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Posts in Category: Safety

Bus Bus Maintenance Safety

More maintenance, more miles 

| Thursday, August 29, 2013 1:03:00 PM

Judging strictly by appearances, the 1984 Ford tow truck kept at the Martin J. Ruter Garage in Brooklyn Center may not seem particularly noteworthy.

But the truck has a distinct honor: it is the oldest vehicle in Metro Transit’s fleet. After nearly three decades in service, it has logged just 35,000 miles retrieving broken down buses or vehicles caught in winter storms.

The truck’s longevity is more than a piece of trivia, however. The extended life is a testament to how well Metro Transit’s buses perform on a daily basis.  

In 2012, Metro Transit buses collectively traveled an average of nearly 7,500 miles between calls for roadside service, peaking in October with an agency record of 8,293 miles between road calls. The “miles between maintenance” measurement is calculated by dividing the total number of miles traveled among all buses by the number of maintenance-related roadcalls.

Last year's performance marks an 89 percent improvement from a decade earlier. Such improvements don't just happen, though. A group of nearly 300 specially-trained mechanics work around the clock at Metro Transit’s five garages and the St. Paul Overhaul Base to keep buses in top condition.

Buses are regularly inspected to ensure all systems are functioning correctly and that any concerns that are identified are quickly addressed before a bus goes back on the road.

In addition to being vigilant, maintenance staff use operator feedback to better understand how vehicles are performing on the road and have built relationships with industry suppliers so that Metro Transit gets the best buses it can.

Better transmissions and other components have not only made buses more dependable and improved engine life, but improved fuel efficiency and overall comfort for customers. Metro Transit’s persistence on quality and reliability has also led to product improvements that have been incorporated into the bus builder’s product line – providing a better, more reliable product not just for Metro Transit customers but all transit users.

“There’s a continual drive to improve each year,” said Rob Milleson, Metro Transit’s director of bus maintenance. “We’re constantly monitoring and constantly learning.”

The combination of high-quality maintenance and procurement helps keep Metro Transit buses in service at least 12 years before they are put into service for the Minnesota State Fair or put up for public auction.

Most buses in Metro Transit’s fleet log an average of 410,000 miles before being replaced. By comparison, the average car lasts 11 years and 165,000 miles
Milleson said that performance record is particularly impressive considering all of the challenges – most notably Minnesota’s harsh winters – that buses face as they transport customers throughout the year.

The credit, he says, goes to those who spend their days making sure buses perform at their peak.

“While a combination of factors impact reliability and bus longevity it’s our front line employees that really make it all come together,” Milleson said. 

> New buses hit the streets

> Fact Book tells Metro Transit's story by the numbers

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.”

 

 

Safety Transit Police

New officers, new diversity for Metro Transit police 

| Monday, August 05, 2013 10:49:00 AM

As new immigrants to the United States, Abdulkhayr Hirse and Salah Ahmed relied heavily on transit to get to work and school.

A few short years later, their experience is coming full circle. The Somali-born men were among 19 new full-time Metro Transit police officers sworn in on Friday, Aug. 2, as the department welcomed one of the most diverse groups of new hires in the history of the 20-year-old organization.

With their hire, the department now includes four Somali officers, including the first Somali sergeant in the country, Waheid Siraach. Mukhtar Abdulkadir, who was also born in Somalia, was among 22 part-time officers who joined Metro Transit Police this spring.

Following Friday’s ceremony Hirse and Ahmed said they were excited to begin their new roles, serving as role models for young Somalis as well as ambassadors to the wider transit community. As with all transit police, they will be responsible for patrolling light rail and commuter trains, buses and station areas and will play a key role policing the METRO Green Line when it opens next year.  

“We’re here because we want to change someone’s life, or at least make their day or night a little bit better,” said Hirse, who worked in security after moving from Kenya to the United States in 1998.  

Ahmed, who previously worked as a probation officer and park ranger, said he was eager to join the force because it will allow him to have more interactions with community members. “It’s not just about sitting in a squad car but getting out and talking to people, connecting with the public,” he said.

The visibility could encourage other young Somalis to consider law enforcement as a career as well, said Siraach, who joined the department nearly six years ago and was named acting sergeant in July.

“It’ll be a great thing for them to have somebody to look up to,” he said. “This is really exciting for us and it makes us better as an agency.”

