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A Line BRT

A Line tops 1 million ride mark 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, February 16, 2017 5:00:00 PM

A Line buses pass near the station at Snelling and Randolph.Robert Connoy has the kind of job that allows him to work from home.

But since the A Line opened just a few blocks from his Mac-Groveland residence, he’s started venturing out to a co-working space in downtown Minneapolis, a commute that involves a quick trip on the rapid bus line and light rail.                     

“I didn’t used to go out as much, but now it’s become really effortless to get downtown from where I live,” Connoy said as he headed toward home on a recent afternoon commute.

Connoy is among thousands of customers who have come to appreciate the region’s first rapid bus line, which runs between the Rosedale Transit Center and the METRO Blue Line’s 46th Street Station on Snelling Avenue, Ford Parkway and 46th Street.

Almost eight months to the day after opening, the A Line surpassed 1 million total rides on Tuesday, Feb. 14. Average weekday ridership on the A Line corridor, including local Route 84, has increased by about one-third since the new service began.

Customers riding the A Line this week said its biggest perk is faster, more frequent service, which allows them to travel without needing to use a schedule. A Line buses run every 10 minutes most of the day and every 15 minutes in the evenings.

“It just seems like the best thing ever to me to have a bus line going through more often and more predictably,” said Annette Rondano, who uses the A Line to commute between her Minneapolis home and her business, the Great Metropolitan Backrub. “It really takes the stress away from being stuck at work thinking I have to wait an hour to get home.”

Customers also said they liked the A Line’s light-rail like stations, which have off-board ticket vending machines, real-time displays and security features. Even small things, like the stop request buttons that have replaced pull cords on A Line buses, were counted as positives.

The A Line’s most popular boarding location, by far, has been at the corner of Snelling and University avenues, where customers can transfer to and from the Green Line. Around 22 percent of all A Line boardings have occurred at the northbound and southbound stops adjacent to University Avenue.

Ray Doss, a first-year student at Hamline University student, is among those who utilize the connection. Since moving from Washington in September, Doss has regularly used the A Line and light rail to run errands and explore the Twin Cities.

“Immediately when I got here I found it super easy to use,” he said. “As someone who had no experience with Metro Transit, I was really able to just get right into it and experience this new place I’m in. It’s been really phenomenal.”

While Connoy, Rondano and Doss are all within blocks of the A Line, others are going out of their way to use the service.

Jakenthia Simms is one of them. The Roseville High School senior used to travel to and from school on Route 65; now she uses the A Line to enjoy the free WiFi and make quick trips to Rosedale Mall.

“It’s more of a walk, but it’s worth it – and I get a good workout,” she said.

A Line BRT Bus Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Theresa Collins 

| Friday, September 09, 2016 2:26:00 PM

Metro Transit operator Theresa Collins.When Theresa Collins applied to be a bus operator, buses didn’t have power steering and the hiring manager thought she’d be too small to capably maneuver the vehicle.

She quickly proved otherwise.

Nearly 20 years later, she’s earned a reputation not just for safely and capably operating a bus but for having an outsized personality that makes passengers feel more like friends than customers.

Collins built particularly strong bonds on routes 21 and 14, where she spent much of her career until moving to the A Line when it opened in June.

The connections are built through simple gestures – greeting everyone with a smile, learning the names of frequent riders, handing out candy on Halloween and Easter and wearing a Santa hat for the holidays.

It also helps that she understands her audience. Collins used transit growing up in Minneapolis, became interested in the profession while commuting by bus in adulthood and frequently uses transit when going out.

“I want people to feel special when they board my bus,” Collins said from South Garage after a recent shift. “It’s all about customer service. That’s such a huge thing in this job.”

One sign that Collins takes pride in her work can be found on her right bicep, where her operator number, #1378, is tattooed and surrounded by roses, a nod to her middle name.

Another, slightly less permanent indication, is that she has printed more than 1,000 postcards with a photo of her at the Bus Rodeo so she can hand them out whenever she’s about to bid a frequent customer farewell.

“They just love it,” Collins said. “I’ve had customers tell me then have my picture on the fridge, which is kind of cool you know?”

Collins has also filled a bin with the cards she’s received, like the handmade card that came from students who rode with her all summer to swimming class.

Especially grateful was a customer who narrowly avoided being hit by an approaching vehicle; Collins jumped out of the bus and got the fast-driving motorist’s attention, leading her to slam on the brakes and miss the customer by inches.

