As we prepare to close the books on 2014, I’d like to briefly reflect on all of the incredible progress Metro Transit has made over the last 12 months. It was, in short, an incredible and historic year for our organization, our customers and our region.
With so much great work going on, it is impossible to capture everything that happened this year in a single column. The list that follows contains just a few of the year’s highlights. I hope looking back will inspire you to think about what transit meant to you in 2014 – and what it will continue to mean in the years to come.
METRO Green Line opens to immediate success
It would be impossible to talk about this year without talking first about the METRO Green Line, which opened on time and on budget on June 14. Despite a soggy couple of days, more than 107,000 rides were taken during the Green Line’s opening weekend.
That great introduction was only a hint of what was to come. By year’s end, we expect to provide around 6 million rides on the Green Line, well ahead of where we expected to be just six months into service. Ride the line today and you will see students, seniors, children and every walk of life sharing the ride as they travel to class, work, a Vikings game or to one of the many unique restaurants and shops in our downtown areas and along University Avenue. You’ll also see clear evidence that the Green Line is reshaping the land around it for the better.
The Green Line was decades in the making and there remains significant work to realize the vision that has been set for the Central Corridor. But just six short months since service began, it’s clear this transit project has had a major impact on our community.
Website redesign improves trip planning, mobile experience
A redesigned, mobile-friendly website that provides enhanced trip planning features and an improved interactive map was also introduced in June. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. By the end of the year, we expect to have had nearly 12 million website visits and around 7.5 million online trip plans – both record-setting numbers.
Sustainability efforts continue, win praise
A new Park & Ride in Brooklyn Park came as the latest sign of Metro Transit’s continuing commitment to sustainability. The 1,000-space Park & Ride that opened in August features a geothermal heating & cooling system, electric vehicle charging stations and a solar array that offsets energy use at the site.
Recognizing our ongoing efforts to reduce our environmental impact, the American Public Transportation Association in August placed Metro Transit among a distinguished group of 12 transit agencies to earn Gold Level certification through their Sustainability Commitment program.
Visitors from around the country experience transit network
In July, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game drew thousands of visitors to the Twin Cities, many of whom used Metro Transit to get around. Nearly 45,000 additional light-rail and Northstar rides were generated by events during All-Star Week, including around 6,000 rides on light rail to the All-Star Game at Target Field.
In September, the Rail~Volution conference drew another 1,400 people to the Twin Cities to explore transit and witness the development our system is inspiring. Our story is now being shared as an example in cities across the U.S.
On top of these special events we provided nearly 512,000 rides to and from the Minnesota State Fair and it’s new Transit Hub and doubled ridership to Minnesota Vikings home games at TCF Bank Stadium.
Metro Transit Police Department grows, becomes more diverse
The Metro Transit Police Department grew to more than 200 part- and full-time officers, allowing police to focus on community-based policing along the Green Line and to establish the Northside Community Policing Team, a new beat that is already having an impact North Minneapolis. The growth also led to new diversity, including the department’s first Hmong officer.
Taken together, these efforts and a continued commitment to our Guiding Principles will drive year-end ridership to around 84 million, a 33-year high.
That’s a significant achievement that all transit customers and supporters can be proud to have been a part of. While we celebrate how far we’ve come, we also recognize our work is far from over. In fact, much of the activity that occurred in 2014 was focused on setting the framework for future success.
As we look forward to 2015, I’m excited to see construction begin on our first arterial Bus Rapid Transit line, the A Line, and for service to begin later in the year. I’m also eager to see us expand our commitment to transit equity, enhance the customer experience through improved transit information and bus stop amenities and continue our sustainability efforts.
Thank you for everything you did to make 2014 one of our best years ever. We look forward to serving you in 2015 and beyond.
2014: The Year in Review
> Metro Transit announces 2013 ridership grows to 81.4 million, one of the highest levels in 30 years.
> Council Chair Sue Haigh delivers her State of the Region address, saying the region must “think regionally and act equitably” in order to grow.
> Transit Information Center representatives handle 118,521 calls, setting a new record for calls handled in a single month.
> Metro Transit’s Twitter account reaches 10,000 followers.
> President Obama visits St. Paul and receives the METRO Green Line’s first honorary ticket.
> A combination of rail and enhanced bus is recommended as the best long-term transit improvements for the Midtown Corridor.
> Metro Transit starts sharing photos on Instagram.
> Service begins on Route 30, a new bus route serving North and Northeast Minneapolis and connecting with the Green Line in St. Paul.
> The American Public Transportation announced transit ridership is at its highest level in 57 years.
> Metro Transit, Xcel Energy and the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce recognize Earth Day at the new Operations & Maintenance Facility in Lowertown.
