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Posts in Category: METRO Green Line

Bus METRO Green Line St. Paul

The sky's the limit 

| Friday, June 06, 2014 9:43:00 AM

A new stairway-elevator tower connecting street-level transit and the St. Paul skyway opened on Thursday at the METRO Green Line’s Central Station.

The first person to take the trip up the tower: Rick Cardenas, who advocated on behalf of the disability community to make the case for its construction.

“Yep, it works,” Cardenas told the Star Tribune as he exited at the skyway level alongside several others who joined him to celebrate the opening.

While Cardenas and others in the disability community were especially vocal about the tower’s importance, the building will be a benefit to anyone who lives, works or visits downtown St. Paul. More than 73,000 people work in the city and another 8,100 call it home.

Central Station is the Green Line’s most centrally-located stop in downtown St. Paul and will serve as a gateway to several nearby entertainment, dining and recreational destinations.

“This stairway-elevator tower builds on the excitement that is spreading throughout downtown St. Paul with the Green Line’s opening and reaffirms our commitment to making transit in the Twin Cities open and accessible to all individuals,” said Metropolitan Council Member Rich Kramer, who represents downtown St. Paul.

Besides its functional benefits, the tower also stands as a piece of public art. Colored glass mimics the shades of sunrise and sunset while interior stonework goes from light to dark – effects meant to create a feeling of transition. The artwork was created by JoAnn Verberg,

The tower is among several improvements that will enhance the experience for transit customers in downtown St. Paul.

In July, construction will begin on three new custom shelters at downtown St. Paul’s busiest boarding locations, at Cedar and 5th streets, 5th and Minnesota streets and 6th and Cedar streets. Improvements to the waiting area at Minnesota and 6th streets will follow later.

The new shelters will include public art, security upgrades, NexTrip signs with real-time predicted departure information, bicycle amenities and landscaping. The stations are also being built to accommodate the addition of arterial Bus Rapid Transit features, including off-board ticket vending machines. Arterial BRT lines on West 7th Street and East 7th Street will include stops downtown.  

Funding for the waiting area improvements and the tower came from a federal grant received by Metro Transit. Green Line funding was also used to help pay for the tower.

    > Stairway-elevator tower opens at downtown St. Paul METRO Green Line station

    > Star Tribune: Ahead of LRT, St. Paul skyway accessibility improves

    > KSTP: Elevator at Green Line Station makes skyways more accessible

    > Downtown St. Paul Transit Improvements

    > METRO Green Line

Community METRO Green Line Safety Transit Police

Transit Police geared up for Green Line 

| Thursday, May 29, 2014 10:51:00 AM

Guest post by Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington

University Avenue looks much different today than it did when I began riding Metro Transit buses as a patrol officer more than 20 years ago. The METRO Green Line promises to bring even more change to the corridor, long the busiest east-west transitway in Minnesota.

While we don't expect light rail to dramatically alter the public safety dynamic in St. Paul, the return of rail service is something everyone along the route must prepare for – including local, county and state police.

Metro Transit Police officers are doing just that, connecting with community members and residents, strengthening partnerships with partner agencies and growing to meet the demands of our growing transit system.

In March and April, Metro Transit and partner agencies held joint emergency preparedness exercises at Stadium Village and Raymond Avenue stations to simulate emergencies involving light-rail. To reinforce safety messages, Metro Transit and St. Paul police in April began an outreach campaign to provide motorists, pedestrians, transit customers and bicyclists the information they need to safely navigate the Green Line corridor. We’ve interacted directly with hundreds of residents and will continue this important work after trains open to the public on June 14.

We’ve also grown the department to keep up with the expansion of transit services. Another 20 part-time officers were sworn in this week, expanding the force to a diverse group of 94 full-time and 100 part-time officers. Many of these officers will work out of our new East Command center near University Avenue, including 22 who will focus specifically on the Green Line and the neighborhoods it serves.

As Capt. Jim Franklin recently told The Star Tribune, the “rail beat concept” will be a key to effectively policing the Green Line corridor. “You get officers that know the area very well,” Franklin told the newspaper. “They know the businesses. They know the community and really will get to know the ridership.”

