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A Line BRT Bus Light Rail METRO Green Line

Dorothy’s last ride 

Posted by Kathy Graul | Tuesday, October 03, 2017 8:49:00 AM

William Carter III took his mother Dorothy on one final ride to celebrate her life and the independence public transportation afforded her.Dorothy Carter was fiercely independent. But she never had a driver’s license and never drove a car. For all 94 years of her life, she took public transportation.

“It was her way to stay independent. To do what she wanted to do, when she wanted to do it and not be bound by anybody’s schedule or feel like she was imposing,” said Dorothy’s son, William Carter III.

On Thursday, Sept. 28, William took his mother Dorothy on one final ride to celebrate her life and the independence transit afforded her.

“I’m just riding all day. We’re taking a farewell tour,” said William as he boarded a westbound Green Line train at Snelling Avenue Station.

“It’s been quite a ride for her,” William said.

With a sign and an urn containing Dorothy’s remains in tow, William boarded several bus routes, the METRO Green Line and the A Line to visit some of his mother’s regular destinations throughout the day.

“Walgreen’s on Snelling. Rosedale Mall. Korte’s. We might stop by Plums for some French onion soup that she liked. I plan on stopping by her doctor’s office, too,” he said.

A resident of the Highland Park neighborhood, Dorothy knew the St. Paul bus routes like the back of her hand. Macy’s in downtown St. Paul was a favorite destination prior to its closing. But she would also take transit across town on occasion. She once took transit from St. Paul to Southdale in Edina to accompany a visually impaired friend (who also did not drive) for a doctor’s appointment.

As a longtime Twin Cities resident, Dorothy always intentionally chose to live near access to transit, and she witnessed firsthand the vast changes in public transportation from the streetcar days to the opening of the METRO Green Line.

In recent years, when Dorothy was no longer able to take transit on her own, she started using Metro Mobility to get to doctor’s appointments, lunches with friends and shopping, up until a few months before she died.

“She’d call and say ‘I took Metro Mobility to the doctor today. And we had the nicest driver and the nicest tour, and I met the nicest person on the bus.’” William said. “She was just very appreciative of everything that was going on.”

She instilled that appreciative attitude and her belief in the importance of transit in her son, an only child.

“She taught me how to sew. How to iron. And how to take the bus,” William said. By the time William was in the fourth grade, Dorothy would send him on the bus on his own to start learning the routes.

“So that’s why I’m doing it. To show appreciation for teaching me the independence of not only how to ride the bus but the importance of it,” William said. “It’s just one final tour to thank her for all the skills she taught me about riding the bus.”

Dorothy's last ride

Bus Fares

Why are Metro Transit's fares going up?  

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, September 28, 2017 4:00:00 PM

Metro Transit's fare increase will take effect on Oct. 1Metro Transit’s first fare change in nearly a decade takes effect on Sunday, Oct. 1, and that’s raised several questions among customers. Here are answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions and comments that we’ve received.

Why are fares going up?

Fares have remained static for the past decade. But the past 10 years have also brought inflation and other factors that have lead operating costs to rise. As a result, fares now account for less than a third of Metro Transit's bus operating costs, a share that is common across the transit industry. The amount of money coming from the motor vehicle sales tax, a primary source of transit funding, is also falling short of expectations. 

The transit system has  steadily improved, too, with more light rail, rapid bus and High Frequency service and new waiting shelters, bus stop signs and real-time displays across the region. Maintaining buses, trains and facilities has become increasingly important, and costly, as the system ages. And Metro Transit’s police department has grown to improve safety and security.

Revenue generated by this fare increase will raise a modest amount of funding, about $7 million a year, to help support current operations as Metro Transit continues to pursue future enhancements.

What’s being done to support people who will find it harder to pay?

Fares should never be a barrier for those who rely on transit to access opportunity. To support those most in need, qualified, low-income residents can access discounted, $1 fares through the new Transit Assistance Program. Customers who think they may qualify can learn more and enroll at a Metro Transit Service Center or through one of several partnering organizations. Information is available at metrotransit.org/tap.

Metro Transit also provides significantly-discounted fares for individuals with disabilities, seniors and youth. In many cases, those discounts are more than half the full-priced fare.

Why is the stored value bonus going away?

