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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

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Northstar University of Minnesota

Vikings fans bleed purple, ride Green 

| Tuesday, November 04, 2014 1:22:00 PM

Vikings fans board the METRO Green Line at Stadium Village Station.Vikings fans have long enjoyed traveling to and from home games on light rail. And while it’s been all about the METRO Blue Line in past seasons, the opening of the METRO Green Line and a move to TCF Bank Stadium has changed the gameday dynamic.

Fans traveling to the game on light rail now take the Green Line to Stadium Village Station, which sits just east of TCF Bank Stadium. Those traveling from Minneapolis or points south can ride the Blue Line to Downtown East Station – where the Vikings’ new stadium is being built – and make an easy transfer to the Green Line to complete their journey.

The expanded transit opportunities, which also include bus and Northstar services, have led to a major uptick in gameday ridership. An estimated 20 to 24 percent of fans – nearly 13,000 people – have taken light rail to each of the Vikings’ regular season home games so far this season. Gophers fans have also heavily used light rail on gamedays.

Ridership to Vikings games has nearly doubled from previous seasons, but careful planning is allowing fans to travel easily and efficiently to and from each game.

For the first time this season, Metro Transit is offering pre-paid, round trip light-rail fares online so fans can bypass ticket vending machines (Metro Transit police continue to check fares before customers are allowed to board). Ambassadors are also available to answer questions at the station. To help move fans safely and efficiently, extra trains provide additional service after each game as needed.

It’s hard to understand just how well the system works without seeing it in action. The below lapse, taken following Minnesota's win on Sunday, Nov.2,  does just that (the video compresses about an hour's worth of post-game boarding activity). The next time you head to the game, consider joining the crowd!

    > The easy way to Vikings games & events at TCF Bank Stadium

    > Plan your trip to TCF Bank Stadium

Bus From the GM Light Rail Northstar Rider Information

Saving big by trading the car for transit 

| Wednesday, May 28, 2014 12:00:00 AM

From General Manager Brian Lamb

A recent Route of the Week story features transit customer and former auto driver Maxine Veith. Three years ago, Maxine’s vehicle started to show its age. Instead of throwing good money after bad, she decided to get a Go-To Card and started riding Route 767.

We know from customer surveys that Maxine is not alone. The cost of owning and maintaining a vehicle is among the top reasons people try Metro Transit.

According to the department of Driver and Vehicle Safety, the average age of cars on Minnesota roads is now 11.3 years. Not only are our cars getting older, but the cost of repairs is going up. The 2014 edition of “Your Driving Costs” recently released by the American Automobile Association (AAA) finds that auto maintenance costs have ticked up again – resulting in about a 15 percent increase since 2012.

AAA published the first edition of their report 64 years ago when gas was 27 cents a gallon. The Interstate System wouldn’t exist for another six years. This year, AAA estimates it will cost 59.2 cents per mile to own and operate an average sedan. This cost assumes the cost of fuel will be $3.28 a gallon (though the gas station near Metro Transit's Minneapolis offices is currently advertising $3.53).

Although insurance and depreciation costs dropped slightly from 2013, driving an average automobile 15,000 miles is still expected to add up to nearly $8,900 per year. Costs are significantly higher for SUVs, trucks and vans. And this doesn’t include parking.

These costs add up quickly. For an average family, transportation is the second-highest expense behind housing. Here are some examples of daily savings for households choosing transit. This table shows the average length of a customer trip and the average fare paid, factoring all fare levels and discounts for frequent riders using employer, student or other programs (Metropass, children and seniors, College Pass, disabled veterans, Fares Direct, etc.).

Mode Avg. Roundtrip Miles AAA est. Car Cost ($0.592/mile) Avg. Fare Savings/Day
Bus 8.1 $4.80 $2.30 $2.50
Light-rail 10.6 $6.28 $1.94 $4.34
Northstar 50.5 $29.90 $6.48 $23.42

As you can see, there are clear savings for those who choose transit – even for a few trips per week. Factoring in parking, too, the American Public Transportation Association recently reported that a multi-car Twin Cities household would save $887 each month by living with one fewer car and choosing transit or using other alternatives to driving alone.

