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Posts in Category: Light Rail

Bus Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Rider Information

Just the facts 

| Friday, February 28, 2014 9:59:00 AM

It can be difficult to grasp the scale of Metro Transit's operations.

The picture becomes a bit clearer in a new Fact Book that provides a snapshot of all the services Metro Transit provides. The recently-released 2013 Fact Book covers the big numbers -- 81.4 million rides, 128 bus routes, 74 Park & Rides -- as well as plenty of other lesser-known details. Here are just a couple 2013 facts included in the latest edition:

    > There were 1,498 bus drivers and 78 light-rail operators at the end of 2013.

    > Customer Advocates provided 492 "how to ride" presentations to introduce people to Metro Transit's services in 2013.

    > The Lost & Found received 22,274 unique items and customers claimed nearly a quarter of these items.

    > Real-time NexTrip departure information was requested around 49.2 million times -- a new annual record.

    > Metro Transit's fleet includes 570 40-foot diesel buses, 169 60-foot articulated buses, 132 hybrid-electric buses and 41 coach buses.

The Fact Book also highlights the growth occurring ahead of the METRO Green Line's June 2014 opening.

At the end of last year, 31 new Siemens light-rail vehicles had been received to support operations on the Green and Blue Lines. Additional bus and light-rail operators have also been hired. The total number of vehicle in-service hours -- a measure of how much time buses spend on the road -- also grew to nearly 2.29 million hours, an increase of more than 61,000 hours. The service hours came through improved bus service on routes connecting to the Green Line, a trend that will continue this year.

Explore the numbers in full at metrotransit.org/facts.

Community Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Safety Transit Police

For Transit Police K-9s, all work and a little play 

| Thursday, January 30, 2014 12:00:00 AM

K-9 Handler Alex Johannes tucked a pound of ammonium nitrate into a canister, sealed the lid and spanned the small conference room. Spotting a small cardboard box in the corner, Johannes concealed the canister and exited the room.

Minutes later, he and his trained bomb-sniffing dog Merle walked back through the door. After 30 seconds of scouring, the three-year-old black lab zeroed in on the box and took a seat. His work here was done.

Johannes and Merle are one of four K-9-officer duos at the Metro Transit Police Department. The officers and K-9s spend their days at busy boarding areas as well as light-rail and Northstar trains proactively searching for potential explosives. The unit also works closely with regional partners and during large events such as Twins and Vikings games.

The good news: the dogs haven’t caught a whiff of anything suspect since Metro Transit’s K-9 unit was created in 2007.

“It’s a huge responsibility so our hope is that he (Merle) would respond just the way he did today,” said Johannes, a former TSA agent who joined Transit Police four years ago.

Like the other K-9 handlers, Johannes said he was drawn to the idea of working with a dog because of the special bond that can be developed. The officers spend their entire days with the animals and keep them at home during their off hours.

Johannes has spent the last 14 months with Merle and said he has grown to see him as another member of his family. It helps that the two share a similar enthusiasm for their work.

“They try to match personalities and we’re a pretty good fit,” Johannes said. “Merle and I are both high drive, high energy.”

Officer Joshua Scharber said he and his K-9 partner Rusty, the newest members of the K-9 unit, have also grown close. “I’ve always wanted to be a part of a K9 unit,” Scharber said. “It’s just the bond you create – you can’t find that with a regular officer.”

Like Merle, all of the K-9s regularly test their skills by sniffing for explosive ingredients hidden by their handlers, typically at Metro Transit facilities. Once found, the specially-trained labs are rewarded with a chew toy and affection.

The furry hedgehog and other toys at officers’ disposal seem to offer more than enough motivation.

“When I say ‘Are you ready to go to work,’ he’s already in the car,” said Steve Schoephoerster, the longest tenured member of the K-9 unit.

While the K-9 unit hasn’t uncovered any active threats, they’ve responded to several unattended or suspicious packages. The unit works hand-in-hand with area bomb squads, which are equipped to disable bombs if anything is found.

While the risk is low, K-9 officer Scott Tinucci said the unit plays an important role in deterring activity simply by being out in the field and remaining visible. And if anything ever were to occur, he said, he and his two- and four-legged partners are ready.

“People will say the reward is when you find something, but the real reward is when you do a sweep and you don’t find anything and can say it’s all clear,” said Tinucci, who partners with the unit’s only female, Izzy.

“The bottom line is you hope you never have to use it but all it takes is one find and how many people have you saved?”

Metro Transit’s K-9 Unit

    Alex Johannes and Merle (black lab, male)                Scott Tinucci and Izzy (yellow lab, female)

   Joshua Scharber and Rusty (brown lab, male)      Steve Schoephoerster and Cooper (black lab, male)      

Bus Express Bus Fares Light Rail METRO Blue Line Metropass Northstar Promotions Ridership Student Pass University of Minnesota

Ready, Set, Go-To 

| Thursday, December 19, 2013 10:04:00 AM

Go-To Cards are the easiest way to pay a fare when boarding a Metro Transit bus or train – as customers are increasingly noticing.

Go-To and Go-To lite cards were used to pay for a record 57 percent of fares in November, and have accounted for nearly 53 percent of all fare payments this year. In 2012, Go-To Cards represented 47 percent of fare payments.

With a Go-To Card, customers simply touch a plastic card to an automatic card reader instead of using cash. The cards hold stored value, rides or multi-day passes that are automatically deducted. Customers can add value to their cards online or by phone anytime or at one of Metro Transit’s rail ticket machines or retail outlets. The cards also store transfers, can be automatically refilled and can be replaced if they are lost.

