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Posts in Category: Light Rail

Know Your Operator Light Rail METRO Green Line

Know Your Operator: DJ Gonte 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, March 15, 2019 8:24:00 AM

Train Operator DJ Gonte at the Green Line's Operations & Maintenance Facility in St. Paul.

Growing up in Ethiopia’s capitol city, DJ Gonte didn’t live far from a train station.

Watching the trains pull in and out gave him an early and deep love for railroading. Years later, it would also lead him to what he now describes as his dream job.

Seeking new opportunity, Gonte moved to Minnesota in 1996. He went to school, earned an associates degree in computer networking and took jobs at a computer company and as a school bus driver.

After a few years, he found a role at Medtronic. The company’s Brooklyn Center offices are just east of Metro Transit's Martin J. Ruter Garage.

“I would pass by the front of the garage and say, ‘One day, I’m going to work there,’” Gontesaid.

In late 2009, he realized that vision and began as a part-time bus operator. While he liked the work, Gonte knew from the beginning that what he really wanted was to drive a train.

He got that opportunity in 2014, when the METRO Green Line opened. Gonte was among those who made the inaugural trips on opening day, and he’s been carrying passengers up and down University Avenue ever since.

The job is just as enjoyable and rewarding as he imagined, too.

“I just love it. Every time I go out it’s like a whole new experience,” he said. “When I’m away from work for a few days I’m always excited to come back.”

The job does have its challenges, though. While he’s learned to anticipate the actions of drivers and pedestrians, moving through the corridor still requires constant and undivided attention, Gonte said.

Nearly five years after realizing his dream, Gonte said he’s proud of what he does and has no plans to stop any time soon.

Besides liking his job, he appreciates the benefits and a schedule that allows him and his wife to share parenting responsibilities and enjoy weekends together as a family (Gonte has two children, ages 3 and 9).

"When you like what you do it just gets better and better," he said. 

Light Rail METRO Blue Line Minneapolis

Train operator recalls 30-year-old CPR lessons, likely saving a passenger’s life 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Tuesday, February 19, 2019 1:29:00 PM

Train operator Jim Peach (above left) was moved to take a CPR class 30 years ago after watching helplessly as a fellow Northwest Airlines mechanic died of a heart attack at work. The next time he saw someone stricken when he was on the job, Peach knew what to do.

That time was the morning of Sept. 19, 2018. When Peach pulled his southbound Blue Line train into the Cedar-Riverside Station, he saw a crowd around a man having a seizure on the platform.

From the Rail Control Center, Rail Supervisor Jim Clancy (above right) called 911 as Peach and a bystander removed the man’s backpack to lay him on his back.

“I remember saying ‘We’re losing him.’ He was turning purple,” Peach said.

Peach estimates he performed about 10 chest compressions before the man’s color returned. Recalling his training, he turned the man on his side and asked for his name. The man responded “Kyle.”

“That’s when my head about exploded,” Peach said. “It was great. I was just, ‘My God, that just worked.’ When I got up and left, a lot of people started clapping.”

In January, Peach was recognized for having taken action by the Metropolitan Council’s Transportation Committee. He also earned admiration from his colleagues.

“He likely saved that man’s life,” said Clancy, who watched the situation unfold on cameras back at the RCC. 

Peach maintained his composure long enough to move the train to the Franklin Avenue Station, where he was already scheduled for a break. After leaving the train, he was overcome with emotion.

“It was like a truck ran over me because I didn’t understand what my brain and body had just done,” Peach said. “I have never felt like that. My body was numb. Everybody tells me it was the adrenaline.”

Peach had trouble sleeping for a long time and still wonders how Kyle is doing, what his full name is and would like to know more about him.

If they could meet, Peach said he’d like to tell him about the man who inspired him to take a CPR class. His name was Gene, and they worked in Northwest Airlines’ machine shop at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

“I felt really bad. A real nice guy I worked with died, and I couldn’t help him,” Peach said.

Peach knows firsthand the importance of saving a life. As a baby, he was in a house fire on Feb. 19, 1957. An aunt and uncle rushed him to a hospital.

“I was very badly burned at four months old, and it took me 61 years and seven months to pay it forward,” marveled Peach, who at 62 still bears scars from that fire.

