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Posts in Category: Light Rail

Bus Express Bus Fares Good Question Light Rail

Good Question: Why does it cost more to ride during rush hour? 

| Tuesday, August 06, 2013 3:43:00 PM

This week’s Good Question comes from Sarah Graves (@sarahteal), who asked: Why does it cost more to ride during rush hour?

In the Twin Cities metro, transit fares are lower during off-peak hours to encourage transit use throughout the entire day and balance the demand for buses, drivers and related support. Currently, about half of Metro Transit ridership occurs during rush hours.

Since 2008, non-rush hour fares have been $1.75 on local bus routes, the METRO Blue Line and the METRO Red Line. This is 50 cents lower than $2.25 the rush hour fares in effect during the peak commuter travel periods of 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. each weekday. Fares on those express bus trips that operate during rush hours are 75 cents lower during non-rush hours ($2.25 instead of $3).

Separate fares for rush hour and non-rush hour periods have been in place at Metro Transit since 1982 and are not uncommon among U.S. transit agencies. The Dallas Area Rapid Transit and King County Metro Transit, in Seattle, are among the agencies that offer reduced price fares during non-rush hour periods.  

The Metropolitan Council is responsible for establishing the fare policy and rates for all regional transit service. The agency regularly reviews fare structure and policies based on factors such as demographic trends, technology and shifts in methods of fare payment. A number of new fare tools have been introduced in recent years such as the Student Pass, 7-Day Pass. Auto Refill and advance sales of the Northstar Family Pass are other examples of how technology has changed fare payment.

> Metro Transit fares

> The proof is in the payment

> Go-To Cards used to pay fares at record rate

Have a ‘Good Question’? Email it to goodquestion@metrotransit.org.

Bus Express Bus In the News Light Rail

Fact Book tells Metro Transit's story by the numbers 

| Tuesday, August 06, 2013 12:57:00 PM

How many square miles do Metro Transit's buses and trains cover? How many commuter rail cars are there on the Northstar Commuter Rail line? And how many items arrive at Metro Transit's Lost & Found every year?

The answers to those questions — and much more  can be found in the 2012 Metro Transit Fact Book, now available online. Other numbers featured in the Fact Book include:

127  the total number of Metro Transit routes, including the METRO Blue Line, Northstar and urban local, express and suburban bus routes.

30 million  the number of real-time departures requested using NexTrip in 2012.

12,360  the total number of Metro Transit bus stops.

270 — the number of regional employers participating in the Metropass program.

The Fact Book provides an at-a-glance illustration of the growing Metro Transit system.

Recent profiles provide a more in-depth look at the growth. In its August issue, Minnesota Business gave a rundown of recent transit improvements and the impact they're having on local entrepreneurs. Community Transportation magazine also profiled Metro Transit in their story, "The Twin Cities' Transit Awakening."

> Mid-year Progress Report: On the Right Track

> About Metro Transit

Community Light Rail METRO Blue Line Minneapolis

Garden partnership blooming on METRO Blue Line 

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013 9:07:00 AM

Three years ago, volunteers planted nearly 1,800 flowers, vines and trees on an small corner lot west of the METRO Blue Line’s 50th Street/Minnehaha Park Station. The effort is paying off.

At the peak of its second full growing season, the collection of Giant Hyssops, Wild Geraniums and Purple Prairie flowers that help make up what’s now known as the Nokomis East Gateway Gardens is in full bloom.

For those behind the garden, the space has also become a meeting ground for neighbors and a point of pride that delivers a fitting welcome to the Nokomis East neighborhood.

“I walk by here every day and have a great sense of pride in the neighborhood,” said Sally Einhaus, a 17-year neighborhood resident who has worked on the garden since its inception.

Einhaus was among a group of five volunteers at the garden on a recent Saturday morning pulling weeds and enjoying the company of neighbors.

Less visible than the oranges, yellows and purples that fill the space is the partnership the garden represents.

Metro Transit purchased the small corner property northwest of the Hiawatha Avenue and East 50th Street intersection as part of the METRO Blue Line construction effort. The land was needed to build an electrical substation that provides electricity for trains.

