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Posts in Category: METRO Green Line

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Safety

Keeping a careful eye on the METRO Blue Line 

| Friday, October 11, 2013 10:00:00 AM

Shortly after 9 a.m. on a recent Monday morning, Shawn Jensen and two other rail maintainers got off a light-rail train at the METRO Blue Line’s Target Field Station and began slowly walking south.

Stepping down the line through downtown Minneapolis, the neon-vested trio looked up, down and around the track looking for anything out of the ordinary.

After nearly three hours of methodic walking and observing, the three-man crew had made their way four miles south to 38th Street Station. Another group would later complete the trek, walking from 38th Street to Mall of America Station in Bloomington. 

The goal: notice any changes or anomalies and address the issue quickly as a form of preventative maintenance.

“We’re looking for track structure issues – of course a broken rail or broken rail fasteners,” Jensen, a first shift foreman, said before setting out. “And Interlockings –where there are switches – that’s a real touchy are where that have to spend a little extra time inspecting.”

Besides checking the condition of rails and the fasteners that hold them to the ground, maintainers look for debris in the tracks, slight changes in track alignment and check lubricator boxes to ensure they’re working properly. With turnouts that allow trains to switch sides of the track, maintainers look to make sure the switch points are perfectly flush to the stock rail so light-rail vehicle wheels don’t "pick the point" -- an industry way of saying get caught.  

Maintainers also keep an eye on the Blue Line's aesthetics, picking up trash and noting places where graffiti and overgrown vegetation needs to be removed as they move up-and-down the line.

Such up-close inspections – called “track walking” by those who do it – are not unusual. In fact, maintainers like Jensen walk the entire length of the 11-mile METRO Blue Line twice a week. The same inspections will happen on the METRO Green Line after it opens next year.

Pausing only for heavy snow or rain when visual inspections are conducted from the train’s cab, the federally-mandated walking inspections occur on a year round basis. A group of 13 maintainers and foreman, many with backgrounds in the freight rail industry, perform the walking inspections. All are based at Metro Transit's Light Rail Support Facility.

Rail tracks also go through an ultrasonic inspection every year using a machine that digitally detects internal defects that can't be spotted with the naked eye. Light-rail operators routinely report their observations about track conditions as well.

Even so, track maintenance staff says there’s no replacement for the kind of routine, detailed inspections that come from the weekly walks.

“This gets us very close to it (the rail),” said Charles “Chuck” Anderson, Metro Transit's manager of track maintenance. “There’s just so much you’re trying to observe -- this allows us to really focus.”

Manually performing the inspections is also less obtrusive because trains continue to operate in service while they occur. With three people assigned to the job, a designated lookout watches for trains and makes sure walkers are safely out of the way as the trains pass.

Minor issues that are identified can be remedied in less than a day while other observations lead to longer-term fixes that unfold over time.  

Such diligence has paid off, too. Since the Blue Line opened a decade ago, there have been no performance issues attributed to poor maintenance -- something Jensen says he keeps in mind on his long walks.

“I like doing this because it's good exercise but really we're here to make sure the line is in top condition for the safety of the people who are riding the system,” he said.

From the GM METRO Green Line Minneapolis Safety St. Paul Transit Improvements

Green Line progress on track 

| Wednesday, September 11, 2013 2:00:00 PM

From Brian Lamb, Metro Transit General Manager

The Minnesota State Fair is over but our planning for next year’s event is already underway. One of the most changes we’re preparing for: light-rail connections from the METRO Green Line.

The Green Line’s role in next year’s State Fair service is just one example of the myriad ways transportation in the Twin Cities will change when the region’s second light rail line begins operating.

We’re getting closer to that new reality with every passing day, too. Green Line construction is 96 percent complete and testing is well underway. Light-rail vehicles have been towed the full length of the new track and trains have run on energized segments of the line through the University of Minnesota campus.

Here’s a snapshot of where the project stands today:

> Infrastructure: In August, ground was broken for an enclosed connection that will provide access between the Central Station and skyway system in downtown St. Paul. Over the next several months, more overhead wire and equipment will be installed and ticket machines, NexTrip display signs and security cameras will begin appearing at station areas. Staff will be at Sunday’s St. Paul Open Streets event to provide tours and answer additional questions about these station areas.

> Vehicles: To date, we’ve received nearly half of the 59 new type II Siemens light-rail cars that will be used on the Green and Blue lines. Twenty of these light-rail vehicles have already been put into service on the Blue Line while more are being tested and certified each week. Support vehicles will also be required to maintain and operate the line. In October, we expect to receive a new vacuum truck that will be used for clearing street-embedded track on the Green and Blue lines. Equipment that will be used for snow clearance and overhead line maintenance is also arriving.

