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Posts in Category: Northstar

Bus Fares Light Rail Minneapolis Northstar

Metropass program reaches the 20-year mark 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, October 04, 2018 9:16:00 AM

Commuters exit a Metro Transit bus in downtown Minneapolis. Providing discounted, unlimited ride transit passes through area employers was a novel idea when the Metropass program began in 1998.

But twenty years after its inception, the program is attracting an increasing number of companies eager to encourage transit among their workforce.

Employees who work for participating employers can pay for a Metropass pre-tax through a payroll deduction. On average, companies kick in about a third of the $83 monthly cost.

When Metropass got its start, Minneapolis-based Ameriprise Financial and TKDA, a St. Paul engineering firm, were among the first to join. Nearly twenty years later, both companies continue to offer Metropass to their employees.

But they have a lot more company now. Around 37,000 employees from more than 360 employers now participate in the program. In 2017, Metropass holders took more than 12.8 million rides.

In October 1998, the first month the program was offered, Metropass customers took just over 90,000 rides.

Among those who ride with a Metropass is Janice Knight, an academic advisor at Capella University. Knight began using transit more than a decade ago to avoid costly parking in downtown Minneapolis. But there have been other perks to taking the bus. 

“If I didn’t ride transit, I wouldn’t have met neighbors who also ride the bus,” Knight said. “In fact, several of us get together to celebrate birthdays, happy hour and holidays.”

Metro Transit works with Transportation Management Organizations (TMOs) like Move Minneapolis to identify employers who want to offer Metropass.

Of the 30 companies added last year, 21 were in downtown Minneapolis, including Select Comfort Corporation, Kraus Anderson and law firm, Jones Day.

Move Minneapolis also worked with Thrivent Financial, a Metropass member since 2005, to significantly increase the company’s participation last year. Thrivent is building a new headquarters downtown, losing some parking spaces in the process. 

In St. Paul, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, Minnesota Science Museum and St. Paul Hotel are among the recent employers to join the Metropass program.

The program appeals to some suburban employers, too. More than 300 employees working at Amazon’s Shakoppe distribution center are using a Metropass.

"Metropass is great for any metro-area employer," Revenue Operations Supervisor Lisa Anderson said. “There are so many benefits, like reducing the carbon footprint and handling the growth we're expecting to see."  

John Penland, Assistant City Attorney for the City of Saint Paul, is another longtime rider who appreciates riding with a Metropass. Penland regularly takes the bus between Mitchell-Hamline and downtown St. Paul.

“After a while, you meet the same people and it becomes a community where you can catch up with colleagues or friends during your trip,” he said.

  > Learn more about the Metropass program

Northstar

Group creates polka about Northstar Commuter Rail Line 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, August 23, 2018 12:28:00 PM

Josh Larson, who wrote "I Love the Northstar," at the Anoka Station. With support from Achieve Services, Inc., a group of Minnesotans with developmental disabilities are encouraged to express themselves through song in an ensemble called “Dance at Your Own Risk.”

The group’s latest album, “Changing Attitudes,” includes a quintessential Minnesotan piece of music: a German polka about Metro Transit. The song, “I Love the Northstar,” is one of five that group member Josh Larson wrote for the new collection.

“It’s really well written. He came up with the melody and how the song is structured,” Musical Director Joe Loskota said. “He’s really good at understanding musical styles.”

The song is not only catchy, but well written and performed. Even so, Larson maintains a humble Midwestern attitude. “I usually do instrumentals. I’m occasionally a singer,” Larson said. “I’m practicing my vocals.”

To celebrate the release of the new album, a CD release party will be held on Friday, Aug. 24, from  11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at a laundromat run by Achieve Services, Achieve Clean, 7500 University NE, Fridley.

Listen, download and purchase the album online at AchieveServices.org, iTunes, CD Baby, and Spotify or at any Achieve Services location​

METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Northstar

Fuhrmann leaves passenger rail legacy for generations to come 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, August 09, 2018 10:00:00 AM

Decades from now, people taking trains to college classes, a hospital shift or office job, to restaurants and sporting venues, or to the airport won’t have a clue they have Mark Fuhrmann to thank.

Even today, many have not heard of Fuhrmann—and that’s by his design. Metro Transit’s director of light rail and commuter rail projects has deliberately avoided public recognition.

