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Posts in Category: METRO Blue Line

Good Question Light Rail METRO Blue Line

Good Question: Why doesn't the METRO Blue Line have NexTrip? 

| Friday, August 23, 2013 2:00:00 PM

This week’s Good Question comes from William Lindeke (@BillLendeke), who asked: Why don't we have NexTrip technology on the METRO Blue Line?

Adding NexTrip to light rail on the METRO Blue Line has been a lower priority than adding it to buses. This is because light-rail trains operate most hours of the day – typically every 10 minutes – and are very rarely delayed due to weather or traffic congestion (on-time performance is 95 percent).

However, NexTrip will be added to the Blue Line next year as technology upgrades are implemented for the METRO Green Line. When installed, the system will display real-time departure times on existing digital signs at every station platform on the Blue and Green lines.

NexTrip information is also accessible by calling 612-373-3333 and at metrotransit.org. Third-party developers who use the GPS-based data from buses and Northstar trains to build their own mobile apps can incorporate real-time departure information into their software as well.

NexTrip technology was introduced to Metro Transit customers in 2008 and has been available for all Metro Transit buses and most regional buses since 2009; Northstar was added to the system in 2012. The system uses GPS technology on vehicles to track their location and predict departure times.

NexTrip displays are currently installed on Marq2, regional Park & Ride lots, select transit centers and the Union Depot in St. Paul. Future plans call for the use of NexTrip displays on Arterial Bus Rapid Transit corridors, including Snelling Avenue.

> About NexTrip

> Apps put transit in the palm of your hand

Have a “Good Question” that you want answered? Email it to goodquestion@metrotransit.org.

METRO Blue Line Minneapolis On the METRO

Finding a home on the METRO Blue Line 

| Tuesday, August 20, 2013 11:45:00 AM

Rebecca Spartz wants to do her part for the environment and feel engaged in her community. So instead of driving to work alone, she likes to ride her bike, hop on the bus or take the METRO Blue Line to get to the office.

Those alternatives are now easier than ever. In July, the company she works for, Touchstone Mental Health, moved into a new location on the METRO Blue Line. The building is less than two blocks south of the Franklin Avenue Station along the Hiawatha LRT Trail.                                        

“I was psyched about moving here,” Spartz said during a recent visit to the office. “Compared to a year ago, when I really wasn’t doing this at all, this feels awesome.”                               

Spartz’s experience is precisely what Touchstone leaders were looking for when they chose to partner with local developers Project for Pride in Living (PPL) and Seward Redesign to locate on the METRO Blue Line. PPL owns and manages the building.

After using space in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Touchstone moved to its 2312 Snelling Ave. site in June. In the new location, many of its more than 60 employees are riding the bus, taking the train or using Northstar Commuter Rail to get to work.

The stress-free commuting options make perfect sense for an organization committed to mental health and wellness (services provided at the building include healing touch, massage therapy, acupuncture and other treatments as part of a holistic, integrative approach to wellness).

“The idea of staff wellness is hugely important,” said Jessica Ryan, Touchstone’s development director. “When we looked at locations, it [transit] was definitely taken into consideration.”

But the location doesn’t just benefit employees.

Attached to Touchstone’s new Community Health and Wellness Center is a 40-unit supportive-housing building. The Rising Cedar Apartments – already more than half full – are occupied by residents living with mental illnesses.               

Touchstone counselor Rachael Sarto said the proximity to the Blue Line will be critical for residents looking to achieve life goals and increase independence. Nearly two-thirds of those living at Rising Cedar Apartments do not own a vehicle, she said.

Sarto said the proximity to the Blue Line will provide residents with convenient and affordable access to downtown Minneapolis, where they can visit case managers or simply enjoy the city, and serve as a critical connection to jobs, school and shopping.

“If you can imagine someone living on a limited budget, this [transit access] really allows them to use those funds for other things that are important to their lives,” she said.

In the future, Touchstone’s Community Health and Wellness Center will host more community events and provide services to a growing number of clients, bringing even more people to their doors via transit.

Touchstone’s building is also part of a larger transit-oriented development plan undertaken by Minneapolis-based Seward Redesign and called Seward Commons. Plans call for a mix of housing, retail and office space across the 4-acre site with strong transit, bike and pedestrian connections.

Brian Miller, Seward Redesign’s executive director, said the next project will be a 60-unit senior housing development where residents are expected to live largely car-free. St. Paul-based CommonBond Communities is partnering with Seward Redesign on the development, expected to be under construction this fall and open within a year.

The Metropolitan Council contributed a $1.1 million grant to assist with the reconstruction of streets around the Seward Commons redevelopment and awarded a $150,000 grant to aid the new senior housing project.

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Safety

Close call on METRO Blue Line provides safety reminder 

| Friday, August 16, 2013 9:24:00 AM

Rusdon Torbenson considers himself extremely lucky. 

On June 15, Torbenson was biking westbound on East 35th Street. After crossing Hiawatha Avenue, he biked around the lowered, flashing gate arms. Though he saw a METRO Blue Line train traveling south, he thought he could cross the tracks before it passed through the intersection.

