C Line Go Green

Fleet plan calls for gradual addition of electric buses 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, December 10, 2018 4:30:00 PM

An electric bus being made by New Flyer will be included in Metro Transit's C Line fleet beginning in 2019.Electric buses will be gradually added to Metro Transit's bus fleet over the coming years under a plan presented this week to the Metropolitan Council. 

The plan will begin going into effect next year, when Metro Transit starts the process of purchasing 19 new 40-foot electric buses. The buses would arrive in 2020 and will be used to help Metro Transit understand how electric buses effect scheduling, operations and maintenance.

Electric buses could also make up half of the fleet for future rapid bus lines on Chicago and Fremont avenues (D Line), Lake Street (B Line) and Hennepin Avenue (E Line). Additional 40-foot electric buses could go into service as early as 2022.

Combined, Metro Transit may purchase up to 125 electric buses by 2022. The fleet plan may evolve based on funding and an ongoing evaluation of electric bus technology.

Metro Transit’s first electric buses will be used on the C Line, a rapid bus line that will largely replace Route 19 service in 2019.

The first of eight electric 60-foot buses is currently being built in St. Cloud by New Flyer (above).

Charging equipment will also be installed at the Heywood Garage and the Brooklyn Center Transit Center.

Metro Transit was among the first transit agencies in the country to begin using hybrid-electric buses. Today, the fleet includes more than 130 hybrid-electric buses, which are partially propelled by electric power stored in a large battery on the roof of buses. 

Electric buses are fully-propelled by rechargeable batteries, eliminating tailpipe emissions.

Bus Bus Rapid Transit E Line Minneapolis

Bus-only lanes to be piloted on Hennepin Avenue 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, May 10, 2018 2:33:00 PM

A southbound Route 6 bus rolled past traffic during the morning rush hour on Wednesday, May 16. Bus-only lanes were created on sections of southbound and northbound Hennepin Avenue for three days to test their impact on travel times, reliability and traffic. Bus customers who travel on Hennepin Avenue know traffic moves slowly when the street is full of vehicles. In fact, during rush hour, buses travel an average of just six miles per hour.

Exploring ways to provide faster, more reliable service, Metro Transit and the City of Minneapolis will test bus-only lanes on a portion of the corridor between Tuesday, May 15, and Thursday, May 17. Data and public input will be collected during the pilot to evaluate impacts and determine next steps.

What’s happening? 

A northbound bus-only travel lane will be created by restricting street parking on the east side of Hennepin Avenue between 26th Street and Franklin Avenue each morning from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. A southbound bus-only travel lane will be created by restricting parking on the west side of Hennepin Avenue between 26th Street and the Uptown Transit Center each evening from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 

Parking meters will be marked in advance of the parking restrictions and vehicles that have not been moved will be towed. The bus-only travel lanes will be marked with traffic delineators that will be removed during off-peak hours.

All Hennepin Avenue bus routes will use the bus-only lanes. Customers who board at stops adjacent to the bus-only lanes will see no changes at their boarding locations.

Why is this pilot being undertaken?

The bus-only lane pilot will help answer three key questions:

 > What are the changes in travel time and reliability?

 > What is the reaction from riders, neighborhood residents, businesses and other property owners?

 > Are there other improvement strategies that would complement the bus-only lanes?

What are the expected advantages?

Bus-only travel lanes are used in many large cities to help buses move more efficiently through busy urban corridors. In the Twin Cities, designated bus-only shoulders allow buses to bypass traffic on more than 200 highway miles. The Marq2 corridor also uses bus-only lanes to provide bus riders safe and efficient access in and out of downtown Minneapolis.

Faster, more reliable bus service makes transit a more appealing alternative to driving alone. The Hennepin Avenue bus-only lanes are expected to improve consistency and save a few minutes of travel time in either direction. The benefits would be even more pronounced when snow or other unforeseen incidents create heavier traffic than usual.

