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Posts in Category: METRO Green Line

Know Your Operator Light Rail METRO Green Line

Know Your Operator: DJ Gonte 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, March 15, 2019 8:24:00 AM

Train Operator DJ Gonte at the Green Line's Operations & Maintenance Facility in St. Paul.

Growing up in Ethiopia’s capitol city, DJ Gonte didn’t live far from a train station.

Watching the trains pull in and out gave him an early and deep love for railroading. Years later, it would also lead him to what he now describes as his dream job.

Seeking new opportunity, Gonte moved to Minnesota in 1996. He went to school, earned an associates degree in computer networking and took jobs at a computer company and as a school bus driver.

After a few years, he found a role at Medtronic. The company’s Brooklyn Center offices are just east of Metro Transit's Martin J. Ruter Garage.

“I would pass by the front of the garage and say, ‘One day, I’m going to work there,’” Gontesaid.

In late 2009, he realized that vision and began as a part-time bus operator. While he liked the work, Gonte knew from the beginning that what he really wanted was to drive a train.

He got that opportunity in 2014, when the METRO Green Line opened. Gonte was among those who made the inaugural trips on opening day, and he’s been carrying passengers up and down University Avenue ever since.

The job is just as enjoyable and rewarding as he imagined, too.

“I just love it. Every time I go out it’s like a whole new experience,” he said. “When I’m away from work for a few days I’m always excited to come back.”

The job does have its challenges, though. While he’s learned to anticipate the actions of drivers and pedestrians, moving through the corridor still requires constant and undivided attention, Gonte said.

Nearly five years after realizing his dream, Gonte said he’s proud of what he does and has no plans to stop any time soon.

Besides liking his job, he appreciates the benefits and a schedule that allows him and his wife to share parenting responsibilities and enjoy weekends together as a family (Gonte has two children, ages 3 and 9).

"When you like what you do it just gets better and better," he said. 

A Line BRT Bus Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Ridership

Light rail, Bus Rapid Transit lines set annual ridership records 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, February 11, 2019 1:00:00 PM

Customers board a Metro Transit light rail vehicle at the Nicollet Mall Station in 2018.It was another record-setting year for Metro Transit’s light rail and Bus Rapid Transit lines.

The Green Line, Blue Line and A Line each saw their highest annual ridership ever in 2018, breaking records that were set just a year earlier.

Ridership on the Green Line has steadily risen since the light rail line opened in 2014. Nearly 13.8 million rides were taken on the Green Line last year. Average weekday ridership topped 42,500 rides.

More than 11.1 million rides were taken on the Blue Line, the highest annual total since it opened in 2004. The increase in Blue Line ridership partly reflects a shift to transit amid construction on Interstate 35W.

In its second full year of service, customers took more than 1.6 million rides on the A Line. Total ridership in the A Line corridor is about one-third higher than 2015, when it was served only by Route 84. 

“Continued growth in light rail and Bus Rapid Transit ridership affirms what we’ve always believed – that people value fast, frequent and reliable service,” Metro Transit General Manager Wes Kooistra said. “We are encouraged by the response and look forward to offering more of this service in the years to come.”

Systemwide, Metro Transit provided more than 80.7 million total rides in 2018. This was the eighth consecutive year annual ridership topped 80 million rides, keeping ridership at its highest point in three decades.

Across transit types and providers, nearly 94.2 million rides were provided in the seven-county region in 2018. That total includes suburban transit providers as well as the Metropolitan Council’s Metro Mobility, Transit Link and Vanpool services.

Metro Transit’s 2018 ridership total includes 55 million local and express bus rides (including Maple Grove Transit, which is operated under contract by Metro Transit). Bus ridership declined 4 percent from 2017.

Some ridership loss was expected following an October 2017 fare increase. Lower-than-usual gas prices also played a role. 

The decline in bus ridership largely reflects losses on Metro Transit’s busiest local routes, which will be substantially replaced and improved with Bus Rapid Transit service in the coming years.

