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Posts in Category: METRO Blue Line

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Minneapolis St. Paul

Technician training program creates careers, pride 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Monday, August 05, 2019 11:59:00 AM

Six LRT train technicians receive certificates of completion in a ceremony Aug. 2, 2019, at Hennepin Technical College where they earned associate degrees. From the left in the front row, they are: Thao Xiong, Calvin Hill, Chapman Templer, Chee Vang, Tenzin Kunga and Toua Yang.

Chapman TemplerToua Yang and Chee Vang might still be working at lower-paying jobs without advancement opportunities had they not enrolled three years ago in a paid on-the-job training program to become light rail train technicians.

They were among six people who received associate degrees this summer from Hennepin Technical College and are applying for Metro Transit electro-mechanical technician jobs with starting pay of about $27 an hour.

They will be in demand. Metro Transit has 16 open electro-mechanical technician positions and expects about 10% of its technicians of all kinds to retire next year.

About two dozen more technicians are also needed to support the METRO Green Line Extension, opening in 2023. Twenty-seven new light rail vehicles will be added to the fleet when the extension to Eden Prairie opens.

“The equipment comes in and we have to get the technicians in place to get it ready to operate,” said Gary Courtney, Metro Transit’s supervisor of workforce development.

To prepare the recent graduates, Metro Transit teamed up with Hennepin Technical College and Twin Cities R!SE, a nonprofit, on what’s known as the Metro Transit Technician Training program.

Twin Cities R!SE provided employment readiness training and Hennepin Tech created a first-of-its-kind associate degrees in light rail train technology. Courses focused on automation robotics, electronics and fluid power.

While in school, participants worked as full-time interns at Metro Transit, learning from mentors and earning $20 an hour. Metro Transit also helped pay for their first year of tuition, books and supplies.

“If the program had never started, I’d still be in school wondering what I was going to do,” said Yang, who previously worked at a tire shop.

Vang also used to work in a tire shop doing less skilled work. Now, he’s looking forward to having a steady income and benefits like health care and a retirement savings account.

“You’re getting higher pay. You’re not stressed about being able to pay the bills or being able to buy food,’’ Vang said.

Templer, who previously worked as a cook and bicycle mechanic, said he’s also gained a sense of pride from learning a new trade.  

“There's a lot of pride to be had when I step back and look at how far I’ve come,” he said. “I’ll use a crane to lift a 700-pound motor truck, move it across the shop, set it down, release the brakes, roll it off, set it up onto the stands and start removing the brake calipers.”

The other three graduates are: Calvin Hill, Tenzin Kunga and Thao Xiong.

The nationally recognized Metro Transit Technician Training program began in 2015 with a focus on Bus Maintenance.

Several participants have gone on to become full-time mechanic technicians at Metro Transit; others are still pursuing their degrees and serving as full-time interns.

Fox 9: First class graduates from specialized program filling need for light rail technicians

CCX: Hennepin Tech graduates first light rail technicians

Finance & Commerce: Training ramps up for light rail technicians

Sun Post: Hennepin Tech offers first light rail technician degree

Light Rail METRO Blue Line Minneapolis Transit Police

Partners share Metro Transit Police Department's Officer of the Year honors  

Posted by Laura Baenen | Tuesday, July 02, 2019 4:14:00 PM

MTPD Officers of the Year Michael Affeldt (left) and Joe Carchedi

As partners, police officers Michael Affeldt and Joseph Carchedi spend so much time together their peers refer to them jointly as “Affeldt and Carchedi.”

And now they share something in addition to a name and a beat. Affeldt and Carchedi were recognized as Metro Transit’s officers of the year at the department’s annual awards ceremony, held on Friday, June 28.

The officers were celebrated for proactively policing some of the transit system’s busiest areas, including the METRO Blue Line’s Lake Street and Franklin Avenue stations and the Brooklyn Center Transit Center.  

Sgt. Bret Fraser, who recommended them for the award, said the officers have shown “compassion, understanding and reasonability of true beat officers.”

The officers were also credited with using video surveillance to disrupt crimes in progress, leading effective narcotics investigations and participating in a youth baseball program, Badges and Baseball.

Affeldt joined the department in 2014, serving initially as a Community Service Officer. Carchedi joined the department in 2015.

Several other officers were recognized at the awards ceremony, including:  

  • Officer Chad W. Loeffler, who received the department’s Tim Bowe Award. The award is presented annually to an officer who works part time for Metro Transit. Loeffler is a K9 officer for the Lakeville Police Department and has worked part-time for Metro Transit since 2002.
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  • Lt. Mike Johnson, who was named the Supervisor of the Year. Johnson helped Metro Transit prepare for the 2018 Super Bowl and the 2019 NCAA Men’s Final Four.
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  • Officer Chris Miles, who received a Medal of Merit for successfully getting a distraught man to drop a knife, and a Certificate of Appreciation for identifying a suspect accused of causing tens of thousands of dollars in property damage with graffiti.
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  • Officer Cleven Duncan, who received a Certificate of Appreciation for recording a message from a jailed suspect to his mother, who was approaching death at the hospital.
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  • Officer Andrew Carlson, who received a Certificate of Appreciation for helping a homeless man locate a low-cost apartment.
Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Northstar

Employees recall opening days of Metro Transit’s rail lines 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, June 20, 2019 11:14:00 AM

To hear John MacQueen tell it, the METRO Blue Line’s June 26, 2004, opening was hardly a sure success.