Building these relationships will be aided by the fact that officers will spend more time than ever patrolling on foot, on bike and on board trains and buses. A number of officers were recently added to our bike patrol squad, which can be more nimble in Green Line’s dense urban environment. In Minneapolis, we are participating once again in Minneapolis SafeZone, a multi-agency effort that provides additional patrols to ensure safety during the busy summer months.

While building personal relationships is important, we are also harnessing data to focus our efforts and using technology more than ever. Each Green Line station and all light-rail trains are equipped with multiple security cameras that can be monitored in real time. Call boxes at each station are available in the event of an emergency.

Like University Avenue, our department will continue to evolve and grow as trains transform the way Twin Cities residents get around. Whatever the future holds our fundamental approach to policing and commitment to providing a safe, secure environment for all who use or interact with transit will never change.

    > Star Tribune: Get a driver's point of view riding alongside Green Line

    > Police Chief John Harrington on MPR's Daily Circuit

    > MPR: Walk, bike and drive safely along the Green Line

    > Pioneer Press: Policing the Green Line: Metro Transit promises cameras, cops, analysis

    > Star Tribune: Police prepare for safety on Green Line

    > WCCO: Officials work to educate public on Green Line safety

    > Fox 9: Officers patrol University Avenue to raise light rail awareness

    > KSTP: Navigating the new METRO Green Line

    > Pioneer Press: Green Line will require safety heads-up by motorists and pedestrians

    > Star Tribune: Emergency-preparedness drill near the U tests response to train-bus crash

    > Pioneer Press: Light rail readies to roll, and St. Paul responders prepare, too

    > KSTP: Crews practice emergency response with light rail derailment situation

    > Star Tribune: Busier, safer St. Paul streets

    > Green Line Safety

    > Transit Police on board and on bike

METRO Green Line St. Paul Station Spotlight

Car-free and creative at Raymond Avenue Station 

| Tuesday, May 27, 2014 12:00:00 AM

A METRO Green Line train pulls into the Raymond Avenue Station.When David Needham and his wife Alyscia moved from San Francisco to Minneapolis in 2013, they didn’t think they’d be able to sustain their car-free life. Eight months later, they drove south to visit family in Texas, left their car behind and flew home.

The decision to relinquish their vehicle was aided in part by the fact that Needham and his wife live on University Avenue, just south of the METRO Green Line’s Raymond Avenue Station in the recently-opened C & E Lofts.

Using the train, they and their 10-month old daughter will be able to ride the train to the airport, get to church in downtown Minneapolis and travel to other destinations along the light-rail line. Improved connecting bus services at the station will help them get to Grand Avenue and other key destinations.

“Part of the reason we moved to this neighborhood was the convenience of being able to get to either downtown really easily,” said Needham, an entrepreneur who runs a freelance support business, Triplo, and frequently travels downtown for meetings. “Moving here, we decided we should have a car, but we found the transit system to be really good and reliable and just decided we wanted to be one less car on the road.”

The ease of traveling to, from and within the St. Anthony Park neighborhood surrounding the Raymond Avenue Station is drawing all types of people like Needham who are looking for a central location with a plethora of transportation options.

In their footsteps are a fresh crop of new businesses, residential development and a groundswell of community-building efforts centered on the creative economy. The activity is interwoven with well-established neighborhoods of single-family homes and industry.

Among the recent arrivals is Barely Brothers Records, an all-vinyl record shop that opened in February. The record shop sits amid a collection of restaurants and eclectic businesses that line Raymond Avenue and are less than a block north of the Raymond Avenue Station.

Mike Elias, who opened Barely Brothers with friend Spencer Brooks, said the store’s proximity to the Raymond Avenue Station was a “major selling point” in choosing where to locate. The hope is to draw from each downtown as well as students from the University of Minnesota.

“It should be pretty easy to hop off the train and get right here,” said Elias, who will be able to commute to work using the Green Line and Route 83, a new bus service that will run on Lexington Parkway beginning June 14.

Transportation was also a motivating factor for the recent relocation of the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute, which was previously located on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis.

The nonprofit provides tutoring services to nearly 500 youth who come from throughout St. Paul and can now easily reach the center’s office at the corner of University and Raymond avenues. The organization also draws more than 100 tutors, many of whom come from colleges along the Green Line.

“We did an informal poll of parents and many of them said they would use the train,” said Chad Kampe, the group’s executive director.

Kampe said the cheekishly-named organization is also planning to open a small retail component to raise funds for their work and that being near the station will be a good way to increase visibility and draw in new people.

