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Posts in Category: Safety

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Safety

Light-rail vehicles ready for all seasons 

| Wednesday, November 19, 2014 1:10:00 PM

Electro mechanical technicians Tom Astedt and Chris Kostohris install ice cutters on a light-rail vehicle.Metro Transit’s light-rail vehicles are becoming even more weather-hardened.

Pantographs that are specially-equipped to cut through ice on overhead wires are being installed on all 27 Bombardier light-rail vehicles and 32 of the newer Siemens light-rail vehicles to improve winter weather service on the METRO Blue and Green lines.

Mounted atop each light rail vehicle, pantographs transfer energy from the overhead wires to the train. The connection between the pantograph and the overhead wire, also known as catenary, is made by a long metal strip. To reduce wear on the overhead wire, the carbon strips have a smooth surface. But that smoothness is less effective at cutting through ice so textured, copper strips are used whenever severe weather threatens.

In past seasons, rail vehicle maintenance staff has replaced the strips each time ice was in the forecast. Because that is a labor intensive and time consuming process, trains are being equipped with an additional pantograph with textured contact strips that can be raised and used as needed.

The ability to respond quickly has become more important as Metro Transit’s light rail vehicle fleet has expanded to nearly 90 trains serving two light rail lines.

“We have to be able to deploy them (light-rail vehicles) immediately or you’ll never be able to keep up,” said Rick Carey, assistant director of light-rail vehicle maintenance.

The new pantographs come largely assembled but the brackets used to mount the equipment on top of the train were designed in house and are fabricated by maintenance staff. To install the pantographs, the equipment is hoisted above the train, welded into place and then wired. The entire process can take up to eight hours.

Electro-mechanical technicians Chris Kostohris and Tom Astedt are responsible for assembling the brackets and putting the pantographs on the trains. The installations began in August and will continue through the winter months.

Astedt said he likes the work because each vehicle poses a new challenge. Each train is a little different, so Astedt and Kostohris carefully measure and level each new pantograph to fit the space.

“It could probably be off an inch and no one would know it, but we’d know,” Astedt said while recently installing a pantograph at Metro Transit’s Operations and Maintenance Facility. “We’ve got a work ethic that requires us to make sure everything is straight and true.”

The ice-cutting pantographs aren’t the only all-weather feature on the light-rail trains. Each train comes equipped with a snowplow that pushes snow out of the rail right of way. The trains are also heavily insulated and heated to keep customers comfortable during cold weather.

“Operating in Minnesota winters certainly has its challenges, but we are committed to delivering safe, reliable rail service in all conditions,” Deputy Chief of Rail Operations John Humphrey said. “These new pantographs are just another example of our commitment to serving customers when they need us the most.”

    > Pioneer Press: Nuts and bolts: How the Green Line trains work

    > Track maintainers keep a careful eye on light-rail lines

    > How does Metro Transit prioritize winter storm cleanup?

    > Service during severe winter weather  

Bus Know Your Operator Safety

Like father, like son 

| Wednesday, October 08, 2014 4:05:00 PM

Heywood Garage operator Jack Berner took first place in Metro Transit’s 2014 Bus Roadeo, an annual skills competition that involves a series of driving challenges. In second place: his son, fellow Operator Jason Berner.

That the father-son duo placed first and second among the 108 operators who competed in this year’s competition isn’t all that surprising. Jack Berner has won 10 previous Roadeos and helped his son Jason prepare for this year’s competition by practicing on the course with him in advance.

Passing along safe driving advice is a matter of habit for the elder Berner. As an instructor, he works with fellow operators to improve their skills and succeed on the road. “I take a lot of satisfaction in that,” he said.

The third place finisher was Nicollet Operator Douglas John, who also took home the Rookie of the Year award. Garage champions include: Jack Berner (Heywood); Douglas John (Nicollet); David Palm (East Metro); David DeCarlo (South); and Denny Bell (Ruter). Metro Transit's top finishers will advance to state and national competitions.

Photo: Operator Jack Berner with Heywood Garage Manager Doyne Parsons.

> Star Tribune: Competition helps keep Metro Transit drivers sharp

> Using 'Keys' to put safety first

> Top operators driven to succeed

> Know Your Operator

Bus Know Your Operator Safety

Top operators driven to succeed 

| Thursday, June 26, 2014 4:00:00 AM

Metro Transit bus operator David Nagel was recognized as the organization's first 30-Year Elite Operator at the 2014 Ovations Awards Ceremony.Few things take David Micklin by surprise.          

