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Posts in Category: Northstar

Bus Light Rail Northstar Transit Information

Teaching Transit 101 

| Thursday, November 14, 2013 1:50:00 PM

A freshman at St. Catherine University, Samantha Alvarez has commuted to class every day this semester by driving her car alone. Though she doesn’t like paying for gas, she said the idea of taking the bus is daunting.

“I’ve always thought buses were scary,” the Plymouth resident said. “I’m really bad with directions and I didn’t know where the buses would go or where I’d end up.”

A recent “How to Ride” presentation by one of Metro Transit’s customer advocates helped address some of Alvarez’s reservations. Hosted on campus with support from students in the school’s Commuter Advisor group, the event provided she and several other students at the St. Paul school a tutorial about how to read a schedule, buy and use a Go-To Cardload a bike on the front of a bus and other basic transit tips.

Such in-person presentations are repeated for hundreds of audiences each year to new riders and those unfamiliar with transit - like Alvarez. Besides students, presentations are given to seniors, English language learners who are new to the country and other groups.

Beginning this year, community education classes have also been offered in communities along the Northstar Commuter Rail Line to educate people on how to ride the train. The classes include a trip on the train and the connecting METRO Blue Line.

Doug Cook, one of the customer advocates who leads How to Ride presentations, said uncertainty and fear are hurdles for those who want to use transit but have little or no experience doing so. He hopes his presentation serves as a starting point and gives customers the confidence they need to begin riding the bus and train.

“A lot of people come to these events with fear – I’m trying to alleviate that fear and get them to take that next step,” said Cook, a former Metro Transit bus driver.

Before making a recent presentation at St. Catherine, Cook visited the Minnesota Council of Churches in Minneapolis where he spoke to a Somali family that had arrived in the country just five days earlier.

After running through the basics – including fares, transfers and Metro Transit’s Language Line – the group boarded a Route 18 bus and traveled to the Hennepin County Library in downtown Minneapolis to see how the system worked in practice. The family was participating in the Council’s New Arrival Resource Empowerment Workshop (NAREW), a three-week course that is designed to help refugees take a first step towards self-sufficiency.

Katia Iverson, a Refugee Program Specialist with the Council, said transit is essential to new immigrants who don’t have cars and need to connect with services. After the How to Ride presentation, NAREW participants are expected to get to remaining classes on their own.

“That (taking transit) is kind of the first measurement of self-sufficiency in Minnesota,” Iverson said.

Liz May, a Commuter Advisor who helped organize the recent event at St. Catherine’s, learned how to ride the bus while she was a teenager and working at Mall of America.

A senior at St. Catherine, May admitted some anxiety when she first began riding the bus. But she said she’s become more confident as she has gained experience and wants other students to be equally secure riding the bus. (St. Catherine’s is served by Routes 74, 84, 87 and 134.)

The school's Commuter Advisors hope to have more How to Ride classes and recorded Cook’s presentation in the hopes that it will be incorporated into future student orientations. “Students should be able to relax and take the bus with ease,” May said.         


Bus Express Bus Light Rail METRO Blue Line Northstar Rider Information Safety Winter Weather

Rider refresher for flurries in forecast  

| Monday, November 04, 2013 12:20:00 PM

Snow is back in the forecast...and Metro Transit is ready.

Record-setting winter storms in 1991 and 2010 are the only times in Metro Transit’s modern history where bus service was temporarily suspended due to weather. The all-season METRO Blue Line and Northstar Commuter Rail Line are rarely delayed due to snow and ice.

Getting around in the winter does require some adjustment, though. Here are a few important things to know as the snow begins to fall:

Head out early 

Although Metro Transit adds extra buses and drivers to help keep service on schedule and often has access to transit advantages, severe weather can slow travel for everyone on roadways. Check your schedule and consider taking an earlier trip to give yourself some extra time to reach your destination.

Stay safe

During winter, it's especially important to never run alongside moving buses and trains. Brush up on this and other safety tips here.

