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Posts in Category: Light Rail

Bus Light Rail Minneapolis Shelters St. Paul Winter Weather

Snow removal pros' goal this winter: collaboration 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Monday, November 11, 2019 1:34:00 PM

Metro Transit hosted snow removal managers from across the region in October. The goal: develop a more coordinated approach to one of winter’s biggest challenges – keeping bus stops, roads and sidewalks clear of snow and ice. 

Representatives from Minneapolis, St. Paul, Hennepin County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation attended the symposium, and a snow removal consultant shared tips on how to reduce salt use. 

In addition to getting some practical advice, the biggest accomplishment may have been simply getting acquainted before the flakes fly. 

“We see this collaboration blossoming into a long-term relationship that benefits all parties,” said Marilyn Porter, Metro Transit’s director of engineering and facilities. “The Metropolitan Council takes a regional approach to transportation, wastewater treatment and affordable housing, so it only makes sense to try a regional approach to snow removal, too.’’ 

With limited resources, Public Facilities Manager Donn Rude said avoiding conflicting snow removal efforts is critical. 

“Knowing each other’s capacities and protocols is important so we’re not just trading snow all the time,” Rude said. “It’s better for our people to be close behind the snowplow when they’re digging out bus shelters.” 

Rachel Walch, senior innovation consultant for the City of St. Paul, attended the symposium to pick up tips she could share with the city’s public works department. To help this winter, Walch said the city may ask businesses to adopt a corner and provide them with snow clearing supplies and training. 

“We have 1,900 miles of city streets, almost as much as all of Hennepin County’s (main arterials), and plows can get only so close to a curb,” Walch said.

Metro Transit’s snow removal arsenal includes salt, liquid chemicals, shovels, snowblowers, skid steer loaders and a small, enclosed tractor that can operate on sidewalks. Before storms, crews pre-treat surfaces with a liquid salt mix that repels snow. 

Even with all that machinery and preparation, clearing bus stops, rail platforms and Park & Rides is a time-consuming endeavor. 

“It’s not unusual for everyone to work 12 hours or more a day for days on end,” Rude said. “Last January and February were extremely difficult and labor intensive.” 

Because there's so much ground to cover, Metro Transit is always game to try new approaches. One year, crews tried melting ice with a beet juice mix, a product that smelled awful and was easily tracked into buildings and vehicles. 

At the recent symposium, staff was intrigued by a plow that could be compact enough to get on light rail platforms with sharp, narrow turns too tight for other equipment.

Learn more about Metro Transit's snow removal procedures

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Minneapolis Transit Improvements

Signal improvements help trains get out of town 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Thursday, November 07, 2019 4:13:00 PM

Metro Transit and City of Minneapolis staff, gathered here at the Warehouse District/Hennepin Avenue Station, have collaborated on rail signal improvements that are helping light rail trains get out of downtown faster. From left to right are, Ryan Heath, an associate engineer at Metro Transit, Ryan Anderson, Allan Klugman and Ryan Armstrong, from the City of Minneapolis, and Phil Wellman, a senior signal engineer at Metro Transit.​

​Light rail trains are exiting downtown Minneapolis a little faster than they used to.  

The increased efficiency is the result of recent signal improvements, as well as an investment in equipment that allows trains to switch tracks downtown. Some of the signal technology that's been added didn't exist when the METRO Blue Line opened 15 years ago. 

"The light rail and traffic signals weren't talking with each other," said Tom McGannon, a principal engineer for Metro Transit. 

McGannon worked on the improvements as part of a team that included staff from Rail Operations, Rail Systems Maintenance, Engineering & Facilities and Strategic Initiatives. Staff from the City of Minneapolis, Kimley-Horn and ACT Traffic Solutions performed the signals work. 

With upgraded signals, trains are now less likely to get stopped at intersections between stations. In most cases, trains can get out of downtown Minneapolis in less than eight minutes, about two minutes faster than they used to. 

Because of the time savings, Blue Line and Green Line schedules will be slightly adjusted on Saturday, Dec. 7. The hope is that the schedule changes will improve on-time performance throughout the light rail corridors. 

Vehicles crossing light rail tracks are also benefiting from longer green lights due to the recent improvements. 

Getting to this point wasn't easy. It took hundreds of hours to get the city's signals to work with Metro Transit's signals, which govern light rail movements throughout the Blue Line and Green Line corridors. There are a dozen intersections between the Target Field and U.S. Bank Stadium stations. 

Signal improvements were also needed to allow Blue Line trains to operate in either direction, which they prevent delays if a track is being repaired or can't be used for some other unexpected reason. 

Trains couldn't switch tracks before new equipment was installed as part of a major track improvement project that occurred in 2017. 

Staff from Metro Transit and the City of Bloomington continue to work on signal improvements between the Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. That work is expected to continue through next year. 