Preparing to demolish a 1920s-era dry cleaning business that sat on the site in 2009, Metro Transit approached the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association to discuss how the land could be reused.

Neighbors viewed the site as important because it serves as an entry to the Nokomis East neighborhood and quickly landed on the idea of a garden because of its proximity to the Nokomis Naturescape Gardens, known nationally for its collection of monarch butterflies.

“Nobody wanted to see a chain link fence with weeds behind it when they turned into the neighborhood,” said Trish Schilling, one of the garden’s most active leaders. “This really is a gateway to our community.”

Local design firm colberg | tews Landscape Architecture provided complimentary designs for the site. From above, the paths form an outline of a butterfly wing.

Metro Transit agreed to install a fence around the substation, grade the site, install a water line and helped acquire the plants, trees, compost and mulch needed to get the garden off the ground.

Planting occurred over two days in October 2010 and neighborhood volunteers have maintained the site ever since. The garden has attracted several butterflies and been enhanced with the addition of pavers, birdhouses and other decorations.

Schilling said the effort has been sustained “in the spirit of community service” and that the garden has taken on a “look, feel and personality” as it has evolved.

The garden has also helped build connections between the community and Metro Transit.

“Just from a relationship-building standpoint it’s been really valuable,” said Julie Quinn, a planner in Metro Transit’s engineering and facilities department who helped organize the garden project.

> Metro Transit's Adopt-a-Shelter program

Bus Rapid Transit Fares Light Rail Transit Planning

The proof is in the payment 

| Friday, July 12, 2013 1:17:00 PM

When customers board the METRO Blue LineNorthstar Commuter Rail or use the rear entrance of buses on the new METRO Red Line, no one is at the door collecting fares.

But that doesn’t mean customers are getting a free ride.

This common transit industry practice is called Proof of Payment. In the Twin Cities, fares are checked by Metro Transit Police officers while customers are riding a bus or train or in paid-fare zones like rail platforms. Go-To Cards with stored fares or transfers can be checked with digital handheld devices while paper receipts provide proof of single payment for individually-purchased rides.

By eliminating individual fare checks during boarding, trains and buses spend half as much time "dwelling" at stations and more time moving. The same theory is at work behind Pay Exit service, in which customers pay fares at the end of their trip. The Proof of Payment model is also significantly less expensive and intensive than installing and maintaining gate technology used in older (typically subway or elevated) transit systems. In addition, the presence of licensed, uniformed police officers onboard vehicles and patrolling stations increases safety and security in the transit system.

This approach is sometimes misunderstood as an "honor system" in which customers are easily able to board without paying and there no penalty (except perhaps a moral one). Like some drivers who take a chance by using a parking meter without paying, there are some transit customers who "play the odds." This gamble has a very poor average payoff in a Proof of Payment system because those who have not paid for their trip not only face removal from the vehicle, but a $180 fine, a misdemeanor citation and the possibility of being excluded from the transit system for a month or longerMetro Transit’s fare policy provides for inspection that is “high-visibility, with pleasant, yet firm enforcement.” Officers may cite any individual they believe is purposely evading fare payment.

Citations are rare, however, because the overwhelming majority of those using the Twin Cities transit system pay fares. Based on data collected from tens of thousands of weekly police engagements, fare compliance rates are well above 99 percent. In addition, Metro Transit is continually top-of-class among similar transit systems throughout the country in terms of "farebox recovery"  the share of operating costs covered by customer fares. In other words, in the Twin Cities, customers fund a higher proportion of the transit system's operating costs directly through fares than in similar regions throughout the U.S. 

Outside observers of the transit system who expect to see train customers buying a ticket from a machine on a rail platform should realize not every fare payment is easily visible. A growing majority of customers use Go-To Cards to pay their fare in a split second by simply tapping their card to a reader as they pass by (many customers do this with the card still in their purse or wallet). Other customers use a paper transfer from a bus which they retain and show to officers as proof of payment. Customers can ride on a single fare for 2 1/2 hours at the same fare level.

