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Posts in Category: Minneapolis

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Minneapolis St. Paul

Technician training program creates careers, pride 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Monday, August 05, 2019 11:59:00 AM

Six LRT train technicians receive certificates of completion in a ceremony Aug. 2, 2019, at Hennepin Technical College where they earned associate degrees. From the left in the front row, they are: Thao Xiong, Calvin Hill, Chapman Templer, Chee Vang, Tenzin Kunga and Toua Yang.

Chapman TemplerToua Yang and Chee Vang might still be working at lower-paying jobs without advancement opportunities had they not enrolled three years ago in a paid on-the-job training program to become light rail train technicians.

They were among six people who received associate degrees this summer from Hennepin Technical College and are applying for Metro Transit electro-mechanical technician jobs with starting pay of about $27 an hour.

They will be in demand. Metro Transit has 16 open electro-mechanical technician positions and expects about 10% of its technicians of all kinds to retire next year.

About two dozen more technicians are also needed to support the METRO Green Line Extension, opening in 2023. Twenty-seven new light rail vehicles will be added to the fleet when the extension to Eden Prairie opens.

“The equipment comes in and we have to get the technicians in place to get it ready to operate,” said Gary Courtney, Metro Transit’s supervisor of workforce development.

To prepare the recent graduates, Metro Transit teamed up with Hennepin Technical College and Twin Cities R!SE, a nonprofit, on what’s known as the Metro Transit Technician Training program.

Twin Cities R!SE provided employment readiness training and Hennepin Tech created a first-of-its-kind associate degrees in light rail train technology. Courses focused on automation robotics, electronics and fluid power.

While in school, participants worked as full-time interns at Metro Transit, learning from mentors and earning $20 an hour. Metro Transit also helped pay for their first year of tuition, books and supplies.

“If the program had never started, I’d still be in school wondering what I was going to do,” said Yang, who previously worked at a tire shop.

Vang also used to work in a tire shop doing less skilled work. Now, he’s looking forward to having a steady income and benefits like health care and a retirement savings account.

“You’re getting higher pay. You’re not stressed about being able to pay the bills or being able to buy food,’’ Vang said.

Templer, who previously worked as a cook and bicycle mechanic, said he’s also gained a sense of pride from learning a new trade.  

“There's a lot of pride to be had when I step back and look at how far I’ve come,” he said. “I’ll use a crane to lift a 700-pound motor truck, move it across the shop, set it down, release the brakes, roll it off, set it up onto the stands and start removing the brake calipers.”

The other three graduates are: Calvin Hill, Tenzin Kunga and Thao Xiong.

The nationally recognized Metro Transit Technician Training program began in 2015 with a focus on Bus Maintenance.

Several participants have gone on to become full-time mechanic technicians at Metro Transit; others are still pursuing their degrees and serving as full-time interns.

Fox 9: First class graduates from specialized program filling need for light rail technicians

CCX: Hennepin Tech graduates first light rail technicians

Finance & Commerce: Training ramps up for light rail technicians

Sun Post: Hennepin Tech offers first light rail technician degree

METRO Orange Line Minneapolis

Orange Line at the center of an exciting new chapter for I-35W 

Posted by John Komarek | Tuesday, July 23, 2019 11:18:00 AM


Gov. Tim Walz addresses the media and a crowd at the METRO Orange Line groundbreaking ceremony at the Knox Avenue Park & Ride.

From General Manager Wes Kooistra

Sixty years ago next month, Twin Cities motorists celebrated the opening of the region's first freeway – a roughly 8-mile stretch of Interstate 35W from south Minneapolis to the Minnesota River. 

The section of I-35W that extends from downtown Minneapolis through the south metro is among the busiest roadways in Minnesota. As downtown Minneapolis, Richfield, Bloomington and Burnsville continue to grow, it's only going to get busier, too. 

Which is why, more than a half-century after I-35W opened, we're eager to make transit the most attractive transportation option for commuters and all those who travel along this corridor. 

And that's exactly what we're doing. On Wednesday, July 17, local, state and federal partners gathered to celebrate the execution of a federal grant that will go toward the METRO Orange Line, a 17-mile Bus Rapid Transit line on I-35W. 

Like other BRT services the Orange Line will operate every 10 to 15 minutes and serve high-quality stations at key locations, including I-35W and 46th Street and Burnsville's Heart of the City. 

