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Winter Weather

Winter is coming … and Metro Transit is prepared. 

Posted by John Komarek | Monday, November 05, 2018 3:14:00 PM

Metro Transit received four new service trucks earlier this year, including this truck at East Metro Garage. The vehicles become critical during the winter months, when technicians are sent out to recover buses that become trapped in the snow.

Anyone who lived through the Halloween Blizzard of 1991 knows that winters in Minnesota can come unexpectedly.

Metro Transit starts winterization earlier than one might expect: immediately following the end of the State Fair.

“Boy, oh boy, do we have our work cut out for us.” Paul Slesar, Heywood Service Garage Supervisor said. “We have a hard deadline in October to make sure that our buses are ready for winter.”

In a seven-county system with bus, rail, support vehicles, and stations and stops, the process of winterizing is slow and methodical, but requires a herculean effort on the part of Metro Transit employees.

At our five garages, our almost 1000 bus fleet begins the process of installing snow tires, adding 40-pound sandbags over the rear wheels, and testing the heating systems.  The fuel is also gradually changed to a mix of diesel with a thicker viscosity to handle extreme cold.

“When the weather is at its worst, that’s when we get the most calls.” Ryan Shimon, East Metro Garage Supervisor said. “No matter how deep the snow, we get to our buses and get them unstuck.”

To support our bus fleet in the snow, around 280 Mechanic Technicians prepare for increased duty on road calls. Some will ride in one of four brand new service vehicles, which have needed an update as some are decades old.

"Due to our extreme cold we're often looking for new technologies to improve reliability and on-time performance,” Director of Bus Maintenance Matthew Dake said. “It can range from different types of lubrication to a new way to get unstuck from the snow.”

Currently, two buses are testing a system called Insta-Chain to see if this could help buses drive themselves out of snowy situations. The device drops and spins metal chains under the wheel after an operator pushes a button.

Rail also needs to prepare for extreme weather by testing heating, ice scraping and cutting operations, wipers, and sand delivery systems. Sand is applied to the tracks during slippery weather, which increases in the wintertime.

“We fill our sand tanks twice a week during the winter as opposed to once a week during the rest of the year,” Keith Meisinger Light Rail Vehicle Maintenance Supervisor said.

Facilities and non-revenue support our bus and rail services by ensuring that our police have snow tires and our snowblowers are functioning and can clear stations of snow. Fleet trucks are fitted with plows and brine or salt distributors installed to the rear of the vehicle.

Whatever winter weather that awaits us, Metro Transit is ready and hopeful for, as Public Facilities Supervisor Murray Olson said, “light, fluffy white snow. We can move that easy.”

Rider Information

How are trips impacted by Daylight Savings Time? 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, November 01, 2018 1:46:00 PM

When Daylight Savings Time ends on Sunday morning, many people will enjoy an extra hour of sleep. At Metro Transit, though, setting clocks back an hour presents a unique challenge – and some extra work.

To compensate for the time change, rail trips that are scheduled to occur between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4, will operate twice – once according to Daylight Savings Time, and again an hour later. Bus trips that depart at 2 a.m. will also operate twice.

When Daylight Savings Time goes back into effect in March and clocks move ahead one hour, some bus and rail trips that depart around 2 a.m. do not operate.

Operators who work during time changes receive special instructions.

Customers who purchase fares between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. gain an extra hour of transfer time when Daylight Savings Time ends and lose an hour of transfer time when Daylight Savings Time begins. Fares can be used for unlimited rides of the same value for up to 2.5 hours.

The U.S. Department of Transportation manages the country’s time zones and each state’s observance of Daylight Savings Time – a tradition rooted in the rail industry.

Want help planning ahead? Contact the Transit Information Center at 612-373-3333. 