Cleanup is prioritized to keep buses and trains moving safely and on schedule

When snow falls, bus garages, rail yards and support facilities are cleared first so that buses and trains can begin service on schedule. Park & Ride lots and ramps, Transit Centers and high-traffic customer areas like light-rail stations are cleared next. Ultimately, plans call for clearing all 700 Metro Transit-owned customer-waiting shelters throughout the seven-county metro area as well as a path that allows customers to board and exit buses. If snow has not been cleared from a boarding area, bus drivers will stop where it is safest for customers to board. Instead of standing on snowbanks, wait in a clear area near the posted bus stop sign and board there.

Heat is on, but the right clothes are still key

Busy transit centers, Park & Rides lots and train stations on the Blue Line and Northstar are equipped with heaters to keep customers warm while they wait. Buses and trains are also heated. Still, anyone taking transit should dress warmly and in layers so they can comfortably withstand low and variable temperatures. Snow boots or other winter footwear such as ice grips/cleats are encouraged as train stations, bus boarding areas, and the bus and train floors can become slippery from snow and water. Light-colored or reflective clothing can and clip-on safety flashers can also help operators see and identify customers.

Keep informed with real-time service updates 

Although buses and trains are reliable in severe weather, traffic and road conditions do affect operations. To keep customers informed about delays and detours, Metro Transit shares real-time service updates via Facebook ( and Twitter ( Information is updated approximately every 15 minutes. Route-specific detours are posted online at             

> Good Question: How does Metro Transit prioritize winter storm cleanup

> Metro Transit on Twitter

> Metro Transit on Facebook

> Star Tribune: Transit tips for the cold

Community Light Rail METRO Blue Line Northstar

Small trains, big imagination 

| Wednesday, October 30, 2013 12:19:00 PM

For Steve Demlow, building Lego-based displays requires a certain amount of “selective compression.”

“You try to capture the essence of whatever it is that you’re building,” he said.

Demlow’s take on the METRO Blue Line and Northstar Commuter Rail Line do just that. His custom-built models – part of a sweeping set of intricate displays at Minneapolis-based Brickmania – deftly mimic their life-sized counterparts.

With seating for up to 14 Lego "minifigs," Demlow’s light rail train includes carefully-crafted details, such as the hangers that connect the vehicle to overhead power lines (known as pantographs). The star and other graphic elements have been crafted into the Northstar train. Both trains are powered around miniature tracks by small motors.

Demlow came up with the design for the light rail train on his own almost ten years ago and worked with his son Nathan on the Northstar model last year. Demlow said developing the models required a complex combination of pieces and a fair amount of "noodling" over several months.

Between four train cars, a locomotive and a model of Target Field Station, the Northstar display includes more than 7,000 Lego pieces. Each train car holds 44 unique figures (a cow is squeezed into the second floor, just one of many whimsical elements in the displays).

While copying the designs would be tough, Demlow has distilled his Blue Line model train down to a more manageable 90-piece set. When assembled, the small-scale version can be used as a holiday ornament.

Though Demlow could have used his longtime love for Lego bricks to recreate virtually anything, he said he wanted to highlight Metro Transit’s trains because they are such familiar sights for local residents. Among a dizzying array of models on display at Brickmania, the blue, yellow and red trains instantly stand out to visitors.

“There’s a lot for people to look at and it can be pretty visually overwhelming,” said Demlow, a member of the Greater Midwest Lego Train Club. “That’s why I like to build local stuff that people recognize. The trains are obviously a key piece of the community.”

The light rail train Demlow developed bears the Hiawatha branding which has now been replaced by the Blue Line moniker. Demlow said he hopes to create a new version with the updated design elements ahead of the METRO Green Line’s opening next year.

The trains can be seen at Brickmania Toyworks, 1620 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis. Free open houses are held the second Saturday of every month between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and the first Thursday of every month between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. There will be two additional open houses from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 21.  

A replica of the light rail train Demlow created earlier this year can also be seen on display at Commuter Connection’s downtown Minneapolis store, located in the US Bank Plaza’s Skyway level at 220 S. Sixth St., Suite 230. 

