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METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line

Preserving public art adorning transit stations 

Metro Transit has one of the largest collections of public art in the state
Posted by Kathy Graul | Friday, July 28, 2017 10:05:00 AM

Conservators are hard at work repairing and cleaning the public art along Metro Transit’s rail lines and transit shelters. With more than 70 pieces of art, the agency owns one of the largest collections in the state.​Because it’s so dispersed – and in some cases cleverly disguised – it’s difficult to appreciate how pervasive public art is across the transit system.

But with more than 70 distinct pieces, Metro Transit is the caretaker of one of the largest collections of public art in the state.

Stations along the Green and Blue lines each have unique art that reflects their surroundings. Artwork can also be found on the Northstar Commuter Rail Line as well as several bus stops, like the flowerpot shelter in North Minneapolis.

“The program aims to inspire discovery in otherwise predictable spaces, improving the rider experience and making it more pleasant,” Public Art Administrator Mark Granlund said.

Like any other part of the transit system, art needs to be maintained as time, weather and humans take their collective toll.

Granlund joined Metro Transit last year to take stock of the needs, begin a campaign to make necessary repairs and plan for future maintenance. Before coming to Metro Transit, he performed similar work for the City of St. Paul’s Parks & Recreation Department.

Restoration is getting underway in earnest this year.

Among the first signs was the recent appearance of professional conservators at the Blue Line’s 50th Street/Minnehaha Park Station, where oak leaves, vines and animals are reflected in metal fencing, bronze carvings and screened glass. Conservators began by cleaning the metal and removing grafitti. 

“There is glass, bronze, and metal, and they all need reactive and proactive maintenance,” Granlund said.

Later this summer, 52 painted steel pieces that adorn a decorative steel fence at the Blue Line’s Cedar-Riverside Station will be disassembled, cleaned, repaineted and put back together. There are also plans to fix the small boxes that feature on-demand audio and video recordings, found at several Blue Line stations.

Facilities staff regularly clean stations and remove grafitti. But conservators have been brought in because they have expertise working with particular materials. The goal is to bring the art back as close to its original condition as possible while preserving the artist’s intent.

Because it’s just a few years old, artwork at Green Line stations is in relatively good shape and not yet in need of significant restoration. After learning lessons on the Blue Line, Green Line artwork was also designed to be more durable.

Getting the collection back in shape will be an exhaustive process, but Granlund said it’s well worth the time and energy.

“It’s definitely a major project, but in the end, taking care of the art is what we are entrusted with,” he said.

 > Blue Line Public Art

 > Green Line Public Art

 > Transit Usage Guidelines (including public art proposals)

Bus Community Light Rail METRO Green Line

On transit, making an impression with poetry 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, March 31, 2017 3:11:00 PM

Michael Kleber-Diggs and Ellen Larsen with their poem and artwork at the Green Line's Western Avenue Station.For the past 20 years, Michael Kleber-Diggs has shared his poetry with a live audience, reading the room and enjoying the conversation that follows. Capturing the reaction to one of his newest poems, The Green Line, has been a little more difficult.

That’s because the poem is part of a new public art project, IMPRESSIONS, that provided local poets and artists a chance to have their work featured inside Metro Transit’s buses and trains and at select stations and shelters over the course of several months.

“When I heard about the project, I was completely enchanted with the idea that I would be, in a way, speaking to people without really knowing that I’m doing it,” Kleber-Diggs said. “That the poem has a life of its own is really the best part.”

Kleber-Diggs’ poem is among the first six pieces to emerge from the project, which began last year with a call for entries that drew more than 350 responses. Community editors with Saint Paul Almanac, which initiated the project, ultimately selected 24 poems to be showcased over the next year.

The poems are accompanied by illustrations by local artists who were partnered with poets and asked to offer their interpretations of the work. Kleber-Diggs' poem is accompanied by artwork created by Ellen Larsen, and can be found at the Green Line's Western Avenue Station (right). 

Kimberly Nightingale, Saint Paul Almanac’s executive director, said the idea for IMPRESSIONS came from a desire to share the kind of work that has been included in the organization’s annual books over the last decade with a broader audience.