The customer recently boarded Collins bus, gave her a big hug and thanked her for saving her life. 

Similar quick-thinking helped Collins alert two young boys who were also at risk of being hit while moving through a crosswalk in front of her bus. 

“When I sit at a red light, I’m not daydreaming – I’m always looking around,” Collins said.

Another memorable experience was the time she brought a woman in labor to North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale.

Because A Line customers buy fares before boarding and can get on through the front or back doors, Collins has fewer interaction than she used to. But she still sees some of her old customers and is getting to know some of the new riders as well.

And after spending years in Minneapolis, she is having fun seeing a different part of the metro. A Line buses run between the Blue Line’s 46th Street Station and Rosedale, largely on Snelling Avenue.

“I know Minneapolis like the back of my hand, so it’s been fun learning a new city,” she said. “Every day is an adventure.”

While Collins’ might have heard doubts when she started, she said the career she’s built has been anything but a surprise to her.

“When I started, I felt like I had hit the jackpot,” she said. “I knew I was going to have this job until I retired – I just knew it.”

Operator at a Glance

  • Name: Theresa Collins
  • Hired: Nov. 19, 1988
  • Employee Number: #1378
  • Route: A Line
  • Garage: South
  • Hobbies: Collins enjoys reading, movies, attending concerts and plays and dining out. She also enjoys decorating her home for the holidays, traveling, collecting foreign currency and attending garage sales. Earlier in her career, Collins rode a unicycle – to work.

To help you better get to know those getting you around, Metro Transit offers these 'Know Your Operator' profiles of train and bus operators. To suggest an operator for a future profile, please email ridersalmanac@metrotransit.org.

A Line BRT Bus Community METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Minneapolis St. Paul State Fair

A Line opening sparks curiosity, enthusiasm 

| Tuesday, June 14, 2016 8:38:00 AM

Customers board the A Line at Snelling and University avenues on Saturday, June 11.Car free for the last five years, Michelle Quaranto relies on transit to travel between her home near the Green Line’s Raymond Avenue Station and her job in Eagan.  

So when the A Line opened on Saturday, she was eager to see how her commute would change once she was able to begin using the region’s first rapid bus service.

In the past, Quaranto took Route 84 between the Green Line’s Snelling Avenue Station and the Blue Line’s 46th Street Station. The A Line now offers faster, more frequent service between those two points.

“I really rely on transit to make my life better,” Quaranto said before boarding at Snelling and University avenues shortly after the A Line opened on Saturday, June 11. “Taking light rail to the 84 was usually my quickest option, and now it will be even quicker which is great.”

Several others who ventured out for their inaugural rides on the A Line were similarly excited about its arrival and the impact it would have on their daily travels.           

The first of a dozen planned rapid bus lines, the A Line runs between Rosedale Center and the Blue Line’s 46th Street Station on Snelling Avenue, Ford Parkway and 46th Street. Service runs every ten minutes and trips are up to eight minutes faster than regular route buses.

Trips are sped up through a combination of light-rail like features like off-board fare payments, technology that lets A Line buses request longer green lights at intersections and by locating stations a half-mile apart.

A Line stations also have heat, light, displays with real-time NexTrip transit information and security features more commonly found on light-rail.

“It really is kind of like riding a train,” said North St. Paul resident David Hull as he and his wife Roseanne traveled southbound from Rosedale Center for the first time.

Hull’s family of five shares two vehicles, so he was curious to see if he could relieve some of the demand by taking the A Line and the Blue Line to a new job at the Veteran’s Administration.

Tyler Schow, a downtown Minneapolis resident who frequently rides transit, noticed a difference even before boarding. “My favorite part is that you can see the bus coming from a distance and instead of stopping it just keeps coming,” Schow said.  

Bus operators picking up A Line customers for the first time were also enjoying the ride. “What I like about it is it’s very fluid,” Operator Roosevelt Scott said.           

Others trying out the A Line said it would make them more likely to explore the businesses along the corridor. Rosedale Center, Har Mar Mall, the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, Macalester College, Hamline University, Highland Park and Minnehaha Park are among the destinations served by the A line. The site of a planned major league soccer stadium is also located at University and Snelling avenues. 

“I like to explore different areas and this is a great way to do that,” said Onrai Terrell who ventured to the A Line’s opening from Eagan by taking the METRO Red Line, a Bus Rapid Transit service on Cedar Avenue, and the Blue Line.