As interest in the area around Raymond Avenue Station grows, developers are breathing new life into old properties and creating new homes for urban dwellers, nonprofits, artists and other small businesses.

The C & E Lofts building, where Needham lives, dates to the 1920s and was originally a furniture warehouse and showroom. The 104-unit building reopened in 2013 following a yearlong renovation and now boasts a host of amenities, such as a rooftop deck, bike storage and repair station and an HOURCAR hub.

Two blocks south of University Avenue, Minneapolis-based development company First & First is renovating a collection of office and warehouse buildings on Vandalia Street.

The Vandalia Tower development will create 200,000 square feet of office, creative and warehouse space that will serve as a hub for creative businesses, technology firms, tradespeople and artists.  A restaurant and brewery could also locate there.

First & First founder Peter Remes, who grew up nearby, said light rail “was definitely an influencer” in taking on the ambitious redevelopment. Remes said light rail will not only benefit current and future tenants but create a vibrant streetlife that has a positive impact.

“New prospective tenants we’ve been in conversation with all view light-rail as a very positive thing,” Remes said.

The Vandalia Tower project builds on the development of the Creative Enterprise Zone, a community-led effort to support and grow creative entrepreneurship around Raymond Avenue Station. The Creative Enterprise Zone's mission is to make the area a “recognized center of creativity and enterprise” where people “make a living by their creative capacities.”

Catherine Reid Day, a Creative Enterprise Zone board member, said the Green Line’s opening is an important milestone that strengthens the group’s efforts and the wider community.

“It’s a very exciting time for us all,” she said. “For me, this area is a true hub for our city, and keeping it strong will contribute to assuring all the spokes that radiate from it stay strong too.”

Raymond Avenue Station At a Glance 

Connecting bus routesRoute 16, with local service on University Avenue between Stadium Village Station and downtown St. Paul. Route 30, with service to Northeast and North Minneapolis. Route 63, with service on Grand Avenue to downtown St. Paul. Route 67, with service on Minnehaha and Thomas avenues to downtown St. Paul and west on Franklin Avenue to the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station. Route 87, with service on Raymond and Cleveland avenues between the Rosedale Transit Center and Highland Park.

Public art: Andrea Myklebust and Stanton Sears carved wheels out of granite that mimic those on earlier modes of transportation, including streetcars and Empire Builder passenger trains. Myklebust and Sears created similar works for the Green Line’s Westgate and Union Depot stations. Learn more.

Area landmarks: Hampden Park, Jennings Community Learning Center, Avalon School, St. Anthony Park Branch Library, Langford Recreation Center, College Park, Commonwealth Park, Luther Seminary, Murray Middle School, University of Minnesota-St. Paul Campus, Desnoyer Park.

Bike-ped connections: The City of St. Paul recently rebuilt Raymond Avenue, adding bike lanes between University and Hampden Avenues, as well as wider sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly medians. Further north, there is a seven-mile stretch of Como Avenue with bike lanes between the U of M campus and Rice Street. A Nice Ride kiosk is located at University Avenue and Carleton Street.

Neighborhood groupsSt. Anthony Park Community Council

METRO Green Line St. Paul Station Spotlight

Past and present converge at Victoria Street Station 

| Tuesday, May 20, 2014 12:00:00 AM

A METRO Green Line train at Victoria Street Station. Sam Hayat opened his first car repair shop on University Avenue nearly 30 years ago. After struggling to sustain the business, he tried making a go of it at locations in south Minneapolis, Bloomington and Brooklyn Park.

A year ago, he returned to the place where it all began, opening the doors to Eco Garage at the northwest corner of University Avenue and Victoria Street and just north of the METRO Green Line’s Victoria Street Station.

After years of bouncing around, it appears Hayat has finally hit the sweet spot.

“We’ve been busy since day one,” Hayat said recently. “It’s been a huge difference as far as business goes. This is really beyond my expectations.”

Hayat, who has expanded from one to four mechanics since opening in 2013, is expecting things to get even better after the Green Line opens on June 14. His thinking is that customers who need to leave their cars for the day will come to Eco Garage because of its convenient location on the Green Line.

Business owners and community leaders say Hayat’s success is a precursor of what is to come for those who live and work near Victoria Street Station. In addition to increased mobility and improved conditions for small businesses, light-rail is viewed as a catalyst for residential, commercial and retail development, as well as a springboard for community building.