Where service improvements have been made, bus ridership has risen. Ridership to St. Louis Park’s West End and on routes 32 and 54 improved in 2018. Some Route 54 trips began offering limited stop service between downtown St. Paul and Maplewood Mall beginning in June 2018. 

Other 2018 ridership highlights include:

 > More than 1.3 million rides through the Transit Assistance Program, which allows qualified individuals to ride buses or light rail for $1.

 > A record number of Vikings fans took transit to and from home games. In all, nearly 263,000 rides were provided to and from U.S. Bank Stadium over the course of the pre- and regular season.

 > A record number of rides were provided to and from the Minnesota State Fair on Saturday, Sept. 1. More than 83,500 rides were provided on State Fair Express Buses and regular routes that serve the fairgrounds that day.

 > Nearly 210,000 additional rides were taken over more than a week’s worth of Super Bowl events in February 2018.

Metro Transit 2018 Ridership At A Glance

Mode Total Rides Average Weekday Rides Percent change from 2017
Bus 53.3 million 177,319 - 4%
Green Line 13.8 million (record) 42,572 + 5%
Blue Line 11.1 million (record) 32,921 + 4%
A Line 1.6 million (record) 4,860 + 2%
Northstar 787,327 2,814 0
Total 80.7 million 260,486 - 1%

 

Metro Transit Annual Ridership, 2004-2018

Who rides Metro Transit?

 

Bus Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line

Icy conditions present unique, rare challenge 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, February 04, 2019 1:25:00 PM

Winter weather is nothing new to our region, or to Metro Transit. So when snow or ice arrives, we know how to respond.

There are times, though, when conditions present unavoidable challenges. Such was the case on Monday morning, when freezing drizzle made traveling difficult across the region.

The complications on the METRO Blue Line arose as ice began to build up on the rails and the overhead wires that power light rail vehicles.

Many light rail vehicles have equipment that is designed to cut through ice on overhead wires. Frequent service also helps keep the rail and overhead wires clear.

On Monday morning, though, the fast-forming ice was simply too much to keep up with.

Ice becomes a problem when it interrupts the power supply. When power is interrupted, trains are programmed to automatically turn off to avoid damage. Several Blue Line trains stopped operating for this reason on Monday morning.

When trains stop moving, there’s a cascading effect on service because:

  • Technicians need to respond to the disabled train;
  • Trains that are still operating may need to switch tracks to continue in service;
  • Ice builds up on overhead wire in the section of track that isn’t being used.

Disabled and slow-moving trains can also create problems with the system that runs the signals and gate arms. On Monday morning, crews were dispatched to several locations to manually control gate arms along Hiawatha Avenue.

Extra train operators, technicians and other staff were also sent out to help restore and maintain service.

Even so, the domino effect that began when trains stopped operating was difficult to overcome, Light Rail Director Mark Benedict said.

“Once ice takes over and starts winning, we just have to fight the fight until we can get through it,” he said. “Even when we were having failures, we did everything we could to get trains to these stations because we know our customers were out there."

There were also delays across the bus network on Monday morning, with nearly two-thirds of trips delayed by up to 15 minutes at one point. Despite the challenging conditions, all customers arrived safely at their destinations.  

By Monday afternoon, rail and bus service was largely back on schedule. 

Be prepared

When snow, ice or other inclement weather is in the forecast, customers should put their safety first and prepare for delays. Steps customers can take include:

  • Consider taking an earlier trip
  • Sign up for Rider Alerts to receive service updates
  • Use NexTrip to track when your bus or train is expected to arrive
  • Dress visibly and warmly

Learn more about traveling safely during winter weather at metrotransit.org/snow.

Above: A Blue Line train equipped with special ice-cutting pantographs (the equipment between the train and overhead wire) enters the 46th Street Station; Signals Foreperson Mike Miller and Signals Technician Terry Chacos monitor a crossing guard; Lead Public Facility Worker Andrew Gonzalez puts salt down at the 46th Street Station. 

Bus Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Northstar

‘Amazing’ efforts allow service to continue through historic cold 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, January 31, 2019 2:37:00 PM

The coldest weather in decades brought its share of challenges this week, but those who needed to travel still found buses and trains operating largely on time.