“One of the strangest things was nothing worked well, except the day before we opened,” said MacQueen, the Blue Line’s first rail transit supervisor. “Until 3 o’clock the day before we opened, we could not get the fleet over the railroad without something going wrong. Then for 30 days after opening, we had no service interruptions because of equipment or systems failures of any kind. Things for some unknown reason clicked.”

Now Metro Transit’s rail systems safety manager, MacQueen is among several Metro Transit employees who helped open the METRO Blue Line 15 years ago, the Northstar Commuter Rail Line 10 years ago and the METRO Green Line five years ago.

Rail Transportation Manager Mike McNamara was among the Blue Line’s first train operators. Switching from one cab to the other, he remembers, routinely drew the attention of curious and eager onlookers.

“Of course, the kids were right up front. They wanted to sit in the seat and sound the horn and the bell, and parents would take a picture,’’ McNamara said. “That continued for the first few weeks.”

Northstar’s opening day, Nov. 16, 2009, was another attention-grabber. But the enthusiasm from fans who took the train to the opening of Target Field the following spring was even more surprising.   

“The trains that came into Target Field Station looked like something out of India. The aisles were packed,” MacQueen said.

The thrill of her first day on the job hasn’t faded for Program Technical Specialist Jody Salen, who started working at Northstar’s Operations & Maintenance Facility in Big Lake eight months before service began.

“It is impressive when you see (the train cars and locomotives) inside a building up close like that,” Salen said. “They were bright and shiny and new. Ten years later, that memory returns whenever I offer to give a tour of the facility. The expression on people’s faces when they see the locomotive sitting inside the shop is as familiar to me as it was that first day so many years ago.”

By the time the Green Line opened in June 2014, employees and the public were becoming used to urban passenger rail. 

Shoeb Behlim was an assistant manager in the Rail Control Center on the Green Line’s opening day and gave the order for the first train to depart Union Depot Station.

“We had some rain, a vehicle got stuck on our right of way east of Robert Street Station, but our staff was able to deal with it and continue service,” Behlim said. “It was all in a day’s work for us.’’

The excitement that was felt on each rail line’s opening day has continued in the years since, too.

Collectively, more than 216 million rides have been taken on Metro Transit’s rail lines since they’ve opened. The Green and Blue lines each set annual ridership records in 2018.

Now, construction is underway on the rail network’s next chapter – the 14.5-mile METRO Green Line Extension between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie. Service is scheduled to begin in 2023, giving commuters frequent and reliable service to some of the region’s largest job centers.

“The Green Line Extension ’s reverse commuting potential is often overlooked,” said Robin Caufman, the Green Line Extension’s director of administration. “Extending the Green Line to Eden Prairie will make commutes easier for people going to major employment centers like Methodist Hospital, Opus Business Park, Golden Triangle and UnitedHealth Group.”

Metro Transit’s rail network by the numbers

  • 216 million combined rides on light rail and commuter rail since the Blue Line’s opening
  • 408,000 trips on the Green Line since opening
  • 32% of Metro Transit’s total annual ridership on rail lines (2018)
  • 62 miles of combined railway
  • 91 light rail vehicles
  • 6 commuter rail cars
  • 18 locomotives

Learn more about the METRO Green Line Extension

Construction is underway on the METRO Green Line Extension, the largest public infrastructure project in state history. To explore the route and learn more about current and future construction activities visit metrocouncil.orgv.

METRO Blue Line Public Art

Big commitment brings ‘Small Kindnesses’ back to life 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, June 11, 2019 2:29:00 PM

Public Art Administrator Mark Granlund and Max Hoaglund, an independent technologist, finish repairs to a box holding a video player at the METRO Blue Line’s 46th Street Station.

Joe Scala firmly believes art supports individuals’ well-being. He also believes it should work properly.

Those dual beliefs have been in evidence for the past 15 years as Scala has voluntarily and dutifully looked after nearly two-dozen audio and video boxes at seven light rail stations along the METRO Blue Line.

Recording his observations in weekly spreadsheets, he’s reported frayed cords, stiff springs, faulty screens and hundreds of other repair needs for the public art installations, collectively known as “Small Kindnesses, Weather Permitting.”

“It’s been a little bit of an adventure and a learning experience for a lot of people,” Scala said before setting out on another recent scouting trip.

A nearly completed overhaul of the custom-designed and built boxes won’t stop Scala from making his near-weekly rounds. It should, however, make his laundry list a little shorter than usual.

Repairs to the boxes have been ongoing almost since the start. But over the past year, old technology has been swapped out, standardized and updated, making the system more durable and easier to maintain.

