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Posts in Category: Bus

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

Bus Express Bus Light Rail

Finding freedom and fun by bringing kids along for the ride 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, October 17, 2019 9:56:00 AM

Terry Crunk and her son Finn, riding Route 758 during a recent commute to downtown Minneapolis.

When Terry and Brian Crunk decided to move from downtown Minneapolis to Golden Valley, they didn’t want to take their 6-month-old son Finn out of his downtown daycare or deal with the stresses of commuting by car.  

The solution: Bring him on the bus.

Nearly two years later, Finn has become a routine presence on Route 758, which stops just a few blocks from the Crunk’s home.

“Initially, I was very nervous about how it was going to go but it’s progressively gotten better and now he loves the bus, being able to look out the window and having that freedom,” Crunk said. “As a working mom I also like being able to spend that extra time focusing on him rather than driving.”

During a recent morning commute, Finn sat quietly near the front of the bus paging through a board book and peering out the window as the bus traveled down I-394. Arriving downtown, he reached for the cord to request his stop – one of his favorite parts of the ride.

Survey data doesn’t indicate how many children like Finn ride transit. But anecdotes from across the Twin Cities suggest there are plenty of caretakers who don’t shy away from bringing young ones along for the ride.

Zachary Kahn, who lives in downtown Minneapolis, is among them. Several times a week, Kahn and his six-month-old son Camden walk to the U.S. Bank Stadium or West Bank stations, board a light rail train, and ride to Nicollet Mall. From there, Kahn drops Camden at daycare and heads to work.

“One of my favorite things is watching him as people make eye contact and smile,” Kahn said. “It brightens my morning to see him making other people smile and we end up interacting with people we wouldn’t interact with normally.”

Jamey Erickson, who lives in Northeast Minneapolis, also finds joy in traveling by bike and on transit with his children, ages 6 and 3.

Erickson gave up his car a decade ago, and has learned to adapt since having children. Today, he regularly brings his kids to school, the grocery store and other destinations on the back of his electric cargo bike. When weather or distance dictate, Erickson and his kids hop on light rail.

“It’s become such a regular thing for us,” Erickson said. “That’s just how the kids assume they’re getting around with dad now – by bike or by train.”

Metro Transit has taken steps to welcome children on transit. Children under 5 years old can ride any Metro Transit bus or train route for free. Children can also remain in their stroller while they ride (children in strollers should be secured, with the brakes set, and strollers cannot block the aisles or doorways).

Crunk has overcome the occasional challenge of needing to get home in the middle of the day by using Metro Transit’s Guaranteed Ride Home program, which allows regular commuters to seek reimbursement when they unexpectedly need to pay for a ride.

Finding a daycare provider that is accessible by transit and making extra time for potentially longer trips are bigger hurdles.

A report produced by Wilder Research for Metro Transit’s Transit Oriented Development Office suggested that Metro Transit, childcare providers and other partners work together to make daycare more accessible by transit.

Chad Dunkley, the Chief Executive Officer at New Horizon Academy, said the company intentionally looks for locations with frequent transit service. New Horizon has several locations in and near downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul where, and in Highland Park near a METRO A Line station.

About 20 years ago, New Horizon also opened a childcare in Burnsville’s Heart of the City, right next to a Park & Ride that will soon be served by the METRO Orange Line.

“We purposefully built in that location because we knew it was a high commuter area and it’s been full ever since,” Dunkley said. “Parents are busy, so we want to make it as easy for them to come and go as possible.”

Crunk, whose commute on Route 758 takes about 20 minutes, is now expecting her second child. The new addition will likely change her travel habits, at least for a while.

“It’ll make things different, but I’m hoping we can continue to take the bus,” she said. “We’ve really grown into it and now it’s just a part of our routine.”

Tips for riding with children

 > Children left in strollers should be secured with the stroller seat belt with the brakes set. Parents must remain with the child. Strollers must not block the aisles or doorways.

 > Children ages 5 and under ride free, with a fare-paying customer. Youth ages 6 to 12 can ride for $1, outside of rush hours. To receive a reduced fare during non-rush hours, inform the driver of your eligible age. 

 > K-12 students can also use a Go-To lite Card, which can be used to take 10 rides (fares that are more than $3.25 are not eligible). Go-To lite Cards cost $15, providing significant savings. Students or their parents must complete and sign this form to receive a Go-To lite Card. Go-To lite Cards are available at a Metro Transit Service Centers, by mail and at select schools and organizations.

> If you're concerned there may be times you need to use a car to get somewhere quickly for a personal emergency, the Guaranteed Ride Home program has you covered. Regular commuters who have an eligible emergency can request reimbursements up to four times per year or $100 in value, whichever comes first, for eligible trips with valid documentation.