Headphones in and looking to his right, Torbenson failed to notice the second 150-ton train coming from the opposite direction at about 40 miles per hour.

That is, until it hit his front tire.

“I had no awareness of the northbound train until it was striking me,” Torbenson said recently. “If it had passed another second later I would have been killed.”

Instead, Torbenson walked away from the scene 30 minutes later with little more than a bruised pointer finger, a bent-up bike and a moving violation. Customers were escorted from the train to replacement buses as police and emergency responders arrived at the scene.  

“I wanted to apologize to every one of them,” Torbenson said, recalling the incident in an interview at the Blue Line’s 38th Street Station.

Though he avoided significant injury, Torbenson’s story underscores a message Metro Transit hopes will stick with all residents who come near light rail: trains can come on any track, at any time, from either direction. (Though this wasn't true in Torbenson's case, it's also important to realize trains may be approaching on the opposite track but blocked from view by the near-side train.)

Torbenson said he knows he should have been more careful and agreed to talk about his experience so that others would not repeat it. He said he hadn't been in a particular hurry. And despite crossing the tracks countless times over the last several years, he’d never attempted to beat the train before.

With METRO Green Line light-rail service beginning between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul in mid-2014, Torbenson's experience is a timely reason for a refresher on safety around light-rail trains for pedestrians, motorists and bicyclists.

> Never try to beat a train through a crossing – it takes the length of two football fields for a train to stop.

> Safety only takes a second – light-rail trains move faster than freight trains. If gate arms are going down, stop. The train will clear the intersection in a few seconds.

> Slow down and be alert near rail stations. Watch for pedestrians, trains, buses and cars. If you're wearing headphones, put them away to avoid distractions.

Looking back at the experience, Torbenson said the close call has left him more aware, but also more introspective. In the days after the collision, he thought about how his parents and 11-year-old son would have been affected had things gone differently.

“The first few hours I was really just embarrassed,” he said. “Then over the next few days it was pretty overwhelming, realizing it was such a near-death experience.”

 

 

Community Light Rail METRO Blue Line Minneapolis

Garden partnership blooming on METRO Blue Line 

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013 9:07:00 AM

Three years ago, volunteers planted nearly 1,800 flowers, vines and trees on an small corner lot west of the METRO Blue Line’s 50th Street/Minnehaha Park Station. The effort is paying off.

At the peak of its second full growing season, the collection of Giant Hyssops, Wild Geraniums and Purple Prairie flowers that help make up what’s now known as the Nokomis East Gateway Gardens is in full bloom.

For those behind the garden, the space has also become a meeting ground for neighbors and a point of pride that delivers a fitting welcome to the Nokomis East neighborhood.

“I walk by here every day and have a great sense of pride in the neighborhood,” said Sally Einhaus, a 17-year neighborhood resident who has worked on the garden since its inception.

Einhaus was among a group of five volunteers at the garden on a recent Saturday morning pulling weeds and enjoying the company of neighbors.

Less visible than the oranges, yellows and purples that fill the space is the partnership the garden represents.

Metro Transit purchased the small corner property northwest of the Hiawatha Avenue and East 50th Street intersection as part of the METRO Blue Line construction effort. The land was needed to build an electrical substation that provides electricity for trains.

Preparing to demolish a 1920s-era dry cleaning business that sat on the site in 2009, Metro Transit approached the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association to discuss how the land could be reused.

Neighbors viewed the site as important because it serves as an entry to the Nokomis East neighborhood and quickly landed on the idea of a garden because of its proximity to the Nokomis Naturescape Gardens, known nationally for its collection of monarch butterflies.

“Nobody wanted to see a chain link fence with weeds behind it when they turned into the neighborhood,” said Trish Schilling, one of the garden’s most active leaders. “This really is a gateway to our community.”

Local design firm colberg | tews Landscape Architecture provided complimentary designs for the site. From above, the paths form an outline of a butterfly wing.

Metro Transit agreed to install a fence around the substation, grade the site, install a water line and helped acquire the plants, trees, compost and mulch needed to get the garden off the ground.

Planting occurred over two days in October 2010 and neighborhood volunteers have maintained the site ever since. The garden has attracted several butterflies and been enhanced with the addition of pavers, birdhouses and other decorations.

Schilling said the effort has been sustained “in the spirit of community service” and that the garden has taken on a “look, feel and personality” as it has evolved.

The garden has also helped build connections between the community and Metro Transit.

“Just from a relationship-building standpoint it’s been really valuable,” said Julie Quinn, a planner in Metro Transit’s engineering and facilities department who helped organize the garden project.

> Metro Transit's Adopt-a-Shelter program

A Line BRT Bus Bus Rapid Transit METRO Blue Line Minneapolis Route of the Week St. Paul

Route 84: Schools and shopping on Snelling Avenue 

| Friday, July 12, 2013 1:42:00 PM

Dellia Ihinger’s commute from Minneapolis to the Avalon School near University Avenue in St. Paul typically involves boarding a Route 16 or Route 50 bus. Next year, as she embarks on her senior year of high school, Ihinger hopes to add another leg to her trip, using Route 84 to reach Hamline University where she can take classes and earn early college credit.

