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Posts in Category: St. Paul

Bus Light Rail Minneapolis Shelters St. Paul Winter Weather

Snow removal pros' goal this winter: collaboration 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Monday, November 11, 2019 1:34:00 PM

Metro Transit hosted snow removal managers from across the region in October. The goal: develop a more coordinated approach to one of winter’s biggest challenges – keeping bus stops, roads and sidewalks clear of snow and ice. 

Representatives from Minneapolis, St. Paul, Hennepin County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation attended the symposium, and a snow removal consultant shared tips on how to reduce salt use. 

In addition to getting some practical advice, the biggest accomplishment may have been simply getting acquainted before the flakes fly. 

“We see this collaboration blossoming into a long-term relationship that benefits all parties,” said Marilyn Porter, Metro Transit’s director of engineering and facilities. “The Metropolitan Council takes a regional approach to transportation, wastewater treatment and affordable housing, so it only makes sense to try a regional approach to snow removal, too.’’ 

With limited resources, Public Facilities Manager Donn Rude said avoiding conflicting snow removal efforts is critical. 

“Knowing each other’s capacities and protocols is important so we’re not just trading snow all the time,” Rude said. “It’s better for our people to be close behind the snowplow when they’re digging out bus shelters.” 

Rachel Walch, senior innovation consultant for the City of St. Paul, attended the symposium to pick up tips she could share with the city’s public works department. To help this winter, Walch said the city may ask businesses to adopt a corner and provide them with snow clearing supplies and training. 

“We have 1,900 miles of city streets, almost as much as all of Hennepin County’s (main arterials), and plows can get only so close to a curb,” Walch said.

Metro Transit’s snow removal arsenal includes salt, liquid chemicals, shovels, snowblowers, skid steer loaders and a small, enclosed tractor that can operate on sidewalks. Before storms, crews pre-treat surfaces with a liquid salt mix that repels snow. 

Even with all that machinery and preparation, clearing bus stops, rail platforms and Park & Rides is a time-consuming endeavor. 

“It’s not unusual for everyone to work 12 hours or more a day for days on end,” Rude said. “Last January and February were extremely difficult and labor intensive.” 

Because there's so much ground to cover, Metro Transit is always game to try new approaches. One year, crews tried melting ice with a beet juice mix, a product that smelled awful and was easily tracked into buildings and vehicles. 

At the recent symposium, staff was intrigued by a plow that could be compact enough to get on light rail platforms with sharp, narrow turns too tight for other equipment.

Learn more about Metro Transit's snow removal procedures

METRO Green Line Shelters St. Paul

Ambassador program makes its mark in downtown St. Paul 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, October 01, 2019 1:26:00 PM

Ambassadors who supported the Streets of Summer pilot program, sponsored by the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance.Keeping busy boarding areas clean isn’t always easy. But a pilot program initiated by a group of downtown St. Paul business owners shows the dramatic impact that can be made when a small group of individuals is hired to pick up litter, remove graffiti and perform other maintenance activities.

The results of the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance’s Streets of Summer pilot program were presented this week, after the three-month test came to an end. According to the Downtown Alliance, five full-time ambassadors picked up 84 bags of trash, erased more than 500 pieces of graffiti and removed more than 5,300 pieces of gum between June and August.

The efforts were part of a broader program that also brought musical performances, public art and trash can mosaics to a four-block area of downtown St. Paul. Some of Metro Transit’s busiest boarding areas, including the METRO Green Line’s Central Station, were included in the Downtown Alliance’s focus area.  

To support the effort, Metro Transit provided ambassadors space to store cleaning supplies and worked with the Downtown Alliance to host activities at boarding areas around Central Station, Rice Park and elsewhere.

“Metro Transit was an incredibly great partner,” said Emma Burns, a project manager with the Downtown Alliance. “We think it was a great success.”

Burns said the group received especially positive feedback from transit customers who appreciated not only the extra maintenance but regularly encountering ambassadors, who sported blue polos with “Street Team” printed boldly on the back.

