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Bicycle Community How We Roll Light Rail Rider Profile

How We Roll: Ed Alvarez, Facilities Technician 

Posted by jennasbennett | Tuesday, June 13, 2017 11:37:00 AM

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!

Ed Alvarez, Facilities Technician

How do you get to work?

I live in Burnsville and do a mix of taking the Blue Line and riding my bike. Usually what I do is load my bike on my vehicle, drive to the 28th Avenue Park and Ride and get on the Blue Line with my bike. Depending on how much I feel like biking that day, I’ll take the light rail to either Fort Snelling or Minnehaha Park, get off and bike the rest of the way. From Fort Snelling, it’s nine miles to Transfer Road (Metro Transit's facilities team is based at this location, just north of University Avenue). Out of curiosity, one time I rode my bike from my house to Transfer Road and it took me two hours!

Why do you choose to bike?

Really, it’s for the exercise. I play hockey and biking keeps me in shape for that. It’s amazing how you can stay fit by biking just a few hours a week. I even bike in the rain and snow. I actually love riding in the rain! For rain, I wear protective gear, including booties that cover my shoes so they don’t get wet. For snow, I have a bike with studded tires and that helps eliminate my worry about hitting an ice patch. I have five bikes total – three mountain bikes, a road bike and a hybrid.

How long have you been biking?

I’ve been biking my whole life. I started biking to work in 1981 when I was at Ruter Garage and a lot younger. Then I got older, got married, had kids and stopped biking to work for a number of years and drove instead. Over the past three years, I’ve started biking again to stay in shape. I've been at Metro Transit for 37 years and I hope to keep biking to work as long as I’m able.

What do you enjoy most about your methods of commuting?

When I’m on the Blue Line, I like to use the time to listen to music. What I love about biking is that it is so relaxing and peaceful on the path. When I’m driving on I-35W it’s so crowded and stressful. When I get up in the morning for work and the alarm goes off, I look forward to starting my day with a bike ride.

Bicycle Carpool Car-Sharing Community Go Green Rideshare Vanpool

Commuter Choice Awards recognize sustainable transportation leaders 

| Thursday, April 28, 2016 4:01:00 PM

Most days, Matt Privratsky gets to work by taking an hour-long walk from his Midway area home to downtown St. Paul. The 3.5-mile trek might also involve boarding a bus, catching the METRO Green Line or using a Nice Ride bike – or some combination of all of the above.

“Walking all the way helps you get mentally prepared, and it’s also very relaxing,” Privratsky said. “By the time I get home, I’m in a really nice relaxed mental state. And because I stay active as part of my day, I don’t need to intentionally exercise or have a gym membership.”

The multi-modal approach reflects the habits of many of his co-workers at Fresh Energy, a St. Paul-based independent non-profit that works to make Minnesota’s energy system cleaner and more efficient. Ninety percent of Fresh Energy’s staff walk, bike or take transit to work.

While sustainable transportation naturally aligns with Fresh Energy’s mission, it also reflects a robust transportation benefits program. Employees can earn $2 per day by walking or biking to work. Fresh Energy also matches employee spending on transit.

To help car-free employees like Privratsky get to appointments and meetings during the day, Fresh Energy subsidizes annual Nice Ride memberships and has accounts with car-sharing services car2go and HOURCAR.

Fresh Energy’s efforts were recognized this week at the Commuter Choice Awards, where employers, organizations and individuals who share a commitment to sustainable transportation were celebrated.

The annual awards were presented by Metro Transit in partnership with the region’s Transportation Management Organizations (TMOs) – Commuter ServicesAnoka County Commute SolutionsMove Minneapolis and St. Paul Smart Trips. A panel of Twin Cities transportation experts evaluated nominations in selecting the winners.

“Metro Transit is proud to recognize all those who share its commitment to sustainable transportation,” Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said. “As these honors reflect, our region benefits from having a strong transit network as well as many other transportation options that provide alternatives to driving alone.”  

A list of awards presented at the 2016 Commuter Choice Awards is below. Learn how Metro Transit and the region's TMOs can help your organization here

Building Owner/Management Company: CenterPoint Energy

Directly adjacent to the Nicollet Mall Station, CenterPoint Energy’s new corporate headquarters provides employees convenient transit access. The move also presented an opportunity to create a new shared space for Meet Minneapolis and Move Minneapolis, which promotes transit, carpooling, biking and walking among downtown Minneapolis commuters, residents and visitors. The street-level retail space opened in 2015.