Ihinger was recently aboard a Route 84 bus on her way to an interview at Hamline, among a handful of schools that line Snelling Avenue – the main thoroughfare on the north-south route.

“I’ve ridden the bus since I was little and now I’ll just take it a little further,” said Ihinger, who recently obtained a driver’s permit but doesn’t want to deal with parking or the expenses of a car.

Ihinger is part of a growing Route 84 customer base that is driving transit enhancements and planning along the corridor, which extends nearly 10 miles from the METRO Blue Line’s 46th Street Station to the Rosedale Transit Center in Roseville largely along Ford Parkway and Snelling Avenue. The 84D also runs south on St. Paul Avenue to West 7th Street.

To better connect with the METRO Green Line, opening in mid-2014, Route 84 trips will run every 10 minutes, all day long. Buses now run every 15 minutes. The schedule will also be adjusted so customers can board the Green Line at University and Snelling avenues with short wait times.

Planning is also underway to build the region’s first Arterial Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line on the Route 84 corridor.  

BRT plans call for light-rail-like features such as enhanced station areas, real-time transit information, pre-paid fare technology and vehicles with rear boarding areas. Buses would continue to run every ten minutes but end-to-end trips would take 27 percent less time as buses benefit from traffic advantages and speedier boardings. Route 84 buses would run every half hour and make more stops, providing customers local service.  

In 2012, Route 84 drew 1.3 million customers, with an average of nearly 4,000 daily weekday boardings. With BRT features, planners expect there could be an average of 8,700 daily customers in 2030.

The coming improvements would serve as just the latest evolution for transit on Snelling Avenue.

A streetcar line operated on the corridor between 1905 and 1952, providing all-day service every 10 minutes during peak periods. At its longest, the streetcar traveled from Highland Parkway to Hamline and Hoyt avenues, with extra service to the nearby Minnesota State Fairgrounds during the fair.

In the early 1970s, the route was extended to Roseville’s Rosedale Center. In 2001, it was straightened north of Como Avenue to follow Snelling Avenue directly to Rosedale, where a transit center has been built in the northeast corner of the mall, near the entrance to the AMC Rosedale 14.

Route 84 served Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport until the METRO Blue Line opened in 2004. Customers traveling to those destinations now transfer to the Blue Line at the 46th Street Station, a bustling, multi-modal transit hub adjacent to a new mixed-use residential and commercial development: Oaks Station Place.

Route 84 has several landmarks of its own, though. The corridor passes Minnehaha Park and provides service to a number of schools, including Highland Park High School, Macalester College and Hamline University. The University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus and St. Catherine's University are a short distance to the west of Snelling Avenue.  

Several shopping destinations also line the route, including Har Mar Mall, Midway Shopping Center, Grand Avenue, Sibley Plaza and Highland Park.

Greg Stout, a 15-year Route 84 customer, lives in downtown St. Paul but said he frequently uses Route 84 to shop and get his hair cut in Highland Park. Stout said he enjoys Highland Park’s comparative calmness and the scenery he passes while on the bus.

John Dillery, a senior planner at Metro Transit, said the evolution of transit on Snelling Avenue reflects a strong and growing rider base that will continue to expand with the opening of the Green Line and the coming BRT improvements.

“It’s a really positive story of growth, taking the bus and sending it where people want to go, and doing it well,” he said.

Route 84 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

Service: Route 84 is part of Metro Transit's Hi-Frequency Network, with service at least every 15 minutes during peak periods. Buses travel between Rosedale Transit Center at Rosedale Center in Roseville and the METRO Blue Line’s 46th Street Station in Minneapolis. The route travels largely along Snelling Avenue, passing the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus, Minnesota State Fairgrounds, Hamline University, University Avenue, where a new METRO Green Line station will open in 2014, and Macalester College. On the south end, Route 84 travels east-west, crossing the Mississippi River on Ford Parkway. A second branch goes south via St. Paul Avenue to West 7th Street at Sibley Plaza.

Route length: 10 miles

Stops: 83 northbound, 79 southbound

Vehicles: 40-foot standard buses

Ridership: Nearly 1.3 million customers boarded Route 84 buses in 2012, with nearly 4,000 weekday boardings. By 2030, estimates project around 8,700 daily customers on the corridor.

History: A streetcar operated on Snelling Avenue between 1905 and 1952, when it was replaced with bus service. Buses began traveling to Roseville with the opening of Rosedale Center in the early 1970s. Buses ran as far south as the Mall of America until the METRO Blue Line opened in 2004; MOA-bound customers now transfer to the Blue Line at the 46th Street Station.

Future: Snelling Avenue has been identified as a top Arterial Bus Rapid Transit Corridor, where enhanced station areas, new vehicles and expanded service would combine to speed travel times and improve the customer experience.

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