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Posts in Category: Light Rail

Bus Community Light Rail Minneapolis St. Paul

Reflections on November in the Twin Cities 

Posted by Kathy Graul | Wednesday, November 30, 2016 10:13:00 AM

Does anyone else feel like November has flown by? A presidential election, unseasonably warm temperatures and Vikings games in the new stadium are just a few of the highlights. We at Metro Transit are thankful for the opportunity to look back and reflect on this month through the stunning photography featuring public transportation in the Twin Cities that we've admired on Instagram. 

Here we offer a look back at some of our favorite images from this month - which is your favorite? 

And by the way, are you following us on Instagram? It's a great place to connect with us and see the creative side of transit. We might also feature your photo if it catches our eye! (Just be sure to tag us!)

Purple skies over the Vikings stadium, with the Blue Line featured in the foreground

Reflections of a Route 6 bus heading over the Hennepin Avenue bridge

 

"The old cathedrals are good, but the great blue dome that hangs over everything is better." -- Thomas Carlyle

A photo posted by Joe -- St. Paul, MN (@theuptown5) on

Snow finally falling in downtown Minneapolis

Super-speedy Green Line

Moody morning light rail shot in downtown Minneapolis

 

Early mornings are a little darker these days.

A photo posted by Jeremy (@jeremy.delane) on

Green Line train passing through Government Plaza

 

The green line.

A photo posted by Max Webb (@webbwonder) on

Bus Fares From the GM Light Rail

Fare toolbox grows with introduction of new mobile app 

| Thursday, November 03, 2016 9:52:00 AM

Metro Transit's app allows customers to buy fares in advance and display them on a mobile device. From General Manager Brian Lamb

When people leave their homes, there are a few essential items they’re likely carrying with them, including identification, credit or bank cards and a mobile phone.                                                                   

Less likely to be in their pocket: a Go-To Card or the exact change it costs to board a bus or light-rail train.

Confusion about the fare and the need to have the right amount ready to board has long been a challenge for new or infrequent riders, sometimes discouraging them from using transit altogether.

Ticket vending machines that accept cash and credit cards at rail and rapid bus stations helped us begin to address this challenge. This week, we took another major step forward as we introduced a new Metro Transit app that allows people to buy and instantly use fares using a smartphone.

With the app, customers can purchase mobile tickets in advance and use them when they’re ready to ride. These customers will prove they’ve paid their fare by showing bus operators or police officers a screen with a unique, moving image that can’t be replicated or used after time has expired.

Created in partnership with tech company moovel, the app also provides access to our website’s most popular trip planning tools. In the future, it will give customers a simple way to let us know about immediate concerns and to receive alerts about the routes they most often use.

Operators and police have been trained to recognize valid mobile tickets over the last several months and a number of employees have successfully tested it in the field over the last few weeks.

Time will tell how the successful the app and mobile ticketing will be in attracting new customers, but there are several reasons to believe it will be a powerful tool. Consider:

    > Nearly 7 in 10 U.S. adults own a smartphone, and a third have used them to make a mobile payment. Our largest customer group, Millenials, are even more likely to own a smartphone and use it to make purchases. For many low-income residents, smartphones are the only reliable access to online resources.

    > The Twin Cities has become a top tourist destination, attracting more than 30 million visitors a year. An even greater number of visitors will arrive in the coming years for the Super Bowl and other large events. While special fare products that serve travelers have been introduced, mobile tickets are more immediate and convenient.  

    > About 72 percent of our website’s visits are from mobile devices and 16 percent of fares are sold through our online store. Use of a new service that allows customers to access NexTrip information by text message has grown exponentially since being introduced last June.

There are advantages for our operations, too. Cash-paying customers take more time at the farebox when boarding and face longer lines when buying tickets after large events. Customers who use mobile tickets will board just as efficiently as those using Go-To Cards.

While there are several clear advantages, the number of customers expected to use mobile tickets is likely to be small – we hope they will account for around 5 percent of all fare payments within the next year.

But getting customers to purchase their fares through the app on a regular basis isn’t really our goal. Instead, we want the app and mobile ticketing to move transit up on the list of options people consider when making a trip, eventually earning their trust so Go-To Cards become just as indispensable as their smartphones.

Learn More

Learn how to download the app, create an account and purchase mobile tickets at metrotransit.org/app 

Bus Light Rail

Good Question: How are buses and trains cleaned? 

| Tuesday, October 25, 2016 2:42:00 PM

With thousands of passengers boarding each day, keeping buses and trains clean isn't easy.

