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Transit Information

Rider Alert survey provides valuable feedback 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, May 02, 2017 9:52:00 AM

We asked, and you answered. After planned light-rail maintenance and construction caused buses to replace trains on two recent weekends, Metro Transit wanted to learn what you thought about our Rider Alert subscription service.

By signing up for Rider Alerts, you can get route-specific information about planned detours and service changes through text message and e-mail. To sign up, visit metrotransit.org/rider-alerts

A survey was sent to customers who subscribe to Rider Alerts for the Blue and Green lines. After a fantastic survey response, we wanted to share some of the results. The takeaway: we all appreciate a heads up. 

While the feedback was largely positive, we also received valuable insight into how we can keep you better informed in the future.

Providing more advanced notice and more consistently using Rider Alerts to share information about unplanned service impacts are among the issues we're focusing on. We're also looking at how we can make it simpler to sign up for Rider Alerts. 

If you missed out on our recent survey but would still like to provide feedback, we’re always ready to hear how we can do better. Please submit your feedback through Customer Relations metrotransit.org/contact-us

   > Sign up for Rider Alerts

   > Looking for your bus or train? Map It!

   > Texting to find the NexTrip

Bus Transit Information

Longtime Transit Information rep remembered for remembering 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, March 29, 2017 2:45:00 PM

Transit Information representative James Schlafer (retired). Early in his career as a Transit Information representative, Ben Rajkowski was on the phone with a customer trying to find their way to a Route 64 bus stop so they could get from Maplewood to St. Paul.

After more than 20 minutes, the caller still hadn’t found their way and was at risk of missing what would be the last trip of the day.

That’s when fellow representative James Schlafer tapped Rajkowski on the shoulder and suggested asking the caller if they were standing next to a white picket fence. They were.

With that one simple clue, Schlafer knew he needed to walk 500 feet, cross the street and turn their back toward a blue house – directions that were so specific the caller thought he was being watched. 

“To this day, I still don’t have a clue how he figured that out,” Rajkowski said.

It wasn’t a fluke, either. Over his 31-year career as a Transit Information representative, Schlafer developed a reputation for having a rich, visual knowledge of the Twin Cities that rivaled, and often surpassed, available online tools.

That detailed memory, along with his trademark wit, were celebrated last week as Schlafer retired as the Transit Information Center’s longest consecutively-serving representative. 

Schlafer helped an estimated 1 million callers plan their trips over the course of his three-decade career. Like Rajkowski, several co-workers had stories that stood out from that impressive collection.

In one case, he guided a visually-impaired customer to a bus stop using sidewalk grass as a guide. In another, he spent two hours and 17 minutes on a marathon call with someone looking for help getting around Burnsville and Eagan, a likely-record for the TIC’s longest call.

“Usually, I try not to be on the phone long enough to have to be patient,” Schlafer said. “But in this case all I could do was humor them for a really long time.”

Schlafer’s knowledge came largely from a life of biking, walking and taking transit around the Twin Cities. Combined with an education in statistics and a knack for geography, he was rarely stumped.   

It wasn’t pure intuition, though. Schlafer constantly challenged himself to look for solutions that weren’t immediately evident, mastering the quirks of local address systems and developing personalized mental shortcuts that helped him decipher the vague outlines callers sometimes presented him.

That careful study gave him the ability to place more than 120 routes on an unmarked map by memory. He also drew intricate maps of shopping centers and other destinations so he and other representatives could better guide callers.

The skills proved useful even as the Transit Information Center transitioned from wall maps to an online trip planning system that Schlafer notoriously looked down upon.

“Even if I didn’t have a computer or all these resources I could find out pretty accurately where someone was and still help them,” said Schlafer, known to callers as “Mr. James” throughout his career.  

While abundantly patient, Schlafer was also known for having a sense of humor and taking pride in proving the breadth of his knowledge, often telling self-convinced callers they’d owe him a Dr. Pepper if he could persuade them they were mistaken. “There are lot of people out there who owe me Dr. Peppers,” he said.

While he’s taken his last call, Schlafer isn’t going to let his mind rest in retirement. In addition to biking and daily hikes, he plans to become active in Mensa, a high IQ society. He’ll also enjoy knowing that he made an indelible imprint on the organization he left behind.

“They told me I was too smart for this job and that I’d get bored,” Schlafer said. “Well, I proved them wrong.”

   > Learn more about Metro Transit retirees with more than 30 years of service

    > MinnPost: How Metro Transit uses technology to ensure a smooth ride

    > 1 million calls and counting

Transit Information

Looking for your bus or train? Map It! 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, February 06, 2017 8:43:00 AM

Customers can track the physical location of their bus using Metro Transit's Map It!  tool.Customers can track the physical location of their anticipated bus or train in real time with a new feature called Map It! 

The new feature can be accessed through Metro Transit’s website, as well as the agency's new app. A link to Map It! is included in the NexTrip section. 

Like NexTrip, Map It! information is linked to unique stop number IDs, found through the Interactive Map or automatically with the GPS-based Find Me feature. A map with markers showing the location of at least one bus, as well as the route number and direction of travel, is then displayed for that particular boarding location. Locations automatically refresh. 

Map It! was tested by around 50 customers who volunteered to provide input and was made available to all customers this week.

“We want to provide transit information in the way that customers want to see it, and this is one of those ways,” said Ben Rajkowski, Assistant Manager-Transit Information.

Map It! is part of a broader effort to improve Metro Transit’s NexTrip system, which provides predicted departure times.

In addition to the website and app, NexTrip is available through text message. NexTrip information is also displayed on digital signs at all rail and A Line stations and at select bus stops. There are ongoing efforts to improve NexTrip accuracy.​

How to use Map It!