> The Twins season opens and a Twins Family Pass is introduced as a new cost-effective way of getting to the game.
> Test trains begin full-schedule testing on the Green Line.
> Target Field Station opens north of Target Field, providing additional boarding capacity on busy event days and creating a new public space in the North Loop neighborhood.
> Several of Metro Transit’s retired buses are purchased for creative re-uses, including a new mobile learning center.
> Thrive MSP 2040 approved by the Met Council, setting a framework for regional economic development.
> The METRO Green Line opens on time and on budget. “Often history is defined in terms of great moments of transportation and this is no exception,” Mayor Chris Coleman says at the ribbon-cutting.
> Service improvements are made on several connecting bus routes throughout the Central Corridor, following years of outreach and planning.
> 20 new part-time officers sworn in as members of the Metro Transit Police Department.
> Metro Transit’s top operators recognized at the annual Ovations Awards Ceremony, including the organization’s first 30-Year Elite Operator.
> A new parking ramp and pedestrian overpass opens at Northstar’s Anoka Station.
> The METRO Blue Line celebrates its ten-year anniversary.
> Metro Transit serves events throughout All-Star Week, providing around 6,000 rides to and from the All-Star game at Target Field.
> Met Council approves plans for A Line (Snelling Avenue BRT), which secures all necessary funding to begin construction and go into service in 2015.
> 16 new full-time officers sworn in as members of the Metro Transit Police Department, bringing the department’s total number of officers to around 200. Approximately half of the new officers are bilingual, including the department’s first officer fluent in Cambodian.
> The Highway 610 and Noble Parkway Park & Ride opens in Brooklyn Park. The 1,000-space Park & Ride includes solar panels and other sustainable features.
> The Gophers and Vikings begin their home seasons at TCF Bank Stadium, served by the Green Line. Ridership to Vikings games nearly doubles from previous seasons.
> A new State Fair Transit Hub opens on the west side of the fairgrounds, providing customers more convenient access. Record State Fair attendance helps boost ridership 15 percent, to nearly 512,000 rides.
> APTA awards Metro Transit Gold Level status for efforts to conserve energy at facilities and improve fuel efficiency.
> Metro Transit and MVTA partner on a free ride promotion to help customers get to the new Twin Cities Premium Outlets, which opens near the METRO Red Line’s Cedar Grove Station in Eagan. Ridership reaches a new record 1,031 average weekday rides.
> Metro Transit debuts new system map that is simpler and easier to read.
> A record 529 Northstar tickets are sold online in advance of the Paul McCartney concert at Target Field.
> Metro Transit’s re-designed website sees 310,317 unique visitors and the online Trip Planner is used 723,936 times, a new monthly record.
> METRO Green Line Extension (Southwest LRT) receives municipal consent from all five cities along the proposed alignment.
> Route 865 begins providing express service between downtown Minneapolis and Anoka County.
> Metro Transit Operator Jerry Olson is named Minnesota Operator of the Year by the Minnesota Public Transportation Association. Deputy General Manger Mark Fuhrmann recognized as Transit Professional of the Year.
> U-Pass sales surpass 17,500, beating total sales from the fall 2013 semester.
> Metro Transit awarded $3.14 million Ladders of Opportunity grant to make bus stop improvements.
> Rail~Volution brings around 1,400 people to the Twin Cities for a week-long conference on transit-oriented development.
> Green Line tops 1 million monthly rides for the first time.
> Metro Transit launches its fall campaign, including a TV commercial highlighting transit's ease of use.
> Residents begin moving into Nic on Fifth, a new 26-story apartment building directly adjacent to Nicollet Mall Station. The development leads to the creation of a new platform for light-rail customers (opening 2015).
> Draft Service Improvement Plan outlining 10- to 15-year vision for local, express and suburban bus service improvements released for public comment.
> Metro Transit buses travel an average of 9,971 miles between maintenance road call, a new record.
> Car-sharing service Car2Go secures dedicated parking spaces at three Blue Line stations.
> METRO Orange Line receives federal approval to enter project development, advancing the project toward a 2019 opening.
> For the first time, Metro Transit and other fixed-route transit providers provide fre rides on Election Day.
> Northstar trains take country music fans to and from all 11 Garth Brooks concerts at Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.
> Met Council approves $6.5 million in Livable Communities grants to support transit-oriented development.
> Metro Transit decorates buses and light-rail and Northstar trains with holiday lights and encourages customers to take “selfies” while riding.
> Two new Park & Ride’s open on Interstate 35E with express service to downtown St. paul provided by Route 275.
> Northstar Service Guarantee introduced, providing registered Northstar commuters fare refunds for any regularly-scheduled Northstar trip that is 11 or more minutes late in January.