For Police Chief John Harrington, the department’s growing diversity represents a “changing of the guards” that will be key to building bridges in the community. This year, the department has made a point of increasing time spent on the streets doing beat work and connecting with community groups at events like Tuesday's National Night Out (Transit Police plan to attend 50 events in Minneapolis and St. Paul).

With transit customers speaking dozens of different languages, Harrington said it’s vital for officers to reflect and be able to relate to the people they serve. Officers in the new class speak Arabic, Spanish and Somali.

“People come here from every point on the globe,” he said addressing the officers at Friday’s ceremony. “Today, as you go forth from here, you will bring a new meaning to the phrase, ‘By the people, for the people, of the people.’”

General Manager Brian Lamb echoed the sentiment. Besides introducing more diversity, Lamb said the department’s growth will allow officers to take a more proactive approach to policing and ensure Metro Transit customers feel safe and welcome. There are now 83 full-time Metro Transit police officers and 59 part-time officers.  

“It’s easy to be focused on the problems at hand, but that will only get us part of the way there,” he said.

Another 26 part-time officers will be hired this fall. Acting Lt. Jason Lindner, who oversaw the hiring of the new class, said the department received more than 500 applications when it advertised the new jobs earlier this year.

The response was due in part to greater outreach, something Lindner said would continue as the department continues to grow.

“It’s really important for every class to get a good cross-section of people,” he said. “That’s what’s going to allow us to be able to hit more areas than we ever have.”

> Star Tribune: New officers join Metro Transit police force

> Coverage by Mogadishu Times, Hiiraan Online

> Metro Transit Police Department 

Top left: Abdulkhayr Hirse poses with St. Paul and Minneapolis police officers prior to the Metro Transit Police Department's swearing in ceremony on Friday. Bottom right: Salah Ahmed poses with an officer from the Dakota County Sheriff Department on Friday.

In the News Safety Transit Police

MPR: Transit drivers get more protections from assaults under new law 

| Tuesday, July 30, 2013 5:00:00 PM

Minnesota Public Radio reports on a new state law that classifies certain assaults against bus and train operators as gross misdemeanors, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $3,000 fine – previously the penalty was up to 90 days in a prison and a $1,000 fine.  

Metro Transit officials successfully advocated for the stiffer penalties in the last legislative session, arguing such assaults put both operators and the public at risk.

Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington is among those who pushed the law change. Speaking to MPR, he said he hoped it would send a message that "assaulting drivers is taken very seriously."

> MPR's report on the new operator assault law

> AP: New Minnesota law ups penalty for bus driver assaults

> Metro Transit's Code of Conduct

Safety Transit Police

Metro Transit safety and security efforts earn industry accolades 

| Monday, July 08, 2013 11:48:00 AM

Metro Transit’s safety record is getting attention both nationally and locally from industry peers.

The agency has landed three safety-related awards from industry groups this year, including a “Gold Standard” rating for its transit security program announced last week by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The TSA rating is based on a voluntary, comprehensive review focused on security planning, training and outreach. Metro Transit received high scores across all categories in the TSA’s review.

"We commend Metro Transit and the Metro Transit Police Department for the commitment and hard work that this level of accomplishment requires," TSA Administrator John S. Pistole said in announcing the recognition.

Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb (shown presenting the TSA award during a recent Metro Transit Police Awards Ceremony as Chief John Harrington looks on) said it was an honor to be recognized with the prestigious Gold Standard.

"In particular, it's a credit to the Metro Transit Police Department for their leadership in making this agency a national model of transit security," Lamb said.

Earlier this year, Metro Transit was awarded the Gold Award for Bus Safety Excellence for large transit systems by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) for a suite of safety measures involving both operations and communications. This is the second time in five years Metro Transit has received the prestigious award. 

The Minnesota Association of Government Communicators (MAGC) also gave Metro Transit’s marketing department its “Best of Show” award for visual design on a campaign reminding customers how to be safe using transit.  The campaign included bus and train wraps, interior cards and posters and included messages such as “Be safe. Don’t chase,” “Be safe. Be seen,” “Be safe. Be alert,” and “Be safe. Look both ways!”

    > Mass Transit: TSA Commends 16 Mass Transit and Rail Agencies for Highest Security Levels

    > KSTP: Metro Transit Receives 'Gold Standard' for Security

    > Star Tribune: Metro Transit wins safety award

    > Rider's Almanac: Security officer who helped Metro Transit police nab suspect honored

    > Metro Transit Honored With Industry’s Top Safety Award

    > Metro Transit: Safety & Security

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