Many of Metro Transit's customers can’t afford to drive. But more than two-thirds of customers have automobiles and still chose to take a bus or train. Without transit service, folks like Maxine would be pouring more money into the gas tank and less into their savings accounts and our local economy.

I invite you to see how much you can save by pledging to replace a drive-alone trip with transit through the Switch My Trip campaign. Fill out a pledge and start saving today!

    > Switch My Trip

    > APTA Transit Savings Report and Calculator

Bus Express Bus In the News METRO Blue Line Northstar

Transit ridership hits a 57-year high 

| Tuesday, March 11, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Transit ridership hit a 57-year high last year, according to a new report from the American Public Transportation Association.

Americans took nearly 10.7 billion trips in 2013 according to the industry group. That marked a 1 percent increase from 2012 and was the highest ridership since 1956. It was also the tenth straight year transit ridership topped 10 billion rides nationally.

Metro Transit saw ridership grow for the fifth straight year to 81.4 million rides last year. Ridership on buses, the METRO Blue Line and the Northstar Commuter Rail line increased by 300,000 rides from 2012, reaching the second highest total in 32 years. Ridership on the Northstar Commuter Rail line was especially strong, growing more than 12 percent.

Regional transit ridership grew 0.4 percent to 94.3 million rides in 2013. The number includes ridership from all transit providers in the Twin Cities metro region as well as Metro Mobility, Transit Link and Metro Vanpool.

The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, which operates the METRO Red Line, set a new ridership record year with 2.7 million rides.
 
Since 1995, transit ridership has grown 37 percent nationally, outpacing population growth and vehicle miles traveled, according to APTA. Metro Transit’s ridership grew nearly 7 percent between 2009 and 2013.

“There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities,” APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said in a statement. “People in record numbers are demanding more public transit services and communities are benefiting with strong economic growth.”

    > APTA: Record 10.7 Billion Trips Taken on U.S. Public Transportation in 2013

    > Metro Transit 2013 Ridership Increases to 81.4 Million

    > Star Tribune: Transit use hits historic levels in metro, nationally

    > USA Today: Transit ridership reaches highest level since 1956

    > New York Times: Use of Public Transit in U.S. Reaches Highest Level Since 1956

    > Stateline: Improving Networks and Economy Boost Transit Ridership

Bus Express Bus Fares Light Rail METRO Blue Line Metropass Northstar Promotions Ridership Student Pass University of Minnesota

Ready, Set, Go-To 

| Thursday, December 19, 2013 10:04:00 AM

Go-To Cards are the easiest way to pay a fare when boarding a Metro Transit bus or train – as customers are increasingly noticing.

Go-To and Go-To lite cards were used to pay for a record 57 percent of fares in November, and have accounted for nearly 53 percent of all fare payments this year. In 2012, Go-To Cards represented 47 percent of fare payments.

With a Go-To Card, customers simply touch a plastic card to an automatic card reader instead of using cash. The cards hold stored value, rides or multi-day passes that are automatically deducted. Customers can add value to their cards online or by phone anytime or at one of Metro Transit’s rail ticket machines or retail outlets. The cards also store transfers, can be automatically refilled and can be replaced if they are lost.

Go-To Card usage figures also include fares covered by program passes like the Metropass, U-Pass, Student Pass and College Pass, which offer unlimited bus and train rides at a fixed price over a period of time (e.g. a semester). U-Pass sales for the spring semester at the University of Minnesota are now on sale.

Metro Transit expanded the Student Pass program available to Minneapolis Public Schools high schoolers to South and Southwest high schools earlier this year. Through November, students have used Student Passes to take more than 1.4 million trips, a nearly 59 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

Ridership is also higher among customers participating in the employer-based Metropass program. Passes can be purchased pre-tax and some employers also subsidize their purchase. From Dec. 26-31, Metropass customers can bring a friend on regional buses, METRO lines and the Northstar Commuter Rail Line for free.

The widening use of Go-To Cards is aided by their expanded retail availability and the introduction of Go-To lite Cards.