Bus Safety

Born in Twin Cities, Bus Roadeo becomes enduring tradition 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, September 13, 2019 12:42:00 PM

Bus operators who compete in Metro Transit's Bus Roadeo are continuing a tradition that began with a simple idea nearly a half-century earlier.

Mike Hughes became a bus operator for what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) in 1972. After a few years, he moved into the executive department and offered a suggestion.

"I always thought it'd be great to find out who the best driver in the system was so I came up with this idea that we should have a skilled driving competition," Hughes said. "I proposed the idea, and six months later I was called up to the office. They pulled out my memo and said, 'We decided we want to do this and, since you came up with the idea, you can put it together.'"

Hughes left the the MTC in 1984 and recounted his role in the Roadeo's history from his home in Grand Rapids, Minn.

After getting the go-ahead, Hughes spent the summer of 1975 figuring out what the competition would look like. Like today, it included a written test, pre-trip inspection and a course where operators weaved through cones, drove in reverse and completed other maneuvers that demonstrated how precisely they could handle the bus.

Around 80 operators participated in the first competition, held in the parking lot of the old Metropolitan Stadium in September 1975. Police officers from around the region served as judges.

"When you're doing something for the first time there's always that little shadow of doubt and you wonder, 'Is this going to work?'" Hughes said. "But when we all got together for breakfast before the event, I just knew this was going to be a great thing and it was."

Thirty top finishers competed again in a second round held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Hughes can't recall who won, but photos from the award competition ended up on the front page of American Public Transportation Association's monthly newsletter.

After that publicity, transit agencies across the country began calling MTC asking for advice on hosting competitions of their own. To help spread the idea, Hughes put together a guidebook and spent several years on a national organizing committee.

APTA hosted its first international Bus Roadeo in 1976 in San Francisco, Calif. Top bus operators from across the country have been competing annually ever since. The competition also now includes technicians.

Looking back, Hughes, who has never competed himself, said he never imagined his idea would become so widespread or enduring. "I didn't know how far this would go, if it would be a local event or what would be the deal," he said.

Repeat Roadeo champ earns another title

View the list of Metro Transit Bus Roadeo champions

Bus State Fair

Another successful year of State Fair bus service  

Posted by John Komarek | Friday, September 06, 2019 5:00:00 AM

The Minnesota State Fair started with record-setting attendance, including August 23, where 17.4% of fair-goers rode transit to and from the Fair, helping make another record year for express and local route service. On any given day, between 12-17% of attendees rode transit to the fair.

The Bloomington express lot had the largest ridership increase, gaining more than 15,000 rides compared to last year.  This is an increase of over 16%, and total rides were nearly 110,000. 

Parade Stadium and Maplewood Mall Express Bus Park & Rides also had an increase of 30% more riders than the previous year.

In all, Metro Transit provided 595,000 rides to and from the fairgrounds over the course of the fair.

Three express lots were discontinued this year due to construction – Knox Avenue, Oakdale, and Fridley. 

State Fair Edition of Hey! Where Does this Bus Go?
Local comedian Tane Danger met up with fair-goers boarding express buses at the Maplewood Mall Transit Center & Park & Ride last week. Watch Danger take a turn as a Metro Transit ambassador and catch up with a woman who's been attending the fair for more than 80 years in the latest edition of "Hey! Where Does This Bus Go?"

 

Bus

With Auggie Pass, students pay a little, ride a lot 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, September 03, 2019 10:00:00 AM

Augsburg University undergraduates can ride transit as often as needed this school year, without facing significant expense, thanks to a first-of-its-kind program advocated by students. 

For the first time, all undergraduate day students who pay the school's Green Fee can use an Auggie Pass to take unlimited bus and light rail rides. Augsburg's student government approved a $5 fee increase to help cover program costs. The school is also contributing operating funds. 

This is the first time a Twin Cities college or university has automatically provided transit passes to all eligible students, equitably expanding access to transit. 

“As someone who uses the bus every day, it’s great not to have that financial burden,” said Skye Rygh, who advocated for the program as a student government member. "It’s really economically advantageous to students who pay for school, like me, to not have to choose between textbooks and bus fare.”

The Auggie Pass is part of an ongoing effort to promote sustainable, economical transportation options at Augsburg. The school has also hosted transit tours and other educational events to increase awareness among students, faculty and staff. 

Augsburg's West Bank campus is served by the METRO Green Line, METRO Blue Line and multiple bus routes. 

More than 30 area colleges will offer College Passes this year. College Passes allow students to ride as often as needed for $165 per semester. 

“Efficiently connecting people to school, work and other destinations is at the heart of what we do,” Metro Transit General Manager Wes Kooistra said. “We are excited about this partnership and hope it develops into a model that can be duplicated.”

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