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Posts in Category: Bus

Bus

Service changes boost ridership to St. Louis Park’s West End 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, January 17, 2019 3:23:00 PM

Customers board a Route 645 bus at the Louisiana Avenue Transit Center in St. Louis Park. When Chris Kaukis needs to get to work, he walks out of his downtown Minneapolis condo, crosses the street and hops on a Route 645 bus. 

In less than 15 minutes, he’s arrived at his office in St. Louis Park’s West End, a growing commercial and residential area just a few miles west of downtown on Interstate 394.  

The simplicity of getting to and from work without a vehicle, he said, was the primary reason he decided to move from Austin, Texas, to downtown Minneapolis a year ago.

“I wanted to get rid of my car and live in a major metropolitan downtown with a strong transportation system,” he said. 

Kaukis is among a growing number of customers taking transit to and from the West End and the surrounding area, which boasts nearly 12,000 jobs. Ridership in the West End area has increased by about a third since late 2016. 

The increase partly reflects a growing number of jobs and residences in the area. But service changes that took effect in mid-2017 have also provided a boost. 

The changes simplified some routes and introduced new all-day, limited stop service in the form of Route 645. Route 645 trips run between downtown Minneapolis and Wayzata, serving the West End, the Louisiana Avenue Transit Center and Ridgedale. Select Route 645 trips go as far west as Mound.

On a recent weekday morning trip, several Route 645 customers who boarded downtown said they regularly rode the bus to and from work. Like Kaukis, many did not own a vehicle or aspire to do so. 

“This is the only time I have to read,” said Janet Rolfer, who rides Route 645 to her job at the Ridgedale Library. “It’s nice and quiet and I don’t get interrupted.” 

Without transit, Rolfer said, she’d likely have to get a second job to buy a car and cover increased transportation costs. 

Customers traveling to jobs downtown are even more mindful of traffic and the cost of parking. 

St. Louis Park resident Bobby Pettit said riding Route 645 has allowed him and his wife to save money by sharing a vehicle. Another customer said she likely wouldn’t have taken a job downtown if not for the midday service provided on Route 645. 

Senior Planner Steve Mahowald led the service planning effort that resulted in Route 645 and other service changes to the West End. 

His charge to simplify Route 9 – which went from six to three branches – quickly led to something bigger, he said. The goal was to create more attractive and efficient service while continuing to serve existing riders. 

That was accomplished in part by putting Route 645 on local streets that had less frequent Route 9 branch service that has now been eliminated. Route 645 also provides more consistent service at a lower cost – as a limited stop route, customers pay local fares instead of express fares. 

The changes were made without increasing operating costs. 

Serving suburban employment centers like the West End can be a challenge. But the West End is uniquely situated for the kind of service improvements needed to build and sustain ridership, Mahowald said. 

“I don’t think there’s another area like this that’s this close to downtown and connected by a freeway,” he said. 

Learn more about service to St. Louis Park’s West End at metrotransit.org/west-end

Bus Bus Maintenance Bus Rapid Transit C Line Go Green

Fleet plan calls for gradual addition of electric buses 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, December 10, 2018 4:30:00 PM

An electric bus being made by New Flyer will be included in Metro Transit's C Line fleet beginning in 2019.Electric buses will be gradually added to Metro Transit's bus fleet over the coming years under a plan presented this week to the Metropolitan Council. 

The plan will begin going into effect next year, when Metro Transit starts the process of purchasing 19 new 40-foot electric buses. The buses would arrive in 2020 and will be used to help Metro Transit understand how electric buses effect scheduling, operations and maintenance.

Electric buses could also make up half of the fleet for future rapid bus lines on Chicago and Fremont avenues (D Line), Lake Street (B Line) and Hennepin Avenue (E Line). Additional 40-foot electric buses could go into service as early as 2022.

Combined, Metro Transit may purchase up to 125 electric buses by 2022. The fleet plan may evolve based on funding and an ongoing evaluation of electric bus technology.

Metro Transit’s first electric buses will be used on the C Line, a rapid bus line that will largely replace Route 19 service in 2019.

The first of eight electric 60-foot buses is currently being built in St. Cloud by New Flyer (above).

Charging equipment will also be installed at the Heywood Garage and the Brooklyn Center Transit Center.

