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Posts in Category: Light Rail

Know Your Operator Light Rail Safety

Operators put their skills to the test in Rail Rodeo 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, April 05, 2016 11:37:00 AM

As the lead singer for the band Capital Sons, Karl Obermeyer is comfortable performing in front of a crowd.

On Saturday, he put on a different kind of show – joining 13 rail operators competing in front of judges as part of Metro Transit’s Rail Rodeo. During the event, operators were closely watched as they went through a series of tests and a written exam.

After the points were tallied, Obermeyer was declared the top-performing operator. And in retrospect, he said, his on-stage experience probably helped him overcome the nerves associated with operating a light-rail vehicle as judges looked over his shoulder. 

“This is something you do on a day-to-day basis, but to have somebody monitoring everything you do brings it to another level,” said Obermeyer, an extraboard operator who has worked on both the METRO Blue and Green lines over the last 2.5 years. “I suppose my experience as a performer did come into play, since I’m used to having people observing me.”

But it takes more than a cool demeanor to safely operate a light-rail vehicle, as Obermeyer and the other competitors displayed throughout the Rail Rodeo.

Walking through a light rail vehicle, operators were given 15 minutes to identify five defects that would need to be addressed before going into service. Moving a train around the storage area at the Hiawatha Operations & Maintenance Facility, judges listened for proper radio communication.

Operating between the Fort Snelling and Franklin Avenue stations, judges assigned scores based on the smoothness of the train movements, adherence to speed limits and station announcements. There was also a written test and a uniform inspection.

The second-leading scorer, Peter Mooers, said the competition was a great way to build his skills and remember why safety is such an important part of his job. Mooers is currently a Green Line operator who spent two years as a bus operator and moved to rail in early 2014. 

“It was a great way to build skills and make you want to improve as an operator,” he said after the competition.

Obermeyer and Mooers will have another chance to test their skills when they represent Metro Transit in the American Public Transit Association’s International Bus Rodeo. The competition will be held in Phoenix, Ariz. in June, and include a similar set of challenges.

“It’s an honor to represent the company I work for on an international level, and I’ll certainly put my best foot forward,” Obermeyer said. “Between now and then, I’ll be doing my homework.”

This is the first time Metro Transit has hosted a Rail Rodeo since 2008; the hope is to make it an annual event. Other operators who competed this year are: Hugo FuentesBill Morris, Lobsang Choephel, Jeremiah Collins, Andy Dolan, Dale Reak, Mohamud Ibrahim, Berhanu Mengistu, Nasreddine Yahiani, Mohamud Ahmed and Bob Tapper. The event was judged by Rail and Safety staff. Metro Transit's annual Bus Roadeo will be held Sept. 17-22. 

Light Rail METRO Blue Line

Keeping light-rail vehicles in shape for the long haul 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, December 04, 2015 1:55:00 PM

Electro Mechanic-Technicians at the Minneapolis Operations and Maintenance Facility recently embarked on a comprehensive overhaul of the so-called trucks that are bolted to the bottom of each vehicle, containing all of the mechanics that move trains down the tracks.After logging more than 700,000 miles, Metro Transit’s first generation of light-rail vehicles is getting some extra attention.

Electro Mechanic-Technicians at the Minneapolis Operations and Maintenance Facility recently embarked on a comprehensive overhaul of the so-called trucks that are bolted to the bottom of each vehicle, containing all of the mechanics that move trains down the tracks.

"It’s a lot like getting a car overhauled after 200,000 miles," Rail Maintenance Supervisor Keith Meisinger said. "Every single part is taken apart and checked, replaced if necessary."

At 12,500 pounds, each truck includes a traction motor, brake pads, calipers, gear boxes and an axle. Each of these parts will be removed and replaced with new or refurbished equipment. The stripped frames will be sandblasted and repainted, and new wiring and suspension components will also be installed.