In fact, Metro Transit has nearly 100 employees who devote all or part of their time to sweeping, mopping, scrubbing and otherwise tidying up the fleet of nearly 1,000 buses and 86 light-rail vehicles. Here's a brief look at how they manage the task.


Bus

When buses are pulled back into the garage after being in service, they are parked and stored until their next pull-out.

Because fewer buses are on the street overnight, Cleaners spend the late night and early morning hours going through each vehicle to sweep the floors and remove litter. Helpers also re-fuel the buses and put them through a high-pressure bus wash overnight. If a bus has been vandalized or has other visible damage, it will also addressed or set aside for future repair.

Buses are scheduled for more extensive cleanings at least every 45 days. During these cleanings, the ceilings, windows, window ledges, walls and floors are wiped down with a variety of cleaning agents, such as degreaser, dish soap and hot water. Upholstered seat bottoms and backs are cleaned with a carpet extractor, and damaged seats are replaced. Magic Erasers, deodorizer and putty knifes are also among the most frequently-used tools. While most of the attention is on the inside of the bus, Cleaners also wipe down the wheels and the front and back of the bus.

In most cases, it takes around three hours to clean a bus from start to finish.

Cleaner Ralph Mason has spent more than 25 years on the job. “I love my job to tell you the truth,” Mason said from Nicollet Garage. “I take pride in putting out a good product and being a part of a system that keeps the cities going.”


Light rail

Like buses, trains are swept and cleaned nightly. Helpers also pull the train through a high-pressure wash, refill windshield wiper fluid, make sure the boxes that hold sand are full (sand is released as needed to help with traction) and get trains in position for their next pull-out. Helpers also clean or replace seat bottoms and backs as necessary.

Trains are thoroughly cleaned at 6,000-mile intervals, or at least once a month. Like their peers in Bus Maintenance, Helpers wipe-down the ceiling, windows, posts and handles. A Kaivac floor cleaner is also used to get dirt, sand and other material off of the floor, a particularly important job during the winter months.

It can take a single Cleaner up to eight hours to completely clean a train.

While most of the cleaning is done while trains are in storage, Helpers sometimes pick up trash while trains are stationed at Target Field or Union Depot between trips. 

Wearing calf-high rubber boots, Helper Jim Johnson said he enjoyed the work and the satisfaction of keeping the fleet in top condition. “The more you keep the trains clean, the cleaner they stay,” he said.  


Help keep buses and trains clean

Customers play an important role in keeping buses, trains and boarding areas clean. Remember, Metro Transit’s Code of Conduct prohibits customers from eating on board; drinks with a sealed lid are acceptable. To report a spill or excessive litter, call Customer Relations at 612-373-3333. 

 
Community Light Rail Retro Transit

Staff preserving transit of today and yesterday 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, July 07, 2016 2:51:00 PM

Signals Foreperson Mike Miller inside the Winona Streetcar No. 10 currently being restored in Excelsior.Mike Miller was studying electronics when he paid his first visit to the newly-opened Como-Harriet Streetcar Line in south Minneapolis.

Immediately intrigued, he began working alongside volunteers committed to keeping Streetcar No. 1300, a vestige of Twin City Rapid Transit that once ran on University Avenue, operating between Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun.

Nearly 40 years later Miller is helping bring yet another piece of streetcar history back to life, spending several hours a week wiring and installing electrical components on a streetcar that operated in Winona from 1913 through 1938.

A small group of Minnesota Streetcar Museum volunteers began meticulously restoring the streetcar a decade ago. Freshly painted pumpkin orange and cream, the Winona No. 10 streetcar is expected to make its public debut on a short stretch of track near downtown Excelsior later this year.

“It really is a strikingly handsome car,” Miller said recently from the carbarn where the streetcar and others in various states of repair are kept.

Miller’s involvement in the project is a study in contrasts: by day, he works as a Signal Foreperson ensuring the lights, signals and sensors along the region’s presentday light rail lines are operating as intended.

But while there are clear differences — light-rail cars feed off of 3,000-amp substations while the Excelsior streetcar line uses a 300-amp power supply — there are also plenty of parallels. 

A box tucked beneath a passenger seat will house an alarm panel similar to those found on light-rail vehicles. Miles of wiring connect relays, sensors and fuses that control the doors, lights and bells. And a custom-designed control panel mounted in the cab allows the operator to quickly troubleshoot while in service.

The streetcar retains its authentic feel, but the wiring provides modern-day protections that improve safety and reliability. 

“When I talk about what I’m doing with colleagues at work, they say ‘You’re not restoring a streetcar, you’re building a light-rail vehicle,’” said Miller, who began in Metro Transit’s radio shop in 2001. “Well, almost.”