One of the groups leading the charge is Model Cities, a nonprofit human service and community development group that has been active on University Avenue for nearly 50 years.

Based just north of Victoria Street Station, Model Cities hopes to begin construction in 2015 on two sites at or near Victoria Street Station, together known as  Model Cities Redevelopment. The Model Cities BROWNstone and Central Exchange projects would together bring 60 new units of family and workforce housing as well as two new pocket parks, public art and a reading room that focuses on the role African Americans played in St. Paul’s early railroad industry.

Dr. Beverly Oliver Hawkins, the chief executive officer at Model Cities, said the project is part of a larger goal to develop and promote a distinct cultural district that celebrates the area’s history and the mix of cultures that now reside there.

“The window of opportunity has opened up and we are jumping through it,” Hawkins said.

Community leaders driving to restore the Victoria Theater also see the Green Line’s opening as a seminal moment for their efforts. Located just north of Victoria Street Station on University Avenue, the 1915 theater was a popular community hangout through the 1930s, when it was converted to retail use.

After nearly 20 years of vacancy, the Victoria Theater Arts Initiative is working to purchase the building and re-open it as a community arts center. The theater is one of several locations where community celebrations will be held for the Green Line’s opening and will continue to feature art from the community throughout the year.

Tyler Olson, who lives nearby and is involved in the restoration effort, said having light-rail trains run outside the theater’s doors will be critical to building interest in the site.

“This is probably something that could move forward without light rail, but having that adds a real depth of audience and allows us to share a lot more easily,” he said. “This could be a community center in a very traditional sense but now it will be open to a huge number of people from across the Twin Cities.”

Mary Milton, the owner of Transformation Salon, is also hoping the extra attention will be a boon for her nine-year-old business, located on University Avenue just west of Victoria Street Station. While the construction period was difficult, she believes the future will be much brighter.

If business improves as she expects, she wants to expand into a larger space and offer shoes, clothing, jewelry and other items.

“That was kind of my vision in the beginning,” she said. “I’m hoping that people will see the business and be encouraged to stop and get off.”

The renewed entrepreneurial spirit reflects a deep-seeded culture of self-reliance in the area surrounding the station.

MK Nguyen grew up in Frogtown as the daughter of Vietnamese refugee immigrants who became pioneers in the Southeast Asian small business community, opening Ala Francaise Bakery, the Twin Cities’ first bánh mì shop. As community leaders, they helped many others establish small businesses on University Avenue and St. Paul.

Nguyen now hopes to build on that legacy by opening a retail space of her own. She also wants to help grow the capacity of residents and business owners to work together and build a "healthy, wealthy, vibrant Frogtown for the next generation." The Green Line is an integral part of that vision, creating new opportunities for residents and youth to engage and develop a healthy, participatory, and sustainable model for social and economic growth, she said.

“My mind is blown every single day by the genius of the people in my neighborhood," Nguyen said. "My goal is to unleash the human potential that already exists in Frogtown, invite others to join our story, and add to the rich and dynamic history embedded in Frogtown.”

While focused on the future, residents around the station remain ever-mindful of the neighborhood’s history. The historic Rondo community was divided by the construction of Interstate 94, and that past experience remains front of mind for many who still live in the area.

To recognize the leaders who held the neighborhood together throughout the years, the Victoria Street Station features 17 images of people who have impacted the community. The group includes educators, historians and entrepreneurs, such as Tiger “Jack” Rosenbloom who ran a small shop at the corner of St Anthony Avenue and Dale Street and is remembered for saying “Never say can’t.”

Scultptor Foster Willey learned about the individuals while crafting the station artwork and said he was struck by the number of strong personalities that called St. Paul home.

“There is a very compelling story of a very vibrant community that had some rough times and their resilience in overcoming that while continuing to thrive and celebrate their history and culture,” he said.

Victoria Station At a Glance 

Connecting bus routesRoute 16, which will provide local service on University Avenue between Stadium Village Station and downtown St. Paul.