His ability to sense things before they occur has led to a flawless driving record for the 27-year bus operator, who works at Metro Transit’s Martin J. Ruter Garage and is currently driving Route 852.

“I always see stuff before it happens,” Micklin said. “I guess I’ve always been that way. I take it very seriously.”

Micklin was among more than 70 bus and light-rail operators who were recognized for exceptional performance at this year's Ovations Awards Ceremony and one of just two to be honored for 25 consecutive years of safe driving. The annual event recognizes top operators for safe driving, attendance and excellence in customer service.

For Micklin, the safe driving recognition was especially meaningful because it meant he had something to boast about with his father, who spent 34 year as a Metro Transit bus operator.

“He’s always bragging about how good he was,” the Coon Rapids resident said. “I had to one-up him.”

Operators Jerry Olson and David Nagel also earned bragging rights at the annual awards ceremony. Olson became the first Metro Transit Operator to achieve 41 consecutive years of safe driving and Nagel became Metro Transit’s first-ever 30-Year Elite Operator.

Olson, who joined Metro Transit in 1972, credited his streak to following the Safety Keys, a set of safe driving principals that teach operators to be constantly aware of their surroundings. Having a level head doesn't hurt either, he said.

“Probably the biggest key is just to have patience,” said Olson, an on-call operator who drives several routes out of South Garage.

Attitude is also the key to success for Nagel, who works at Heywood Garage and is a driver on Route 675. Nagel’s 30-Year Elite Operator status comes from receiving 30 Outstanding Operator Awards, which are given for safe driving, attendance and customer service.

“It’s about not letting things bother you,” said Nagel, who joined Metro Transit in 1979. “You just have to take it cool.”

Operators who are working toward Olson and Nagel’s records said they admired their decades of service and hoped to continue their own successes as they continued in their careers. The awards celebrated 24 5-Year Master Operators, 17 10-Year Prestige Operators, nine 15-Year Superior Operators and four 20-Year Elite Operators.

“It just make you want to keep the streak, to try to go another year,” said Olynn Jones, a seven-year safe operator who was a part of the 5-Year Master Operator class.

The awards are just a part of the motivation, though. Dan O’Driscoll, a 5-Year Master Operator, said his drive comes from being part of an organization that is helping the community grow and thrive.

“You always want to keep moving forward,” O’Driscoll said. “But really it’s the nature of the work that motivates me to continue to want to do well.”

    > News release: Top operators honored for safe driving, exceptional service

    > Using ‘Keys’ to put safety first

    > Know Your Operator

    > Metro Transit: Great People

Photo: Operator David Nagel at the Ovations Award Ceremony on Wednesday, June 25. Nagel is Metro Transit's first 30-Year Elite Operator.

Community METRO Green Line Safety Transit Police

Transit Police geared up for Green Line 

| Thursday, May 29, 2014 10:51:00 AM

Guest post by Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington

University Avenue looks much different today than it did when I began riding Metro Transit buses as a patrol officer more than 20 years ago. The METRO Green Line promises to bring even more change to the corridor, long the busiest east-west transitway in Minnesota.

While we don't expect light rail to dramatically alter the public safety dynamic in St. Paul, the return of rail service is something everyone along the route must prepare for – including local, county and state police.

Metro Transit Police officers are doing just that, connecting with community members and residents, strengthening partnerships with partner agencies and growing to meet the demands of our growing transit system.

In March and April, Metro Transit and partner agencies held joint emergency preparedness exercises at Stadium Village and Raymond Avenue stations to simulate emergencies involving light-rail. To reinforce safety messages, Metro Transit and St. Paul police in April began an outreach campaign to provide motorists, pedestrians, transit customers and bicyclists the information they need to safely navigate the Green Line corridor. We’ve interacted directly with hundreds of residents and will continue this important work after trains open to the public on June 14.

We’ve also grown the department to keep up with the expansion of transit services. Another 20 part-time officers were sworn in this week, expanding the force to a diverse group of 94 full-time and 100 part-time officers. Many of these officers will work out of our new East Command center near University Avenue, including 22 who will focus specifically on the Green Line and the neighborhoods it serves.

As Capt. Jim Franklin recently told The Star Tribune, the “rail beat concept” will be a key to effectively policing the Green Line corridor. “You get officers that know the area very well,” Franklin told the newspaper. “They know the businesses. They know the community and really will get to know the ridership.”

Building these relationships will be aided by the fact that officers will spend more time than ever patrolling on foot, on bike and on board trains and buses. A number of officers were recently added to our bike patrol squad, which can be more nimble in Green Line’s dense urban environment. In Minneapolis, we are participating once again in Minneapolis SafeZone, a multi-agency effort that provides additional patrols to ensure safety during the busy summer months.