Honorable mention: Normandale Lake Office Park, Hines Property Management

Employer: Fresh Energy

Fresh Energy’s commitment to clean energy and sustainable transportation is reflected in the non-profit’s transportation benefits program. Employees can earn $2 per day by walking or biking to Fresh Energy’s St. Paul offices. Fresh Energy also matches employee spending on transit. To help employees travel to appointments and meetings during the day, Fresh Energy subsidizes annual Nice Ride memberships, has a business account with car2go and has a corporate account with HOURCAR. As a result of their comprehensive transportation benefits program, 90 percent of Fresh Energy staff walk, bike, or take transit to work.

Honorable mention: Barr Engineering Co., Sovos Compliance, Be the Match

Government Entity: St. Paul Public Housing Agency

The St. Paul Public Housing Agency has gone above and beyond to encourage active transportation among residents in its housing communities. Partnering with Cycles for Change, nearly 900 free bikes, helmets and locks have distributed to youth since 2012. Residents also have access to free Nice Ride memberships, bike repair stations and workshops on bicycle maintenance. Resident-led walking groups have also encouraged residents to move more and explore their neighborhoods.

Individual: Brian Nelson

Since taking over Best Buy’s commuter benefits program in 2015, Brian Nelson has worked to enhance and expand benefits for employees at the company’s Richfield headquarters and at locations across the country. Nelson advocated for and then helped to implement a pre-tax commuter benefit program that allows employees to pay for their transit costs with pre-tax dollars. The number of employees who use transit, carpool and vanpool have risen as a result of his efforts.

Honorable mention: Jeff Hainlen, Rebecca Airmet

Organization: Minnesota Life College

Minnesota Life College offers a three-year program for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other learning disorders. As part of their life skills training, instructors teach these individuals how to travel independently on transit. By building their skills and confidence, graduates have the freedom to get themselves to work and appointments, run errands and pursue their dreams.

Commuter Choice Awards 2016
Bicycle Bus Community Express Bus Promotions Suburban Transit

Bridging bikes and buses brings serenity instead of stress 

| Wednesday, May 07, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Mike Bastyr on his bike during his daily commute. When Mike Bastyr started working in downtown Minneapolis more than 20 years ago, he quickly grew tired of battling traffic on Interstate 35W. To circumvent the stress, he turned to Route 250, an express service that runs between Lino Lakes and Minneapolis.

Not long after he started commuting by bus, Bastyr went a step further and began to bike the six miles that separated his Shoreview home from his boarding location, the County Road H Park & Ride in Mounds View.

The half-hour bike trip finds him on quiet residential streets and the Rice Creek North Regional Trail, a wooded area he describes as “very serene.” The trail cuts through woodlands and connects to County Road H just west of I-35W.

“There’s a lot of wildlife,” Bastyr said after completing a recent ride. “This morning it was two deer. Last week it was a fox, an osprey and an eagle. It’s just a really pleasant experience no matter what time it is.”

After maintaining the routine year-round since 2000, Bastyr believes he’s logged an estimated 26,000 miles traveling between his home and the Park & Ride. Avoiding gas fill-ups and using an employer-subsidized Metropass, he has also saved untold amounts of money. Bastyr's commuting costs are less than $50 a month.

“This bike has paid for itself a few times over,” he joked.

Bastyr’s commute provides a good example of how biking and transit can be combined, even in suburban areas. There are 15 Metro Transit Park & Rides with bike lockers – secure, weatherproof storage areas that rent for $48 a year, with a refundable damage deposit. Bike lockers are also located at select Northstar and METRO Blue Line stations.

For those who want to bring the bike along, buses are equipped with front-end racks; bikes can be brought directly on board Northstar and light-rail trains.

As part of Bike Week, Metro Transit offered free rides to customers who biked to select Park & Rides and completed their trip on a bus or train. The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition also offered free ride coupons to bicyclists at the Blue Line's 38th Street Station and at the corner of East Lake and West River roads.

Long-term, the Metropolitan Council wants to strengthen the link between biking and taking transit by prioritizing regional on- and off-road investments that would better connect cyclists to the regional transit system.

A recently-completed Regional Bicycle System Study, developed with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, provides a Regional Transportation Network for developing such connections in the future. The proposed network will be incorporated in the Met Council’s draft 2040 Transportation Policy Plan, which will be be distributed for public review this summer.