Customers who put money on a Go-To Card will retain any stored value that was automatically added to their cards after October 1. This modest incentive -- $1 in added value for every $10 put on a Go-To Card -- was offered in part to encourage customers to consider using fare cards when they were introduced a decade ago. Today, nearly two-thirds of customers pay their fares with a Go-To Card.

If everyone who rode transit paid their fare, wouldn’t this increase be unnecessary?

Transit Police have already checked more than 1 million fares this year. Because officers regularly ride trains and buses, and repeat violators can be penalized or trespassed from transit property, instances of fare evasion are incredibly low. The costs associated with increased fare enforcement or limiting access to stations and transit vehicles is also significantly outweighed by the cost of the existing proof of payment system.

Free rides are occasionally provided to large events as a way of introducing potential customers to transit. These free ride offers also bring promotional value that often exceeds the cost of the free rides.

Why isn’t the transfer time being extended to reflect the increased cost?

Allowing customers to take unlimited rides for 2.5 hours on a single fare provides sufficient time to travel to and from almost any destination in the region without having to pay a second fare.

Customers who are taking multiple trips should consider using a pass product instead of purchasing individual fares. A list of passes and their prices as of October 1 is available at metrotransit.org/fare-increase.

Still have questions? Contact our Transit Information Center or Customers Relations Department at 612-373-3333 or visit a Metro Transit Service Center.

Bus Community METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line State Fair

State Fair, Green Line see record ridership 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, September 07, 2017 4:55:00 PM

Metro Transit served fairgoers and fans on one of its busiest days ever, Thursday, Aug. 31.A record number of fairgoers rode to and from the Minnesota State Fair with Metro Transit and the METRO Green Line had its busiest day ever when the fair and several other events landed on the same day last week.

Metro Transit provided just over 654,000 express and regular route bus rides to the State Fair, topping last year’s record State Fair ridership by just over 21,500 rides. The ridership total accounts for just over 16 percent of State Fair attendance, which also reached an all-time high this year.

“The State Fair’s popularity shows just how eager Minnesotans are to enjoy each other and all our state has to offer,” General Manager Brian Lamb said. “It’s exciting to see that eagerness to come together extend to our buses and trains more and more every year.”

State Fair Express Bus service was offered from 13 Park & Rides throughout the Twin Cities. This was the 25th year Metro Transit provided express bus service to the State Fair. The State Fair ridership total also includes rides provided on several routes that serve the fairgrounds, including the new A Line on Snelling Avenue.

Fairgoers and fans also helped set a single-day ridership record for the Green Line on Thursday, Aug. 31. There were 68,071 Green Line rides taken that day, surpassing a previous-high of 66,018 rides, set on Oct. 3, 2016. 

Systemwide, 358,617 rides were taken on Thursday, Aug. 31, when weekday commuters were joined by fairgoers and fans traveling to Twins, Vikings, Gophers and Saints home games. The total is slightly below the single-day record of 369,626 rides set on Sept. 1, 2016, and is 37 percent higher than the year-to-date average weekday ridership.

The Aug. 31 total also includes 241,000 bus rides, 44,000 Blue Line rides and 5,500 Northstar rides.

See how it all went down in this video. Thanks for riding!

Bus Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Connie Isler 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, August 30, 2017 3:43:00 PM

Metro Transit Operator Connie Isler at Nicollet Garage. Connie Isler doesn’t need prescription lenses to see clearly. But she does sport a unique set of black frames, adorned with a small red bow – a subtle but intentional way of broadcasting the environment she hopes customers step into while riding her bus.

“I try to blend things into the uniform while still showing people I’m a professional and I can do this,” she said. “But it helps if people think I’m a little more fun than not fun.”

The glasses are just a part of Connie’s charm though.

Connie also welcomes each customer on board, uses humor to discourage bad behavior and regularly works in announcements thanking customers for riding and encouraging common courtesy and safe travel.

When a customer needs a transfer, she might say, “Let me get the secretary right on that for you.” Another familiar line lets customers know “random acts of kindness are appreciated on this bus.”

“My goal is for the average person who’s polite enough to put up with a little bit of the stuff that comes with riding the bus to feel safe and welcome, and to maybe even brighten their day a little bit,” Connie said recently from Nicollet Garage.