The biggest impacts were felt along the Blue Line, where crews responded to cracks in the track overnight on Wednesday and Thursday. Light rail vehicles used a single track so service could continue as repairs were made.

At the Franklin Avenue and Big Lake operations and maintenance facilities, heaters that normally keep switches functioning in the cold were no match for the sub-zero temperatures. Instead, staff had to manually move the switches so trains could come in and out of service.

Some temporary speed restrictions were also put into place were also put in place on the light rail and commuter rail lines. 

“It really has been amazing that we’ve been able to keep the railroad open,” Light Rail Director Mark Benedict said.

For bus operations, one of the biggest challenges was simply keeping buses warm. Operators were asked not to open the rear doors to help keep warm air inside. 

When operators called to report stalled vehicles, managers went to their homes and brought them into work.

Customers who braved the cold appreciated not just the service, but the attentiveness of operators and other staff.

Julie Givens, of St. Paul, said her family worried about her traveling on Wednesday. But after 40 years of riding transit, she assured them she'd be just fine. 

“And what do you know? The bus showed up right on time and I spent probably one minute outside,” Givens wrote in a commendation for South Operator Veronica Carter. “I got to work on time, warm and had no issues at all.”

Route 61 customer Kent Peterson, of Minneapolis, appreciated that Heywood Operator Aden Farah took “special care with every stop, noticing and meeting the specific needs of each customer.”

“It was clear that Aden was very conscious of each passenger's uniqueness,” Peterson said. “When I got off, he helped me catch the bus immediately ahead of us at a stop by honking and getting that driver’s attention. Aden is a real credit to your organization. Very professional. My thanks.”

The bitter cold followed the first appreciable snow of the winter, which arrived overnight Sunday. While call volume doubled, it almost looked like a normal day in the Transit Control Center (TCC). Two buses got stuck, and there was one minor collision.

“This morning went surprisingly well,” said Bill Anderson, an assistant manager in the TCC. “Sometimes boring is good.”​

Clockwise from top left: Track Department staff repair a cracked rail early Thursday morning near U.S. Bank Stadium; Transit Police Officer Jarrod Drake checked the welfare of individuals at the Uptown Transit Station; Train operators Peter Mooers and Greg Lindwall, bundled up; Commuter Rail Foreperson Ryan Stellmach, hooking a Northstar train up to a power supply to keep the train’s battery charged; Public Facilities Worker Timothy Valento, clearing a Franklin Avenue bus stop; and daily A Line customer Willard Miller, who appreciated having on-demand heaters as he waited. 

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line

Plastic seats being tested on some light rail vehicles 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Tuesday, January 08, 2019 10:21:00 AM

Responding to customer feedback, Metro Transit is trying something new on some Blue Line trains – plastic seats. 

Technicians put plastic seats in the upper seating area of a Blue Line train a few months ago and plan to install them in the same area of several additional trains in the coming months. 

The seating is being swapped out to get a better idea of whether customers prefer plastic to the cloth that is now used across the fleet.

 “The hope is to generate customer feedback and to test the plastic seats for durability and ease of maintenance to help us make an informed decision on whether to potentially pursue a cloth-free option,” said Ryan McTeague, director of light rail vehicle maintenance. 

Customer Relations Manager Pam Steffen said customers frequently suggest plastic seats.

Plastic seats may also be easier to maintain. To sanitize cloth seats, cleaners must remove them, steam them and wait a day for them to dry before reinstalling them.

Crews replaced all the seats on six Green Line vehicles a few months ago. Thousands of seats have been replaced over the past several years. 

In addition to the plastic seats, light rail vehicle maintenance is testing a new fabric with a protective coating that is expected to be more durable and do a better job of keeping the foam underneath it dry. 

Electro-Mechanical Technician Chris Kostohris recently installed new plastic seats on a light rail vehicle at the Blue Line Operations & Maintenance Facility in Minneapolis.

To comment on the plastic seats or the new fabric seats with protective coating, please contact Customer Relations

Star Tribune: Metro Transit testing plastic seats on light rail vehicles

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