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Awards recognize sustainable transportation leaders 

Posted by jennasbennett | Thursday, May 04, 2017 9:51:00 AM

Beth Reissenweber, far right, with colleagues from Augsburg College at the 2017 Commuter Choice AwardsWhen Augsburg College began building its new Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion in 2015, the college lost about 20 percent of the 1,000 parking spaces at its West Bank campus.

The sudden loss in parking led Beth Reissenweber, the school’s Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer, to take an active role in promoting a culture that placed sustainable transportation options ahead of driving.

To set the tone, she began commuting from Edina on Route 578.

“I thought it was really important to lead by example,” Reissenweber said. “I wanted to inspire others at Augsburg to try transit so I gave up my heated parking and started taking the bus.”

Reissenweber, also contacted Transit for Livable Communities and Metro Transit to create learning opportunities for her staff, including a light rail tour, Nice Ride bike rental education, and carpooling classes.

“Once construction started, we changed how we talked with our employees about commuting,” she said. “Instead of leading with parking options, we started leading with transit and multi-modal commuting options as the preferred method to get to work.”

Reissenweber moved the needle at Augsburg so quickly that she was recognized at Metro Transit’s annual Commuter Choice Awards last month with an honorable mention in the individual category. Augsburg won in the employer category.

Reissenweber attended last year’s awards to learn how to create a transit-friendly campus, and said she was delighted to come back a year later as a winner.

“I feel proud to be recognized for my small part in a huge undertaking for the college, and Augsburg’s award is a wonderful reinforcement of our passion to make a positive impact in our community,” she said.

The Commuter Choice Awards also celebrated efforts by several other building owners, employers and organizations that have supported sustainable transportation.

Among the other recipients were the Minnesota Orchestra, which offers discounts to bicyclists, and the building managers at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, which built a fitness center and bike storage area to encourage active commuting.

The awards were presented by Metro Transit in partnership with regional Transportation Management Organizations, including Commuter Services, Move Minneapolis and St. Paul Smart Trips. A panel of Twin Cities transportation experts and thought leaders evaluated the entries and selected the winners.

While Reissenweber was thrilled with the recognition, the real rewards have come from her experience using transit.

“I walk more, I feel more connected with my community, I save money, I’m less stressed, I’m helping the environment and I can multi-task while I get to work,” she said. “It’s such a win-win."

Photo: Beth Reissenweber, far right, with colleagues from Augsburg College at the 2017 Commuter Choice Awards


2017 Commuter Choice Award Honorable Mentions & Winners

 

Building Owner/Management Company

Winner: Minneapolis Grain Exchange, Inc. 

Minneapolis Grain Exchange, Inc built a new, state-of the-art fitness center with showers, changing facilities, and lockers. The new facilities complement the 700 square foot secure bike storage room; both the tenant businesses and their employers have found both amenities to be critical to the adoption of active commuting to the building.

Honorable mentions: McGough Facility Management/Butler Square and Wells Fargo

Commuter Benefits Coordinator

Winner: Brian Nelson, Best Buy

Brian Nelson led the expansion of commuter benefits at Best Buy stores across the country, providing access to pre-tax transportation accounts for all employees. Additionally, he oversaw the installation of electric vehicle charging stations at the corporate campus and established an official training for teleworkers.

Honorable mention: Samantha McKeough, HealthPartners

Employer

Winner: Augsburg College

Augsburg College lost a significant amount of parking for a construction project and employed a multi-tiered approach that engaged the campus community at all levels to change perceptions about transportation. Campus leadership implemented a broad set of proven travel demand management strategies which have led to a 76 percent increase in Metropass users along with noticeable growth in carpooling and bicycling.

Honorable mentions: Mall of America and Minnesota Literacy Council

Government Entity

Winner: Stop for Me Campaign

The Stop for Me Campaign was a yearlong collaboration among St. Paul neighborhood organizations, advocates, and police, working together to encourage safer, more courtesy driving behavior at intersections, crosswalks, and parking lots. Together the group held 60 crosswalk events during 2016 to raise awareness and improve pedestrian safety.