While it’s difficult to know exactly how many people combine biking and transit, there is ample evidence that more people are biking and taking transit in the Twin Cities. The number of bicyclists counted in Bike Walk Twin Cities’ annual survey increased 78 percent between 2007 and 2013. More than 4 percent of Minneapolis residents bike to work, one of the highest rates in the country, according to the U.S. Census.

Metro Transit’s ridership increased by more than 300,000 rides between 2012 and 2013 and is at the highest level in three decades.

Shirley Urman, of Mounds View, is among those who are combining biking and transit.

The 17-year-old began riding to the County Road H Park & Ride earlier this year when she started taking classes at Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley. Urman brings her bike to Minneapolis so she can ride to her transfer bus, Route 755, and enjoy a leisurely ride after school in nearby Theodore Wirth Regional Park.

Besides giving her more flexibility to get around, Urman said riding her bike to the Park & Ride each morning gives her the boost she needs to start her day.

“I was really tired and wouldn’t want to go to school, but once I had exercise in the morning I was pumped for my day,” she said, traveling in on Route 250. “I just kept doing it and now it’s a habit.”

Bastyr hopes he and Urman will be joined by even more bikers in the future. Bastyr’s best advice to those who want to make biking a part of their commute is to start slowly, riding only as much as comfortable and ramping up as confidence and enthusiasm builds.

“After a while it becomes a routine,” he said. “That’s what it’s developed into for me – a routine experience where instead of getting in your car and driving some place you hop on your bike and pedal instead.”

    > Park & Ride Search

    > Bike Lockers

    > Regional Bicycle System Study

    > Biking to work increases 60 percent over last decade, Census Bureau reports

Bicycle Bus Community METRO Green Line Safety Transit Police

Transit Police on board and on bike 

| Monday, May 05, 2014 12:00:00 AM

The Metro Transit Police Department's Bike Patrol poses during a training at Fort Snelling.When Sgt. Leo Castro is on patrol in St. Paul, he doesn’t need to roll down the window to get fresh air.

That’s because he’s clipped into the pedals of a Cannondale mountain bike, traveling the streets on a pair of 26-inch wheels to monitor busy boarding locations and respond when needed.

Castro and other Metro Transit Police Department officers will be getting even more time in the open air when the METRO Green Line begins service on June 14.

Because the light-rail line runs through two downtowns, the University of Minnesota and a busy commercial corridor, Transit Police will be riding bikes, patrolling on foot and spending time aboard buses and trains so they can have more mobility and respond as quickly as possible.

“As a bike officer, we can get to certain areas where a squad car can’t go and get there a lot more quickly,” Castro said. “Even in rush hour we can cover three or four blocks in a couple of minutes.”

In 2010, Castro became the first Metro Transit police officer to get trained and certified as a bike patrol officer. Today, he leads a unit of 16 officers who split time between their bikes and a squad car. Bike officers will also load their bikes on bus racks and bring them on trains while doing fare checks and other on-board policing.

As part of their basic training, bike officers are taught how to ride up and down stairs, dismount and make arrests and navigate safely through traffic and large crowds. Transit Police also recently participated in “Bike Rapid Response” training with the Minneapolis Police Department to learn how bikes can be used to calm crowds during large events, such as the MLB All-Star Game.

Officer Daniel Wallace is part of the department’s newest class of bike officers and comes with two years of previous experience patrolling the Mall of America by bike. Wallace said one of the biggest challenges to patrolling on a bike is carrying all of the gear. A “duty belt” with a radio and other equipment weighs around 30 pounds.

“Once you learn how to ride you never forget,” Wallace said. “But doing it with all the equipment is a little more of a challenge.”

Bike patrols primarily take place in the spring and summer, but officers aren't afraid to go out in difficult weather conditions, including ice, snow and rain.

While physically demanding, Officer Kelly Franco sought a spot on the bike unit because it offered variety and a unique opportunity to interact more with the public.

“When you’re in a squad car, the majority of the time you’re going from call to call,” she said. “But when you’re on bike patrol you’re mingling and interacting with people and other bike riders so you get to see a different perspective.”

In his experience on the street, Castro said being on a bike has allowed him to quickly identify and apprehend suspects, respond to medical emergencies and generally be more proactive about quality of life issues such as loitering.

Being on a bike has also been a great way to combine his interest in biking with his job and public service, said Castro, the department’s 2010 Officer of the Year.

