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Bus In the News Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line

Rail lines set records as Metro Transit ridership tops 81.9 million in 2017 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, January 25, 2018 3:00:00 PM

A record number of light rail and commuter rail rides were taken in 2017 as Metro Transit’s annual ridership topped 81.9 million. 

Metro Transit has provided more than 80 million rides in each of the past seven years, sustaining the highest ridership the agency has seen in three decades. Average weekday ridership in 2017 was 264,347. 

“Last year’s strong ridership underscores just how many people across the region are relying on us to get them safely to and from work, school and many other destinations,” Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said. “On behalf of everyone at Metro Transit, I’d like to thank all those who are placing their confidence in us and making transit a part of their lives.”

The 2017 ridership total includes a record 13.1 million rides on the METRO Green Line, which has seen ridership grow every year since its 2014 opening and had its highest single-day ridership ever on Aug. 31, 2017. Nearly 10.7 million rides were taken on the Blue Line, breaking the previous record set in 2015. 

Ridership on the Green Line increased about 3.5 percent compared to 2016, while Blue Line ridership increased nearly 4 percent. 

Nearly 794,000 rides were provided on the Northstar Commuter Rail Line, a nearly 12 percent increase over 2016. Last year’s Northstar ridership broke a record set in 2013. 

Metropolitan Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff announced the ridership records in her State of the Region address on Thursday

“Congratulations and thank you to all our Metro Transit employees who play a role in providing a service that people across this region use in record numbers. This is yet another reminder that we do truly have one of the best transit systems in the nation,” said Chair Tchourumoff.

“2017 was a trifecta for our rail lines in the metro,” Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said. “With gas prices hovering at $2.50 per gallon, all three of our rail lines – Green, Blue, and Northstar – set ridership records. These three rail lines now constitute 31 percent of all rides on Metro Transit. This is another piece of strong evidence that rail investment is good for the Twin Cities.”

Systemwide, ridership remained essentially flat compared to 2016. 

Metro Transit provided more than 57.3 million bus rides in 2017, including more than 1.5 million rides on the A Line. Average weekday ridership in the A Line corridor has increased by about one-third since the rapid bus line opened. 

“The A Line is a prime example of the investments this region needs,” said B Kyle, president & CEO of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. “Bus rapid transit is an integral part of the system, which we know the vast majority of people are using to get to work or school. Every day I hear from our business members how critical transit investments are to their ability to attract and retain talent.”

“Our region needs to keep the momentum we’re seeing with these ridership records,” said Jonathan Weinhagen, president & CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Continuing to maintain and improve our regional system will pay huge dividends for everyone, not just the business community. We’ve reached a tipping point where maintaining the status quo means we’re falling behind our peer regions. It’s time to double down on transit investment.”

Total bus ridership declined about two percent. The decline mirrors a national trend attributed in part to low gas prices. Ridership losses were greatest during off-peak hours and on routes that were detoured off Nicollet Mall during construction. 

  2017 Ridership 2017 Average Weekday Ridership

Bus

55,751,961

184,736

Green Line

13,142,163

40,554

Blue Line

10,668,832

31,510

A Line

1,570,670

4,727

Northstar

793,796

2,819

Total

81,927,422

264,347

 

Learn more about Metro Transit's 2017 accomplishments

Bus Community METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line

Big snow met with persistence, praise 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, January 23, 2018 12:56:00 PM

The Twin Cities was hit with its biggest winter storm in seven years on Monday, bringing a foot or more of snow to several parts of the metro.

Snow-covered roads and traffic delays caused widespread bus delays, with many operators pulling in hours after their shifts were scheduled to come to an end. Street Supervisors and Mechanic Technicians spent a large part of the evening responding to buses that had become stuck in the snow. Public Facilities Workers and Facilities Technicians were also out throughout the night and following day clearing snow from boarding locations (How does Metro Transit prioritize snow removal? Good Question!

The demand for service updates during the storm was overwhelming: Transit Information Center representatives handled more than 3,400 calls on Monday, 25 percent higher than the average weekday call volume. The number of customers using the “Show My Bus” feature, the online tool that shows where buses are at in real time, also saw a huge increase in usage.

Despite the difficulties, many customers expressed their appreciation.