While building personal relationships is important, we are also harnessing data to focus our efforts and using technology more than ever. Each Green Line station and all light-rail trains are equipped with multiple security cameras that can be monitored in real time. Call boxes at each station are available in the event of an emergency.

Like University Avenue, our department will continue to evolve and grow as trains transform the way Twin Cities residents get around. Whatever the future holds our fundamental approach to policing and commitment to providing a safe, secure environment for all who use or interact with transit will never change.

    > Star Tribune: Get a driver's point of view riding alongside Green Line

    > Police Chief John Harrington on MPR's Daily Circuit

    > MPR: Walk, bike and drive safely along the Green Line

    > Pioneer Press: Policing the Green Line: Metro Transit promises cameras, cops, analysis

    > Star Tribune: Police prepare for safety on Green Line

    > WCCO: Officials work to educate public on Green Line safety

    > Fox 9: Officers patrol University Avenue to raise light rail awareness

    > KSTP: Navigating the new METRO Green Line

    > Pioneer Press: Green Line will require safety heads-up by motorists and pedestrians

    > Star Tribune: Emergency-preparedness drill near the U tests response to train-bus crash

    > Pioneer Press: Light rail readies to roll, and St. Paul responders prepare, too

    > KSTP: Crews practice emergency response with light rail derailment situation

    > Star Tribune: Busier, safer St. Paul streets

    > Green Line Safety

    > Transit Police on board and on bike

Bicycle Bus Community METRO Green Line Safety Transit Police

Transit Police on board and on bike 

| Monday, May 05, 2014 12:00:00 AM

The Metro Transit Police Department's Bike Patrol poses during a training at Fort Snelling.When Sgt. Leo Castro is on patrol in St. Paul, he doesn’t need to roll down the window to get fresh air.

That’s because he’s clipped into the pedals of a Cannondale mountain bike, traveling the streets on a pair of 26-inch wheels to monitor busy boarding locations and respond when needed.

Castro and other Metro Transit Police Department officers will be getting even more time in the open air when the METRO Green Line begins service on June 14.

Because the light-rail line runs through two downtowns, the University of Minnesota and a busy commercial corridor, Transit Police will be riding bikes, patrolling on foot and spending time aboard buses and trains so they can have more mobility and respond as quickly as possible.

“As a bike officer, we can get to certain areas where a squad car can’t go and get there a lot more quickly,” Castro said. “Even in rush hour we can cover three or four blocks in a couple of minutes.”

In 2010, Castro became the first Metro Transit police officer to get trained and certified as a bike patrol officer. Today, he leads a unit of 16 officers who split time between their bikes and a squad car. Bike officers will also load their bikes on bus racks and bring them on trains while doing fare checks and other on-board policing.

As part of their basic training, bike officers are taught how to ride up and down stairs, dismount and make arrests and navigate safely through traffic and large crowds. Transit Police also recently participated in “Bike Rapid Response” training with the Minneapolis Police Department to learn how bikes can be used to calm crowds during large events, such as the MLB All-Star Game.

Officer Daniel Wallace is part of the department’s newest class of bike officers and comes with two years of previous experience patrolling the Mall of America by bike. Wallace said one of the biggest challenges to patrolling on a bike is carrying all of the gear. A “duty belt” with a radio and other equipment weighs around 30 pounds.

“Once you learn how to ride you never forget,” Wallace said. “But doing it with all the equipment is a little more of a challenge.”

Bike patrols primarily take place in the spring and summer, but officers aren't afraid to go out in difficult weather conditions, including ice, snow and rain.

While physically demanding, Officer Kelly Franco sought a spot on the bike unit because it offered variety and a unique opportunity to interact more with the public.

“When you’re in a squad car, the majority of the time you’re going from call to call,” she said. “But when you’re on bike patrol you’re mingling and interacting with people and other bike riders so you get to see a different perspective.”

In his experience on the street, Castro said being on a bike has allowed him to quickly identify and apprehend suspects, respond to medical emergencies and generally be more proactive about quality of life issues such as loitering.

Being on a bike has also been a great way to combine his interest in biking with his job and public service, said Castro, the department’s 2010 Officer of the Year.

“I’m passionate about bikes, but I’m equally passionate about community-oriented policing,” he said. “Really, that’s what this is all about.”

    > Metro Transit Police Department

    > For Transit Police K-9s, all work and a little play

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