Why Hennepin Avenue?

With 400 daily bus trips, Hennepin Avenue is one of the region’s busiest transit corridors. More than 3,300 people board buses between Lake Street and Franklin Avenue each weekday. During peak periods, nearly half of the people traveling on Hennepin Avenue are on a bus.

Metro Transit is also planning for future rapid bus improvements on Hennepin Avenue. Planning for the E Line will begin with a corridor study in 2018. Like the A Line on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, the E Line will provide faster service, enhanced stations and larger vehicles.Bus only lanes could also be incorporated into the project. 

Pending full project funding, the E Line could be under construction as soon as 2022, in coordination with other street construction projects in the corridor. The E Line is on track to becoming the region's fifth rapid bus line. 

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Bus Rapid Transit Rider Information Transit Planning

Doing data science at Metro Transit  

| Thursday, January 25, 2018 11:00:00 AM

Rebecca Freese has worked as a data science intern for Metro Transit’s Strategic Initiatives Department since June 2016. She’s currently a graduate student at the University of Minnesota studying biostatistics. Freese wrote this post for the Rider's Almanac to share her experience with the important Strategic Initiatives projects she’s been working on and to entice others to apply to the Metro Transit internship program.

Growing up in a small town, public transportation wasn’t an option for me until I moved to Minneapolis to study mathematics in college. Without a car, I soon started to rely on buses and trains to get where I needed to be each day. With graduation approaching, I happened across an internship with Strategic Initiatives at Metro Transit, and the rest is history. Here’s a little more about the department and the projects I’ve worked on.

What is Strategic Initiatives?

Strategic Initiatives’ mission is to “improve the efficiency of transit operations and the customer experience with rigorous data analysis, research, and collaboration.” What that boils down to is we develop models, data visualization techniques, and provide analysis to help the agency make data-driven decisions.

Examples of this include forecasting ridership for a certain route for the next few months, investigating the effects of route and fare changes, and analyzing customer and employee surveys. We mainly use the statistical computing language software R, but occasionally branch into other languages, depending on project need. We’re a small group with a wide range of backgrounds, but we all have a common passion for our work.

What does a data science intern do?

During my time at Metro Transit, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects. I’ve built an interactive mapping tool using R Shiny to visualize where bus accidents have occurred. Transit safety specialists can use this tool to determine if more training is needed on a particular stretch of road and to alert bus operators (drivers) about trickier locations.

I’ve also analyzed survey data that asks Metro Transit customers what features are important to have at a bus stop, and where the agency should prioritize placing shelters. The plot below shows the how important participants felt each of the features were to have at a bus stop. The dark and light green colors represent the proportion of people who felt a particular feature was essential or very important, whereas the purple and red indicate the proportion of people who thought that feature was just nice to have or not important. We can see that the benches, posted schedules, safe street crossings, and shelters had the highest proportion of people indicating they were essential or very important. Lights inside the shelter and wide sidewalks were marked as not important most frequently.

Similar questions were asked about where people preferred to have bus shelters, and highly ranked locations included where many people wait for the bus and near hospitals, social service centers, and senior housing. This information was then used as the basis for updating guidelines for where Metro Transit places bus shelters and what features to include in them.

Bikes on the A Line (Rapid bus service)

A fun project I worked on during the summer of 2017 was visualizing when and where A Line customers tend to use the bike racks mounted on the front of the bus. Magnetic counters were installed on all A Line buses, so that when someone takes their bike on or off the bus, the time and location of the event is recorded. This data helps us better understand our multimodal customers, particularly, where they prefer to ride their bike and where they prefer to ride the bus. Maybe we should consider installing more secure bike lockers and tire pumps at stops where many bikers get on or off the bus? As more data are collected, we hope to be able to tell waiting customers if there’s an open spot for their bike on the next bus approaching.