The 90-piece light rail kits are available for purchase at both Brickmania and Commuter Connection.

Northstar On the METRO

Star Tribune: Northstar line yields dividends 

| Thursday, September 05, 2013 1:00:00 PM

The Northstar Commuter Rail line isn’t just attracting more commuters this year.

The 40-mile line between Big Lake and downtown Minneapolis is also drawing more private development, with apartments and businesses being built near several stations on the Northstar corridor.

The Star Tribune featured the developments in a story this week, highlighting projects in Fridley, Big Lake, Elk River and Ramsey, where the 230-unit Residence at the COR recently opened. The Residence at the COR is connected to the Ramsey Station by a skyway, proving residents direct access to the train.

COR residents Dave and Donna Heinrich told The Star Tribune they expect to use Northstar to get to Fridley, where Dave has an internship, and Target Field. The couple also plans to ride the commuter train to connect to the METRO Blue Line.

“We thought we can hop the train and go downtown. My wife wants to go to Ikea and the Mall of America,” Dave Heinrich said.

In August, more than 82,500 passengers boarded Northstar -- the highest monthly total in the history of the commuter train. Year-to-date, there have been 538,000 passenger boardings on Northstar, up 16 percent compared over 2012.

> Star Tribune: Northstar line yields dividends

> Finance & Commerce: Projects near completion along Northstar Commuter Rail line

> Finding a home on the METRO Blue Line

> Star Tribune: Northstar Commuter Rail Line ridership increases 15 percent in first six months of 2013

> Metro Transit: Mid-year 2013 Metro Transit ridership: 40 million

Bus Minneapolis Northstar Route of the Week

Route 20: Small route to big train 

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013 3:07:00 PM

It doesn’t go far but it does fill an important niche. 

That’s the abbreviated story behind Route 20 – the shortest trip among Metro Transit’s 130 local, suburban and express bus routes.

Launched in 2009, Route 20 makes five one-mile trips from the Ramp B/5th Street Transit Center to 5th Avenue South and 7th Street South each weekday. In the afternoons, there are five reverse trips that run from 9th Street South and Chicago Avenue to the Ramp B/5th Street Transit Center. 

The short trip is half the distance of Metro Transit’s next shortest routes – routes 8 and 27 – and was created as a downtown link for customers using Metro Transit’s longest route, the 40-mile Northstar Commuter Rail Line.

Many Northstar commuters can use the METRO Blue Line, which runs along 5th Street South to Target Field Station. Route 20 also runs east-west through downtown but is designed to better serve those coming from west downtown.

Southbound Route 20 buses run five blocks southwest of the Blue Line, on 10th Street South; northbound buses run four blocks southwest, on 9th Street South. The Minneapolis campus of the University of St. Thomas, Target, the AT & T Tower and the Hennepin County Medical Center are among the landmarks on the Route 20 corridor.

“We have this great connection with the Blue Line but for people who need to get to 9th, 10th and 11th that’s pretty far for them,” said Cyndi Harper, a route planning manager with Metro Transit. “We didn’t really have anything that could hit that south end of downtown, which is why we started Route 20.”

Several customers aboard a Route 20 bus this week said they appreciate not having to walk several blocks in the summer heat or when it snows.

Though short, the bus is getting its share of customers. In 2012, an average of 93 customers boarded Route 20 every weekday. And as Northstar ridership climbs – boardings are up 15 percent through the first half of 2013 – use of Route 20 could continue to grow. In length, though, probably not.

Route 20 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

Service: Route 20 provides five southbound trips every morning between 6 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. and five northbound trips every afternoon between 3:30 p.m. and 5:50 p.m. Buses run from the Ramp B/5th Street Transit Center to  the southwest corner of downtown Minneapolis.

Route length: 1 mile

Stops:  7 southbound stops and 6 northbound stops.

Vehicles: 40-foot standard buses

Ridership: More than 23,600 customers boarded Route 20 in 2012, with an average of 93 weekday customer boardings.

History: Route 20 was launched in 2009, with the opening of Northstar Commuter Rail.

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