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Posts in Category: Minneapolis

Bus Fares Light Rail Minneapolis Northstar

Metropass program reaches the 20-year mark 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, October 04, 2018 9:16:00 AM

Commuters exit a Metro Transit bus in downtown Minneapolis. Providing discounted, unlimited ride transit passes through area employers was a novel idea when the Metropass program began in 1998.

But twenty years after its inception, the program is attracting an increasing number of companies eager to encourage transit among their workforce.

Employees who work for participating employers can pay for a Metropass pre-tax through a payroll deduction. On average, companies kick in about a third of the $83 monthly cost.

When Metropass got its start, Minneapolis-based Ameriprise Financial and TKDA, a St. Paul engineering firm, were among the first to join. Nearly twenty years later, both companies continue to offer Metropass to their employees.

But they have a lot more company now. Around 37,000 employees from more than 360 employers now participate in the program. In 2017, Metropass holders took more than 12.8 million rides.

In October 1998, the first month the program was offered, Metropass customers took just over 90,000 rides.

Among those who ride with a Metropass is Janice Knight, an academic advisor at Capella University. Knight began using transit more than a decade ago to avoid costly parking in downtown Minneapolis. But there have been other perks to taking the bus. 

“If I didn’t ride transit, I wouldn’t have met neighbors who also ride the bus,” Knight said. “In fact, several of us get together to celebrate birthdays, happy hour and holidays.”

Metro Transit works with Transportation Management Organizations (TMOs) like Move Minneapolis to identify employers who want to offer Metropass.

Of the 30 companies added last year, 21 were in downtown Minneapolis, including Select Comfort Corporation, Kraus Anderson and law firm, Jones Day.

Move Minneapolis also worked with Thrivent Financial, a Metropass member since 2005, to significantly increase the company’s participation last year. Thrivent is building a new headquarters downtown, losing some parking spaces in the process. 

In St. Paul, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, Minnesota Science Museum and St. Paul Hotel are among the recent employers to join the Metropass program.

The program appeals to some suburban employers, too. More than 300 employees working at Amazon’s Shakoppe distribution center are using a Metropass.

"Metropass is great for any metro-area employer," Revenue Operations Supervisor Lisa Anderson said. “There are so many benefits, like reducing the carbon footprint and handling the growth we're expecting to see."  

John Penland, Assistant City Attorney for the City of Saint Paul, is another longtime rider who appreciates riding with a Metropass. Penland regularly takes the bus between Mitchell-Hamline and downtown St. Paul.

“After a while, you meet the same people and it becomes a community where you can catch up with colleagues or friends during your trip,” he said.

  > Learn more about the Metropass program

Bus Bus Rapid Transit E Line Minneapolis

Bus-only lanes to be piloted on Hennepin Avenue 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, May 10, 2018 2:33:00 PM

A southbound Route 6 bus rolled past traffic during the morning rush hour on Wednesday, May 16. Bus-only lanes were created on sections of southbound and northbound Hennepin Avenue for three days to test their impact on travel times, reliability and traffic. Bus customers who travel on Hennepin Avenue know traffic moves slowly when the street is full of vehicles. In fact, during rush hour, buses travel an average of just six miles per hour.

Exploring ways to provide faster, more reliable service, Metro Transit and the City of Minneapolis will test bus-only lanes on a portion of the corridor between Tuesday, May 15, and Thursday, May 17. Data and public input will be collected during the pilot to evaluate impacts and determine next steps.

What’s happening? 

A northbound bus-only travel lane will be created by restricting street parking on the east side of Hennepin Avenue between 26th Street and Franklin Avenue each morning from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. A southbound bus-only travel lane will be created by restricting parking on the west side of Hennepin Avenue between 26th Street and the Uptown Transit Center each evening from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 

Parking meters will be marked in advance of the parking restrictions and vehicles that have not been moved will be towed. The bus-only travel lanes will be marked with traffic delineators that will be removed during off-peak hours.