Individual

Winner: Marc Berg, Friends of the Downtown Minneapolis Bicycle Center

Marc Berg is founder of Friends of the Downtown Bicycle Center, sharing his vision for a public bike center in downtown Minneapolis with a many stakeholders and potential allies in the community. He has also organizing community support for bicycle facilities in St. Louis Park and is a volunteer with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.

Honorable mentions: Beth Reissenweber, Augsburg College and Nick Wright, Minnesota Life College

Organization

Winner: Minnesota Orchestra

The Minnesota Orchestra established the Bike to Orchestra Hall program, which offers a special 50% discount to future concerts to anyone who shows their gear at the Box Office. The program serves as an audience development effort that encourages people to come as they are and enjoy music comfortably.

Honorable mention: Minnesota Life College

Commuter Choice Awards

Bicycle Carpool Car-Sharing Community Go Green Rideshare Vanpool

Commuter Choice Awards recognize sustainable transportation leaders 

| Thursday, April 28, 2016 4:01:00 PM

Most days, Matt Privratsky gets to work by taking an hour-long walk from his Midway area home to downtown St. Paul. The 3.5-mile trek might also involve boarding a bus, catching the METRO Green Line or using a Nice Ride bike – or some combination of all of the above.

“Walking all the way helps you get mentally prepared, and it’s also very relaxing,” Privratsky said. “By the time I get home, I’m in a really nice relaxed mental state. And because I stay active as part of my day, I don’t need to intentionally exercise or have a gym membership.”

The multi-modal approach reflects the habits of many of his co-workers at Fresh Energy, a St. Paul-based independent non-profit that works to make Minnesota’s energy system cleaner and more efficient. Ninety percent of Fresh Energy’s staff walk, bike or take transit to work.

While sustainable transportation naturally aligns with Fresh Energy’s mission, it also reflects a robust transportation benefits program. Employees can earn $2 per day by walking or biking to work. Fresh Energy also matches employee spending on transit.

To help car-free employees like Privratsky get to appointments and meetings during the day, Fresh Energy subsidizes annual Nice Ride memberships and has accounts with car-sharing services car2go and HOURCAR.

Fresh Energy’s efforts were recognized this week at the Commuter Choice Awards, where employers, organizations and individuals who share a commitment to sustainable transportation were celebrated.

The annual awards were presented by Metro Transit in partnership with the region’s Transportation Management Organizations (TMOs) – Commuter ServicesAnoka County Commute SolutionsMove Minneapolis and St. Paul Smart Trips. A panel of Twin Cities transportation experts evaluated nominations in selecting the winners.

“Metro Transit is proud to recognize all those who share its commitment to sustainable transportation,” Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said. “As these honors reflect, our region benefits from having a strong transit network as well as many other transportation options that provide alternatives to driving alone.”  

A list of awards presented at the 2016 Commuter Choice Awards is below. Learn how Metro Transit and the region's TMOs can help your organization here

Building Owner/Management Company: CenterPoint Energy

Directly adjacent to the Nicollet Mall Station, CenterPoint Energy’s new corporate headquarters provides employees convenient transit access. The move also presented an opportunity to create a new shared space for Meet Minneapolis and Move Minneapolis, which promotes transit, carpooling, biking and walking among downtown Minneapolis commuters, residents and visitors. The street-level retail space opened in 2015.

Honorable mention: Normandale Lake Office Park, Hines Property Management

Employer: Fresh Energy

Fresh Energy’s commitment to clean energy and sustainable transportation is reflected in the non-profit’s transportation benefits program. Employees can earn $2 per day by walking or biking to Fresh Energy’s St. Paul offices. Fresh Energy also matches employee spending on transit. To help employees travel to appointments and meetings during the day, Fresh Energy subsidizes annual Nice Ride memberships, has a business account with car2go and has a corporate account with HOURCAR. As a result of their comprehensive transportation benefits program, 90 percent of Fresh Energy staff walk, bike, or take transit to work.