Miller isn’t the only Metro Transit staffer with a foot in the old and new worlds of transportation. 

Bus operator Fred Beamish and Senior Planner John Dillery volunteer as streetcar operators on the Como-Harriet Streetcar Line. Senior Signal Engineer Phil Wellman and Engineering & Facilities Intern Ryan Heath serve on the St. Paul’s Minnesota Transportation Museum’s Board of Directors.

Wellman’s grandfather and great-grandfather each worked in the railroad industry and he began volunteering at the museum while still in high school, scraping grease from old locomotives.

Senior Signal Engineer Phil Wellman on one of the locomotives operated by the Minnesota Transportation Museum.The work led him to a job as an entry-level Signals Systems Draftsman and, in 2003, to his joining Metro Transit’s fledgling Signals Department. The locomotives the museum operates between Osceola, Wisc. and Marine on St. Croix, Minn., are decades old but Wellman said there are still similarities to the work he does at Metro Transit.

“I’m very comfortable working in both worlds and there are a lot of parallel principles so it’s fun to crossover,” Wellman said.

Several Metro Transit retirees are also actively engaged in the preservation of Minnesota’s transportation history.

Retired Mechanic-Technician Howie Melco, whose grandfather was a streetcar operator, became involved in the Como-Harriet Streetcar Line when he was 19 years old and has used his craftsmanship to help bring several streetcars back to life over the years.

On the Winona streetcar, he carefully sliced off the bottom eight inches of the body, replacing it seamlessly with new material and applying layers of glossy paint. “It’s getting exciting toward the end here,” Melco said.

Aaron Isaacs, who worked at Metro Transit from 1973 to 2006, has written extensively about the region’s streetcar history and leads the Minnesota Streetcar Museum, which operates both the Como-Harriet and Excelsior lines.

The Como-Harriet streetcar barn was recently expanded to provide space for another streetcar and a collection of streetcar history.

For Miller, the Signal Foreperson, the decades spent volunteering with the Minnesota Streetcar Museum are both inspiring and rewarding. He’s especially proud of the Winona restoration, his biggest undertaking to date. Miller estimates the project will command at least 1,000 hours of his time before completion.

“Sooner or later this thing is going to run,” he said. “I look forward to saying I helped make it happen.”

 
 
Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Safety

Wig-Wag lights heighten LRT visibility 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, April 25, 2016 2:17:00 PM

Sitting on shop carts in a basement workshop at the Hiawatha Operations and Maintenance Facility are dozens of metal and plastic modules, each outfitted with a set of relays, sequencing devices and a tight bundle of red, blue, white and yellow wires. 

They represent a lot of work — and a lot more to come.

That’s because the forearm-sized modules are the custom-crafted, hand-made electronics behind the newest safety feature on Metro Transit’s light-rail vehicles: wig-wag headlights. Common on freight trains, wig-wag headlights alternately flash to help those outside the train detect motion and take notice of the approaching vehicle. 

Although not a requirement on light-rail, they are being installed across the fleet as yet another way to alert pedestrians, cyclists and motorists of an oncoming train.

The wig-wag headlights will automatically go on anytime a light-rail operator activates a train’s warning bells and horns. The audible warnings are activated whenever a train pulls into or out of a station, or crosses a street or pedestrian crossing on the METRO Blue and Green lines.

“The operator is going to continue doing what they’ve always done, but this is going to give that higher degree of visibility to everybody outside the train,” said Brian Funk, who served as Director of Light Rail before recently moving to Bus Transportation. 

With 86 light-rail vehicles, and headlights on each end, electronic technicians have been tasked with building hundreds of modules and harnesses — the wiring that ties them into the power supply.

The modules were designed and assembled by Electronic Repair Technicians Scott McDowell and Bruce Von Drashek — meticulous work that took several months. “These little fingers have been going for quite a while,” Von Drashek said. 

Building the hardware is just step one. Because the wig-wag lights are a modification from the original design, Electro Mechanic-Technicians Doug Robinson and Brooks Letourneau were tasked with coming up with a way to fit them into both the newer Siemens and older Bombardier trains.

“Our role was to modify the assembly to accept the new lights, concentrating on universality and making sure we used as few parts as we needed,” Robinson said. “Making it as efficient as possible was a lot of fun.”

Wig-wag headlights have been installed on two trains and the entire fleet will eventually be outfitted.

In addition to providing greater visibility, the project will improve reliability. LED lights last up to seven years, compared to about a year for the existing headlights. Using LEDs also eliminates the need for a DC to DC converter, which can fail and cause trains to be pulled from service.

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