Ted Davis, of the Midway Chamber of Commerce, touched on the importance of transit in attracting new businesses, workers and residents as he joined others celebrating the A Line’s opening . “This is how we compete on a global scale, by creating the kinds of places people want to come to,” he said.

Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said a network of rapid bus lines would extend the benefits across the region. A planned network of 12 rapid bus lines on busy urban corridors could ultimately account for a third of Metro Transit’s average weekday ridership.

Construction on the next rapid bus line, the C Line on Penn Avenue, is scheduled to begin in 2018

“If you can’t figure out how to move people and not just vehicles, we’re not going to achieve what we want to achieve in this region,” Lamb said. 


Metro Transit A Line Opening Day

A Line BRT Bus Minneapolis

'Night Owl' service expanding to serve late-night commuters 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, June 09, 2016 12:20:00 PM

Overnight service is being added to routes 10 and 18 beginning Saturday, June 11. Routes 10 and 18 will join a growing network of routes with 24-hour service beginning Saturday, June 11. 

On Route 10, trips between downtown Minneapolis and the Columbia Heights Transit Center will be added at 2 a.m., 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. On Route 18, trips between downtown Minneapolis and 48th Street and Nicollet Avenue will be added at 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.

The service improvements come after overnight trips were added to routes 64 and 74 earlier this year. Routes 5 and 19, and the METRO Green Line also provide "Night Owl" service, with trips throughout the overnight hours.

Cyndi Harper, Manager of Route Planning, said the service improvements will benefit commuters traveling to or from work during the overnight hours.    

“As we become more of a 24-7 economy, it is important that transit users can access jobs at non-traditional times, especially in the service industry, at hospitals and at the airport,” Harper said.

Among the other changes taking effect on Saturday, June 11:

Weekend service added to Route 30

Saturday and Sunday service will be added to Route 30. Trips will operator every hour from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., every half hour from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and every hour from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. each day. Route 30 was introduced nearly two years ago to provide a direct route between north and northeast Minneapolis. Ridership has continued to grow since its introduction.

A Line opens, Route 84 service reduced

Route 84 service will be reduced as customers can use the new rapid bus line, the A Line, which follows the same routing. Route 84 trips will operate every 30 minutes from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays; from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays. Buses will no longer travel west to Minneapolis but instead operate between the Rosedale Transit Center and the intersection of Shepard Road and Davern Street, in St. Paul.

The A Line will operate between 4 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. daily, with service every ten minutes throughout the day and every 30 minutes at night. Trips are expected to be up to 8 minutes faster than Route 84 service.

Running-time adjusted on express routes

Running time adjustments will be made on 31 routes that operate on the Marq2 corridor in downtown Minneapolis and five other routes. Schedules on routes 265 and 860 will also be adjusted to reflect the opening of the new MnPASS lanes on Interstate 35E.

A Line BRT Bus

Techs take care of the technology behind transit 

| Tuesday, February 09, 2016 3:36:00 PM

When Ed Anstett began at Metro Transit 36 years ago he was among four people who maintained the radios that had just been added to buses, providing a lifeline for operators who before that had nothing to rely on but payphones.

Like the technology Anstett works with, the job has evolved quite a bit over the years. 

Operators still use radios to communicate mechanical or service issues they encounter on the road. But Anstett and other Electronic Repair Techs in Metro Transit’s Radio Shop now maintain several other pieces of equipment that have turned buses into advanced mobile computers with up to a mile of wiring neatly tucked out of sight.

Today, buses include GPS and video-storage equipment, devices that count each customer boarding and exit and hardware that allows buses in designated corridors to request a green light or enter an area with restricted access.

While there once were hand-cranked destinations signs, there are now LED displays on both the inside and outside of the bus; a system that automatically announces bus stops and transfer points was also recently expanded fleetwide.

“When we started, you just had to know a little bit about radios and that was it,” said Anstett, who came to Metro Transit after working for the company that installed the first radios. “There’s much more to jump into now than there used to be.”

The latest technological evolution came last year, when Electronic Repair Techs installed equipment on nearly 750 buses that allows data to be transferred more quickly and efficiently.

The Onboard Mobile Gateways, or OMGs, are particularly useful when routes or schedules change since updates can be sent automatically instead of having to be manually entered on each bus. The OMG equipment is also used to provide WiFi, which was piloted on some buses beginning in 2015.