Operator Thomas Logan received two commendations from customers who were impressed with the way he handled his stuck bus, 146A: 

"Everyone transferred onto Thomas' bus, but it too became stuck in the exact same spot. Infinitely patient Thomas persevered, however, rocking our bus to and fro, to and fro, for a good 15 minutes until he finally got it moving. We all clapped and cheered him on! He made the turn onto 50th St., but it wasn't long before he ran into more stranded buses with more spinning wheels, as well as cars blocking the road in every haphazard way imaginable -- in other words, countless obstacles to our continued progress. Thomas persevered patiently, diligently and carefully until we finally crossed Highway 100 into Edina. Thomas not only exemplifies "Minnesota Nice," but he's a driver of superb skill with a genuinely humane nature, and he does Metro Transit proud. He deserves your highest commendation for his outstanding level of service last night."

"You need many more drivers to be like Thomas. He was just great in the face of very poor weather and driving conditions. Wonderful job!"

A sampling of other comments is below. Did you witness great service? Submit a commendation online or by phone.

Learn more about how to stay informed when winter weather strikes at metrotransit.org/snow

 

 

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Bicycle Bus How We Roll

How we Roll: Jared Fette 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, December 20, 2017 9:12:00 AM

Jared Fette, Transit Information Center Representative, with his bike at the Heywood Office building in Minneapolis.Many Metro Transit employees are committed to sustainable transportation, riding the bus or train, biking or walking to work and other destinations across the region.

These “How We Roll” profiles are a chance to illustrate how much we have in common with our customers when it comes to how we get around. See you out there!

Jared Fette, Transit Information Center Representative

How do you get to work? 

I bike daily year-round from the Audubon Park neighborhood in northeast Minneapolis to Heywood. It’s about four miles each way. I take various bike routes on side streets and the Plymouth Avenue Bridge, which has awesome, wide bike lanes. The city of Minneapolis does a great job during the winter of plowing the Plymouth Avenue bike lanes. I love it because I don’t have to bike through downtown anymore to get to work. I usually take turns riding my regular road bike or my cargo bike, depending on if I need to pick up groceries on the way home. 

Why do you choose to bike to work? 

It helps me to stay healthy and happy. In college, I didn’t bike as much and thought about getting a high-mileage car. And then one day I realized that I’m already getting the best mileage and it’s so much cheaper! The sustainability part of cycling is a bonus. 

How do you use sustainable modes in your personal life? 

I like to take my dog to the dog park on my bike trailer, although she’s still getting used to it. I play drums at different venues around Minneapolis (and sometimes St. Paul), so I try to haul my drums on my cargo bike or bike trailer when possible. It’s really nice to be able to park right in front of the venue and not have to carry my drums from a block away. Lately, I’ve been getting into “bike packing” in the summer, which is biking long or short distances with camping gear and staying at campgrounds. 

For longer trips around town I usually take my bike on the train or bus. I like routes that take me across barriers, such as freeways or railroad yards. For example, Route 30 from the Quarry to Westgate Station, the A Line on Snelling, the Green Line to St. Paul, the Blue Line to Bloomington, and routes 4 or 10 to Uptown or downtown Minneapolis.

Bus Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Barbara Mestas 

Posted by Marisa Helms | Thursday, December 07, 2017 10:32:00 AM

When Operator Barbara Mestas walks into the Drivers Room at Heywood Garage, her big laugh and booming voice are a signal to her colleagues that their friend “B,” or “Barb” has arrived. Fellow operators are sure to say "hi." Some will ask Mestas for advice. Everyone knows she's fun to hang out with.

Indeed, during the nine years Mestas has worked as a Metro Transit operator, she's earned a solid reputation as somebody who brings people together. As she puts it, she’s pretty much a “people magnet.”

"I'm very approachable, very friendly, and I’m happy," Mestas said. “Everybody knows they can come and ask me about a route, or anything. Even the new people feel comfortable with me."

On her days off, Mestas and her coworkers get together for dinner or a movie, or to go bowling. "We call it our ‘Heywood family.’ Whoever wants to come, can join," Mestas said. "We try to make everyone comfortable who comes to our garage."

Mestas focuses her infectious optimism and magnetism on all her coworkers, not just her friends at work. She has started a few fundraisers for operators in need, and she regularly takes up collections as part of the Heywood Garage hospitality program to buy gift cards for coworkers who are going through hard times.

When she’s out driving, Mestas brings her friendly, broad smile and positive attitude to every route. She says she likes the challenge of the Extra Board schedule, and she says the routes are great because she gets to do something different every day.

