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In the News METRO Blue Line

Northern Spark brings virtual reality experience to Green Line 

Posted by jennasbennett | Friday, June 09, 2017 2:24:00 PM

With events spread throughout the Green Line corridor, light rail will play a major role in this year’s Northern Sparks arts festival.

That’s especially true for CHAOS ON THE GREEN LINE, one of 70 public art pieces that will be featured during the all-night festival that begins on Saturday, June 10, and continues through sunrise the following morning. 

CHAOS ON THE GREEN LINE invites participants to don a virtual reality cardboard viewer while riding between Snelling Avenue and Lexington Parkway. It is believed to be the world’s first virtual reality experience using public transit.

“As the train rolls by, the world as you know it will fall away from view and be replaced by a whole new world we’ve created – one affected by climate change,” said Todd Boss, executive and artistic director at Motionpoems.

Boss created the experience with help from dozens of animators and creatives from local agencies like Pixel Farm, Manufacture, Egg Creative and Fallon Worldwide.

The GPS-activated visuals reflect Northern Spark’s “Climate Chaos, People Rising” theme, which encourages people to a radically climate-altered world and actions they can take to reduce their environmental impact. 

Boss said the experience is more poetic than blunt, but that he hopes the impact will still be plenty powerful. “I don’t know that it will change people’s minds but I do think it will touch them and stir a lot of emotions and thoughts the way good art should,” he said.

Story circles, group weaving, a film festival and a night market in the Little Mekong cultural district are among the many other planned activities. Activities will be focused around several Green Line station areas, including the U.S. Bank Stadium, West Bank, East Bank, Snelling Avenue, Lexington Parkway, Western Avenue and Union Depot stations.

A light rail train that was wrapped in custom-designed artwork promoting the event will also be in service throughout the evening.

Eventgoers can ride free on all buses and trains during the event using a downloadable pass available on the event website. Green Line trains will run at least every 30 minutes throughout the evening. 

To learn more about Northern Spark or download a free ride pass, visit 2017.northernspark.org.

METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Ridership

Monday Night Football helps set new single-day light rail ridership record 

| Thursday, October 13, 2016 2:40:00 PM

Fans exit Metro Transit's light rail at U.S. Bank Stadium Station in Minneapolis.A dose of Monday Night Football helped set a new single-day light rail ridership record on Monday, Oct. 3.

There were a combined 122,529 rides on the METRO Green and Blue lines on that day, surpassing the previous single-day light-rail ridership record of 117,063 rides set on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016.

The Oct. 3 total includes 66,018 Green Line rides – also a single-day record – and another 56,511 Blue Line rides.

Ridership got a boost on Sept. 1 from fans traveling to Twins, Vikings, Gophers and Saints games. On Oct. 3, the Vikings played the New York Giants at the new U.S. Bank Stadium.

Around a quarter of Vikings fans are taking light rail to games this season.

The Green Line is finding success outside of special events, too.

Average weekday ridership in September was 46,109, the highest monthly average since the Green Line opened in June 2014. The average weekday projection for 2030 was 41,000 rides on the Green Line. 

There were just over 1.2 million Green Line rides in September, the third highest monthly total since service began (there were 1.3 million rides in October 2015 and 1.25 million rides in September 2015).

There have been 9.4 million Green Line rides through the end of September, up almost 5 percent compared to the same time last year. 

Learn more about service to U.S. Bank Stadium at metrotransit.org/vikings.

METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Minneapolis

Work underway on new Nicollet Mall Station platform 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, October 05, 2016 2:30:00 PM

Efforts to complete a new platform at Nicollet Mall Station began this week.

Located immediately east of the northbound track, the platform was partially constructed in 2013 as work was underway on an adjacent 26-story apartment building, Nic on Fifth. The platform canopy was incorporated into the new development.

Crews with Morcon Construction are now installing windscreens and other furnishings that will allow the platform to be opened to the public. Go To Card readers and a ticket-vending machine will also be installed before the platform opens in March 2017. 

The additional platform is being built to provide a safer and more comfortable waiting area for customers at Nicollet Mall Station, the system’s second-busiest light-rail station. Through August, there have been nearly 4,400 average weekday boardings at the station.

Once the platform opens, doors on Blue and Green line trains traveling northbound toward Target Field will open on both sides of the train, allowing customers to enter or exit from either side.

This will be the first and only light rail station where customers can board or exit from both sides of the train.

