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Posts in Category: METRO Green Line

METRO Green Line On the METRO

New Green Line housing development offers more than a place to stay 

| Thursday, November 21, 2019 12:10:00 PM

A new supportive housing development with a focus on American Indian youth is now open near the METRO Green Line’s Victoria Street Station, a development that could help Metro Transit police build stronger bonds with young people they encounter.

The University Avenue building, celebrated at a Wednesday, Nov. 20, grand opening, includes 42 low-cost apartments for 18- through 24-year-olds who might not otherwise have a place to call home.

“With a shelter over their heads, they can think about school, jobs, having a future,” said Carol LaFleur, an associate community outreach coordinator with the Metro Transit Police Department’s Homeless Action Team (HAT).

LaFleur has spent the past several years helping police make inroads in the American Indian community. Among the organizations the department has partnered with is the Ain Dah Yung Center, one of the main groups behind the new housing project.

Police officers have been frequent visitors at the Ain Dah Yung Center, another St. Paul-based emergency shelter, and hope to have even more opportunities to interact at the new building, known as Mino Oski Ain Dah Yung. In Ojibwe, the name means Good New Home.

Among their duties, HAT officers and supporters point people they encounter on transit toward housing and other resources. Housing needs are especially acute among American Indians; only 2% of the state’s population is American Indian, but 22% of the state’s homeless youth is American Indian.

In addition to the connections between officers and youth, the Council supported the project with a grant and its Metro Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) is providing some residents rental assistance.

Sheri Riemers, Mino Oski Ain Dah Yung’s government and community relations director, said the Council’s support is invaluable.

“Our youth are only beginning their struggles,” Riemers said. “`The Metro HRA housing vouchers have been golden.”

The new building provides more than a place to stay, however.

Residents will have access to academic and mental health services, and the facility is imbued with American Indian culture, including medicine gardens, a sweat lodge and programs on everything from ceremonial drum-making to storytelling.

“To know our roots – where we came from or who we are – is extremely important,’’ said LaFleur, who is an Ojibwe descendant and experienced homelessness earlier in her life. “We’re trying to come back from having so much taken away.”

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Minneapolis Transit Improvements

Signal improvements help trains get out of town 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Thursday, November 07, 2019 4:13:00 PM

Metro Transit and City of Minneapolis staff, gathered here at the Warehouse District/Hennepin Avenue Station, have collaborated on rail signal improvements that are helping light rail trains get out of downtown faster. From left to right are, Ryan Heath, an associate engineer at Metro Transit, Ryan Anderson, Allan Klugman and Ryan Armstrong, from the City of Minneapolis, and Phil Wellman, a senior signal engineer at Metro Transit.​

​Light rail trains are exiting downtown Minneapolis a little faster than they used to.  

The increased efficiency is the result of recent signal improvements, as well as an investment in equipment that allows trains to switch tracks downtown. Some of the signal technology that's been added didn't exist when the METRO Blue Line opened 15 years ago. 

"The light rail and traffic signals weren't talking with each other," said Tom McGannon, a principal engineer for Metro Transit. 

McGannon worked on the improvements as part of a team that included staff from Rail Operations, Rail Systems Maintenance, Engineering & Facilities and Strategic Initiatives. Staff from the City of Minneapolis, Kimley-Horn and ACT Traffic Solutions performed the signals work. 

With upgraded signals, trains are now less likely to get stopped at intersections between stations. In most cases, trains can get out of downtown Minneapolis in less than eight minutes, about two minutes faster than they used to. 

Because of the time savings, Blue Line and Green Line schedules will be slightly adjusted on Saturday, Dec. 7. The hope is that the schedule changes will improve on-time performance throughout the light rail corridors. 

Vehicles crossing light rail tracks are also benefiting from longer green lights due to the recent improvements. 

Getting to this point wasn't easy. It took hundreds of hours to get the city's signals to work with Metro Transit's signals, which govern light rail movements throughout the Blue Line and Green Line corridors. There are a dozen intersections between the Target Field and U.S. Bank Stadium stations. 