The fleet overhaul is considered preventative maintenance that doesn’t necessarily indicate that the vehicles have dangerously deteriorated. Swapping out salt-corroded and worn parts is instead intended to help avert in-service breakdowns that can lead to delays.

Year-to-date, light-rail vehicles are traveling an average of nearly 39,500 miles between service calls.

This is the second time the trucks on the Bombardier vehicles have been overhauled. In 2009, specific parts were replaced through a less-intensive maintenance effort.

Taking the trucks apart for the first time, mechanics relied on diagrams to get the work accomplished. That experience will help speed things up this go around, but it will still take up to six weeks to complete work on each truck.

"There was a learning curve the first time around and this one will be too," said Neal Rambeck, one of five Electro Mechanic-Technicians working on the overhaul. "It’s a different process and a little more intense."

With 27 Bombardier passenger cars, and two trucks per car, it will take at least three years to overhaul the entire Bombardier fleet. By that time, work will likely be getting underway on the newer Siemens vehicles that went into service when the METRO Green Line opened in 2014.

The Bombardier trains are expected to stay in service through at  least three additional overhauls, which occur roughly every 350,000 miles. Light-rail trains are expected to be in-service at least 30 years. 

In other words, Rambeck and his peers will have their hands full for the foreseeable future.

"I’m definitely going to be able to retire here," Electro Mechanic-Technicians Clarence Blackmon said.

In addition to the truck overhauls, the exteriors of each Bombardier passenger car are being restored and repainted​. An interior refresh will likely begin in 2016.

"Our goal is to keep these vehicles in the best condition possible so they can continue to stay in service for future generations," said Rick Carey, Director of Light Rail Vehicle Maintenance. "They’re big, long-term investments and we treat them as such."

Electro Mechanic-Technicians working on an overhaul of the Bombardier light-rail vehicles briefly paused for a photo at the Minneapolis Light Rail Operations & Maintenance Facility. They include, from left, Will Fetterly,Daryl Long, Mike Lund, Neal Rambeck and Clarence Blackmon.

    > New paint brings new life to light-rail trains

    > Light-rail vehicles ready for all seasons

 

Bus Fares Light Rail

Balancing the books between the farebox and the bank 

| Thursday, November 19, 2015 11:19:00 AM

A growing numbers of customers are using Go-To Cards and other passes to pay their fares without reaching for their wallets. But for many of Metro Transit’s customers, cash is still king.

Collecting, counting and quickly depositing all the bills and coins inserted into fareboxes and ticket vending machines is a daily task that requires a combination of manual labor, good accounting and appropriate safeguards.

The epicenter of this work is Metro Transit’s Central Counting Department, staffed by a team of revenue processing specialists who sort and stack piles of bills, feed mountains of coins through machines that organize them by denomination and weed out the unlikely debris that enters the mix.

“It’s a daily challenge to make sure we’re balancing the books and that everything comes out as it’s supposed to,” Revenue Collections and Processing Supervisor Abdul Ahmed said. “But we always do it.”

The longest-tenured member of the revenue collection team is Ian Stevens, who started as a coin counter more than 42 years ago and continues to begin the money-counting process each morning around 2 a.m.

“I had just gotten out of the service and I thought I’d get a few days to goof off but my wife said, ‘No, you’re getting a job,’” Stevens said. “This was the first place that called back.”

On a recent morning, Stevens pulled an orange metal bin up to a coin counting machine, releasing a small door and allowing coins to spill onto a conveyor belt. After rising several feet, the coins noisily fell through a cyclone of spinning metal that separated dimes, nickels, quarters and other denominations.

In about 20 minutes, 25,330 coins – including nearly 14,000 quarters – had fallen into cloth bags to be re-counted for verification and bagged according to U.S. Federal Reserve standards.

Removed from the mix was a 15-year-old Chuck E. Cheese token and several pieces of foreign currency that will eventually be exchanged. (Stored in a separate box is a collection of Pesos, Canadian dollars, Chinese Yuan, Euros and other bills from around the globe).