> Outreach: A public safety campaign that urges pedestrians and motorists to be aware around stations and construction ares was rolled out earlier this year. As testing activities accelerate, we will focus the campaign more heavily on safety around trains themselves and continuing to share this message with schools and other groups located on and near the line. 

> Service: More trips on several connecting bus routes were added in late August, giving customers an early opportunity to become acquainted with the new bus schedules over the months ahead. It’s expected that more than one-third of Green Line rides will be transfers from buses. A comprehensive plan for optimizing bus service in the Central Corridor area was completed last year. 

> Personnel: About half of the 176 new jobs – from rail supervisors to technicians to track maintainers and helpers – have been filled. Nine Green Line train operators have begun training and by the end of the year the majority of the 61 new operators will have moved over from our bus operations division.   

In both obvious and subtle ways, the METRO Green Line will change the fabric of the Twin Cities. We at Metro Transit hope you’re looking forward to it as much as we are.

Bus In the News Light Rail METRO Green Line On the METRO St. Paul Transit Improvements

St. Paul connections go every direction, including up 

| Thursday, August 29, 2013 1:12:00 PM

Construction on a new vertical connection between the METRO Green Line’s Central Station and the St. Paul Skyway is now underway.

The connection was celebrated Wednesday morning in St. Paul as disability advocates and downtown business leaders joined officials from St. Paul, Ramsey County and the Metropolitan Council for a ceremonial groundbreaking at the corner of Fifth and Cedar streets, where the connection will be located.

Expected to be completed in time for the opening of the METRO Green Line, the verical connection will serve as a link for commuters while improving accessibility at the Central Station.

The vertical connection is just one part of a suite of transit improvements planned for downtown St. Paul.

Planning is also underway to improve bus boarding areas at Cedar Street and Fifth Street, Fifth Street and Minnesota Street, Sixth Street and Cedar Street and Minnesota and Sixth Street in mid-2014.                                                                                 

New shelters, public art, security upgrades, real time arrival signs, lighting, bicycle amenities and landscaping are planned for each of the stops, which together see more than 6,000 daily boardings.

Stations at Fifth Street and Minnesota Street and at Sixth Street and Cedar Street will also be built to accommodate ticket vending machines and other components of Arterial Bus Rapid Transit, planned for West Seventh Street and East Seventh Street.

A $3.2 million federal grant is paying for the station improvements and a share of the vertical connection.

This week, service was expanded on a dozen Metro Transit bus routes serve downtown St. Paul, including routes 21, 54, 62, 64, 68 and 74.

> METRO Green Line

> Downtown St. Paul Transit Improvements

> Metro Transit expands bus service in St. Paul, East Metro

> Pioneer Press: St. Paul Skyway elevator, downtown bus stop improvements planned

Bus Bus Rapid Transit METRO Green Line Minneapolis Route of the Week St. Paul University of Minnesota

Route 61: From the city to the farm and back again 

| Wednesday, August 21, 2013 9:00:00 AM

Bucolic farm views aren’t what customers expect to find while riding one of Metro Transit’s urban bus routes.

But that’s what they’ll find on Route 61 as it passes the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. Acres of corn, tomatoes and other vegetables come into view as the bus rolls down Larpenteur Avenue and past the fields adjoining campus.

The agrarian environment is just one of the scenes customers encounter while riding Route 61, however. The crosstown bus also passes through quiet, tree-lined residential streets, past large industrial warehouses and over the Mississippi River as it makes its way between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul.

For two weeks every summer, it also passes near one of the state’s largest events: the Minnesota State Fair. The fairgrounds sit just south of Larpenteur Avenue, between Cleveland and Snelling Avenues and can be reached by Route 61 customers willing to walk a short distance to the entrance. (Regular service on Route 3 and Route 84 can also bring customers to the fair; see all available transit options here.)

Even without that extra attraction, though, Route 61 is seeing its fair share of customers. Nearly 780,000 customers boarded Route 61 buses last year, up around 3 percent from 2011.

Among them is Ritesh Katwal, a 25-year-old University of Minnesota student who uses the bus to travel between school and his home in St. Paul. Without a car, Katwal said the bus is so important to him that he plans his classes around the bus schedule.

“The 61 is the only bus I take and I take it all the time – to school, libraries, wherever I can go,” he said recently as he returned home from class.

Chuck Weber moved to St. Paul just two months ago but has already made a habit of riding Route 61. Weber said he boards once or twice a day, usually to get to the YMCA in downtown St. Paul. Though he has a car, he says he prefers to ride the bus for environmental reasons and to avoid paying for parking.

Now retired, Weber also benefits from a 75-cent senior fare, available to customers who are at least 65-years-old.

“I like the bus because it’s environmentally more sound but it’s also a lot cheaper,” Weber said.