"I love my job," Mestas said. "I'm a people person, so I enjoy talking and laughing with people. Whenever somebody gets on the bus I greet them, ‘Good morning,’ or ‘Have a good night,’ ‘How was your day?’ ‘How have you been doing?’ And people like that. They like to know that somebody cares about how their day was.”

Even with all the different routes Mestas covers, customers recognize her. And they’re about to start recognizing her even more. Mestas is enjoying some notoriety these days as the new face of Metro Transit's operator recruitment campaign. Mestas said Heywood Garage Manager Jay Kluge recommended her for the campaign because she's "always smiling, always happy and always friendly."

Images of Mestas behind the wheel have just started rolling out on buses and in advertisements on the web, on billboards and on social media.

"My kids totally think it's cool," Mestas said. "I think it's fun and I'm glad they picked me."

Operator at a glance
Hired: October 2008
Number: 68299
Routes: P.M. Extra Board driver, some express routes, but mostly all the local routes out of Heywood Garage, including routes 5, 19, 22, 10, 18
Hobbies: Bingo, hanging out with friends and family

To help you better get to know those getting you around, Metro Transit offers these 'Know Your Operator' profiles of train and bus operators. To suggest an operator for a future profile, please email ridersalmanac@metrotransit.org.

Bus Bus Maintenance Equity

Prospective technicians welcomed, challenged to show ‘grit’ 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, December 06, 2017 5:41:00 AM

Participants in the Metro Transit Technician Training program at the Overhaul Base on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.Wearing an oil-stained florescent jacket, Ravie Sawh stood before a group of 50 job seekers and their supporters at Metro Transit's Overhaul Base last week.

The group was assembled to hear what their futures could look like as the newest participants in the Metro Transit Technician Training program and, eventually, as full-time mechanic-technicians at the agency. 

“You’re going to have to start motivating yourself every day,” Sawh told the group. “But if you’re looking for a job where you’re never going to be bored, this is the place for you.”

Sawh was among the first individuals to participate in the MTT training program, which combines personal development, on-the-job training and support toward earning a two-year associates degree.

Two years after starting, he and a dozen others from that first group are working as full-time Bus Maintenance interns and looking forward to graduating from Hennepin Technical College next spring.

A second group of MTT participants being guided toward careers in Rail Maintenance are also working as full-time interns after starting classes at Hennepin Technical College this fall.

Now at Heywood Garage, Sawh has already cast his gaze well past graduation: He wants to retire from Metro Transit after 30 or more years of service.

The new MTT participants welcomed last week were encouraged to start envisioning a similar future for themselves, despite the difficult road ahead. Many of the participants have little or no mechanical experience and will have to juggle classes, second- and third-shift work, tutoring and other responsibilities to reach the finish line.

“We need people with grit, people who are going to stay with it,” said Wanda Kirkpatrick, the director of the Met Council's Office of Equal Opportunity. “But why are you going to do it? Because at the end of the day this is going to feed you, feed your family and make sure the place you live is the place you want to live.”

The Office of Equal Opportunity is leading the program with support from Bus Maintenance and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005. Several technicians will be tapped to serve as mentors.

Minneapolis-based non-profit Twin Cities R!SE is also a key partner. The participants’ first step is to finish 12 personal empowerment classes offered by the organization.

A group of 20 participants who finish those classes and meet other criteria will be invited to move forward to the program’s next phases, including custom training, a full-time paid internship and support toward earning an associates degree.

Successful participants starting this month will be eligible to apply for full-time technician roles in late 2020. Full-time technicians now start at around $27 an hour, a wage many at the Overhaul Base last week said would be life-changing.

Thomas Scott, who is overseeing the program on behalf of the Office of Equal Opportunity, said the prospect of a good-paying career should be just a part of the motivation. More than 250 people applied for the program.

“Remember how many people wanted this opportunity,” Scott told the group.

Brian Funk, Deputy Chief of Operations-Bus, said the program comes at an opportune time for the agency. Retirements and system expansion are creating more openings while fewer young people are pursuing skilled trades careers.

The program also supports the agency’s equity and diversity goals: Nearly 90 percent of the participants in the new group are people of color. There are nine women. 

“We know we need to do something different than drawing from traditional methods,” Funk said. “Thankfully, that’s why you’re here.”

   > Technicians in training celebrate early milestone

   > Technician training program gets national recognition

   > Aspiring Mechanic-Technicians build skills, confidence

   > Employment at the Council

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