If using Metro Transit's app, go to the menu and select Trip Tools, than NexTrip. Use the Find Me feature or enter the route, direction of travel and stop. If you already know your stop number, simply enter it here. When NexTrip details appear, a link to Map It! will appear at the bottom of the screen.

A link to NexTrip is found on the homepage of Metro Transit's mobile and desktop websites. Follow the same  steps to access Map It! using these websites.

Bus Transit Information

More new bus stop signs installed 

| Monday, August 08, 2016 8:17:00 AM

A new bus stop sign is installed on American Boulevard. Efforts to install new bus stop signs around the region picked back up again this month.

In the latest phase of the systemwide roll-out, around 5,000 signs will be installed along nearly 30 local and express routes by the end of the year. Most of the routes provide service in Minneapolis, St. Paul and inner-ring suburbs, including routes 2, 3, 4, 18, 21 and 74.

The new signs include route and unique stop numbers, as well as instructions for accessing real-time predicted departures through NexTrip. Signs at stops with higher ridership also have a route map, frequency information (for the trunk of the route) and indicate the direction that buses serving that stop travel.

Around 2,300 of the new signs were installed in 2015. All of Metro Transit’s bus stop signs will be replaced by the end of next year.

In addition to the new bus stop signs, pylons with digital displays featuring predicted real-time departure information were recently installed at two stops on Seventh Street in downtown Minneapolis.

The stops, which will eventually be served by the C Line​, are located at Nicollet and Hennepin avenues.​

    > New bus stop signs introduced

    > Texting to find the NexTrip

    > NexTrip signs added to several locations

 

Bus Transit Information

NexTrip signs added to several new locations 

| Monday, November 09, 2015 3:57:00 PM

A NexTrip sign provides expected real-time departures for upcoming bus trips. The sign posts also have a button for audio information.Digital displays that provide NexTrip information have been installed at several busy boarding areas around the region, nearly doubling the number of signs up systemwide.

NexTrip signs are now located at transit centers in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Brooklyn Center, Columbia Heights, Maplewood, Robbinsdale and Roseville. Signs have also been added to bus stops near several METRO Blue Line stations, including Franklin, Lake Street/Midtown, 38th Street and 46th Street.

The signs provide real-time predicted departure information for all routes departing within 15 minutes at the stops where they are located. The sign posts also have buttons that can be pushed for audio announcements of upcoming departure times.

NexTrip signs have been in use since 2009 along the Marq2 corridor in downtown Minneapolis and at the I-35W and 46th Street StationSouth Bloomington Transit Center and the Mall of America Transit Center.

Digital displays with NexTrip information were activated at all light-rail stations earlier this year. New downtown St. Paul bus shelters that opened at busy boarding locations this year also include NexTrip signs. 

Metro Transit is focusing on improving bus boarding areas through its Better Bus Stops program. In addition to NexTrip displays, enhanced signage and shelters are being installed at sites across the region

    > Stay in the know with NexTrip

    > Texting to find the NexTrip

Bus Transit Information

Texting to find the NexTrip 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, October 27, 2015 10:43:00 AM

Text messaging has been added as another way to access NexTrip, the service that provides predicted real-time bus and train departure information.

Here's how to receive a text message with the predicted departure times of the next four trips at a particular stop:

1. Find the stop number using the Interactive Map or the “Stops and Stations” page. New bus stop signs being installed systemwide also include stop numbers.

2. Send a text message to the short-code 27299 with the letters “mt” followed by the stop number (for example, “mt12345”). Route-specific information will be delivered by adding a space and the route number to the end of the message (for example, "mt12345 17”, would return results only for Route 17).

3. Get results instantly!

NexTrip originated in 1989 as a call-in service known as “BusLine.” Predicted real-time departure information became available online around a decade ago.

Today, NexTrip information is available by phone (612-373-3333), on Metro Transit's mobile website and through several apps. NexTrip information is also displayed on digital signs at all light-rail stations and more than 100 bus boarding locations.​

In 2015, customers requested NexTrip information through Metro Transit’s website nearly 84 million times — more than double the number of requests made in 2012.

“NexTrip is an empowering tool that gives customers greater confidence and the ability to plan trips on the spot,” Transit Information Project Coordinator Laura Matson said. “Adding the text feature responds to requests we received from customers and makes this tool even more accessible.”

    > Stay in the know with NexTrip

    > Installation of new bus stop signs continues

Bus Transit Information

Installation of new bus stop signs continues 

| Wednesday, October 14, 2015 11:41:00 AM

A new Metro Transit bus stop sign is installed on Grand Avenue in St. Paul on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015.After a successful pilot, around 2,300 new bus stop signs with enhanced information will be installed this fall.

The new signs include route and unique stop numbers, as well as instructions for accessing real-time predicted departure times through NexTrip. Signs at stops with higher ridership will also include a route map, frequency information (for the trunk of the route) and indicate the direction that buses serving that stop travel.

Installations began earlier this week in St. Paul along routes 63 and 64. Signs will be installed along more than 20 additional routes that serve North Minneapolis and the northwest suburbs in the coming months.

New signs will be installed at all of Metro Transit’s 12,000 bus stops through 2017. Sign installations will be prioritized based on ridership.

Around 100 new signs went up earlier this year in North Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park to give customers an opportunity to provide feedback. Some minor design changes were made after the pilot (for example, frequency charts now indicate a range of time instead of using the terms morning, mid-day or evening).

The new signs are part Metro Transit’s broader Better Bus Stops program. With funding from a federal Ladders of Opportunity grant and other resources, more new and replacement waiting shelters will be installed in the coming years. 

    > Star Tribune: Metro Transit adding information at bus stops

    > Better bus stop signs 

    > New bus stop signs introduced

    > NexTrip

 

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