A Line BRT Bus Community METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Minneapolis St. Paul State Fair

A Line opening sparks curiosity, enthusiasm 

| Tuesday, June 14, 2016 8:38:00 AM

Customers board the A Line at Snelling and University avenues on Saturday, June 11.Car free for the last five years, Michelle Quaranto relies on transit to travel between her home near the Green Line’s Raymond Avenue Station and her job in Eagan.  

So when the A Line opened on Saturday, she was eager to see how her commute would change once she was able to begin using the region’s first rapid bus service.

In the past, Quaranto took Route 84 between the Green Line’s Snelling Avenue Station and the Blue Line’s 46th Street Station. The A Line now offers faster, more frequent service between those two points.

“I really rely on transit to make my life better,” Quaranto said before boarding at Snelling and University avenues shortly after the A Line opened on Saturday, June 11. “Taking light rail to the 84 was usually my quickest option, and now it will be even quicker which is great.”

Several others who ventured out for their inaugural rides on the A Line were similarly excited about its arrival and the impact it would have on their daily travels.           

The first of a dozen planned rapid bus lines, the A Line runs between Rosedale Center and the Blue Line’s 46th Street Station on Snelling Avenue, Ford Parkway and 46th Street. Service runs every ten minutes and trips are up to eight minutes faster than regular route buses.

Trips are sped up through a combination of light-rail like features like off-board fare payments, technology that lets A Line buses request longer green lights at intersections and by locating stations a half-mile apart.

A Line stations also have heat, light, displays with real-time NexTrip transit information and security features more commonly found on light-rail.

“It really is kind of like riding a train,” said North St. Paul resident David Hull as he and his wife Roseanne traveled southbound from Rosedale Center for the first time.

Hull’s family of five shares two vehicles, so he was curious to see if he could relieve some of the demand by taking the A Line and the Blue Line to a new job at the Veteran’s Administration.

Tyler Schow, a downtown Minneapolis resident who frequently rides transit, noticed a difference even before boarding. “My favorite part is that you can see the bus coming from a distance and instead of stopping it just keeps coming,” Schow said.  

Bus operators picking up A Line customers for the first time were also enjoying the ride. “What I like about it is it’s very fluid,” Operator Roosevelt Scott said.           

Others trying out the A Line said it would make them more likely to explore the businesses along the corridor. Rosedale Center, Har Mar Mall, the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, Macalester College, Hamline University, Highland Park and Minnehaha Park are among the destinations served by the A line. The site of a planned major league soccer stadium is also located at University and Snelling avenues. 

“I like to explore different areas and this is a great way to do that,” said Onrai Terrell who ventured to the A Line’s opening from Eagan by taking the METRO Red Line, a Bus Rapid Transit service on Cedar Avenue, and the Blue Line.

Ted Davis, of the Midway Chamber of Commerce, touched on the importance of transit in attracting new businesses, workers and residents as he joined others celebrating the A Line’s opening . “This is how we compete on a global scale, by creating the kinds of places people want to come to,” he said.

Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said a network of rapid bus lines would extend the benefits across the region. A planned network of 12 rapid bus lines on busy urban corridors could ultimately account for a third of Metro Transit’s average weekday ridership.

Construction on the next rapid bus line, the C Line on Penn Avenue, is scheduled to begin in 2018

“If you can’t figure out how to move people and not just vehicles, we’re not going to achieve what we want to achieve in this region,” Lamb said. 


Metro Transit A Line Opening Day

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Safety

Wig-Wag lights heighten LRT visibility 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, April 25, 2016 2:17:00 PM

Sitting on shop carts in a basement workshop at the Hiawatha Operations and Maintenance Facility are dozens of metal and plastic modules, each outfitted with a set of relays, sequencing devices and a tight bundle of red, blue, white and yellow wires. 

They represent a lot of work — and a lot more to come.

That’s because the forearm-sized modules are the custom-crafted, hand-made electronics behind the newest safety feature on Metro Transit’s light-rail vehicles: wig-wag headlights. Common on freight trains, wig-wag headlights alternately flash to help those outside the train detect motion and take notice of the approaching vehicle. 

Although not a requirement on light-rail, they are being installed across the fleet as yet another way to alert pedestrians, cyclists and motorists of an oncoming train.

The wig-wag headlights will automatically go on anytime a light-rail operator activates a train’s warning bells and horns. The audible warnings are activated whenever a train pulls into or out of a station, or crosses a street or pedestrian crossing on the METRO Blue and Green lines.