Bus Express Bus Light Rail

Finding freedom and fun by bringing kids along for the ride 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, October 17, 2019 9:56:00 AM

Terry Crunk and her son Finn, riding Route 758 during a recent commute to downtown Minneapolis.

When Terry and Brian Crunk decided to move from downtown Minneapolis to Golden Valley, they didn’t want to take their 6-month-old son Finn out of his downtown daycare or deal with the stresses of commuting by car.  

The solution: Bring him on the bus.

Nearly two years later, Finn has become a routine presence on Route 758, which stops just a few blocks from the Crunk’s home.

“Initially, I was very nervous about how it was going to go but it’s progressively gotten better and now he loves the bus, being able to look out the window and having that freedom,” Crunk said. “As a working mom I also like being able to spend that extra time focusing on him rather than driving.”

During a recent morning commute, Finn sat quietly near the front of the bus paging through a board book and peering out the window as the bus traveled down I-394. Arriving downtown, he reached for the cord to request his stop – one of his favorite parts of the ride.

Survey data doesn’t indicate how many children like Finn ride transit. But anecdotes from across the Twin Cities suggest there are plenty of caretakers who don’t shy away from bringing young ones along for the ride.

Zachary Kahn, who lives in downtown Minneapolis, is among them. Several times a week, Kahn and his six-month-old son Camden walk to the U.S. Bank Stadium or West Bank stations, board a light rail train, and ride to Nicollet Mall. From there, Kahn drops Camden at daycare and heads to work.

“One of my favorite things is watching him as people make eye contact and smile,” Kahn said. “It brightens my morning to see him making other people smile and we end up interacting with people we wouldn’t interact with normally.”

Jamey Erickson, who lives in Northeast Minneapolis, also finds joy in traveling by bike and on transit with his children, ages 6 and 3.

Erickson gave up his car a decade ago, and has learned to adapt since having children. Today, he regularly brings his kids to school, the grocery store and other destinations on the back of his electric cargo bike. When weather or distance dictate, Erickson and his kids hop on light rail.

“It’s become such a regular thing for us,” Erickson said. “That’s just how the kids assume they’re getting around with dad now – by bike or by train.”

Metro Transit has taken steps to welcome children on transit. Children under 5 years old can ride any Metro Transit bus or train route for free. Children can also remain in their stroller while they ride (children in strollers should be secured, with the brakes set, and strollers cannot block the aisles or doorways).

Crunk has overcome the occasional challenge of needing to get home in the middle of the day by using Metro Transit’s Guaranteed Ride Home program, which allows regular commuters to seek reimbursement when they unexpectedly need to pay for a ride.

Finding a daycare provider that is accessible by transit and making extra time for potentially longer trips are bigger hurdles.

A report produced by Wilder Research for Metro Transit’s Transit Oriented Development Office suggested that Metro Transit, childcare providers and other partners work together to make daycare more accessible by transit.

Chad Dunkley, the Chief Executive Officer at New Horizon Academy, said the company intentionally looks for locations with frequent transit service. New Horizon has several locations in and near downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul where, and in Highland Park near a METRO A Line station.

About 20 years ago, New Horizon also opened a childcare in Burnsville’s Heart of the City, right next to a Park & Ride that will soon be served by the METRO Orange Line.

“We purposefully built in that location because we knew it was a high commuter area and it’s been full ever since,” Dunkley said. “Parents are busy, so we want to make it as easy for them to come and go as possible.”

Crunk, whose commute on Route 758 takes about 20 minutes, is now expecting her second child. The new addition will likely change her travel habits, at least for a while.

“It’ll make things different, but I’m hoping we can continue to take the bus,” she said. “We’ve really grown into it and now it’s just a part of our routine.”

Tips for riding with children

 > Children left in strollers should be secured with the stroller seat belt with the brakes set. Parents must remain with the child. Strollers must not block the aisles or doorways.

 > Children ages 5 and under ride free, with a fare-paying customer. Youth ages 6 to 12 can ride for $1, outside of rush hours. To receive a reduced fare during non-rush hours, inform the driver of your eligible age. 

 > K-12 students can also use a Go-To lite Card, which can be used to take 10 rides (fares that are more than $3.25 are not eligible). Go-To lite Cards cost $15, providing significant savings. Students or their parents must complete and sign this form to receive a Go-To lite Card. Go-To lite Cards are available at a Metro Transit Service Centers, by mail and at select schools and organizations.

> If you're concerned there may be times you need to use a car to get somewhere quickly for a personal emergency, the Guaranteed Ride Home program has you covered. Regular commuters who have an eligible emergency can request reimbursements up to four times per year or $100 in value, whichever comes first, for eligible trips with valid documentation.

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Minneapolis St. Paul

Technician training program creates careers, pride 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Monday, August 05, 2019 11:59:00 AM

Six LRT train technicians receive certificates of completion in a ceremony Aug. 2, 2019, at Hennepin Technical College where they earned associate degrees. From the left in the front row, they are: Thao Xiong, Calvin Hill, Chapman Templer, Chee Vang, Tenzin Kunga and Toua Yang.