“I’m passionate about bikes, but I’m equally passionate about community-oriented policing,” he said. “Really, that’s what this is all about.”

    > Metro Transit Police Department

    > For Transit Police K-9s, all work and a little play

Bicycle Community Northstar

Group organizes Northstar bike trip 

| Tuesday, June 18, 2013 3:25:00 PM

A group of more than 100 bicyclists will take a one-way trip on the Northstar Commuter Rail Line on Saturday, June 22.

They won’t be left stranded in Big Lake, however. Instead, the group will pedal back to Minneapolis as part of the Train & Trail Tour ride hosted by the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.

The riders will travel north on the Northstar Commuter Rail Line at 11:30 a.m. and arrive in Bike Lake roughly an hour later. To return, they will pedal 41 miles (downhill) by bike on the Mississippi River Trail, Minnesota’s original state bikeway. 

The Northstar Commuter Rail Line has many bicycle connections to enjoy any day of the year. View boarding information, nearby parks and recommended bike routes here.

> Update: Everyone was on board for the Train & Trail Tour

Bicycle Bus Community Go Green Light Rail

Bike Walk Week's transit tie-ins 

| Friday, June 07, 2013 3:23:00 PM

Expect to see more bikers and walkers on local streets this week – and not just because the sun has finally broken through the clouds.

Bike Walk Week 2013 begins on Monday, June 9, and continues through Friday, June 14. Throughout the week, bicyclists will be treated to free tune-ups, repairs, refreshments and other perks as part of a push to encourage commuters to consider alternatives to their vehicles. The “Commuter Pit Stops” will be available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and include several destinations near transit, such as the east entrance to the Martin Olav Sabo Pedestrian Bridge on the Blue Line.

On Wednesday, near the Blue Line’s Government Plaza station, a celebration will be held from 7:30 and 9 a.m. featuring guest speakers, The Current, Nice Ride, vendor tents, prizes and breakfast from Park Café. St. Paul is hosting its Bike Walk to Work Day Celebration from 6:30 to 9 a.m. on Wednesday at Rice Park. A full list of events is available on the Bike Walk Week website.

Metro Transit buses and trains can be used by bicyclists to help round out their commutes. For a refresher on how bikes are loaded onto buses and transit visit Metro Transit’s “How to Ride” page.

With more walkers and bikers on the road, safety is key. The Minnesota Department of Transportation warns that more than half of bicyclist deaths and 60 percent of injuries over the last five years have occurred between June and September. One-third of crashes happen during afternoon rush hours, according to MnDOT. Find Metro Transit's safety trips about bicycling and transit here.

> See WCCO's report on Bike Walk Week 2013

> Star Tribune: Bike Walk Week pushes more women to pedal to office

Bicycle Bus Go Green In the News Light Rail

Metro Transit's shared connections 

| Wednesday, June 05, 2013 12:47:00 PM

The sharing economy is on the rise in the Twin Cities – and Metro Transit is playing a role in its growth.

Writing for Thirty Two Magazine, Jessica Conrad tells the story of how HOURCAR, Nice Ride and other shared services are changing people's travel habits and the local economy.

Metro Transit bus driver Alec Johnson, who has incorporated Nice Ride into his daily commute, provides a fitting anecdote for the piece. Johnson uses a Nice Ride bike to get to Metro Transit’s Nicollet Garage in Minneapolis and again to get home again after finishing his day at the Uptown Transit Center.

“It’s not uncommon for me to use Nice Ride a few times a day, mixed in with a bus ride or two,” Johnson, 32, says in Thirty Two Magazine’s piece, The next new economy, published at MinnPost.com. “Bike sharing has revolutionized my life. I don’t know how I lived without it.”

Like Nice Ride, the car-sharing service HOURCAR works in tandem with Metro Transit buses and light rail to offer residents more mobility.

HOURCAR program manager Christopher Bineham said transit is "absolutely essential" and the "number one thing that needs to happen to make car sharing possible."

"The reason that HOURCAR can exist is because there is a transit system," Bineham said. "The transit system is really the backbone."

Among the locations where residents can find Nice Ride, HOURCAR and Metro Transit in the same place is  46th Street Station, on the METRO Blue Line. Additional Nice Ride and HOURCAR locations can be found on Metro Transit's Interactive Map.

It's the interplay between such services that leads Conrad to conclude the sharing economy is more than just a "flash in the pan or a niche that only serves the well-to-do" but is instead a movement "capable of growing a community in a profound way.”

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