Several features of the Orange Line have already been completed or are being built, including a new station in the center of I-35W at Lake Street. A new transitway under I-494 will be under construction beginning this summer and work on new stations will be underway next year. 

We expect the Orange Line to open in late 2021, as the state wraps up road repairs and bridge work along I-35W. 

When open, the Orange Line will help people reach hundreds of thousands of jobs downtown – many outside the downtown core – at all times of the day. Residential and commercial development is already occurring at future station areas where plans to support walking, biking and transit are also taking shape. 

Customers will find Orange Line service to be significantly more convenient and reliable, too. 

A bus-only ramp to southbound I-35W, new southbound MnPASS lanes and the I-494 transitway will provide significant transit advantages. Like the C Line, the Orange Line will also feature more spacious 60-foot buses that allow all-door boarding and off-board fare payments. 

While the Orange Line will be the centerpiece of our I-35W service, all those who use transit in this corridor should be excited about what's ahead.

A new bus-only ramp from 12th Street to I-35W will allow hundred of buses to avoid congestion exiting downtown each weekday. This fall, we'll seek input on improvements to dozens of local routes that will connect with the Orange Line.  

The milestone we celebrated last week wouldn't have been possible without the dedication of many employees throughout the organization, community support or the backing of our local, state and federal partners. 

Thank you to all those who brought us to this point and all those who will continue to devote themselves to this critically important project. Together, we are writing a new and exciting chapter in the history of I-35W.

METRO Orange Line Groundbreaking and Funding Ceremony

Light Rail METRO Blue Line Minneapolis Transit Police

Partners share Metro Transit Police Department's Officer of the Year honors  

Posted by Laura Baenen | Tuesday, July 02, 2019 4:14:00 PM

MTPD Officers of the Year Michael Affeldt (left) and Joe Carchedi

As partners, police officers Michael Affeldt and Joseph Carchedi spend so much time together their peers refer to them jointly as “Affeldt and Carchedi.”

And now they share something in addition to a name and a beat. Affeldt and Carchedi were recognized as Metro Transit’s officers of the year at the department’s annual awards ceremony, held on Friday, June 28.

The officers were celebrated for proactively policing some of the transit system’s busiest areas, including the METRO Blue Line’s Lake Street and Franklin Avenue stations and the Brooklyn Center Transit Center.  

Sgt. Bret Fraser, who recommended them for the award, said the officers have shown “compassion, understanding and reasonability of true beat officers.”

The officers were also credited with using video surveillance to disrupt crimes in progress, leading effective narcotics investigations and participating in a youth baseball program, Badges and Baseball.

Affeldt joined the department in 2014, serving initially as a Community Service Officer. Carchedi joined the department in 2015.

Several other officers were recognized at the awards ceremony, including:  

  • Officer Chad W. Loeffler, who received the department’s Tim Bowe Award. The award is presented annually to an officer who works part time for Metro Transit. Loeffler is a K9 officer for the Lakeville Police Department and has worked part-time for Metro Transit since 2002.
  •  
  • Lt. Mike Johnson, who was named the Supervisor of the Year. Johnson helped Metro Transit prepare for the 2018 Super Bowl and the 2019 NCAA Men’s Final Four.
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  • Officer Chris Miles, who received a Medal of Merit for successfully getting a distraught man to drop a knife, and a Certificate of Appreciation for identifying a suspect accused of causing tens of thousands of dollars in property damage with graffiti.
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  • Officer Cleven Duncan, who received a Certificate of Appreciation for recording a message from a jailed suspect to his mother, who was approaching death at the hospital.
  •  
  • Officer Andrew Carlson, who received a Certificate of Appreciation for helping a homeless man locate a low-cost apartment.
Minneapolis On the METRO

Developers see future with more people, less parking 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, May 21, 2019 3:19:00 PM

From left to right: Dean Dovolis, founder, CEO and principal at Minneapolis-based DJR Architecture, Inc.; Robb Lubenow, co-founder of Minneapolis-based Yellow Tree Development; Jennifer Jordan, Senior Project Manager for the City of Brooklyn; and Jason Wittenberg, the Manager of Land Use, Design and Preservation for the City of Minneapolis. New residential and commercial buildings can increasingly come with little to no parking, developers and city officials said at a forum hosted by Metro Transit’s Transit Oriented Development Office.