He carefully stood behind office holders at public events and ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the METRO Blue Line in 2004, Northstar commuter rail in 2009 and Green Line in 2014. (This wasn’t difficult, given his modest height, or his trim figure maintained by 4 a.m. daily runs in all kinds of weather.) If politicians insisted that Fuhrmann join them in the foreground for a photo-op, he would politely oblige but later direct staff to crop him out of the frame.

But leaders at Metro Transit and Metropolitan Council recognize Fuhrmann as the person responsible for the region’s 62 miles of passenger rail (40 miles for Northstar and 22 for LRT). Upon hearing that Fuhrmann is retiring on Aug. 14 after serving the region for 25 years, their praise was universal.

“I can’t imagine how we would have built the Blue Line, Green Line and Northstar commuter rail without Mark’s dogged determination, intelligence and extraordinary professionalism,” said Susan Haigh, who was Council chair when the Green Line opened, and when preliminary engineering started on Southwest LRT (the Green Line extension). “He persevered through the most challenging political conversations imaginable and was always been a beacon of integrity for me.”

Finest of public servants’

“I have had the opportunity to work with many fine public servants in my career, and Mark Fuhrmann is simply the best of the best,” Haigh said. “Mark is able to unravel complex engineering issues and identify the pros and cons of strategic choices for decision makers. He is brilliant, prepared, thoughtful, determined and always respectful to his colleagues. Our rail lines have carried millions of passengers thanks to Mark Fuhrmann. These extraordinary investments have transformed the communities they serve and our entire region.”

Peter Bell, who was Council chair during the Green Line’s engineering and early construction phases, relied on Fuhrmann’s judgment and integrity as they moved the project forward.

“Honest, straight shooting and unflappable is how I would describe Mark,” Bell said. “He was very calm under intense pressure because he always had his facts right. I was always amazed at how people on all sides of the transit issue might disagree with one of our conclusions but never the facts that Mark presented.”

Former Council Regional Administrator Pat Born said Fuhrmann’s mark on the region will last at least a century. “The major transit investments Mark has led have already moved millions of riders to school, work and fun places. They have created thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment,” Born said.

Since the inception of the two LRT lines and Northstar, Metro Transit has served more than 190 million passengers on its rails. At last count earlier this year, more than $8 billion in development investment has occurred or is planned on the Blue and Green lines and their planned extensions to the southwest and northwest. The projects have so transformed the region and communities they serve that as municipalities refresh their comprehensive plans this year, many seek to focus development and density around existing and future transit stations.

Encyclopedic memory, focus on quality and ethics

The public often saw Fuhrmann’s encyclopedic memory for events, dates and financial information on display at public meetings, but he has another side that is less known, Born said.

“Mark’s quiet dignity and ferocious stands for quality and ethics are often overlooked. Building transit projects in the Twin Cities has meant facing huge obstacles and dealing with angry and often powerful people. Mark respected all of them but kept his head down and pushed forward,” Born said.

Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb, Fuhrmann’s supervisor, announced Fuhrmann’s retirement to staff “with great appreciation – and a healthy dose of sadness.”

“With his departure, he hands off projects that are ready to enter construction. Both Blue and Green Line extensions are rated by the Federal Transit Administration as “medium high” and deserve to secure Full Funding Grant Agreements soon. He has expertly guided those projects to their current point,” Lamb said.

Career path in public transit led him to nation’s capital, back home

Fuhrmann is fond of saying he was born at the former Midway Hospital on the Green Line and grew up in northern Golden Valley “in the shadow of Theodore Wirth Park,” which the Blue Line extension will bisect for part of its 13.5 miles from Target Field to Brooklyn Park. He attended Robbinsdale High School and earned his undergraduate degree in urban geography from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

In his first foray into public service, Fuhrmann interned in the summer of 1981 with the Metropolitan Parks and Open Space Commission. He supported the operations and maintenance task force.

“One of the recommendations we came up with was to seek permission from the Legislature to levy a candy tax. It didn’t get any traction,” Fuhrmann recalled, with a smile.

After finishing his graduate studies in planning at the University of Minnesota, Fuhrmann worked for a private bus company. He then moved to Washington, D.C., to work on the build-out of the Metro system from 1985 to 1993. His assignment was in northern Virginia, where he worked on the opening of three Metro extensions and the introduction of the first two commuter rail lines in northern Virginia, the Virginia Railway Express. After eight years, he returned to Minnesota to work for the Metropolitan Council’s transportation division.