All Hennepin Avenue bus routes will use the bus-only lanes. Customers who board at stops adjacent to the bus-only lanes will see no changes at their boarding locations.

Why is this pilot being undertaken?

The bus-only lane pilot will help answer three key questions:

 > What are the changes in travel time and reliability?

 > What is the reaction from riders, neighborhood residents, businesses and other property owners?

 > Are there other improvement strategies that would complement the bus-only lanes?

What are the expected advantages?

Bus-only travel lanes are used in many large cities to help buses move more efficiently through busy urban corridors. In the Twin Cities, designated bus-only shoulders allow buses to bypass traffic on more than 200 highway miles. The Marq2 corridor also uses bus-only lanes to provide bus riders safe and efficient access in and out of downtown Minneapolis.

Faster, more reliable bus service makes transit a more appealing alternative to driving alone. The Hennepin Avenue bus-only lanes are expected to improve consistency and save a few minutes of travel time in either direction. The benefits would be even more pronounced when snow or other unforeseen incidents create heavier traffic than usual.

Why Hennepin Avenue?

With 400 daily bus trips, Hennepin Avenue is one of the region’s busiest transit corridors. More than 3,300 people board buses between Lake Street and Franklin Avenue each weekday. During peak periods, nearly half of the people traveling on Hennepin Avenue are on a bus.

Metro Transit is also planning for future rapid bus improvements on Hennepin Avenue. Planning for the E Line will begin with a corridor study in 2018. Like the A Line on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, the E Line will provide faster service, enhanced stations and larger vehicles.Bus only lanes could also be incorporated into the project. 

Pending full project funding, the E Line could be under construction as soon as 2022, in coordination with other street construction projects in the corridor. The E Line is on track to becoming the region's fifth rapid bus line. 

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Awards Bicycle Bus Metropass Minneapolis

Commuter Choice Awards recognize promoters of sustainable transportation 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, May 02, 2018 1:40:00 PM

When Thrivent Financial began considering building a new corporate center in downtown Minneapolis, the company had to find ways of helping employees who relied on parking lots that would be lost during construction.

Part of their answer: Promote transit.

Over the past year, the company has invited employees to six commuter education events, including bus and light rail demonstrations. Thrivent also further offset the cost of using transit by increasing its Metropass subsidy, leading to a 40 percent increase in program participation.

The efforts were undertaken in partnership with the Minneapolis-based Transportation Management Organization Move Minneapolis and with financial support from Hennepin County’s Green Partners program.

“The Thrivent workforce lives throughout the Twin Cities area, and around 50 percent of them use some sort of transit or alternative commuting method,” said John Bachhuber, vice president of HR Services at Thrivent. “We’re pleased we’ve been able to help even more of our employees learn about ways they can get to work safely, cost-effectively and efficiently using available transit resources.”

For their efforts, Thrivent was recognized as the Employer of the Year at the annual Commuter Choice Awards on Thursday, April 26. The awards recognize companies, building owners, individuals and organizations that support sustainable transportation in the Twin Cities.

Metro Transit works with area Transportation Management Organizations (TMOs) to organize and host the awards. Other Commuter Choice Award winners include:

Building Owner/Management Company: Opus Group

Opus Group’s Nic on Fifth is the definition of transit-oriented development: its lobby level is fully-integrated into the Nicollet Mall Station, one of the busiest boarding locations in the Twin Cities. In addition to the Green and Blue lines, the building is served by nearly 100 bus routes. The high-rise apartment building, which opened in 2014, also offers secure tenant bicycle parking and a tenant ride-sharing program. 

Commuter Benefits Coordinators: Tim Bruzek and Ericka Palmer, Sleep Number

Tim Bruzek and Ericka Palmer helped nearly 1,000 Sleep Number employees understand their commute options when the company relocated from a corporate campus in Plymouth to downtown Minneapolis. During its move, Sleep Number joined the Metropass program and began offering carpool parking to employees.