“Part of the issue is does the public want it and this is very much what the public wants,” said Dean Dovolis, the founder, CEO and principal at Minneapolis-based DJR Architecture, Inc.  

Dovolis, above left, spoke at the forum alongside, left to right, Robb Lubenow, co-founder of Minneapolis-based Yellow Tree Development; Jennifer Jordan, Senior Project Manager for the City of Brooklyn Park; and Jason Wittenberg, the Manager of Land Use, Design and Preservation for the City of Minneapolis.

In Minneapolis, DJR is focusing on small lots where multi-story residences can be built with limited parking. On Fremont Avenue South, DJR built a 10-story apartment building with just two parking spaces.

Panelists said one of the biggest benefits to reducing parking in new developments is the ability to provide more affordable housing and commercial space. Each enclosed parking space can cost up to $30,000 to create.

The lack of parking isn’t a deterrent to young adults and others who value living in vibrant, walkable neighborhoods where personal vehicles aren’t a necessity. In lieu of parking, developers are expanding bike facilities and providing vehicles that can be shared by building residents.

“The only thing that’s getting larger is our bike storage and lounges,” said Lubenow, of Yellow Tree.

Yellow Tree focuses on urban development that caters largely to young renters who prefer to live alone. The firm is building a 65-unit apartment building that will include 32 parking spaces in Northeast Minneapolis, and another near Lake Street that will include 91 apartments and 61 parking spaces.

In the City of Minneapolis, changes to city zoning rules have allowed developments near high-frequency transit to move ahead with fewer parking spaced than had historically been required.

Now the city is grappling with new questions, like how to regulate on-street parking. That and other challenges could be addressed through the city’s Transportation Action Plan.

The shift toward less parking is mostly evident in urban areas where light rail or high frequency bus service is available. But suburban communities are also setting the stage for a shift to parking-light development.

In Brooklyn Park, recently updated zoning guidelines reduced parking requirements in areas where light rail stations are planned.

Learn more

Metro Transit’s Transit Oriented Development Office is a resource for developers and urban planners who want to pursue TOD in the Twin Cities. Learn more at metrotransit.org/tod.

Awards Bus Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Minneapolis Safety

Sarah Gibson claims Rail Rodeo crown with calm demeanor 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Tuesday, April 23, 2019 1:42:00 PM

Rail Supervisor Connie Skinner (top left) scores Train Operator Sarah Gibson during Metro Transit's 2019 Rail Rodeo. Train Operators Joe Bretto (top right) and Mose Mahir (bottom right) perform pre-trip inspections during the contest.

Train Operator Sarah Gibson’s laid-back approach won her Metro Transit’s Rail Rodeo crown last Saturday.

“I really didn’t do much to prepare. This is what I’ve been doing for five years now so operating a train is almost second nature, and I’ve always been pretty good at written tests,” said Gibson, who has worked for Metro Transit for seven years, the first two as a bus operator.

Gibson will represent Metro Transit at the American Public Transportation Association’s International Rail Rodeo in Toronto in June. She also was named the Green Line’s Garage Champion, a new award this year, and won a jacket.

Joining her in Toronto will be fellow Train Operator Joe Bretto, who placed third. Train Operator Paul Gillespie placed second but is unable to attend.

During the skills competition, operators were judged on the thoroughness of a pre-trip inspection and their operation of a light rail vehicle in the rail yard and on the Blue Line. They also took a written exam on light rail rules and had to pass a uniform inspection.

This wasn’t Gibson’s first Rail Rodeo. In 2017, the only other time she’s competed, she finished third. She was also a finalist in the 2013 Bus Roadeo.

Gibson is taking the same relaxed approach to the international competition that she took to the local one.

“I enjoy my job and do it the best I can every day, so I suppose I’ll just keep doing that,” Gibson said.

Gibson’s family will join her in Toronto to cheer her on. They also hope to catch a Toronto Blue Jays game since the team will be at home during the competition dates.

Meanwhile, Metro Transit’s reigning Bus Roadeo champion, Heywood Operator Jack Berner, will compete in APTA’s International Bus Roadeo in May. This is expected to be Berner’s final Roadeo before retirement. He has won Metro Transit’s Bus Roadeo seven of the past 12 years.

Metro Transit’s annual Bus Roadeo will be held in St. Paul on Saturday, Sept. 14, Tuesday, Sept. 17, Wednesday, Sept. 18 and Thursday, Sept. 19.

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