“The operator is going to continue doing what they’ve always done, but this is going to give that higher degree of visibility to everybody outside the train,” said Brian Funk, who served as Director of Light Rail before recently moving to Bus Transportation. 

With 86 light-rail vehicles, and headlights on each end, electronic technicians have been tasked with building hundreds of modules and harnesses — the wiring that ties them into the power supply.

The modules were designed and assembled by Electronic Repair Technicians Scott McDowell and Bruce Von Drashek — meticulous work that took several months. “These little fingers have been going for quite a while,” Von Drashek said. 

Building the hardware is just step one. Because the wig-wag lights are a modification from the original design, Electro Mechanic-Technicians Doug Robinson and Brooks Letourneau were tasked with coming up with a way to fit them into both the newer Siemens and older Bombardier trains.

“Our role was to modify the assembly to accept the new lights, concentrating on universality and making sure we used as few parts as we needed,” Robinson said. “Making it as efficient as possible was a lot of fun.”

Wig-wag headlights have been installed on two trains and the entire fleet will eventually be outfitted.

In addition to providing greater visibility, the project will improve reliability. LED lights last up to seven years, compared to about a year for the existing headlights. Using LEDs also eliminates the need for a DC to DC converter, which can fail and cause trains to be pulled from service.

Express Bus METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Metropass Minneapolis Northstar On the METRO

New transit-friendly HQ a perfect ‘Match’ 

| Monday, December 14, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Be the Match employee Mike Smith spends his time on the bus catching up on emails and listening to the radio.When Be the Match relocated to its new North Loop headquarters, Michael Smith thought he'd continue driving to work.

But weeks after the relocation, he gave up on the idea of driving and using one of the few underground parking spaces available to a small portion of the donor network’s 900-plus employees. 

The decision to go “all in” on transit came after Smith compared his options and became convinced commuting between Minneapolis and Lakeville on Route 467 would be considerably more relaxing than battling traffic on Interstate 35W, his routine for the last several years.

On the bus, Smith spends his time catching up on emails and listening to the radio, occasionally using free WiFi now available on some buses.

“It’s changed my life to be honest with you,” said Smith, Be the Match’s Director of Donor Shared Services. “My wife has even noticed. It’s not that shock and awe feeling where you need a half hour to decompress because the drive is so crazy.  It’s amazing what this is going to do to my family as well as my work.”

Smith isn’t the only Be the Match employee to embrace transit since the non-profit moved from Northeast Minneapolis to a site immediately adjacent Target Field Station. After working in a location with relatively limited transit options, staff now find the METRO Blue and Green lines, Northstar and dozens of express and local bus routes at their doorstep.

Chief Financial Officer Amy Ronneberg said Be the Match looked at 70 different locations but was sold on the North Loop in large part because of its transit access. Like many companies moving to the downtown core, Be the Match sees transit as a key to retaining and recruiting top talent, particularly when it comes to Millenials who are increasingly averse to driving.

“As we looked out into the future, we knew it was important to be in a place with vibrancy,” Ronneberg said. “Being here with all of the amenities and transportation options, I think we’ve opened ourselves up to a whole new potential workforce.”

With thousands of people passing by each day – especially during the Twins season – Be the Match also saw a chance to increase its visibility and raise awareness of its mission. Operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, Be the Match manages the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world. 

To ease the transition for current staff, Metro Transit worked closely with Be the Match to help employees understand the options available to them. Be the Match also joined the Metropass program, which gives employees the opportunity to buy a low-cost transit pass that provides unlimited access to buses and trains.

Staff have also been given the freedom to work remotely and are encouraged to carpool, bike or walk to work.

Among those who have converted from a drive-alone commute to transit is Human Resources Coordinator Diane Dombeck, of Spring Lake Park. Before the move, she had taken Northstar just once to a Minnesota Twins game. Now, she takes the train daily to and from Fridley Station.

“I wasn’t sure how it would work, because it was a new thing to me,” she said. “But it’s really painless and a lot more fun than I thought it would be because you chat with other train riders and get to know people. I actually love taking it now.”

Dombeck was reminded of how different life will be when winter weather hit a few weeks ago and she had to drive to Be the Match’s former location. With traffic, the usual 25-minute commute turned into almost 90 minutes on the road.

“I really missed the train that day,” she said.