Registered nurse Alicia Bravo, who works in the emergency department at Hennepin Healthcare and is a CPR advocate for the American Heart Association, was amazed at what Peach was able to do.

“He hadn’t taken a course in 30 years, but maybe he had been hearing all these messages since then about CPR and that could have been with him,” Bravo said. “He’s very brave for having done something.”  

Where to learn CPR

Visit the American Heart Association’s website to find out where and when CPR classes are available in your area. Visit www.heart.org/en/cpr to learn more.

A CPR kiosk can also be found in the skyway level of Hennepin Healthcare’s Red Building, 730 South 8th Street, Minneapolis. The kiosk includes a mannequin that gives live feedback to compressions.

A Line BRT Bus Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Ridership

Light rail, Bus Rapid Transit lines set annual ridership records 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, February 11, 2019 1:00:00 PM

Customers board a Metro Transit light rail vehicle at the Nicollet Mall Station in 2018.It was another record-setting year for Metro Transit’s light rail and Bus Rapid Transit lines.

The Green Line, Blue Line and A Line each saw their highest annual ridership ever in 2018, breaking records that were set just a year earlier.

Ridership on the Green Line has steadily risen since the light rail line opened in 2014. Nearly 13.8 million rides were taken on the Green Line last year. Average weekday ridership topped 42,500 rides.

More than 11.1 million rides were taken on the Blue Line, the highest annual total since it opened in 2004. The increase in Blue Line ridership partly reflects a shift to transit amid construction on Interstate 35W.

In its second full year of service, customers took more than 1.6 million rides on the A Line. Total ridership in the A Line corridor is about one-third higher than 2015, when it was served only by Route 84. 

“Continued growth in light rail and Bus Rapid Transit ridership affirms what we’ve always believed – that people value fast, frequent and reliable service,” Metro Transit General Manager Wes Kooistra said. “We are encouraged by the response and look forward to offering more of this service in the years to come.”

Systemwide, Metro Transit provided more than 80.7 million total rides in 2018. This was the eighth consecutive year annual ridership topped 80 million rides, keeping ridership at its highest point in three decades.

Across transit types and providers, nearly 94.2 million rides were provided in the seven-county region in 2018. That total includes suburban transit providers as well as the Metropolitan Council’s Metro Mobility, Transit Link and Vanpool services.

Metro Transit’s 2018 ridership total includes 55 million local and express bus rides (including Maple Grove Transit, which is operated under contract by Metro Transit). Bus ridership declined 4 percent from 2017.

Some ridership loss was expected following an October 2017 fare increase. Lower-than-usual gas prices also played a role. 

The decline in bus ridership largely reflects losses on Metro Transit’s busiest local routes, which will be substantially replaced and improved with Bus Rapid Transit service in the coming years.

Where service improvements have been made, bus ridership has risen. Ridership to St. Louis Park’s West End and on routes 32 and 54 improved in 2018. Some Route 54 trips began offering limited stop service between downtown St. Paul and Maplewood Mall beginning in June 2018. 

Other 2018 ridership highlights include:

 > More than 1.3 million rides through the Transit Assistance Program, which allows qualified individuals to ride buses or light rail for $1.

 > A record number of Vikings fans took transit to and from home games. In all, nearly 263,000 rides were provided to and from U.S. Bank Stadium over the course of the pre- and regular season.

 > A record number of rides were provided to and from the Minnesota State Fair on Saturday, Sept. 1. More than 83,500 rides were provided on State Fair Express Buses and regular routes that serve the fairgrounds that day.

 > Nearly 210,000 additional rides were taken over more than a week’s worth of Super Bowl events in February 2018.

Metro Transit 2018 Ridership At A Glance

Mode Total Rides Average Weekday Rides Percent change from 2017
Bus 53.3 million 177,319 - 4%
Green Line 13.8 million (record) 42,572 + 5%
Blue Line 11.1 million (record) 32,921 + 4%
A Line 1.6 million (record) 4,860 + 2%
Northstar 787,327 2,814 0
Total 80.7 million 260,486 - 1%

 

Metro Transit Annual Ridership, 2004-2018

Who rides Metro Transit?

 

Bus Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line

Icy conditions present unique, rare challenge 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, February 04, 2019 1:25:00 PM

Winter weather is nothing new to our region, or to Metro Transit. So when snow or ice arrives, we know how to respond.