Government Entity: City of Saint Paul

City staff worked with Saint Paul Smart Trips-Transit for Livable Communities to make transit and biking more prominent features of the city’s transportation webpages. The city’s website also now provides real-time parking information during large events, allowing people to make more-informed, real-time decisions about their travel choices.

Commuter Champion: Sean Hayford Oleary

Sean Hayford Oleary has led the charge for better bicycle facilities in Richfield for several years. He was the founding member of Richfield Bike Advocates and has served as a commissioner on the city’s transportation commission. As commissioner, he helped advance plans for 2.5 miles of protected bike lanes on 66th Street – the longest stretch of such bike lanes in Hennepin County. 

Honorable mention: Anne Schultz, Richfield Chamber of Commerce President

Organization: Native American Community Clinic

The Native American Community Clinic has been an active promoter of the Transit Assistance Program, which provides qualifying low-income residents reduced-cost fares. More than 70 members of the Native American community have enrolled in the program with help from clinic staff. 

Honorable mention: Ravoux Hi-Rise Resident Council, University of Saint Thomas Sustainable Communities Partnership

Learn how Metro Transit and area TMOs can help promote transit and other alternatives to driving alone 

Commuter Choice Awards 2018

Minneapolis Transit Police

Sincerity, soft touch earns officer top cop honors 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, March 28, 2018 1:37:00 PM

Growing up, Tim Lawrence often used his stature to stand up to bullies. He went to school to become a teacher. And one of the first jobs he took was as a skycap, traveling and interacting with people from around the world.

The experiences didn’t seem to point toward a career in law enforcement. But at 28 years old, he realized they could all be of use as a police officer in a large and diverse area like the Twin Cities.

So the Hastings native decided to turn his attention toward becoming a cop and went back to school. After acing his first class, he was convinced he was onto something.

Nearly a decade later, Lawrence stood before his family and his peers and was recognized as Metro Transit’s officer of the year. The award is presented annually to an officer who exemplifies the department’s principles.

Days after that celebration, Lawrence stood in a small substation at the Chicago-Lake Transit Station and reflected on what the award meant.

“I’m not doing this to get recognized,” he said. “I do police work. That’s my job. I’m honored to get it, but it’s just another day.”

Lawrence’s humility isn’t surprising. Fellow officers describe him as a soft-spoken, matter-of-fact individual known for quiet displays of empathy and a steady, calm demeanor.

When an infant was kidnapped last summer, it was Lawrence who stayed with and consoled the distraught mother. A chance encounter on a frigid Christmas night sparked a years-long relationship with a homeless individual who often sought refuge on light rail trains. And while assigned to Lake Street, he persistently visited with business owners, using his limited Spanish to build trust in the community.

“He genuinely likes to help people, and you don’t see that very often anymore,” said Sgt. Jeremy Rausch, who nominated Lawrence. “Even with all the challenges we have, he hasn’t lost his soft touch. He cares about people who are less fortunate and that shows every day that he comes work.”

Lawrence is now in his sixth year as a patrol officer with Transit Police. He’s spent countless hours riding the Blue Line, worked overnights and helped train three new hires as a Field Training Officer.

He’s currently among a team of officers who patrol the west metro from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. His time is spent largely in Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center, monitoring busy boarding locations, responding to calls for service and riding buses.

While it’s a broad territory, Lawrence said he takes serving the community personally. “Even though this is a huge jurisdiction, this is my area and I take full responsibility for that,” he said.

That’s especially true in North Minneapolis, where Lawrence is perhaps better known as a coach than as a police officer.

That part of Lawrence’s story started three years ago, when he was riding the bus and ran into a former classmate he played football with at Bethel University. The teammate was now coaching at North Community High School and said it would be great to work together.