Signal improvements were also needed to allow Blue Line trains to operate in either direction, which they prevent delays if a track is being repaired or can't be used for some other unexpected reason. 

Trains couldn't switch tracks before new equipment was installed as part of a major track improvement project that occurred in 2017. 

Staff from Metro Transit and the City of Bloomington continue to work on signal improvements between the Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. That work is expected to continue through next year. 

METRO Green Line Shelters St. Paul

Ambassador program makes its mark in downtown St. Paul 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, October 01, 2019 1:26:00 PM

Ambassadors who supported the Streets of Summer pilot program, sponsored by the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance.Keeping busy boarding areas clean isn’t always easy. But a pilot program initiated by a group of downtown St. Paul business owners shows the dramatic impact that can be made when a small group of individuals is hired to pick up litter, remove graffiti and perform other maintenance activities.

The results of the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance’s Streets of Summer pilot program were presented this week, after the three-month test came to an end. According to the Downtown Alliance, five full-time ambassadors picked up 84 bags of trash, erased more than 500 pieces of graffiti and removed more than 5,300 pieces of gum between June and August.

The efforts were part of a broader program that also brought musical performances, public art and trash can mosaics to a four-block area of downtown St. Paul. Some of Metro Transit’s busiest boarding areas, including the METRO Green Line’s Central Station, were included in the Downtown Alliance’s focus area.  

To support the effort, Metro Transit provided ambassadors space to store cleaning supplies and worked with the Downtown Alliance to host activities at boarding areas around Central Station, Rice Park and elsewhere.

“Metro Transit was an incredibly great partner,” said Emma Burns, a project manager with the Downtown Alliance. “We think it was a great success.”

Burns said the group received especially positive feedback from transit customers who appreciated not only the extra maintenance but regularly encountering ambassadors, who sported blue polos with “Street Team” printed boldly on the back.

Ambassadors had more than 2,000 contacts with individuals and business owners, according to a summary prepared by the Downtown Alliance. “First and foremost, it was about having extra eyes and ears on the street,” Burns said. “People told us it was great to see consistent staff tidying up, saying hello and just being around.”

The pilot program was funded by the Knight Foundation and others to determine whether a downtown business improvement district could be created to sustain similar efforts in the future. Discussions about next steps are underway.  

Privately funded improvement districts are common in larger cities, including Minneapolis. Ambassadors with the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, created a decade ago, are similarly focused on providing a clean, safe and welcoming environment downtown.

While the St. Paul pilot has concluded, Metro Transit is continuing to do its part to provide customers a safe, clean and welcoming environment downtown.

The agency’s facilities maintenance team was recently expanded so staff could more proactively maintain busy boarding areas and clear snow during the winter.

Learn more about the impact of the Streets of Summer pilot program

Community METRO Green Line

Council, Transit Police, partners helping families in need 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, August 13, 2019 3:07:00 PM

Families who seek shelter on light rail vehicles are getting help finding affordable housing – and the support they need to transition to their new living arrangements.

The Metropolitan Council’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) has helped around 70 families find or begin searching for apartments since the beginning of the year. The families have largely been referred by Metro Transit police officers who work overnight on the METRO Green and Blue lines.

Families referred to the Council can have their rent partially covered through a federal housing program. While that aid is limited, there are hopes more resources will become available in the future.

For many families, though, rental assistance is just a part of the equation.

To smooth the transition, Council staff direct people to organizations that provide counseling, legal aid, furniture and groceries, among other services. A social worker from St. Paul-based Radias Health is working exclusively with individuals who sought shelter on transit.

Families also receive advice on paying bills, housekeeping, setting boundaries and getting around their new surroundings using transit.

When a family with young children moved into a new apartment, Metro HRA senior outreach coordinator Ryane Leifheit put up a bulletin board with reminders about routine tasks.

“Many of these transit riders haven’t had a home in years,” she said. “Staying in housing is a whole other battle.”

The assistance is part of a larger and ongoing effort to help individuals who seek shelter on transit find alternatives.

Officers with the Metro Transit Police Department’s Homeless Action Team are often the first point of contact. The team includes six police officers who spend their nights on light rail vehicles building trust, bringing people to temporary shelters and providing other aid.