Honorable mention: Barr Engineering Co., Sovos Compliance, Be the Match

Government Entity: St. Paul Public Housing Agency

The St. Paul Public Housing Agency has gone above and beyond to encourage active transportation among residents in its housing communities. Partnering with Cycles for Change, nearly 900 free bikes, helmets and locks have distributed to youth since 2012. Residents also have access to free Nice Ride memberships, bike repair stations and workshops on bicycle maintenance. Resident-led walking groups have also encouraged residents to move more and explore their neighborhoods.

Individual: Brian Nelson

Since taking over Best Buy’s commuter benefits program in 2015, Brian Nelson has worked to enhance and expand benefits for employees at the company’s Richfield headquarters and at locations across the country. Nelson advocated for and then helped to implement a pre-tax commuter benefit program that allows employees to pay for their transit costs with pre-tax dollars. The number of employees who use transit, carpool and vanpool have risen as a result of his efforts.

Honorable mention: Jeff Hainlen, Rebecca Airmet

Organization: Minnesota Life College

Minnesota Life College offers a three-year program for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other learning disorders. As part of their life skills training, instructors teach these individuals how to travel independently on transit. By building their skills and confidence, graduates have the freedom to get themselves to work and appointments, run errands and pursue their dreams.

Commuter Choice Awards 2016
Bus Carpool Go Green Light Rail Links of Interest Rideshare

How transit helps clear the road 

| Friday, November 22, 2013 4:00:00 PM

Buses, trains and other modes of transit carry more people more efficiently – a point that was made vividly clear in an image that recently circulated on the Internet.

The image sets side-by-side the amount of road space consumed by single-occupancy vehicles, pedestrians and a rail car, creating a contrast that helps underscore the impact transit can have on crowded streets.

Though it’s not always so obvious, the efficiency on display in the image plays out daily in the Twin Cities as buses and trains travel throughout the region and allow people to share the ride (40-foot buses can carry 40 seated customers).  

Creating more space on the roads is particularly important during rush hour but can have a meaningful impact at all times. Reducing congestion allows trucks and other commercial vehicles to move more freely, helping the local economy. Police, firefighters and medics can respond better during emergencies. And the environment benefits from lowered emissions.

How's that for a pretty picture?

    > Atlantic: The case against cars in one utterly entrancing GIF

    > Efficient ride = greener ride

    > Go Greener

Community Rider Profile Rideshare Vanpool

Vanpoolers commended for commitment, consistency 

| Wednesday, November 06, 2013 4:56:00 PM

For the last three decades, Kathryn Voeltz has commuted nearly 60 miles from her home in Spring Valley, Wis. to downtown Minneapolis. Never in that time has she had to make the trek alone.

Instead of driving solo, Voeltz has joined with other cross-state commuters to share the ride. After initially carpooling, Voeltz began driving a van 29 years ago and joined the Metro Vanpool program in 2002.

The program allows groups of five to 15 people in areas without regular transit service to share the cost of vehicles leased from Enterprise. The service extends into a small part of Wisconsin that is considered a commuter shed for the Twin Cities.

On Wednesday, Voeltz was among a group of six volunteer vanpool drivers to be recognized at the annual Commuter Choice Awards. Each driver has spent a decade participating in Metro Vanpool. Now in its 13th year, the program has 75 active vanpools with more than 600 active passengers.

Other drivers recognized this year commute from Eden Prairie, Lindstrom, St. Cloud, Hastings and North Branch. Combined, they have logged nearly 1.75 million miles in around 250,000 trips to and from work. Voeltz alone has driven an estimated 312,000 miles on 47,000 trips to and from Minneapolis on the Interstate 94 corridor.

“I’m sure over the years that I’ve saved myself from having to buy a new vehicle,” said Voeltz, who works at U.S. Bank.

As the volunteer driver of a 12-seat Ford passenger van, Voeltz picks up eight fellow commuters at Park & Rides in Hudson, Wis. and River Falls, Wis. that do not have bus service. The passengers found each other by using Metro Transit’s online commuter database.