It was an opportunity to come back home and be closer to family while working in his area of professional practice.

“Initially, rail discussions were not positive,” Fuhrmann noted, “but then in 1998 Governor Arne Carlson and the Legislature decided to approve the first installment of $40 million in funding for Hiawatha.” Fuhrmann eventually became project director of the METRO Blue and Green Lines and Northstar Commuter Rail Line when they were in engineering and under construction. The Minnesota Public Transit Association named him the state’s 2014 Transit Professional of the Year.

“Twenty years later, we have three rail lines in revenue service that have served over 190 million passengers, and the two LRT extensions are well positioned to secure federal funding and go into construction soon,” Fuhrmann said.

Fuhrmann recalls a career highlight of giving President Barack Obama and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx a tour of the Green Line’s operations and maintenance facility on Feb. 26, 2014. “I was deeply honored to be asked to host the president and secretary. I still pinch myself that that actually happened.”

Another highlight was giving Gov. Jesse Ventura a tour of the Hiawatha LRT Project Office in 2001, the first full year of construction. “Contrary to his public persona, he was a very thoughtful and curious leader who wanted to know more about the project and when we were going to open it.”  

Next stop: Northern Indiana rail projects with HDR Engineering

Although Fuhrmann officially is retiring, he starts a second career in August. His new title is associate vice president for HDR Engineering. He will serve as HDR’s program director for New Starts projects for the Northern Indiana Commuter Transit District (NICTD), which operates commuter rail service between South Bend, Ind., and Millennium Station in downtown Chicago.

With an average weekday ridership of about 11,500 passengers, NICTD is the only interurban electrified line that continues in operation in the United States. Service began in 1908. NICTD has two New Starts projects that Fuhrmann will shepherd from their offices in Chesterton, Ind. One is West Lake, a nine-mile southerly extension of the South Shore Line between Hammond and Dyer, Ind., in western Lake County. The second one is the Double Track Project, which will install a double track where currently only a single track lies between Gary and Michigan City. Trains traveling in opposite directions will no longer need to take turns.

“I recognized at the Council’s 50th anniversary celebration earlier this year that 2018 was my 25th year anniversary with the Council,” Fuhrmann said. “I have seen a lot of great things for the last 25 years of the Council’s existence. It made me reflect maybe there are some new challenges and opportunities out there that I should explore.”

“The thing that makes me sad is I am going to miss the dedication of all my colleagues and the friendship of working with them all these years as we all worked with one purpose in mind: to build out the METRO system here in the Twin Cities,” he said.

Fuhrmann had some words of wisdom for staff as he leaves. “Communicate, collaborate and coordinate with all the stakeholders – political, community and staff,” he said.

Express Bus METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Metropass Minneapolis Northstar On the METRO

New transit-friendly HQ a perfect ‘Match’ 

| Monday, December 14, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Be the Match employee Mike Smith spends his time on the bus catching up on emails and listening to the radio.When Be the Match relocated to its new North Loop headquarters, Michael Smith thought he'd continue driving to work.

But weeks after the relocation, he gave up on the idea of driving and using one of the few underground parking spaces available to a small portion of the donor network’s 900-plus employees. 

The decision to go “all in” on transit came after Smith compared his options and became convinced commuting between Minneapolis and Lakeville on Route 467 would be considerably more relaxing than battling traffic on Interstate 35W, his routine for the last several years.

On the bus, Smith spends his time catching up on emails and listening to the radio, occasionally using free WiFi now available on some buses.

“It’s changed my life to be honest with you,” said Smith, Be the Match’s Director of Donor Shared Services. “My wife has even noticed. It’s not that shock and awe feeling where you need a half hour to decompress because the drive is so crazy.  It’s amazing what this is going to do to my family as well as my work.”

Smith isn’t the only Be the Match employee to embrace transit since the non-profit moved from Northeast Minneapolis to a site immediately adjacent Target Field Station. After working in a location with relatively limited transit options, staff now find the METRO Blue and Green lines, Northstar and dozens of express and local bus routes at their doorstep.

Chief Financial Officer Amy Ronneberg said Be the Match looked at 70 different locations but was sold on the North Loop in large part because of its transit access. Like many companies moving to the downtown core, Be the Match sees transit as a key to retaining and recruiting top talent, particularly when it comes to Millenials who are increasingly averse to driving.