Connie’s father spent several years as a bus operator. She followed in his footsteps after attending a Prince concert in Minnesota, falling in love with the Twin Cities and moving to Minnesota. After the move, she spent a decade as a substitute school bus driver and trainer before applying at Metro Transit.

“Since I was enjoying this driving people around thing, I thought maybe I should do it with big kids,” she said.

Since joining Metro Transit in 2012, she has made a point of learning from seasoned operators who have excelled and maintained their sense of humor through the years.  

“When I got here, my goal was to find out how best to serve people, to find the ideal recipe and do what I could to match that,” she said.

Connie is already passing the wisdom she’s gained onto new operators, training new hires as a relief instructor at Nicollet Garage. The advice she comes back to the most: be kind.

“Just being humane – that is the key and so important to me,” she said. “I’m really into being respectful because everything starts there.”

  • Name: Connie Isler
  • Hired: Sept. 10, 2012
  • Number: 72342
  • Routes: As an extraboard, or substitute, operator, Connie enjoys all friendly, neighborhood routes
  • Hobbies: Training to complete a triathlon in 2018, technology, music

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

Fareboxes stay the same, but new challenges arise 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, July 07, 2017 3:16:00 PM

Lead Revenue Mechanic Technician Tim Maloy has spent the past 20 years repairing and maintaining fareboxes, a job he says continues to pose new challenges every day. To improve reliability, Maloy has been on a campaign to replace the metal pieces that hold transfer cards so they are less prone to jam. Metro Transit has been using the same fareboxes for nearly a quarter-century.

But even after more than 20 years of keeping them in shape, Lead Revenue Mechanic Technician Tim Maloy says his job is as interesting as ever.

“It’s a little strange to be working with the same piece of equipment after all this time, but there are still days they beat you up,” he said from the Instruction Center, where he and several other farebox technicians work. “There’s never boredom.”

The intrigue comes in part from the fact that the fareboxes are largely mechanical pieces of equipment – carefully-calibrated sets of plastic gears, belts, sensors and circuit boards that pull in cash and coins deposited by cash-paying customers.

With so many moving parts, the margin for error is small. Lint, sunflower seeds and other small debris that comes from a customer’s pocket can easily jam the machines.

The puzzles technicians face aren’t easily  solved by reading a manual or running a quick diagnostic test, either.

“There are things you can look at, but you don’t really have a troubleshooting process,” said Trevor Scholtz, one of two-dozen farebox technicians. “All you can do is take it apart and eventually find out what’s wrong with it. And the only way to test is to put it all back together again.”

More recently, Maloy has been on a campaign to steadily replace the metal pieces that hold stacks of transfer cards in what’s known as a trim unit, which attaches to the coin and bill collecting machine. A slight offset in the old design would cause more than one ticket to get fed into the machine, frequently causing jams that required repair.

“That’s been my main goal, because that was what was contributing to the bulk of our road calls,” said Maloy, whose 37-year career also includes stints as a vault puller and in Central Counting.

The majority of the cassettes have now been replaced, and farebox-related road calls have been cut in half.

Just like any other mechanical failure on a bus, fareboxes that break down while in service can cause a bus to be replaced. Farebox technicians may also be called out to replace parts or make quick repairs during a layover. To prevent those kind of situations, each service garage has at least one farebox technician who spends their mornings repairing fareboxes before pull-out each morning.

Maloy and several other Farebox Technicians at the Instruction Center also focus heavily on preventative maintenance, disassembling, cleaning and rebuilding each machine every six months. Each rebuild takes up to four hours.

“It’s the only thing that keeps these things going this length of time,” Maloy said.

Technicians at the Instruction Center also maintain ticket vending machines that customers use to purchase fares at stations and vault equipment used to securely collect farebox collections when a bus pulls in.

Technicians do not maintain the fare care readers, but they did take the lead on a recent fleetwide replacement and will continue to outfit new buses with the latest technology. 

Like Maloy, several technicians have spent long careers working with fare collection technology, and are still excited about what they do.

Technician Lisle “Butch” Vickerman helped install the existing fareboxes 24 years ago, crawling under buses to detach older machines that accepted only coins and tokens, and weren’t able to count the change. These days, he spends his time repairing circuit boards.

“It’s still fun after all these years,” Vickerman said.

    > Balancing the books between the farebox and the bank

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