There are times, though, when conditions present unavoidable challenges. Such was the case on Monday morning, when freezing drizzle made traveling difficult across the region.

The complications on the METRO Blue Line arose as ice began to build up on the rails and the overhead wires that power light rail vehicles.

Many light rail vehicles have equipment that is designed to cut through ice on overhead wires. Frequent service also helps keep the rail and overhead wires clear.

On Monday morning, though, the fast-forming ice was simply too much to keep up with.

Ice becomes a problem when it interrupts the power supply. When power is interrupted, trains are programmed to automatically turn off to avoid damage. Several Blue Line trains stopped operating for this reason on Monday morning.

When trains stop moving, there’s a cascading effect on service because:

  • Technicians need to respond to the disabled train;
  • Trains that are still operating may need to switch tracks to continue in service;
  • Ice builds up on overhead wire in the section of track that isn’t being used.

Disabled and slow-moving trains can also create problems with the system that runs the signals and gate arms. On Monday morning, crews were dispatched to several locations to manually control gate arms along Hiawatha Avenue.

Extra train operators, technicians and other staff were also sent out to help restore and maintain service.

Even so, the domino effect that began when trains stopped operating was difficult to overcome, Light Rail Director Mark Benedict said.

“Once ice takes over and starts winning, we just have to fight the fight until we can get through it,” he said. “Even when we were having failures, we did everything we could to get trains to these stations because we know our customers were out there."

There were also delays across the bus network on Monday morning, with nearly two-thirds of trips delayed by up to 15 minutes at one point. Despite the challenging conditions, all customers arrived safely at their destinations.  

By Monday afternoon, rail and bus service was largely back on schedule. 

Be prepared

When snow, ice or other inclement weather is in the forecast, customers should put their safety first and prepare for delays. Steps customers can take include:

  • Consider taking an earlier trip
  • Sign up for Rider Alerts to receive service updates
  • Use NexTrip to track when your bus or train is expected to arrive
  • Dress visibly and warmly

Learn more about traveling safely during winter weather at metrotransit.org/snow.

Above: A Blue Line train equipped with special ice-cutting pantographs (the equipment between the train and overhead wire) enters the 46th Street Station; Signals Foreperson Mike Miller and Signals Technician Terry Chacos monitor a crossing guard; Lead Public Facility Worker Andrew Gonzalez puts salt down at the 46th Street Station. 

Good Question Light Rail

Good question: Why do tracks sometimes crack? 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, February 01, 2019 9:05:00 AM

Light rail vehicles weigh around 100,000 pounds each. So the steel tracks they operate on have to be sturdy and well maintained.

To ensure light rail tracks are in good order, Metro Transit’s track maintainers regularly walk end-to-end looking for small cracks, broken fasteners and other defects that aren't within standards. 

Ultrasonic testing, which detects internal rail defects that can't be seen, is also performed once a year. Train operators routinely report their observations about track conditions as well.

While this type of preventative maintenance helps Metro Transit proactively address repair needs, it can be difficult to prepare for the severest cold Minnesota has to offer.

When temperatures drop to extreme lows, tracks contract and are put under an extreme amount of tension. Under such conditions, tracks can pull apart and need to be repaired.

Amid January’s historic cold, crews repaired four sections of broken rail within just two weeks. Usually, such issues come up a few times a year.

Electronic train detection equipment that helps track the location of light rail vehicles usually signals a break in the rail. The equipment relies on electrical current that can be interrupted by breaks and cracks in the track.

In most cases, cracks are small enough that they do not pose a significant safety risk. In fact, trains can often continue using track areas where cracks have been detected at lower-than-usual speeds.

To fix a broken rail, crews can heat and re-weld the track back together. In some cases, sections of track may be replaced altogether.

When it’s extremely cold out, though, welding is not an option. Instead, crews reconnect separated sections of track by bolting them together with something known as a joint bar.

To minimize service impacts, track repairs are typically made overnight or in conjunction with other maintenance activities that require light rail service to be suspended.

Above: Staff from Metro Transit's Track Department and RailWorks repair a section of track near U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. The crack developed amid some of the coldest temperatures the Twin Cities had seen in decades. 

Learn more about Metro Transit's track inspection efforts

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