Metro Transit was among the first transit agencies in the country to begin using hybrid-electric buses. Today, the fleet includes more than 130 hybrid-electric buses, which are partially propelled by electric power stored in a large battery on the roof of buses. 

Electric buses are fully-propelled by rechargeable batteries, eliminating tailpipe emissions.

Bus From the GM

Focus on reliability and travel times brings big benefits 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, October 12, 2018 1:36:00 PM

 From General Manager Brian Lamb

When we ask transit riders what they want from us, we usually get a simple answer: They want us to show up on time and to get them to their destination as safely and quickly as possible.  

Bus-only shoulders, dedicated transit lanes and technology that allows buses to request green lights are just a few of the ways we’ve made our service faster and more reliable. But the reality is we still have work to do.

Nearly two-thirds of our customers ride on local bus routes that travel, on average, less than 14 miles per hour. One of our busiest routes, Route 21, has an average travel speed of less than 10 miles per hour.

We are continually making progress, however.

Our next step forward is on our Route 2 corridor, where around two-dozen of our least-used stops are being consolidated (these changes take effect on Saturday, Oct. 13). The hope is that by making fewer stops, buses will get to their final destination a few minutes sooner.

The changes come after getting input from customers and Route 2 operators and are part of a larger effort to improve service on one of our slowest local routes. Several new bus shelters have also been installed along the corridor.

We’re also excited to soon begin using Transit Signal Priority (TSP) on parts of the Route 5 corridor. With TSP, Route 5 buses will be able to request green lights at 30 key intersections, helping them move faster and more predictably.

These changes will bring noticeable improvements to two of our busiest routes. There’s more good news on the horizon, too. To cite just a few examples:

  > Later this month, hundreds of buses will begin using a transit-only ramp connecting downtown Minneapolis and southbound Interstate 35W. When construction is over in a few years, we’ll also enjoy dedicated transit and carpool lanes and a new station at Lake Street. Combined with more frequent service, transit will become an unrivaled option on one of the state’s busiest and most congested corridors.

  > Our region’s next rapid bus line, the C Line, will open next spring on the Route 19 corridor. Like the A Line, we expect C Line buses to be up to 25 percent faster than existing service by moving fare purchases off the bus, allowing all-door boarding and making fewer stops. As C Line construction enters the final stages, we continue to advance plans for rapid bus lines on busy corridors served by routes 5, 6 and 21.  

  > This summer, we began installing new fareboxes that are more efficient and reliable than the 25-year-old equipment they’re replacing. These machines are coupled with ongoing efforts to promote Go-To Cards and mobile fare payments, which now represent more than half of all fare payments.

  > On our light rail lines, we continue to work with local partners to get trains safely through intersections without having to wait for a green light.

These examples demonstrate a sincere commitment to addressing one of our customers' top concerns. Thank you for riding, and thank you for continuing to give us the opportunity to serve you better. 

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 Safety

Repeat Roadeo champ earns another title 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, September 26, 2018 9:00:00 AM

Heywood operator Jack Berner won the 2018 Metro Transit Bus Roadeo. The sleeve of Jack Berner’s grey Metro Transit sweater is already home to an impressive collection of blue chevrons commemorating each of his 13 Bus Roadeo wins.

And now he has one more. After earning a near-perfect score, Berner was named the 2018 Bus Roadeo champion this week.

With each win, he earns bragging rights, a trophy and a blue chevron to stitch onto his uniform. “I think I can fit another one on there,” the 29-year operator said this week. 

Berner has competed in 22 Bus Roadeos and won six of the past seven years. He narrowly missed the top spot in 2016.

On the Roadeo course, operators maneuver around cones, tennis balls and signs, winning points for precision. Top finishers can be separated by less than a few inches.

Berner says his success comes not just from experience but an innate ability to judge distances.

“I don’t really have a set thing, I’ve just always been really good at estimating,” Berner said.

Participating in the Roadeo for the first time, fellow Heywood operator Bradley Schnieder turned to the perennial champ for advice.

It worked. Schnieder, a five-year operator, had the best score among this year’s first-time participants, earning Rookie of the Year honors.

Heywood operator Kenneth Schmoll took second overall and East Metro operator David Palm took third. The top finishers from other garages were:

  • > Timothy Hnida, Ruter Garage
  • > Mark Ogburn, Nicollet Garage
  • > Doug John, South Garage
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