Metropass popularity growing

Be the Match is among several employers to join the Metropass program this year. The Mall of America, Delta and Regions Hospital also joined the program in 2015. Around 280 companies now participate in the Metropass program. Staff at participating companies can purchase the unlimited-ride passes for a flat monthly fee. The passes can be bought pre-tax and the cost is typically offset by an employer contribution. Any company with at least ten participants can join the Metropass program. To learn more, visit metrotransit.org/metropass.

Supporting TOD through grants, assistance

Be the Match’s new headquarters, at 524 5th Street N., were built by Minneapolis-based United Properties (United Properties has since sold the building; Be the Match has a 15-year lease, with the option of renewing). The Metropolitan Council provided a $487,000 brownfield clean-up grant to assist with pre-development at the site, previously home to a printing facility. To learn more about how the Council and Metro Transit are supporting Transit-Oriented Development through grants and technical assistance visit metrotransit.org/tod.

North Loop rising

Be the Match is among several recent developments in the area immediately surrounding Target Field Station. District 600, a new 78-unit apartment building adjacent to the Fulton Brewery, is set to open in February 2016. Construction is also underway on a new 12,000-square-foot brewery, Inbound Brewco., at 70 N. 5th Street. Metro Transit is planning to expand and improve its Heywood Campus north of Target Field. 

Light Rail METRO Blue Line

Keeping light-rail vehicles in shape for the long haul 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, December 04, 2015 1:55:00 PM

Electro Mechanic-Technicians at the Minneapolis Operations and Maintenance Facility recently embarked on a comprehensive overhaul of the so-called trucks that are bolted to the bottom of each vehicle, containing all of the mechanics that move trains down the tracks.After logging more than 700,000 miles, Metro Transit’s first generation of light-rail vehicles is getting some extra attention.

Electro Mechanic-Technicians at the Minneapolis Operations and Maintenance Facility recently embarked on a comprehensive overhaul of the so-called trucks that are bolted to the bottom of each vehicle, containing all of the mechanics that move trains down the tracks.

"It’s a lot like getting a car overhauled after 200,000 miles," Rail Maintenance Supervisor Keith Meisinger said. "Every single part is taken apart and checked, replaced if necessary."

At 12,500 pounds, each truck includes a traction motor, brake pads, calipers, gear boxes and an axle. Each of these parts will be removed and replaced with new or refurbished equipment. The stripped frames will be sandblasted and repainted, and new wiring and suspension components will also be installed.

The fleet overhaul is considered preventative maintenance that doesn’t necessarily indicate that the vehicles have dangerously deteriorated. Swapping out salt-corroded and worn parts is instead intended to help avert in-service breakdowns that can lead to delays.

Year-to-date, light-rail vehicles are traveling an average of nearly 39,500 miles between service calls.

This is the second time the trucks on the Bombardier vehicles have been overhauled. In 2009, specific parts were replaced through a less-intensive maintenance effort.

Taking the trucks apart for the first time, mechanics relied on diagrams to get the work accomplished. That experience will help speed things up this go around, but it will still take up to six weeks to complete work on each truck.

"There was a learning curve the first time around and this one will be too," said Neal Rambeck, one of five Electro Mechanic-Technicians working on the overhaul. "It’s a different process and a little more intense."

With 27 Bombardier passenger cars, and two trucks per car, it will take at least three years to overhaul the entire Bombardier fleet. By that time, work will likely be getting underway on the newer Siemens vehicles that went into service when the METRO Green Line opened in 2014.

The Bombardier trains are expected to stay in service through at  least three additional overhauls, which occur roughly every 350,000 miles. Light-rail trains are expected to be in-service at least 30 years. 

In other words, Rambeck and his peers will have their hands full for the foreseeable future.

"I’m definitely going to be able to retire here," Electro Mechanic-Technicians Clarence Blackmon said.

In addition to the truck overhauls, the exteriors of each Bombardier passenger car are being restored and repainted​. An interior refresh will likely begin in 2016.

"Our goal is to keep these vehicles in the best condition possible so they can continue to stay in service for future generations," said Rick Carey, Director of Light Rail Vehicle Maintenance. "They’re big, long-term investments and we treat them as such."

Electro Mechanic-Technicians working on an overhaul of the Bombardier light-rail vehicles briefly paused for a photo at the Minneapolis Light Rail Operations & Maintenance Facility. They include, from left, Will Fetterly,Daryl Long, Mike Lund, Neal Rambeck and Clarence Blackmon.

    > New paint brings new life to light-rail trains

    > Light-rail vehicles ready for all seasons

 

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