“As we looked out into the future, we knew it was important to be in a place with vibrancy,” Ronneberg said. “Being here with all of the amenities and transportation options, I think we’ve opened ourselves up to a whole new potential workforce.”

With thousands of people passing by each day – especially during the Twins season – Be the Match also saw a chance to increase its visibility and raise awareness of its mission. Operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, Be the Match manages the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world. 

To ease the transition for current staff, Metro Transit worked closely with Be the Match to help employees understand the options available to them. Be the Match also joined the Metropass program, which gives employees the opportunity to buy a low-cost transit pass that provides unlimited access to buses and trains.

Staff have also been given the freedom to work remotely and are encouraged to carpool, bike or walk to work.

Among those who have converted from a drive-alone commute to transit is Human Resources Coordinator Diane Dombeck, of Spring Lake Park. Before the move, she had taken Northstar just once to a Minnesota Twins game. Now, she takes the train daily to and from Fridley Station.

“I wasn’t sure how it would work, because it was a new thing to me,” she said. “But it’s really painless and a lot more fun than I thought it would be because you chat with other train riders and get to know people. I actually love taking it now.”

Dombeck was reminded of how different life will be when winter weather hit a few weeks ago and she had to drive to Be the Match’s former location. With traffic, the usual 25-minute commute turned into almost 90 minutes on the road.

“I really missed the train that day,” she said.

Metropass popularity growing

Be the Match is among several employers to join the Metropass program this year. The Mall of America, Delta and Regions Hospital also joined the program in 2015. Around 280 companies now participate in the Metropass program. Staff at participating companies can purchase the unlimited-ride passes for a flat monthly fee. The passes can be bought pre-tax and the cost is typically offset by an employer contribution. Any company with at least ten participants can join the Metropass program. To learn more, visit metrotransit.org/metropass.

Supporting TOD through grants, assistance

Be the Match’s new headquarters, at 524 5th Street N., were built by Minneapolis-based United Properties (United Properties has since sold the building; Be the Match has a 15-year lease, with the option of renewing). The Metropolitan Council provided a $487,000 brownfield clean-up grant to assist with pre-development at the site, previously home to a printing facility. To learn more about how the Council and Metro Transit are supporting Transit-Oriented Development through grants and technical assistance visit metrotransit.org/tod.

North Loop rising

Be the Match is among several recent developments in the area immediately surrounding Target Field Station. District 600, a new 78-unit apartment building adjacent to the Fulton Brewery, is set to open in February 2016. Construction is also underway on a new 12,000-square-foot brewery, Inbound Brewco., at 70 N. 5th Street. Metro Transit is planning to expand and improve its Heywood Campus north of Target Field. 

Bus Good Question Light Rail Northstar Rider Information Suburban Transit

Good Question: Why is service reduced on certain dates? 

| Wednesday, July 01, 2015 10:56:00 AM

Customers board Route 767 at the Bottineau Blvd & 63rd Avenue Park & Ride.On dates when fewer customers are expected to ride transit, service is reduced on some bus routes, as well as light rail and Northstar.

These “Reduced Service” days are typically observed holidays when many major employers are closed. Most of the service reductions are on routes used by commuters traveling to downtown Minneapolis, St. Paul or the University of Minnesota.

Unless otherwise noted, light-rail, express and local bus routes operate according to Saturday schedules on Reduced Service dates. (Routes with no service on Saturdays may operate on a limited schedule.) 

In practice, that means there are usually about 20 percent fewer local bus trips and about one-third the number of express bus trips. Light-rail service is reduced less than 10 percent.

Several morning and afternoon Northstar trips are also eliminated on Reduced Service dates, since around 93 percent of those who use the commuter rail line are traveling to work or school.

Metro Transit considers historic ridership patterns when deciding whether and when to reduce service. When there was an observed holiday on Monday, July 5, 2010, ridership decreased about 60 percent compared to the rest of the weekdays that week. Service on that date was reduced by around a third. 

Service is also reduced on holidays to reflect lower demand.

Reducing service on these lower-demand days provides cost-savings that can be re-directed to other needs.

Even if service is reduced customers can continue to use NexTrip, which provides predicted real-time departure information using GPS data from in-service buses. The Transit Information Center is also open.

Reduced and Holiday service schedules are available on metrotransit.org and are also published in Connect, the on-board newsletter.

Service adjustments may be made based on customer feedback. Customers with specific concerns are urged to Contact Us

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