The machines used to organize the coins are new to the department but are very similar to those that were recently taken out of service after counting more than 3 billion coins over the last three decades. (Fun fact: that is more than enough coins to make a continuous roll from Metro Transit to the US. .Mint in Philadelphia, Penn., where the coins were minted.)

The recently-retired machines, slightly bulkier and less efficient, are waiting to go into storage and have been signed with wishful good-byes from staff in Central Counting.

Much of the other equipment used in Central Counting also dates back several decades, a reminder that while inflation has impacted the value of U.S. currency little has changed in its form or function.

The enduring quality of cash is why Central Counting is expected to remain a vital part of the revenue collecting operation at Metro Transit. Around half of Metro Transit’s customers now use a Go-To Card or pass, but just as many are relying on crumpled bills and loose change.  

In 2014, around $28 million was collected in cash fares, representing about a quarter of all fare revenue.

“Automatic fare payments are a convenient option for many of our customers, but we also know that a lot of people who ride still rely on and expect us to accept cash,” said Revenue Processing Manager Dennis Dworshak. “It’ll keep coming and we’ll keep counting it for the foreseeable future.”

    > Good Question: Why no sales tax on fares?

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

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line

Single-day LRT ridership tops 100K for first time 

| Monday, September 21, 2015 2:29:00 PM

Single-day ridership on the METRO Green and Blue lines recently topped 100,000 for the first time ever.

The milestone came on Thursday, Sept. 3, when there were a combined 100,909 light-rail rides. Nearly 64,000 rides were provided on the Green Line that day, while almost 37,000 rides were provided on the Blue Line.

Nearly a quarter of the rides taken were attributed to fans traveling to a St. Paul Saints, Minnesota Gophers football or Minnesota Twins game.

Event ridership has been strong on both the Green and Blue lines this year.

Saints fans took an estimated 52,990 Green Line rides to home games at CHS Field this season, an average of 981 rides per game. Through the end of August, Twins fans had taken nearly 512,000 rides, a 14 percent increase over last year.

    > State Fair ridership reaches new high

    > Blue, Green lines top 1 million rides in July

    > East Bank Station tops 1 million boardings

 

Community Light Rail State Fair

A city commute in crop art 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, September 02, 2015 8:00:00 AM

A crop art featuring a Metro Transit light rail train at the 2015 Minnesota State Fair.

Sarah Leismer wanted to bring a little bit of the city to the collection of mostly rural-inspired crop art on display at the Minnesota State Fair.

The result: a detailed representation of a Metro Transit light-rail train passing the fast-developing Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

“I wanted to embrace Minnesota and I thought what better way to do that than to do something from the city that I love,” said Leismer, a frequent transit user who moved from Washington D.C. to an apartment along the METRO Blue Line two years ago.

As an engineer, Leismer was drawn to the cranes and activity unfolding in Downtown East. She and her brother took several photos around the stadium construction site and were most inspired by a photo of the train passing in front of its still-forming frame.

Leismer made a sketch of the photo and then visited the bulk bins at Mississippi Market to make her selections. The crop art includes wild rice, poppy seeds and dyed millet. (“It’s really hard to find red and blue seeds,” Leismer said.)

Judges appreciated the dose of city life, awarding Leismer’s piece a white ribbon (third place) in the dyed or painted category. The piece can be found in the Agriculture Horticulture Building. 

This is actually the second consecutive year Leismer has entered the crop art competition with a transit-inspired piece. In 2014, she created crop art featuring the METRO Green Line and a city skyline that was given a red ribbon (second place).

“It’s a different subject matter than you usually see, so I think people like it,” she said.

    > The best route to the State Fair is on the bus


2014 Crop Art by Sarah Leismer

A crop art featuring a Metro Transit light rail train at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair.

2002 Crop Art by John Levin, Metro Transit's Director of Strategic Initiatives 

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