Public art: Minneapolis artist Foster Willey partnered with his brother Guy to sculpt portraits of historic people and landmarks from the Rondo community which are affixed to the station walls. Around 80 individuals were nominated for inclusion in the “Faces of Rondo” project and community members helped select 17 people to include. Among those featured at the station is Gordon Parks, who overcame trying circumstances to become a well-regarded author, photographer and filmmaker. Others featured at the station are Pearla Mae Barnes, Lou Bellamy, Dorothea Burns, Charles Crutchfield Sr., Mahmoud El-Kati, Beverley Oliver Hawkins, Katie McWatt, Debbie Montgomery, Rhoda Stroud, Billy Williams, Floyd Massey Jr., Sharon Sayles Belton, Tiger Jack Rosenblum, Hallie Q. Brown and Evelyn Fairbanks. There are also images of the Rondo-Stryker streetcar, a familiar sight in the neighborhood from the 1920s to the 1950s; Mechanic Arts High School, a fixture in the community until it closed in 1976; and Pullman porters. Many early African American Rondo residents worked on sleeping cars as Pullman porters, and fromed the first all-black union. Learn more

Area landmarks: Ryan Park, Carty Park, Frogtown Park and Farm, Maxfield Elementary

Bike-ped connections: A NiceRide kiosk is located in the northwest corner of University Avenue and Victoria Street.  This summer, St. Paul will construct a bike boulevard on Charles Avenue between North Aldine Street and Park Street. There are pedestrian crossings over I-94 at Chatsworth and Grotto streets.

Neighborhood groupsFrogtown Neighborhood Association; Summit University Planning Council

Bicycle Bus Community METRO Green Line Safety Transit Police

Transit Police on board and on bike 

| Monday, May 05, 2014 12:00:00 AM

The Metro Transit Police Department's Bike Patrol poses during a training at Fort Snelling.When Sgt. Leo Castro is on patrol in St. Paul, he doesn’t need to roll down the window to get fresh air.

That’s because he’s clipped into the pedals of a Cannondale mountain bike, traveling the streets on a pair of 26-inch wheels to monitor busy boarding locations and respond when needed.

Castro and other Metro Transit Police Department officers will be getting even more time in the open air when the METRO Green Line begins service on June 14.

Because the light-rail line runs through two downtowns, the University of Minnesota and a busy commercial corridor, Transit Police will be riding bikes, patrolling on foot and spending time aboard buses and trains so they can have more mobility and respond as quickly as possible.

“As a bike officer, we can get to certain areas where a squad car can’t go and get there a lot more quickly,” Castro said. “Even in rush hour we can cover three or four blocks in a couple of minutes.”

In 2010, Castro became the first Metro Transit police officer to get trained and certified as a bike patrol officer. Today, he leads a unit of 16 officers who split time between their bikes and a squad car. Bike officers will also load their bikes on bus racks and bring them on trains while doing fare checks and other on-board policing.

As part of their basic training, bike officers are taught how to ride up and down stairs, dismount and make arrests and navigate safely through traffic and large crowds. Transit Police also recently participated in “Bike Rapid Response” training with the Minneapolis Police Department to learn how bikes can be used to calm crowds during large events, such as the MLB All-Star Game.

Officer Daniel Wallace is part of the department’s newest class of bike officers and comes with two years of previous experience patrolling the Mall of America by bike. Wallace said one of the biggest challenges to patrolling on a bike is carrying all of the gear. A “duty belt” with a radio and other equipment weighs around 30 pounds.

“Once you learn how to ride you never forget,” Wallace said. “But doing it with all the equipment is a little more of a challenge.”

Bike patrols primarily take place in the spring and summer, but officers aren't afraid to go out in difficult weather conditions, including ice, snow and rain.

While physically demanding, Officer Kelly Franco sought a spot on the bike unit because it offered variety and a unique opportunity to interact more with the public.

“When you’re in a squad car, the majority of the time you’re going from call to call,” she said. “But when you’re on bike patrol you’re mingling and interacting with people and other bike riders so you get to see a different perspective.”

In his experience on the street, Castro said being on a bike has allowed him to quickly identify and apprehend suspects, respond to medical emergencies and generally be more proactive about quality of life issues such as loitering.

Being on a bike has also been a great way to combine his interest in biking with his job and public service, said Castro, the department’s 2010 Officer of the Year.

“I’m passionate about bikes, but I’m equally passionate about community-oriented policing,” he said. “Really, that’s what this is all about.”

    > Metro Transit Police Department

    > For Transit Police K-9s, all work and a little play

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