Below is an interactive plot showing the stations along the A Line where customers used the bike racks on the bus, between April 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. Locations where someone puts their bike on the bus are at the top of the plot, and where they get off is on the bottom. The thicker the ribbon between two locations, the more people have taken that trip. Hover above “origins” or “destinations” to get the option to sort the stations alphabetically or by how many people use the bike racks. You can also click and drag the name of a station to a new location for custom sorting. Additionally, hovering above a colored ribbon gives the percentage of people who ride the bus with their bike on each of the segments.

We can see that for southbound customers, people have ridden the A Line with their bike 570 times between Rosedale Transit Center and Snelling and University, which is 8% of the total trips. The majority of customers who put their bike on the bus at Snelling and University, heading south, ride to the 46th St Station.

Play around with sorting the stations by origin or destination and see what inferences you can make.

A Line plot for bike rack usage

I like this plot for a few reasons. One, because it’s kind of pretty (although the director of our department wishes he could run a hairbrush through it to untangle it), and two, it shows a lot of information quickly.

I will admit, it’s got a lot going on, but once you find an interesting pattern, you can dig deeper with other plots or models to investigate further. For example, why are the above-mentioned trips so popular? We could look into bike lanes in the area to see if that stretch of road is biker-friendly. It’s very likely that the areas where bikers prefer to ride the bus are along roads with heavy traffic or without marked bike lanes. Snelling and University is probably a popular station because of its proximity to the Green Line.

Would you like to be a data science intern for Metro Transit?

If you’ve made it this far, I have good news! My internship is coming to an end this spring, so we are in search of a data science enthusiast to take my place. This is not the kind of internship where you’re stuck going on coffee runs for the office or doing other mindless busywork. This is a hands-on environment to hone your skills while working with a supportive and dedicated team.

If any of what I mentioned above appeals to you, check out the positions available in Strategic Initiatives:

Performance Analyst

Data Scientist 

Students interested in interning at Metro Transit are invited to submit applications through Sunday, Feb. 4. Applicants must be enrolled in a post-secondary education program or have graduated within the past year. Interns work full-time, from late May through the end of the summer. Some interns may also stay on in part-time roles through the school year. All interns are paid $18.50 an hour.

Internship positions are available in Strategic Initiateives, Marketing, Engineering & Facilities, Finance, Service Development and Rail Operations. There are also positions in the Green Line Extension and Blue Line Extension project offices and the other Council divisions.

Review openings and learn more at the Metropolitan Council's internships page.

Bus Rapid Transit Minneapolis

Input sought on North Minneapolis BRT plans 

| Monday, November 16, 2015 8:52:00 AM

A draft station plan for the C Line.Residents are invited to provide feedback on plans for a new arterial Bus Rapid Transit Line that will serve North Minneapolis at a series of November open houses.

Like the A Line on Snelling Avenue​, the C Line will improve on local bus service through a combination of enhanced stations, larger buses and faster, more frequent service.

The C Line will follow the Route 19 alignment between downtown Minneapolis and the Brooklyn Center Transit Center, with service on Penn Avenue and Olson Memorial Highway. In downtown Minneapolis, the C Line will operate on 7th and 8th streets. 

A Draft Station Plan, published last week, provides more details on 24 locations where BRT stations are planned. The public can learn more about those station plans at the open house and provide comments through Dec. 6.

Feedback will be incorporated before plans are finalized and more detailed engineering work begins in 2016. With funding, construction will begin in 2017.

C Line open houses will be held according to the following schedule:

    > Tuesday, Nov. 17 — 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Minneapolis Central Library, and 6-8 p.m. at Patrick Henry High School 

    > Wednesday, Nov. 18 — 6-8 p.m. at Harrison Education Center 

    > Thursday, Nov. 19 — 6-8 p.m. at Lucy Laney Community School 

C Line resources

    > C Line Station Plan

    > C Line Fact Sheet

    > C Line FAQs

    > Subscribe to C Line Update

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?

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