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Bus Community METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line State Fair

State Fair, Green Line see record ridership 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, September 07, 2017 4:55:00 PM

Metro Transit served fairgoers and fans on one of its busiest days ever, Thursday, Aug. 31.A record number of fairgoers rode to and from the Minnesota State Fair with Metro Transit and the METRO Green Line had its busiest day ever when the fair and several other events landed on the same day last week.

Metro Transit provided just over 654,000 express and regular route bus rides to the State Fair, topping last year’s record State Fair ridership by just over 21,500 rides. The ridership total accounts for just over 16 percent of State Fair attendance, which also reached an all-time high this year.

“The State Fair’s popularity shows just how eager Minnesotans are to enjoy each other and all our state has to offer,” General Manager Brian Lamb said. “It’s exciting to see that eagerness to come together extend to our buses and trains more and more every year.”

State Fair Express Bus service was offered from 13 Park & Rides throughout the Twin Cities. This was the 25th year Metro Transit provided express bus service to the State Fair. The State Fair ridership total also includes rides provided on several routes that serve the fairgrounds, including the new A Line on Snelling Avenue.

Fairgoers and fans also helped set a single-day ridership record for the Green Line on Thursday, Aug. 31. There were 68,071 Green Line rides taken that day, surpassing a previous-high of 66,018 rides, set on Oct. 3, 2016. 

Systemwide, 358,617 rides were taken on Thursday, Aug. 31, when weekday commuters were joined by fairgoers and fans traveling to Twins, Vikings, Gophers and Saints home games. The total is slightly below the single-day record of 369,626 rides set on Sept. 1, 2016, and is 37 percent higher than the year-to-date average weekday ridership.

The Aug. 31 total also includes 241,000 bus rides, 44,000 Blue Line rides and 5,500 Northstar rides.

See how it all went down in this video. Thanks for riding!

Equity Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line

Technicians in training celebrate early milestone in career path 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, August 21, 2017 3:28:00 PM

Participants in the Metro Transit Technician training program were recognized at a completion ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 17, in Minneapolis.Chapman Templer was working at a local bike shop, unsure when or if he’d ever get promoted or earn more money. After two years at Tires Plus, Chee Vang was struggling to pinpoint his long-term goals. Jordan “Monk” Nicholson was writing comic books and looking for a full-time job after recently moving from Ohio to the Twin Cities.

They and a dozen other job seekers who entered the Metro Transit Technician training program last fall now have a much better idea of what their futures could hold. 

The second group to enter the industry-first job training program was celebrated last week at the Blue Line’s Operations & Maintenance Facility, where participants had spent the past several months studying electrical theory and learning from the Electro Mechanic Technicians they aspire to someday work beside.

That experience was accompanied by tutoring and empowerment training with instructors at Twin Cities RISE!, a Minneapolis-based non-profit that helps individuals overcome barriers to employment. 

Last week’s ceremony came at an early crossroads for the participants: on Monday, they began full-time, paid Metro Transit internships and classes at Hennepin Technical College, which has developed a new degree program centered around Rail Maintenance.

While lots of hard work remains, supporters said the confidence and skills the participants had already built needed to be recognized.

“I know this is just the beginning, but today definitely deserves to be celebrated,” said Vang, who spoke in front of around 100 friends, family and Metro Transit staff gathered at the event. “What we’ve learned is to celebrate all of the small victories.”

This is the second group to enter the training program, developed by Metro Transit in partnership with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, Hennepin Technical College and Twin Cities RISE!

Participants from the first group are now entering their second year in college while interning in service garages and preparing to apply for full-time roles in Bus Maintenance. Applications for a third round of the program, again focused on Bus Maintenance, will be accepted later this year.

For participants like Vang, the goal is to land a career that promises stability, good benefits and opportunities to advance. For Metro Transit, the hope is to rejuvenate the ranks of technicians in bus and rail maintenance amid retirements and system growth.

Metro Transit will need to nearly double the number of technicians maintaining light-rail vehicles, signals, and systems to support planned extensions of the Green and Blue lines set to open in the years ahead. At the same time, around half of current technicians are above the age of 50 and beginning to approach retirement age. 

“We’re very excited now to be growing our own technicians,” Chief Operating Officer Vince Pellegrin said.

The program also supports Metro Transit's ongoing efforts to build diversity and provide access to opportunity.

Included in the most-recent group of participants was Ashley Williamson, who is on a path to becoming the first African American female to work in Rail Maintenance at Metro Transit.

“This is a major accomplishment to be able to inspire the next generation of people who are like me,” she said.

Electro Mechanic Technicians Resha Petit and Ben Engen said learning about participants’ histories is part of what made mentoring them so interesting and rewarding. They also appreciated the eagerness the participants showed throughout the 120 hours they spent working in the shop and studying with instructors.

“From day one, they came in here with a positive attitude,” Engen said. “It really made me look forward to coming to work on those days.”

Metro Transit light rail technician program

Participants in the Metro Transit Technician training program celebrated last week include, from left to right, front row: Calvin Hill, Allan Vang, Annette Kavanaugh, Chee Vang, Christopher Dudzinski, Thao Xiong, Toua Yang. Back row: Ronald “RJ” Abellard, Caitlin Wagner, Chapman Templer, Tenzin Kunga, Terence Ealy, Ashley Williamson, Jaime Trujillo, Jordan “Monk” Nicholson.

   > We're hiring! Learn more about career opportunities at Metro Transit

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

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