Ambassadors had more than 2,000 contacts with individuals and business owners, according to a summary prepared by the Downtown Alliance. “First and foremost, it was about having extra eyes and ears on the street,” Burns said. “People told us it was great to see consistent staff tidying up, saying hello and just being around.”

The pilot program was funded by the Knight Foundation and others to determine whether a downtown business improvement district could be created to sustain similar efforts in the future. Discussions about next steps are underway.  

Privately funded improvement districts are common in larger cities, including Minneapolis. Ambassadors with the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, created a decade ago, are similarly focused on providing a clean, safe and welcoming environment downtown.

While the St. Paul pilot has concluded, Metro Transit is continuing to do its part to provide customers a safe, clean and welcoming environment downtown.

The agency’s facilities maintenance team was recently expanded so staff could more proactively maintain busy boarding areas and clear snow during the winter.

Learn more about the impact of the Streets of Summer pilot program

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

Bus Community St. Paul

On Transit Driver Appreciation Day, admiration goes both ways 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, March 19, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Transit Driver Appreciation Day was designed to put the focus on operators like Shelly Logelin, who started working at Metro Transit in 2013.

But when students from Saint Paul Public School’s Focus Beyond Transition Services visited Metro Transit’s East Metro Garage on Monday the support went in both directions.

The students, frequent bus riders, visited the garage to hand deliver gift bags filled with snacks and decorated with one of the custom thank you cards they helped design.

But, like several operators in attendance, Logelin said picking up Focus Beyond students is just as much of a highlight for her as it is for the students.

“Even though it’s our appreciation day, we’re giving it back to them to make sure they know they’re appreciated, too,” she said.  

Focus Beyond is a transitional school where students learn how to become more independent. Students often ride in large groups, filling entire buses on routes 54, 70 and 74, as they ride to and from school, work and other destinations.

The students were invited to East Metro after taking the initiative to deliver handmade cards and gift bags to drivers on Transit Driver Appreciation Day in 2018.

Tina Potvin, a teacher who helped organize the efforts, said students ride so frequently that they often develop relationships with the drivers. The kindness, patience and smiles they offer make sure the students always feel welcome, she said. 

“Many of the drivers greet our students by name and learn about all the individual needs they may have,” Potvin said. ”They really go out of their way to make both the students and the staff feel so much more comfortable and welcome.”

Help us recognize great operators

Help Metro Transit recognize great operators by submitting a commendation through our website or by sharing messages on Facebook or Twitter. If you don't know your operator's name, include the operator number on their shoulder so we can share your feedback with them.

Shelters St. Paul

Bus stop improvements continue in downtown St. Paul 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, February 05, 2019 12:52:00 PM

A new waiting shelter was recently installed outside the old Pioneer Press Building, part of a broader and continued effort to improve waiting facilities across downtown St. Paul.

The new shelter is located on 5th Street between Cedar and Wabasha streets. The busy boarding stop had previously been without a shelter, in part because it’s located on a hill with a narrow sidewalk.

Bus stop improvements were incorporated into the redevelopment of the St. Paul newspaper’s former headquarters into nearly 150 apartments for low- and middle-income earners.

The developer, St. Paul-based Real Estate Equities, allowed Metro Transit to place the shelter on private property and incorporated its design into the redevelopment project. The sidewalk was also widened.

A $250,000 Metropolitan Council grant helped cover site preparation and other improvements to the public space around the building. The apartment building is expected to open later this year.

Other downtown St. Paul stops that will be improved this year include:

 > Minnesota Street and 6th Street East, where plans call for a new shelter

 > 6th and Wabasha streets, where plans call for a replacement shelter

Plans call for new and replacement shelters to be installed at six other locations through 2022. The future improvements are being led by Metro Transit in coordination with the City of St. Paul, MnDOT and the community.

In 2015, Metro Transit installed new shelters with real time signs, security features and other amenities at three of downtown St. Paul’s busiest boarding locations.

See a list and map of downtown St. Paul bus stops planned for shelter improvements

Learn more about the Better Bus Stops program

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