“Not everyone is going to buy a book but everyone should be able to enjoy poetry and art, especially local poetry and art, which is our focus,” she said.

The idea got off the ground when Saint Paul Almanac received a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Metro Transit and Intersection, the company that manages transit advertising, are also partners.

The City of Saint Paul is supporting the project with funding for multiple events featuring the poets and artists whose work is featured (the next event will be held in June, when a new batch of poems and artwork are released).

There’s some precedence for combining poetry and transit, too. The Poetry Society of America’s Poetry in Motion effort has brought poetry onto transit systems across the country, including Metro Transit, which participated in that effort more than a decade ago.

Unlike Poetry in Motion, IMPRESSIONS involves only local poets and artists, giving it a distinct community orientation that organizers hope will resonate among passengers. “Hopefully, for the people who are riding, this allows them to say, ‘I can create my own poetry and my own art, and it can be a part of the community, too,'” Nightingale said.

While there isn’t an obvious connection to the Green Line, other than the title, Kleber-Diggs’ poem was partly inspired by his experience riding light rail and using transit over the past 30 years.

Exploring the forest on a camping trip, he began to humanize the trees and imagine them riding the train.

However people interpret his work, though, Kleber-Diggs hopes it serves as a welcome interruption from the norm.

“As an artist, you always want to see art out in the world,” he said. “I’m really exhilarated by the idea that someone will get on the bus and see not just my piece but the other pieces as well and have a chance to connect to them in some way.”

Discover the IMPRESSIONS art!

Take a photo of each IMPRESSIONS piece and send the collection to info@saintpaulalmanac.org with your name and phone number to enter a drawing for a for a $20 Go-To Card and other prizes! The next IMPRESSIONS release party will be held on Thursday, June 1, at Black Dog Cafe. 

    > Learn more about poets and artists whose work is being featured through IMPRESSIONS

METRO Green Line Transit Police

Officer of the Year recognized for 'servant leadership' 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, March 24, 2017 2:48:00 PM

Metro Transit police officer Katherine Spear on the METRO Green Line. After a decade working in financial aid, Katherine Spear started getting restless.

Looking for new opportunities, she ran a quick internet search and clicked on the first thing that came up – a chance to volunteer with the St. Paul Police Reserve Unit, which supplements the police force. 

“I sat in that Crown Victoria, started patrolling and I was hooked,” Spear said. 

So hooked, in fact, that the St. Paul native decided to pursue a full-time career in law enforcement, leaving her job, enrolling in college and serving as a Metro Transit Community Service Officer. 

This week, that leap of faith was rewarded as Spear was recognized as the Metro Transit Police Department’s Officer of the Year. She is the first woman to earn the recognition in the department’s history.

“It’s been a long journey — a lot of struggle to get where I am — so this is very humbling,” Spear said after the award was presented at the department’s annual ceremony on Wednesday.

Spear was recognized for her resolve as an officer, including one case in which she helped the department quickly identify and arrest a suspect involved in a violent attack at a light rail station. But it's the compassion she’s brought to her work that makes her truly unique. 

Patrolling the Green Line for the past 18 months, Spear has worked to build rapport with customers, occasionally singing or dancing to brighten moods, and gone out of her way to help those in need. She’s also put her motherly instincts to good use, earning a reputation for her “mom voice” and redirecting youthful exuberance in more positive directions. 

The empathy she shows toward those she encounters, she said, is partly born of her own experience. Spear is a single mother of three who faced financial strains as she worked her way through school. 

“Yeah, I take down the bad guys, but at the end of the day it’s about unconditional respect for everyone you meet,” she said. “You have to see people as human beings.”

Chief John Harrington said that attitude is what made her stand out among her peers.

“It’s not about one heroic act, but the day-to-day examples of servant leadership that she demonstrates,” he said. “She is a team player who leads both by putting herself out there and putting people in need first.”

Spear’s father, Dan Spear, was initially taken back by his daughter’s abrupt career change. But the generosity and doggedness she’s brought to her new career aren’t a surprise, he said.

