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Posts in Category: Bus

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
Bus Fares

New fareboxes expected to speed up boardings 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, August 20, 2018 2:40:00 PM

Metro Transit is testing new fareboxes that should help speed up boardings, marking the first advancement in farebox technology in 25 years.

“It’s time. We’ve been using the same fareboxes since 1993,” said Dennis Dworshak, Manager, Revenue and Fare Collections. “This technology represents a new generation of fareboxes that will save riders and operators time during the boarding process.”

The new fareboxes allow customers to swipe transfer tickets like a credit card, instead of feeding them into a machine. While preventative maintenance has helped keep the older fareboxes running, jams can cause delays or even force a bus to be taken out of service.

The new fareboxes can also automatically scan and validate bills and feature a larger and brighter screen. Operators will have more ability to put the farebox controls in a position that is most comfortable to them, too. 

The new fareboxes are expected to be installed across the fleet as funding allows. The new machines will also be included on all new buses. Tickets will be accepted by both farebox types during the transition.

A quarter of all bus customers purchase fares with cash and one-third of the time a local bus is in-service is dedicated to customer boardings. 

The on-board Go-To Card validators were replaced in 2016 and have proven to be more reliable than the earlier technology they replaced. 

Ultimately, the hope is that improved fare technology will make it easier for both customers and operators. 

“We hope this new farebox will not only decrease the time spent boarding, but also increase the ability of the operator to focus on driving and building positive relationships with riders,” Dworshak said.​

Customer feedback can be sent to Customer Relations

Accessibility Bus From the GM

Accessibility improvements ensure system works for everyone 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, July 26, 2018 12:38:00 PM

Collage of disabilities

From General Manager Brian Lamb

As an organization, we talk a lot about how important transit is to providing access to opportunity. That’s particularly true for people with disabilities who rely on transit to live a full and independent life. 

Because we want transit to be inclusive, we continually ask ourselves whether we’re doing enough to welcome everyone who wants to ride, regardless of their abilities. 

We have good reason to think about what we’ve done and what we’ve set out do this week, as the Americans with Disabilities Act reaches its 28th anniversary. There’s a lot to be proud of, too.  ​

Over the past year, we’ve installed level concrete pads at dozens of bus stops to make boarding easier for individuals who use mobility devices. As we’ve installed new and replacement shelters, we’ve also addressed curbs and other physical barriers that make it harder to get to and around these stops.

Bus operators going from part- to full-time recently began taking classes in which they use blindfolds and ear protection to experience what it’s like to board and ride the bus without being able to see or hear.

Go-To Card readers on all our rail stations and buses have been equipped with audio cues while keyboards on A Line ticket vending machines were designed to better serve individuals with visual impairment.

Our new Text for Safety service allows suspicious behavior to be reported through text message, something that is especially useful for people who are deaf, blind or hard of hearing.

And just last month, we made it simpler to get a Limited Mobility fare card by removing the requirement to get a special endorsement on a driver’s license or state ID.

Our fleet has also steadily become more accessible over the years, with level boarding at light rail stations, buses with roomier interiors on our rapid bus lines and a nearly-completed phase out of high-floor buses.

Our system will become even more accessible in the years ahead, too.

Responding to customer feedback, future light rail trains will have a more spacious seating arrangement that provides more room for mobility devices.

A new station at I-35W and Lake Street will replace a highway-level stop once accessible only by a steep set of stairs with a modern, two-level facility equipped with elevators.

Transit Information hopes to test tactile maps, high contrast signs and larger text at select sites to invite feedback and determine if such features should be applied more broadly.

Our accessibility improvements directly benefit the roughly 1 in 10 regular route customers who reported having a disability in the Council’s latest survey of regional travelers.

But they also make our system better and easier for anyone who rides with us, including children, the elderly and caretakers traveling with strollers.

We’ve made a lot of progress in the nearly three decades since the ADA became law, and look forward to making even more improvements in the years ahead.

Learn more about Metro Transit’s accessibility features

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