For techs like Anstett, the day begins early with a list of work orders outlining issues that need to be addressed. Most of their time is spent on the road traveling to garages or other locations in a fleet of meticulously-stocked vans.

When not at a garage, Techs repair equipment at the Radio Shop, replace outdated equipment and outfit each new bus with the technology it needs to go into service. They are currently focusing on the new Bus Rapid Transit buses that will be used on the A Line opening this year.

“Every new bus that comes in, comes to us first,” Radio Shop Supervisor Scott McDonald said.

In addition to this work, techs maintain portable radios used by Transit Police, Rail and Street supervisors, work on light-rail and non-revenue vehicles and maintain six radio towers located around the region.

While the work often goes unseen, Anstett said he’s found motivation from knowing he’s doing a public service and from being regularly challenged by the glitches that inevitably arise.

“It’s using your mind — you against the machine,” he said during a recent trip to South Garage, where he fixed a bus that wasn't tracking correctly. “It’s someone saying, ‘Here’s the problem: solve it.’ I’ve learned a lot over the years and that’s what’s made the job fun.”

Techs can expect to do even more problem-solving in the years ahead as technology continues to evolve and expand.

“We never could have imagined being where we are now,” said McDonald, the supervisor. “But the sky’s the limit. Things are getting smaller and faster and as everything moves in that direction we will too.”

    > KARE 11: New Metro Transit BRT buses unveiled

A Line BRT St. Paul

Time lapse: A Line shelter installation 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, January 08, 2016 2:03:00 PM

The latest sign of progress on what will become the region’s first arterial Bus Rapid Transit Line, the A Line, arrived this week near the corner of Snelling and University avenues.

The shelter installed Wednesday on the northbound side of Snelling Avenue is the largest of the BRT shelter types that will be used at 20 station locations along the A Line, which will provide faster, more frequent service between the Rosedale Transit Center and the METRO Blue Line’s 46th Street Station when it opens this year. About 700 people board or get off a bus at this location today. 

Each BRT shelter will include on-demand heat, emergency phones, schedules and route maps. Off-board ticket vending machines and pylons featuring predicted real-time departure information will also be installed at each stop in the coming months. 

Heavy station platform construction is nearly complete at all stops and around 20 shelters have now been installed. Shelters will not be available for use by customers until the A Line opens to ensure the safety of customers and to prevent damage to shelters prior to A Line launch. In most cases, the stations will be served both by the A Line and regular route buses.

BRT buses also began arriving in December. Like the stations, the vehicles are distinct from regular route service, with unique branding and features that will make service more efficient. 

A Line BRT Bus

A Line buses start rolling in 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, December 10, 2015 1:49:00 PM

The first of 12 BRT buses that will be used on the A Line, #8000, was delivered on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015.Buses that will be used on the region’s first arterial Bus Rapid Transit line are beginning to arrive.

The first of 12 BRT buses that will be used on the A Line, #8000, was delivered on Friday, Nov. 27. The remainder of the fleet is scheduled to arrive by mid-January and the buses will go into service when the A Line opens next year.

The BRT buses have several similarities with other 40-foot Gillig buses already in service, but include several features that will make boarding more efficient. 

A wider rear door allows customers two points of entry and exit and there are no fareboxes, since customers will pay prior to boarding and buses also have more space for mobility devices and standing customers.

BRT buses are distinguished from regular route buses by their unique exterior coloring, brighter digital displays and rounded edges. 

In addition to the buses, Revenue Operations has begun receiving ticket-vending machines that will be used at A Line stations along Snelling Avenue, Ford Parkway and 46th Street. The ticket machines will be installed along with other station features like real-time signs beginning next year.

Heavy station platform construction is nearly complete at the A Line's 20 stations. 

The A Line will supplement Route 84 service, providing faster and more frequent service for customers traveling longer distances.

There are 11 arterial BRT lines planned for the region, including the C Line which is scheduled to be under construction on Penn Avenue in 2017.

Future arterial BRT lines and the METRO Orange Line that will bring BRT to Interstate 35W are expected to have 60-foot buses with three doors for customers to board and exit.​

    > Learn more about the A Line and subscribe to project updates

    > View more photos on Flickr

    > Star Tribune: Tech for local bus overhaul rolls into Metro Transit

First A Line Bus Rapid Transit bus has arrived

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