Go-To Card usage figures also include fares covered by program passes like the Metropass, U-Pass, Student Pass and College Pass, which offer unlimited bus and train rides at a fixed price over a period of time (e.g. a semester). U-Pass sales for the spring semester at the University of Minnesota are now on sale.

Metro Transit expanded the Student Pass program available to Minneapolis Public Schools high schoolers to South and Southwest high schools earlier this year. Through November, students have used Student Passes to take more than 1.4 million trips, a nearly 59 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

Ridership is also higher among customers participating in the employer-based Metropass program. Passes can be purchased pre-tax and some employers also subsidize their purchase. From Dec. 26-31, Metropass customers can bring a friend on regional buses, METRO lines and the Northstar Commuter Rail Line for free.

The widening use of Go-To Cards is aided by their expanded retail availability and the introduction of Go-To lite Cards.

Go-To Cards can now be purchased or refilled at more than 125 retail locations across the metro, now including all Cub Foods stores. New Go-To lite Cards, which provide 10 fares for a discounted rate, are also sold at retail outlets and in bulk to schools and social service agencies.

Go-To Cards have been available since 2007 and can be used on any bus trip operated by all regional transit providers, as well as the METRO Blue Line, Northstar and METRO Red Line.

    > Go-To Cards

    > Go-To Card User Guide

    > Cub Foods is your go-to store for Go-To Cards

    > Back to school with Metro Transit

    > Metropass

In the News Light Rail METRO Blue Line On the METRO

METRO Blue Line welcomes visitors, boosts revenue 

| Wednesday, November 27, 2013 11:46:00 AM

Visitors who arrive at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are instantly connected to downtown Minneapolis, the Mall of America and numerous hotels thanks to the METRO Blue Line. When the METRO Green Line opens next year, travelers will also be able to reach the University of Minnesota and St. Paul via light rail.

Such convenience is good for business.

A new study by the American Public Transportation Association and U.S. Travel Association found that “rail cities” where airports are served by rail lines regularly outperform those without such a link when it comes to hotel revenue and occupancy rates.

Since 2006, researchers found that hotels in “rail cities” generated 11 percent more revenue per room compared to those without rail. Hotels within a quarter-mile of a station area did even better, showing 12 percent higher occupancy rates and 49 percent higher average daily room rates.

The study drew on data from Minneapolis and five other cities with airport-rail connections (the trip from Terminal 1-Lindbergh station to downtown Minneapolis takes about 20 minutes). The numbers were compared with popular destinations without a direct rail connection, including Las Vegas and New Orleans. 

“Clearly investment in local rail systems not only benefits residents, but drives significant economic growth in the travel and hospitality industries,” APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said in a statement.

Kristen Montag, the communications manager for Meet Minneapolis, said the Blue Line is a strong selling point for meeting and event planners because it reduces transportation costs and provides visitors flexibility.

It also fits with the Twin Cities’ reputation as an active, vibrant community where biking, walking and taking transit allows people to get around car-free.

“People can get off the plane at the airport and take the train, walk around, use the [free] bus on Nicollet Mall, rent a bike or pretty much do anything without having to rent a car,” she said.  “That certainly makes this an attractive destination.”

The METRO Blue Line's two airport terminal stations are among the busiest of the 19 on the light rail line. In 2012, there were nearly 3 million Blue Line boardings at the Blue Line’s Terminal 1-Lindbergh and Terminal 2-Humphrey stations, representing about 18 percent of total boardings.

"The local business and hospitality industries have underscored how important the Blue Line's airport connection is to major commerce areas in the metro," Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said. "For travelers, this stress-free connection is a great introduction to what we have to offer in the Twin Cities."

    > APTA: Cities with Rail-to-Airport Connection Boost Hotel Revenue

    > Airport Transit Service

Go Green Light Rail

Sunshine harnessed for electricity at LRT facility 

| Tuesday, November 26, 2013 3:30:00 PM

Metro Transit is getting a little greener (again).

This month, a new 40-kilowatt solar array will come online at the Light Rail Support Facility, located east of the METRO Blue Line on Franklin Avenue. The facility serves as a base for all Metro Transit staff responsible for maintenance within the light rail right of way.

The new rooftop array includes 150 solar panels tilted to the south to capture sunlight. The panels are expected to replace up to 12 percent of the energy used at the facility, reducing energy costs by as much as $4,000 a year.

The $130,000 project was supported in part by Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy, which provided $58,000 through its Solar Rewards program. The arrays were installed by Hudson, Wis.-based Energy Concepts.

This is the first time Metro Transit has installed a rooftop array atop one of its buildings but similar projects could be coming in the future at other facilities. Metro Transit’s engineering staff is beginning to explore options at seven other sites, including bus garages, where rooftop solar arrays could be installed.

Solar panels are also part of a new 1,000-space Park & Ride at Highway 610 and Noble Parkway now under construction. When completed next spring, the Park & Ride will feature LED lighting, a geothermal heating and cooling system and charging stations for electric vehicles. Smaller solar panels have also been used to power lighting at nearly a dozen bus shelters in south Minneapolis, an effort that will extend next year to north Minneapolis.

Metro Transit is aiming to cut in half the amount of energy it purchases by 2020 and has a goal of installing 500 kWh of renewable energy generation by the end of 2020.

> Solar power lighting Metro Transit buildings, shelters

> Go Greener with Metro Transit

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