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Light rail construction continues in Minneapolis 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, October 25, 2017 1:00:00 PM

Light rail service will be suspended on portions of the Green and Blue lines this weekend as construction related to improvements in downtown Minneapolis continues.

Buses will replace trains from 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, through 3:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 30, between Target Field Station and the Franklin Avenue and Raymond Avenue stations. Replacement buses will operate on a similar schedule as trains but can take more time.  

While light rail service is suspended, crews will install overhead power lines that transfer energy to trains, underground cabling that will better manage electrical current and signals that guide train movements.

The Washington Avenue Bridge will also be cleaned and painted, and the City of Minneapolis will be repainting crosswalks in several locations.

Construction work will be occurring around the clock until light rail service can be restored.

This summer, light rail service was suspended downtown for nearly two weeks as crews replaced sections of worn rail and installed two new crossovers sections that allow trains to move from one track to another downtown.

The overhead power lines and signals being installed this weekend will allow the trains to use the new crossover sections. For safety reasons, the wiring and signals work couldn’t occur during this summer’s shutdown.

The crossovers and signals will improve reliability by allowing trains to switch between tracks when there is increased train traffic or if a section of track is unexpectedly blocked. The new rail has also created a smoother ride, and will be more durable over time.

Light rail service will be suspended in downtown Minneapolis overnight several times in November and December to allow for signal testing. Test trains will move through downtown but replacement bus service is being provided because the test runs are expected to take longer than scheduled trips.

Pre-planned light rail shutdowns are scheduled during weekends and overnight to limit the impact on customers. In September, combined average weekday ridership on the Blue and Green lines was about 17 percent higher than on Saturdays and 71 percent higher than on Sundays.

The window for construction is also constrained by weather.

Some additional weekend closures are planned for 2018, but no extended light rail shutdowns are expected for at least several years.

Sign up for Rider Alerts to stay up-to-date about upcoming rail maintenance this fall!

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Dorothy’s last ride 

Posted by Kathy Graul | Tuesday, October 03, 2017 8:49:00 AM

William Carter III took his mother Dorothy on one final ride to celebrate her life and the independence public transportation afforded her.Dorothy Carter was fiercely independent. But she never had a driver’s license and never drove a car. For all 94 years of her life, she took public transportation.

“It was her way to stay independent. To do what she wanted to do, when she wanted to do it and not be bound by anybody’s schedule or feel like she was imposing,” said Dorothy’s son, William Carter III.

On Thursday, Sept. 28, William took his mother Dorothy on one final ride to celebrate her life and the independence transit afforded her.

“I’m just riding all day. We’re taking a farewell tour,” said William as he boarded a westbound Green Line train at Snelling Avenue Station.

“It’s been quite a ride for her,” William said.

With a sign and an urn containing Dorothy’s remains in tow, William boarded several bus routes, the METRO Green Line and the A Line to visit some of his mother’s regular destinations throughout the day.

“Walgreen’s on Snelling. Rosedale Mall. Korte’s. We might stop by Plums for some French onion soup that she liked. I plan on stopping by her doctor’s office, too,” he said.

A resident of the Highland Park neighborhood, Dorothy knew the St. Paul bus routes like the back of her hand. Macy’s in downtown St. Paul was a favorite destination prior to its closing. But she would also take transit across town on occasion. She once took transit from St. Paul to Southdale in Edina to accompany a visually impaired friend (who also did not drive) for a doctor’s appointment.

As a longtime Twin Cities resident, Dorothy always intentionally chose to live near access to transit, and she witnessed firsthand the vast changes in public transportation from the streetcar days to the opening of the METRO Green Line.

In recent years, when Dorothy was no longer able to take transit on her own, she started using Metro Mobility to get to doctor’s appointments, lunches with friends and shopping, up until a few months before she died.

“She’d call and say ‘I took Metro Mobility to the doctor today. And we had the nicest driver and the nicest tour, and I met the nicest person on the bus.’” William said. “She was just very appreciative of everything that was going on.”

She instilled that appreciative attitude and her belief in the importance of transit in her son, an only child.

“She taught me how to sew. How to iron. And how to take the bus,” William said. By the time William was in the fourth grade, Dorothy would send him on the bus on his own to start learning the routes.

“So that’s why I’m doing it. To show appreciation for teaching me the independence of not only how to ride the bus but the importance of it,” William said. “It’s just one final tour to thank her for all the skills she taught me about riding the bus.”

Dorothy's last ride

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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!

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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

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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)

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