By driving, Voeltz avoids parking, fuel and maintenance costs, which are shared by passengers. This month, each person in Voeltz’s vanpool paid $138 to cover expenses. The Metropolitan Council covers the other half of the lease expenses.

While the cost savings are the biggest perk, Voeltz said she also likes being in control of the vehicle. “I kind of like being in the driver’s seat because I get to pick the right lane and make the best time,” she said.

Leading a vanpool isn’t without its responsibilities, though. Besides handling the lease, vanpool drivers are responsible for reporting their commute data, maintaining a pool of passengers and collecting payments.

Randy Rosvold, senior project administrator for the program, commended Voeltz and other vanpool leaders recognized at Wednesday’s Commuter Choice Awards for their commitment, dedication and consistency.

“Really if you think about everything that’s involved, these people are really going above and beyond what traditional commuters do,” he said.

> Star Tribune: Commuter Choice Award winners announced

> Commuter Choice Awards

> Metro Vanpool

> 30-year vanpooler builds retirement nest egg by sharing the ride

> Enjoying the shared ride

> Create a Commuter Account

Photo: Kathryn Voeltz, third from left, with some of her fellow vanpoolers at the downtown Minneapolis parking ramp where the group parks and meets at the end of each workday.

Carpool Go Green Promotions Rider Information Rider Profile Rideshare Transit Planning

Enjoying the shared ride 

| Monday, September 30, 2013 2:45:00 PM

Thomson Reuters carpoolers together as they prepare to leave work at the end of the day.When Jan Kaster’s knees began to go and she found it too difficult to use the bus, she thought she might have to retire early. But the Thomson Reuters editor found a way to keep working: she joined a carpool.

Using Metro Transit’s Carpool Matching Tool, Kaster connected with fellow employee Kristen Estrada, one of more than 800 Thomson Reuters workers who have created an online profile that connects carpoolers by home address, place of employment and other preferences.

The online tool, being promoted in October as part of Carpool to Work Month, helped the then-strangers discover they lived just a mile apart and worked at the same building.

Kaster said she was thrilled to have found a match so she could continue to come to the office, get dropped off near the door and receive help loading her heavy bag in and out of the car.

“I really appreciate that I’m still able to work,” she said recently from Thomson Reuter’s Eagan headquarters. “I wasn’t ready to quit yet.”

Kaster’s continued employment is just one of the many benefits that have come from the carpool, which began in early 2012 and grew to include another employee, Brandon Dandl, earlier this year.

For Estrada, the only driver in the group, providing rides to and from work helps cover her transportation costs. Kaster and Dandl each pay $3 for every 10-mile, 20-minute trip they take.

The group also gets to use a preferred carpool parking area near the building entrance – a perk that becomes especially important in winter. Though they haven’t needed it, the carpoolers are also eligible for the Guaranteed Ride Home, which covers the cost of a cab if a carpooler needs an emergency ride home.

Carpooling has also allowed the group to learn more about each other’s work. Kaster has spent 23 years as the editor of the U.S. Code Annotated, a 400-volume compilation of federal laws. Estrada sells hard copies of the books and Dandl sells electronic versions.

“When I learned that I thought, ‘Oh, great, I can ask you all about this,’” Estrada said, “I’ve been able to ask her about the book and how laws are written and have really learned a lot.”

Work isn’t the only topic of conversation among the group, however. As the trio has spent more time riding together, they have swapped advice and shared more of their personal lives. Estrada’s one-year-old baby will occasionally share the back seat with Dandl as the group rides together to drop her off.

They also listen to Minnesota Public Radio to catch up and discuss the news and have made a routine of listening to KDWB’s War of the Roses every Thursday morning (in the farcical skit, a significant other listens in as their mate is asked where they’d like to send a dozen roses).

While the practical benefits are important, the carpoolers say the camaraderie they enjoy has become one their favorite parts of sharing the ride. 

“We all get to vent a little bit, which can be very therapeutic,” Kaster said.    

> October is Carpool to Work Month

> Set up a Commuter Account

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