That interaction led to a call from Charlie Adams, the head football coach at Minneapolis North Community High School. Lawrence was offered and immediately accepted a job as a line coach.

He’s since been embraced by student athletes and parents, some of whom he sees while on the job.

“It’s been a great opportunity for these kids and their parents to see me out of the uniform and begin to see cops as human beings,” Lawrence said. “It also gives me a chance to see where they’re coming from and what I need to do to earn their respect.”

Lawrence hopes to build similarly warm relationships with all those he encounters. But he’s more interested in the personal satisfaction that comes from these positive interactions than the kind of acclaim he received last week.

“You get a chance to do one good thing and it rejuvenates you and makes it all worthwhile,” he said. “I’m not doing these things for recognition. I’m just doing what any human being should do.”

 > Learn more about the Metro Transit Police Department's annual awards 

Metro Transit Police Department Awards Ceremony March 2018

Bus From the GM Minneapolis

Nicollet Mall revamp puts transit back at the center of downtown 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, November 30, 2017 10:34:00 PM

From General Manager Brian Lamb

For the past two years, construction has prevented us from using one of the most important and popular features of our transit network – Nicollet Mall

Moving six of our busiest local bus routes to Hennepin Avenue – bringing 800 more daily trips to a street already full of buses, cars, pedestrians and bicyclists – brought its share of challenges.

I want to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who moved with us from Nicollet to Hennepin, and to all those have stuck with us through all of the road and light rail construction downtown in recent years. 

Hopefully, like me, you’re excited about what all this work means for our city center. 

The Nicollet Mall project has brought new lighting, more than 200 trees, public art and other improvements, creating a much richer and pedestrian-friendly environment. Later this year, we’ll build on the city's reconstruction efforts by putting in a dozen new shelters with heat, light and real-time displays.

Hybrid buses and free rides on some routes will also remain features of our Nicollet Mall service. 

And while the remake of “Minnesota’s Main Street” is significant, transit improvements are being made throughout the downtown area. 

We’ve added to our downtown shelter network and spruced up our light rail stations. We’re putting the finishing touches on track and system improvements that will improve light rail operations downtown. And we’ve worked with partners like the Downtown Improvement District on creative placemaking efforts at several of our busiest stops. 

There’s more to come, too. 

Next year, construction will begin on a new transit-only access ramp that will make it easier for express and Orange Line buses to get in and out of downtown. Our next two rapid bus lines, the C Line and D Line, will also provide faster, more frequent service to and from downtown. 

These improvements come at an opportune time. 

Increasingly, downtown is not just a home to major employers but a place to live, dine, shop or take in a show. The Super Bowl and other future large events will also bring more visitors and attention to our downtown area. 

With so much going on within just a few square miles, transit is more than a nicety, it’s a necessity. 

Thank you again for sticking with us through all the recent construction. We hope our customers enjoy the new Nicollet Mall and join us in looking forward to all the other improvements that lie ahead. 

Nicollet Mall History

Nicollet Mall opened in 1968, championed and largely funded by a group of downtown business owners intent on competing with suburban shopping centers like the newly-opened Southdale Mall. It was the first of many transit malls that would eventually be built for similar reasons in large U.S. cities. 

When Nicollet Mall opened, it was served by routes 17 and 18. Several other routes later operated on the mall, including Route 10, and express buses to Richfield, Bloomington and Minnetonka. 

Nicollet Mall was also briefly home to a downtown circulator known as Quick Transit, or QT, which began in 1971. The propane-powered QT minibuses ran along Nicollet Mall until 1980. 

To reduce the number of buses traveling on the mall, express routes were moved to Marquette and Second avenues nearly 20 years ago. Today, the mall is served by routes 10, 11, 17, 18, 25 and 59. Prior to construction, there were around 12,500 average daily boardings on Nicollet Mall. 

Free rides have been available on select Nicollet Mall routes since 2010 (southbound routes 10 and 59 and northbound Route 18).

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