As with Northstar Commuter Rail and the Blue Line, officers are patrolling buses on the new METRO Red Line at random periods each day. Proof of Payment will also be integral for Arterial Bus Rapid Transit corridors such as Snelling Avenue, where fares will be prepaid at station areas to help speed service.

> Slate: For Mass Transit, Proof of Payment Is The Way To Go

> Metro Transit: Paying for your ride

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line METRO Red Line On the METRO Transit Improvements

METRO Blue Line marks ninth anniversary 

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013 6:50:00 AM

For the last four years, Lisa Nguyen-Gaulke has relied on the METRO Blue Line to reach her job in downtown Minneapolis, a trip she estimates takes half the time she’d spend commuting by car from her Standish-Ericsson home.

Nguyen-Gaulke also uses the Blue Line to get to Twins games or other weekend events and as an easy connection to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Combined with their bikes, Nguyen-Gaulke’s use of the Blue Line allowed she and her husband to downsize to a single vehicle two years ago.

“It makes a big difference, especially with gas as high as it’s been recently,” Nguyen-Gaulke said this week.

Nguyen-Gaulke is among a growing number of residents who – nine years after the Blue Line’s opening and more than 30 years since it was first envisioned – have come to see light rail as an integral part of their daily lives.

As the Blue Line marks another anniversary today, here's a quick snapshot of how the state's first light rail line is performing and a look at what is yet to come.

  • > Ridership is exceeding expectations. Nearly 10.5 million customers boarded Blue Line trains in 2012, a record number of passengers for the 11-mile light rail line. Ridership levels have been trending nearly 30 percent ahead of projections for the year 2020. In Metro Transit's 2012 Customer Survey, 60 percent of respondents said they were on their way to work; 15 percent were running errands and 9 percent were on their way to school. Riders said they chose transit because they had no access to a vehicle, wanted to avoid stress and avoid gas and parking expenses. More than 42 percent of passengers have ridden for more than five years and more than 90 percent rated service as “good” or “excellent.”
  •  
  • > Development is surging. At the north end of the Blue Line, housing and office projects are planned or underway in the North Loop and near Target Field. Directly adjacent to the Nicollet Mall Station, a 26-story apartment building is rising from the ground -- the first high-rise in Minneapolis in 30 years. Plans to add offices, green space and apartments near the site of the new Vikings Stadium are taking shape. East of the 38th Street Station, a 180-unit apartment building, Longfellow Station, is nearing completion. And in Bloomington, plans for a 50-acre transit-oriented development around the Bloomington Central Station are taking shape as the Mall of America continues to expand.
  •  
  • > Property values along the corridor have been strengthened. Single-family homes within a quarter-mile of the Blue Line have sold for 4.2 percent more than homes in a comparison area, with values increasing an average of $5,000 per home. A 2013 study found home values within a half-mile of hi-frequency transit like the Blue Line performed 48 percent better during the recession compared to those farther away.
  •  
  • > Connectivity is growing. With the opening of the METRO Red Line last weekend, customers in the south metro have access to a frequent, all-day service connecting to the Blue Line at the Mall of America Transit Station. In 2014, the METRO Green Line will provide light rail passengers with a convenient connection to St. Paul and the University of Minnesota. When the Interchange transit hub adjacent Target Field opens next spring, connections between transit services, including the Northstar Commuter Rail line and bus service, will further improve. Future connections include the Snelling Bus Rapid Transit Line, which would run from the 46th Street Station and along Snelling Avenue to Rosedale Center, and the Green Line Extension, which would run light rail between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.
  •  
  • > Service will continue to improve. A dozen new light rail vehicles have been added to the Blue Line fleet in the past few months, providing service with all three-car trains during peak periods and special events. The vehicles are designed to be more energy-efficient and comfortable for passengers. Planned streetscape improvements on Hiawatha Avenue will make the corridor more inviting to pedestrians and bikers. And reconfigured traffic signal technology will help move traffic more quickly along Hiawatha Avenue. A growing police force will provide additional law enforcement presence throughout the entire Metro Transit system.
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