Chapman TemplerToua Yang and Chee Vang might still be working at lower-paying jobs without advancement opportunities had they not enrolled three years ago in a paid on-the-job training program to become light rail train technicians.

They were among six people who received associate degrees this summer from Hennepin Technical College and are applying for Metro Transit electro-mechanical technician jobs with starting pay of about $27 an hour.

They will be in demand. Metro Transit has 16 open electro-mechanical technician positions and expects about 10% of its technicians of all kinds to retire next year.

About two dozen more technicians are also needed to support the METRO Green Line Extension, opening in 2023. Twenty-seven new light rail vehicles will be added to the fleet when the extension to Eden Prairie opens.

“The equipment comes in and we have to get the technicians in place to get it ready to operate,” said Gary Courtney, Metro Transit’s supervisor of workforce development.

To prepare the recent graduates, Metro Transit teamed up with Hennepin Technical College and Twin Cities R!SE, a nonprofit, on what’s known as the Metro Transit Technician Training program.

Twin Cities R!SE provided employment readiness training and Hennepin Tech created a first-of-its-kind associate degrees in light rail train technology. Courses focused on automation robotics, electronics and fluid power.

While in school, participants worked as full-time interns at Metro Transit, learning from mentors and earning $20 an hour. Metro Transit also helped pay for their first year of tuition, books and supplies.

“If the program had never started, I’d still be in school wondering what I was going to do,” said Yang, who previously worked at a tire shop.

Vang also used to work in a tire shop doing less skilled work. Now, he’s looking forward to having a steady income and benefits like health care and a retirement savings account.

“You’re getting higher pay. You’re not stressed about being able to pay the bills or being able to buy food,’’ Vang said.

Templer, who previously worked as a cook and bicycle mechanic, said he’s also gained a sense of pride from learning a new trade.  

“There's a lot of pride to be had when I step back and look at how far I’ve come,” he said. “I’ll use a crane to lift a 700-pound motor truck, move it across the shop, set it down, release the brakes, roll it off, set it up onto the stands and start removing the brake calipers.”

The other three graduates are: Calvin Hill, Tenzin Kunga and Thao Xiong.

The nationally recognized Metro Transit Technician Training program began in 2015 with a focus on Bus Maintenance.

Several participants have gone on to become full-time mechanic technicians at Metro Transit; others are still pursuing their degrees and serving as full-time interns.

Fox 9: First class graduates from specialized program filling need for light rail technicians

CCX: Hennepin Tech graduates first light rail technicians

Finance & Commerce: Training ramps up for light rail technicians

Sun Post: Hennepin Tech offers first light rail technician degree

Light Rail METRO Blue Line Minneapolis Transit Police

Partners share Metro Transit Police Department's Officer of the Year honors  

Posted by Laura Baenen | Tuesday, July 02, 2019 4:14:00 PM

MTPD Officers of the Year Michael Affeldt (left) and Joe Carchedi

As partners, police officers Michael Affeldt and Joseph Carchedi spend so much time together their peers refer to them jointly as “Affeldt and Carchedi.”

And now they share something in addition to a name and a beat. Affeldt and Carchedi were recognized as Metro Transit’s officers of the year at the department’s annual awards ceremony, held on Friday, June 28.

The officers were celebrated for proactively policing some of the transit system’s busiest areas, including the METRO Blue Line’s Lake Street and Franklin Avenue stations and the Brooklyn Center Transit Center.  

Sgt. Bret Fraser, who recommended them for the award, said the officers have shown “compassion, understanding and reasonability of true beat officers.”

The officers were also credited with using video surveillance to disrupt crimes in progress, leading effective narcotics investigations and participating in a youth baseball program, Badges and Baseball.

Affeldt joined the department in 2014, serving initially as a Community Service Officer. Carchedi joined the department in 2015.

Several other officers were recognized at the awards ceremony, including:  

  • Officer Chad W. Loeffler, who received the department’s Tim Bowe Award. The award is presented annually to an officer who works part time for Metro Transit. Loeffler is a K9 officer for the Lakeville Police Department and has worked part-time for Metro Transit since 2002.
  •  
  • Lt. Mike Johnson, who was named the Supervisor of the Year. Johnson helped Metro Transit prepare for the 2018 Super Bowl and the 2019 NCAA Men’s Final Four.
  •  
  • Officer Chris Miles, who received a Medal of Merit for successfully getting a distraught man to drop a knife, and a Certificate of Appreciation for identifying a suspect accused of causing tens of thousands of dollars in property damage with graffiti.
  •  
  • Officer Cleven Duncan, who received a Certificate of Appreciation for recording a message from a jailed suspect to his mother, who was approaching death at the hospital.
  •  
  • Officer Andrew Carlson, who received a Certificate of Appreciation for helping a homeless man locate a low-cost apartment.
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