“She never ceases to amaze me,” said Spear, who grew up in St. Paul’s Midway. “When she sets a goal she really sticks with it.”

Spear was among more than 50 officers celebrated at the department’s awards ceremony.

Officer James Galland was presented the Timothy Bowe Memorial Award, which goes to a part-time officer. Galland is a Sergeant at the Hastings Police Department and has spent 17 years working part-time with Metro Transit police.

Officers were also credited for taking life-saving actions, putting themselves in harms way to protect the public and working quickly to apprehend suspected criminals.

“Your work in the past year will be hard to surpass,” Harrington told officers assembled at the ceremony. “I can’t count the number of calls, emails or letters I get every day thanking our officers for doing all the right things at just the right time in so many places.”

 

2017 MTPD Awards

Community METRO Green Line

Artist's vision comes to life on light rail train 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, March 07, 2017 1:56:00 PM

Artist Andrea Carlson with the "Water is Life"  train artwork she designed for Northern Spark 2017. Andrea Carlson isn't used to chasing her artwork around. But when her canvas becomes a 100,000-pound light-rail vehicle, it's about the only way to get a glimpse of the finished product. 

Carlson managed to catch up with the train twice last week, traveling down University Avenue and at an informal gathering at the Green Line’s Operations & Maintenance Facility in Lowertown.

Seeing the design come to life, she said, was overwhelming. 

"Of course I'd seen it on the computer screen but this is totally different," the St. Paul- and Chicago-based artist said. "When I got on the train I actually cried a little."

The "Water is Life" artwork was commissioned by Northern Spark organizers to promote the annual arts festival and to bring attention to the event's theme, climate change. The all-night celebration will focus heavily on the Green Line, with more than 70 events happening in neighborhoods along the light rail corridor between sunset on Saturday, June 10, and sunrise on Sunday, June 11. 

Carlson's design has images of a Thunderbird and a Water Spirit, along with two messages about water – Mni Wiconi, Dakota for "water is life," and Nibi gaa-bimaaji’iwemagak, Ojibwe for "water gives life."

The design both reflects the parallels between urban streets and pays tribute to the Native lands the Green Line traverses. It also recognizes efforts by the University of Minnesota's American Indian Studies Department to revive Native languages that are endangered.

“It’s really a love letter to people working on language revitalization,” said Carlson, who studied the Ojibwe language Anishinaabemowin at the U of M.

The train wrap will remain up through the conclusion of Northern Spark. Northern Spark organizers are encouraging people to take photos of the train and to share them on social media with the hashtag #catchatrainNS. A Northern Spark juror will review photos shared before March 31 and the winning photographer will receive two tickets to the Northern Spark launch party

To learn more about Carlson’s inspiration visit the project page at 2017.northernspark.org and read an interview with Northern Spark Curator Elle Thoni

Northern Spark Art Reveal

Know Your Operator METRO Green Line

Know Your Operator: Alex Abay 

| Wednesday, November 30, 2016 2:59:00 PM

Train Operator Alex Abay at Union Depot Station in St. Paul. Alex Abay wanted to be a part of history.

So as the METRO Green Line approached its 2014 opening, he was among the first train operators to get involved in the light-rail line’s initial test runs. And when opening day arrived in 2014, he made sure to be sitting in the operator’s chair.

While the excitement of that day has subsided, Abay still gets a thrill when he’s on the job.

“It’s just amazing to me, to pull into a platform, see 100 people standing there, and in less than ten seconds  they’re all on board and off you go,” Abay said recently from the Green Line’s Operations & Maintenance Facility, where he and other Green Line operators are based.

Abay didn’t always envision himself working in transit, however.

After growing up in Ethiopia, Abay followed a distant cousin to the Twin Cities to pursue a career in industrial chemistry or finance.

To improve his English, he regularly listened to public radio. He got a job at the Minnesota Science Museum and enrolled at Century College, traveling to and from his St. Paul home on Route 62.

After graduating and landing a job in banking, he looked to transit again, picking up part-time weekend work to help repay his student loans.

