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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?

Bus Bus Rapid Transit Community Safety Transit Police

Transit Police going beyond the bus in North Minneapolis 

| Tuesday, February 10, 2015 9:22:00 AM

Metro Transit police officers David Hutchinson and Sidney Jones talk with Dean Rose, who owns Broadway Liqour Store at the corner of Broadway and Penn avenues.Metro Transit patrol officer Sidney Jones didn’t grow up in North Minneapolis. But when he moved here from Kansas City a decade ago he landed squarely in the middle of the community, making his home on Russell Avenue North. 

After experiencing the neighborhood first-hand, Jones jumped at the chance to become a part of Transit Police’s new Northside Community Policing Team.

“I grew up in the inner-city, so I wanted to be able to come back and interact with my community and to be a positive person for some of the youth,” Jones said during a recent afternoon patrol.  “I wanted to be somebody they could look up to and to do the job fairly and respectfully.”

Jones has done that and more since he and fellow patrol officer David Hutchinson began working as the department’s first members of the Northside Community Policing Team last fall. The team is responsible for patrolling a swath of North Minneapolis that runs roughly from Penn to Lyndale avenues and from Olson Memorial Highway to Dowling Avenue North.

While the officers respond to calls, ride on board buses and keep an eye on major boarding areas, one of their biggest areas of focus has been simply interacting with members of the community. Since the Northside Community Policing Team was formed, Jones and Hutchinson have spent time playing dominoes with kids at Juxtaposition, attending community meetings and getting to know business owners.

Hutchinson said the interactions have already started to change the perception of Transit Police.

“People used to think we just rode buses and checked tickets on the train,” the eight-year Transit Police officer said. “It was a surprise when we came into businesses, introduced ourselves and tried to gain a relationship with them.”

Among the business owners Jones and Hutchinson have come to know is Sam Tannos, who owns a convenience store at the corner of Penn and 26th avenues. Tannos has been at the location for six years and said having a strong police presence is critical to his business.

“We love their presence here,” Tannos said during a visit to the store. “It’s a very good idea to have them stop by and see what’s going on.”

Down the street, Dean Rose is also enthusiastic about having Transit Police become a fixture in the community.

Rose’s Broadway Liqour Store was destroyed by the 2011 tornado, forcing the store into a temporary space at the corner of Broadway and Penn avenues. A third-generation North Minneapolis business owner, Rose will break ground next year on a new mixed-use project across the street.

The plan is to incorporate a new station for the C Line Bus Rapid Transit project into the development, so Rose hopes Transit Police will continue working with him on security issues. Many people in the neighborhood use transit, Rose said, and it’s important for the businesses that will be in the building that people feel comfortable riding or standing at a bus stop.

“I think it’s important for the community to see there’s law enforcement out there,” he said. “Having these guys on the street in a visible fashion will really assist us in keeping the peace.”

Establishing such trusting relationships is the entire idea behind the beat policing model. Transit Police have established beats along the Central Corridor and in each downtowns for the same reason.

Jones said he hopes he and Hutchinson are doing now will lay a foundation for future collaboration between Metro Transit and Minneapolis police, business owners, transit customers, bus operators and others in North Minneapolis.

“The more you’re in the area, the more hopefully the community will be comfortable with those officers and coming forward to talk to them,” he said. “I really think we’re breaking ground with this new beat.”

    > Fox 9: Metro Transit Northside Beat fosters community connections

Bus Bus Rapid Transit Express Bus METRO Orange Line Minneapolis Suburban Transit Transit Planning

METRO Orange Line more than the sum of its parts 

| Monday, May 19, 2014 12:00:00 AM

From Christina Morrison, METRO Orange Line Project Manager

Bus Rapid Transit is not a new concept for Interstate 35W. In fact, several improvements have been made to set the table for BRT, including bus-only shoulders, the 46th Street Station, MnPASS lanes and the downtown transit corridor known as Marq2.

This infrastructure was built even though the larger BRT project, the METRO Orange Line, was not fully funded. That's one great thing about BRT – it's nimble and can be built in pieces. The Orange Line combines all the station, roadway and service improvements that we’ve been building in pieces for decades to complete the BRT picture on I-35W.

Beginning in 2019, the Orange Line will deliver frequent, all-day service to job, housing and retail centers in Minneapolis, Richfield, Bloomington and Burnsville while relieving congestion on one of the state's busiest roadways. This enhanced transit service will not only serve those traveling downtown but reverse commuters accessing more than 30,000 jobs, as well as services, education and other destinations outside the downtown core.

We know the demand for transit in the I-35W corridor is strong and will continue to grow. In 2012, express and local bus routes in the I-35W corridor attracted nearly 14,000 daily transit riders. Ridership on the limited-stop bus service the Orange Line would replace, Route 535, has increased by more than 15 percent since 2011, topping more than 430,000 rides in 2013.

Existing customers ask why we don't simply put more buses on Route 535, and that’s a good question. While more buses could provide a short-term benefit, investing in the Orange Line strengthens our regional transit network while providing several key long-term benefits:

> Better station infrastructure. Like other METRO lines, Orange Line stations will be more comfortable and accessible -- with on-demand heat, ticket machines, enhanced transit information (including real-time, NexTrip signs) and security features. These stations will not only serve the Orange Line but complementary local and express routes, making transfers easier and more efficient. At the border of Richfield and Bloomington, Orange Line stations on Knox Avenue are also being incorporated into redevelopment plans that will create a more transit-, pedestrian- and bike-friendly environment.

> Reduced travel times. A complete trip on the Orange Line will take around 35 to 40 minutes, one way. Travel times are reduced by allowing customers to pay their fares before boarding and using 60-foot buses with front, middle and rear entries. A new southbound lane exclusively for transit vehicles and carpoolers from 42nd Street to downtown Minneapolis, traffic signal technologies and a new underpass bringing Knox Avenue beneath I-494 will also make for a speedier trip.

> Improved level of service. Route 535 will do the work of multiple local and express routes. The Orange Line will operate on a simpler routing that is more user-friendly, predictable and reliable. Each streamlined trip saves operating dollars that can be reinvested into additional service on the Orange Line and connecting routes in the corridor.

These benefits are explained in greater detail in the recently released draft of the Orange Line Project Plan Update. The update summarizes work that has been done to date and provides an outline of the steps that need to be taken to begin construction.

I encourage you to read through this plan and offer your feedback. Public comments will be accepted through the end of May and incorporated before the Metropolitan Council considers the project later this year.

Your feedback is important to refining plans as we look forward to construction beginning in 2016 and opening the Orange Line for service in late 2019. Please share your input and help us make the Orange Line a success.

For continued updates, subscribe to the Orange Line Project Update newsletter. You can also join the conversation on Twitter (@MetroTransitMN) as we host a "Tweet Chat" about the Orange Line between noon and 1 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20.

    > METRO Orange Line

    > Draft Project Plan Update

    > METRO Orange Line FAQs

    > I-35W Transit/Access Project

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