Two Community Service Officers have been added to the team and a van used to transport individuals in need was recently retrofitted so officers can use it to provide medical attention and other assistance.

Police are also hoping to have more temporary shelter spaces reserved for individuals who seek shelter on transit. 

While homelessness is a common issue in the transit industry, the coordination between police, the HRA, local and state agencies and service providers is rare, according to one national expert.

“I think you’re on the cutting edge of this, working to get the homeless some help so they don’t keep coming back,” said Dan Boyle a San Diego, Calif.-based transit consultant who has studied the response to homelessness by agencies across the country.

Lt. Mario Ruberto, a key figure in the police department’s efforts, said the stage was set by Metro HRA Director Terri Smith.

“She said, ‘Here’s what we’re up against.’ You find out other people have finished this component. It’s breaking down barriers so we’re all coming together,” he said.    

While there are challenges, Leifheit, the outreach coordinator, is optimistic the work she and others are doing will make an impact. “There’s a place for everybody,” she said. “There’s no one who can’t be helped.”

-- Story and photo by Laura Baenen

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Minneapolis St. Paul

Technician training program creates careers, pride 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Monday, August 05, 2019 11:59:00 AM

Six LRT train technicians receive certificates of completion in a ceremony Aug. 2, 2019, at Hennepin Technical College where they earned associate degrees. From the left in the front row, they are: Thao Xiong, Calvin Hill, Chapman Templer, Chee Vang, Tenzin Kunga and Toua Yang.

Chapman TemplerToua Yang and Chee Vang might still be working at lower-paying jobs without advancement opportunities had they not enrolled three years ago in a paid on-the-job training program to become light rail train technicians.

They were among six people who received associate degrees this summer from Hennepin Technical College and are applying for Metro Transit electro-mechanical technician jobs with starting pay of about $27 an hour.

They will be in demand. Metro Transit has 16 open electro-mechanical technician positions and expects about 10% of its technicians of all kinds to retire next year.

About two dozen more technicians are also needed to support the METRO Green Line Extension, opening in 2023. Twenty-seven new light rail vehicles will be added to the fleet when the extension to Eden Prairie opens.

“The equipment comes in and we have to get the technicians in place to get it ready to operate,” said Gary Courtney, Metro Transit’s supervisor of workforce development.

To prepare the recent graduates, Metro Transit teamed up with Hennepin Technical College and Twin Cities R!SE, a nonprofit, on what’s known as the Metro Transit Technician Training program.

Twin Cities R!SE provided employment readiness training and Hennepin Tech created a first-of-its-kind associate degrees in light rail train technology. Courses focused on automation robotics, electronics and fluid power.

While in school, participants worked as full-time interns at Metro Transit, learning from mentors and earning $20 an hour. Metro Transit also helped pay for their first year of tuition, books and supplies.

“If the program had never started, I’d still be in school wondering what I was going to do,” said Yang, who previously worked at a tire shop.

Vang also used to work in a tire shop doing less skilled work. Now, he’s looking forward to having a steady income and benefits like health care and a retirement savings account.

“You’re getting higher pay. You’re not stressed about being able to pay the bills or being able to buy food,’’ Vang said.

Templer, who previously worked as a cook and bicycle mechanic, said he’s also gained a sense of pride from learning a new trade.  

“There's a lot of pride to be had when I step back and look at how far I’ve come,” he said. “I’ll use a crane to lift a 700-pound motor truck, move it across the shop, set it down, release the brakes, roll it off, set it up onto the stands and start removing the brake calipers.”

The other three graduates are: Calvin Hill, Tenzin Kunga and Thao Xiong.

The nationally recognized Metro Transit Technician Training program began in 2015 with a focus on Bus Maintenance.

Several participants have gone on to become full-time mechanic technicians at Metro Transit; others are still pursuing their degrees and serving as full-time interns.

Fox 9: First class graduates from specialized program filling need for light rail technicians

CCX: Hennepin Tech graduates first light rail technicians

Finance & Commerce: Training ramps up for light rail technicians

Sun Post: Hennepin Tech offers first light rail technician degree

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