“I saw other people driving and just said, ‘Let me try this,’” Abay said. “I was so young and skinny people thought I was a kid. One woman got on, couldn’t believe it, turned around and left.”

Abay stuck with it, though, and after a few years he decided to leave banking behind to go full-time at Metro Transit. He spent the next 14 years as a bus operator.

In 2012, with the region’s light rail system poised for growth, he decided to become a train operator. Abay said he missed interacting with customers but quickly grew to enjoy the different challenges he found at light rail.  

“To be given the trust to operate a train, that’s a big responsibility,” Abay said. “The first time, I was sweating. Your brain is always working and you always have to be ready to react.”

Abay’s focus has served him well, though. Since starting at Metro Transit, he’s received 17 Safe Operator awards. 

As Abay’s career has grown, so too has his family. Today, Abay lives in Farmington with his wife and two children. Outside of work, he spends as much time with them as he can, playing soccer, going to movies and attending church activities.

Looking back at the path that’s brought him here, Abay said he knows he was right to leave banking behind. “This was 100 percent the right decision,” he said. “I have absolutely no regrets.”

Operator at a Glance

  • Name: Alex Abay
  • Hired: April 10, 1999
  • Employee Number: #9975
  • Route: Green Line
  • Hobbies: Abay enjoys spending time with his family, going to movies and attending church activities. He also enjoys exercising – outside of work, he plays soccer and during his downtime at work, he can frequently be found playing ping pong (Abay advocated for the ping pong table so he and his fellow operators could stay active in their time between trips.)

To help you better get to know those getting you around, Metro Transit offers these 'Know Your Operator' profiles of train and bus operators. To suggest an operator for a future profile, please email ridersalmanac@metrotransit.org.

METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Ridership

Monday Night Football helps set new single-day light rail ridership record 

| Thursday, October 13, 2016 2:40:00 PM

Fans exit Metro Transit's light rail at U.S. Bank Stadium Station in Minneapolis.A dose of Monday Night Football helped set a new single-day light rail ridership record on Monday, Oct. 3.

There were a combined 122,529 rides on the METRO Green and Blue lines on that day, surpassing the previous single-day light-rail ridership record of 117,063 rides set on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016.

The Oct. 3 total includes 66,018 Green Line rides – also a single-day record – and another 56,511 Blue Line rides.

Ridership got a boost on Sept. 1 from fans traveling to Twins, Vikings, Gophers and Saints games. On Oct. 3, the Vikings played the New York Giants at the new U.S. Bank Stadium.

Around a quarter of Vikings fans are taking light rail to games this season.

The Green Line is finding success outside of special events, too.

Average weekday ridership in September was 46,109, the highest monthly average since the Green Line opened in June 2014. The average weekday projection for 2030 was 41,000 rides on the Green Line. 

There were just over 1.2 million Green Line rides in September, the third highest monthly total since service began (there were 1.3 million rides in October 2015 and 1.25 million rides in September 2015).

There have been 9.4 million Green Line rides through the end of September, up almost 5 percent compared to the same time last year. 

Learn more about service to U.S. Bank Stadium at metrotransit.org/vikings.

METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Minneapolis

Work underway on new Nicollet Mall Station platform 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, October 05, 2016 2:30:00 PM

Efforts to complete a new platform at Nicollet Mall Station began this week.

Located immediately east of the northbound track, the platform was partially constructed in 2013 as work was underway on an adjacent 26-story apartment building, Nic on Fifth. The platform canopy was incorporated into the new development.

Crews with Morcon Construction are now installing windscreens and other furnishings that will allow the platform to be opened to the public. Go To Card readers and a ticket-vending machine will also be installed before the platform opens in March 2017. 

The additional platform is being built to provide a safer and more comfortable waiting area for customers at Nicollet Mall Station, the system’s second-busiest light-rail station. Through August, there have been nearly 4,400 average weekday boardings at the station.

Once the platform opens, doors on Blue and Green line trains traveling northbound toward Target Field will open on both sides of the train, allowing customers to enter or exit from either side.

This will be the first and only light rail station where customers can board or exit from both sides of the train.

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