Go-To Cards can now be purchased or refilled at more than 125 retail locations across the metro, now including all Cub Foods stores. New Go-To lite Cards, which provide 10 fares for a discounted rate, are also sold at retail outlets and in bulk to schools and social service agencies.

Go-To Cards have been available since 2007 and can be used on any bus trip operated by all regional transit providers, as well as the METRO Blue Line, Northstar and METRO Red Line.

    > Go-To Cards

    > Go-To Card User Guide

    > Cub Foods is your go-to store for Go-To Cards

    > Back to school with Metro Transit

    > Metropass

From the GM Northstar

Plenty to celebrate as Northstar marks fourth anniversary 

| Friday, November 15, 2013 12:17:00 PM

From Brian Lamb, Metro Transit General Manager

The Northstar Commuter Rail Line marks its fourth anniversary tomorrow, and the milestone comes with plenty of reasons to celebrate.

Ridership has been higher than 2012 each month this year, including a record 24 percent increase in August. Average weekday rides topped 3,000 for the first time in June. At Coon Rapids/Riverdale Station, ridership is up 20 percent. Big Lake, Elk River and the new Ramsey Station are also seeing strong demand.

Combined, customers have boarded Northstar trains some 2.9 million times since its opening.

In addition to the positive trends on Northstar, St. Cloud Metro Bus reports ridership on its Northstar Link coach bus service connecting St. Cloud and Becker with Big Lake Station is up more than 8 percent this year.

Customers are benefiting from several recent changes. A $1 fare reduction was made permanent in April and free Wi-Fi was added to a car on every train in September, allowing customers to be more productive while they travel to and from work (passengers can also relax by enjoying the newly-updated Sound Point® Northstar corridor audio tour).

As part $95 million in investment to improve its railways throughout Minnesota, BNSF recently completed upgrades to track and signals in the Northstar corridor that will improve long-term reliability for Northstar customers. In Anoka, work continues on a new 344-space parking ramp and pedestrian overpass that will serve as a regional transportation hub. When it opens in December, this new facility will provide better access for customers and act as a catalyst for adjacent development.

In addition to this activity, development along the Northstar corridor is underway. A new 230-unit apartment complex connected to the Ramsey Station, The Residence at the COR, opened earlier this year and more nearby residences are now under construction. In Fridley, there are plans to build hundreds of new apartments, single-family homes and office space within walking distance of the train station.

Coinciding with this activity, we’ve been expanding our promotion of Northstar service to potential customers. For the first time this summer, a direct connection to State Fair express bus service was introduced at Fridley Station. Extra trains were also added for more large downtown events such as the Kenny Chesney concert at Target Field in July, which set a record for pre-sale Northstar tickets.

How to Ride presentations have meanwhile been offered to new audiences through newly-offered community education courses along the line led by Metro Transit Customer Advocates. St. Cloud State University students have also developed materials for class projects and have promoted Northstar and Link service to fellow students.

As we head into winter, we expect Northstar to again become an even more attractive option for commuters who prefer not battling delays on Highway 10 and I-94. The line’s sterling safety record and near-perfect on-time performance record is particularly attractive during snowy and icy commutes. Beyond rush hour, customers can also take Northstar to the Target Holidazzle Parade every Saturday this holiday season.

Looking further into the future, we believe the line named after a star known for faithfully guiding travelers to their destinations is very bright. In mid-2014, Northstar customers will join the rest of the region in celebrating the opening of the METRO Green Line and the new Target Field Station – additions that will make it more convenient for commuters to use Northstar as a part of their daily commute.

For this reason and others, there will be even more to celebrate when Northstar reaches its fifth anniversary.

> From the GM

> Northstar Commuter Rail Line

> Northstar Link

> Northstar line yields dividends

> Let history be your guide on the Northstar Commuter Rail Line

> METRO Blue Line marks ninth anniversary

> Isanti County News: Ridership, development rolling ahead for Northstar rail line

Photo: Construction continues on a new parking ramp and overpass at Northstar's Anoka Station. The facility is scheduled to be finished in December.

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