“After 15 years, things were becoming obsolete and the whole system really needed to be redone,” Metro Transit’s Public Art Administrator Mark Granlund said.

On a recent afternoon, Granlund and Max Hoaglund, an independent technologist helping with the updates, removed the glass cover of a box at the 46th Street Station, revealing a tangle of wiring connected to a small circuit board.

Behind a miniature red velvet curtain rested a video player that rotates through more than 80 short videos. At other locations, video or audio is triggered by pulling a lever, spinning a wheel or ringing a bell.

The custom nature of each box is what’s made maintaining the collection so tricky. But there are plenty of supporters who appreciate the efforts to keep them going after all these years.

Among the most excited is Brooklyn, N.Y.-based artist Janet Zweig, who was commissioned to create the interactive art project ahead of the Blue Line’s 2004 opening.

Zweig collaborated with others on the engineering, installation and maintenance, and helped solicit and curate content. She received hundreds of VHS tapes and CDs from local poets, songwriters, storytellers and others based on the themes of courtesy and weather – two Minnesota clichés.

“I’m really thrilled that there’s so much follow through on this,” she said.

Beyond the recent repairs, Zweig said she was especially grateful to Scala for his years of diligence, calling him a “superhero of public art.”

While Scala’s fully embraced the role, it came to him unexpectedly.

While overseeing an installation, Zweig worried aloud how maintenance needs would be documented. Scala overheard the conversation and volunteered to check on them.

He’s sent detailed reports to Metro Transit staff every week for the past 15 years.

Scala said his work has been motivated not just by a belief in the power of art, but by his friendship with Zweig. He’s also pretty fond of the stories the boxes bring to the community.

Because he’s seen every submission, he usually doesn’t stick around until the end. But he’ll wait for the next train if one of his two favorite music videos come up (one features a humorous song called “Commuters,” and the other is of two people fishing on a lake). Another, by the late Native storyteller Jim Northrup, also stirs memories.

“They’re serious, they’re humorous and, collectively, they’re a really great inventory,” Scala said. “I feel really good about the commitment to get them refurbished.”

Metro Transit plans to solicit new audio and video submissions to be added to the "Small Kindnesses, Weather Permitting" collection later this year. Watch for more details soon. Listen to existing audio clips here.

Attend an upcoming public art tour

Learn more about Metro Transit’s collection of public art by attending an upcoming guided tour. A tour of the Blue Line will run from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, June 15. The two-hour tour will begin at the 28th Avenue Station. RSVP to the tour and find dates and times of future tours at metrotransit.org.

Above: Public Art Administrator Mark Granlund and Max Hoaglund, an independent technologist, finish repairs to a box holding a video player at the METRO Blue Line’s 46th Street Station.

Awards Bus Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Minneapolis Safety

Sarah Gibson claims Rail Rodeo crown with calm demeanor 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Tuesday, April 23, 2019 1:42:00 PM

Rail Supervisor Connie Skinner (top left) scores Train Operator Sarah Gibson during Metro Transit's 2019 Rail Rodeo. Train Operators Joe Bretto (top right) and Mose Mahir (bottom right) perform pre-trip inspections during the contest.

Train Operator Sarah Gibson’s laid-back approach won her Metro Transit’s Rail Rodeo crown last Saturday.

“I really didn’t do much to prepare. This is what I’ve been doing for five years now so operating a train is almost second nature, and I’ve always been pretty good at written tests,” said Gibson, who has worked for Metro Transit for seven years, the first two as a bus operator.

Gibson will represent Metro Transit at the American Public Transportation Association’s International Rail Rodeo in Toronto in June. She also was named the Green Line’s Garage Champion, a new award this year, and won a jacket.

Joining her in Toronto will be fellow Train Operator Joe Bretto, who placed third. Train Operator Paul Gillespie placed second but is unable to attend.

During the skills competition, operators were judged on the thoroughness of a pre-trip inspection and their operation of a light rail vehicle in the rail yard and on the Blue Line. They also took a written exam on light rail rules and had to pass a uniform inspection.

This wasn’t Gibson’s first Rail Rodeo. In 2017, the only other time she’s competed, she finished third. She was also a finalist in the 2013 Bus Roadeo.

Gibson is taking the same relaxed approach to the international competition that she took to the local one.

“I enjoy my job and do it the best I can every day, so I suppose I’ll just keep doing that,” Gibson said.

Gibson’s family will join her in Toronto to cheer her on. They also hope to catch a Toronto Blue Jays game since the team will be at home during the competition dates.

Meanwhile, Metro Transit’s reigning Bus Roadeo champion, Heywood Operator Jack Berner, will compete in APTA’s International Bus Roadeo in May. This is expected to be Berner’s final Roadeo before retirement. He has won Metro Transit’s Bus Roadeo seven of the past 12 years.

Metro Transit’s annual Bus Roadeo will be held in St. Paul on Saturday, Sept. 14, Tuesday, Sept. 17, Wednesday, Sept. 18 and Thursday, Sept. 19.

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