Route 61 was created in 2001, when a series of service changes went into effect. A number of routes were either eliminated or consolidated, allowing Metro Transit to create a more direct crosstown route. One of Route 61's primary purposes is to link residents in east St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis. But the route also provides local service to businesses along Larpenteur Avenue and downtown St. Paul.  

Responding to strong demand, weekday spans on Route 61 were expanded in early 2013. Plans are now in place to improve station areas in downtown St. Paul, including the transit center at Fifth and Minnesota streets, where passengers board Route 61 and several other routes.

Future service improvements could be made to East Seventh and Arcade streets, once home to a streetcar line that ran between St. Paul and White Bear Lake. The streets have been identified as candidates for Arterial Bus Rapid Transit, which would improve travel time along a nearly 9-mile stretch between the METRO Green Line in downtown St. Paul and the Maplewood Mall Transit Center.

A Metro Transit study suggests more than 13,000 weekday passengers could use ABRT by 2030.

As that planning continues, longtime customer Michael Chappell said he's happy with what's already in place. Now 51-years-old, Chappell has been riding the bus since he was a child and finds himself amazed with the consistency of service he's experienced.

"It's never too late, never too early -- always on time," he said.  

Route 61 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

Service: Route 61 runs between the Ramp A/7th Street Transit Center in downtown Minneapolis and the Smith Avenue Ramp near downtown St. Paul. Buses run along East Hennepin Avenue, Larpenteur Avenue, Arlington Avenue, Arcade Street and East Seventh Street. In St. Paul, Route 61 stops at Fifth and Minnesota streets, adjacent to the METRO Green Line's Central Station. Buses run between roughly 5 a.m. and 11:30 p.m., approximately every 20 minutes during rush hour, every half-hour midday and every hour in the evening. Downtown Zone fares apply in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Route length: Approximately 15 miles

Stops: 132 eastbound stops and 134 westbound stops

Vehicles: 40-foot standard buses

Ridership: Route 61 saw nearly 780,000 customer boardings in 2012, with an average of more than 2,531 daily passengers.

History: Route 61 launched in 2001 following a series of service changes that led other routes to be consolidated or eliminated. It was created primarily to provide a direct connection between east St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis and to provide service to businesses along Larpenteur Avenue. Parts of Route 61 -- East Seventh and Arcade streets -- were once home to a streetcar line between downtown St. Paul and White Bear Lake.

Future: East Seventh and Arcade streets are under consideration for Arterial Bus Rapid Transit, which would bring faster service to the corridor along with new technology, buses and improved station areas.

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Safety

Close call on METRO Blue Line provides safety reminder 

| Friday, August 16, 2013 9:24:00 AM

Rusdon Torbenson considers himself extremely lucky. 

On June 15, Torbenson was biking westbound on East 35th Street. After crossing Hiawatha Avenue, he biked around the lowered, flashing gate arms. Though he saw a METRO Blue Line train traveling south, he thought he could cross the tracks before it passed through the intersection.

Headphones in and looking to his right, Torbenson failed to notice the second 150-ton train coming from the opposite direction at about 40 miles per hour.

That is, until it hit his front tire.

“I had no awareness of the northbound train until it was striking me,” Torbenson said recently. “If it had passed another second later I would have been killed.”

Instead, Torbenson walked away from the scene 30 minutes later with little more than a bruised pointer finger, a bent-up bike and a moving violation. Customers were escorted from the train to replacement buses as police and emergency responders arrived at the scene.  

“I wanted to apologize to every one of them,” Torbenson said, recalling the incident in an interview at the Blue Line’s 38th Street Station.

Though he avoided significant injury, Torbenson’s story underscores a message Metro Transit hopes will stick with all residents who come near light rail: trains can come on any track, at any time, from either direction. (Though this wasn't true in Torbenson's case, it's also important to realize trains may be approaching on the opposite track but blocked from view by the near-side train.)

Torbenson said he knows he should have been more careful and agreed to talk about his experience so that others would not repeat it. He said he hadn't been in a particular hurry. And despite crossing the tracks countless times over the last several years, he’d never attempted to beat the train before.

With METRO Green Line light-rail service beginning between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul in mid-2014, Torbenson's experience is a timely reason for a refresher on safety around light-rail trains for pedestrians, motorists and bicyclists.

> Never try to beat a train through a crossing – it takes the length of two football fields for a train to stop.

> Safety only takes a second – light-rail trains move faster than freight trains. If gate arms are going down, stop. The train will clear the intersection in a few seconds.

> Slow down and be alert near rail stations. Watch for pedestrians, trains, buses and cars. If you're wearing headphones, put them away to avoid distractions.

Looking back at the experience, Torbenson said the close call has left him more aware, but also more introspective. In the days after the collision, he thought about how his parents and 11-year-old son would have been affected had things gone differently.

“The first few hours I was really just embarrassed,” he said. “Then over the next few days it was pretty overwhelming, realizing it was such a near-death experience.”

 

 

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