Have a question you'd like us to answer? Send an e-mail to

Rider Information

Avoid accidents after daylight savings day 

Posted by John Komarek | Monday, October 29, 2018 10:12:00 AM

After we roll back the clock and there’s less daylight, we enter a period when data has shown an increase in pedestrian, bicycle, scooter and motor vehicle collisions. The simple equation looks like this:

Less daylight + end of workday + rush hour + failing to yield to right of way = increased accident incidents.

But, this doesn’t have to happen. Metro Transit works tirelessly to avoid being a part of this equation. And it's working: our accident rate is at its lowest level in nearly two decades.

We’re doing our part to alter this equation, and here’s how we do it:

 > Continuously scan the road and sidewalks ahead for pedestrians and bicyclists.

 > Drive defensively, assume someone might make a bad decision.

 > Make eye contact with crossing pedestrians, bicyclists, and scooters. Use horn when necessary.

 > Stop for crossing pedestrians at every intersection and marked crosswalk, even those without crosswalks or stoplights.

 > Do not block crosswalks while stopped, and don’t pass other vehicles stopped for pedestrians.

 > Stop far enough back so drivers in other lanes can also see a crossing pedestrian.

 > Before making a turn, look in all directions.

 > Look carefully behind your vehicle before backing up.

 > Watch for people in wheelchairs and motorized carts.

 > Take extreme caution near bus stops where pedestrians and bicyclists approach to board.

 > Take extreme caution with left turns

Here’s what you can do: 

 > Commute slower and more cautiously during winter.

 > Heighten your attention, especially during peak driving period.

 > Don’t rush out of work on Friday. Take your time, you’ll get where you’re going.

 > Continuously scan for approaching vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians.

 > Make eye contact with others when crossing or merging.

 > Get rid of distractions that impair your ability to focus, phones, music, etc.

 > Wear light colored clothing or reflective clothing.

 > Never make a right turn in from of a bus-this is a leading cause of on-board customer injuries.

 > Use caution when operating around a stuck bus.

We look forward to a safe and fun winter. Together, we can alter this equation.

Color Pop Bus Stop: A happiness project  

Posted by Kathy Graul | Friday, October 26, 2018 1:23:00 PM

 What could happen if a public transit agency invited a popular local artist into one of its busiest bus stations on a Monday and offered said artist the opportunity to paint the entire station in an array of colors? When I asked artist Ashley Mary to do that a couple months ago, I didn’t quite know the answer to that question, but I had a hunch that it would be really, really fun. For our customers, for residents in the Uptown neighborhood, for fans of Ashley Mary’s work and for visitors to the area, too.

And it was. On Monday, Oct. 22, I arrived first thing in the morning at Metro Transit’s Uptown Transit Station to begin laying drop cloths and placing painter’s tape inside the customer waiting area that would serve as Ashley’s canvas for the day. Ashley arrived not long after with a bubbly enthusiasm and several crates full of acrylic paints representing just about every color under the sun. It was clear the name we chose for this project, “Color Pop Bus Stop” was perfect as she painted bright yellow ovals along the back wall, neon pink stripes right in front surrounded by green squiggles, bright red leaf shapes over on the side and tangerine swirls and circles throughout.

From dawn until dusk, Ashley danced around the station and painted nonstop, only pausing occasionally to smile for a photo with a rider or fan. The reactions from those who visited the station throughout the day were priceless.

“I love that your work is going to be in my neighborhood,” said Zoe Hazlett, an Uptown resident and Ashley Mary fan who came by via skateboard to watch for several hours as the piece took shape.

“Today is my lucky day!” exclaimed one rider who stopped by in the afternoon for the celebration portion of the event, during which we handed out free ride coupons and hot chocolate.

Several people from the arts community came by and expressed appreciation for our showcasing a local artist in such a unique way. The project was also a natural draw for children. One mother waiting for the bus with her young son had to hightail it after him as she noticed he was running excitedly into the station to get a better view.

Color Pop Bus Stop is Ashley’s first public-facing mural, which is one of the aspects that initially attracted her to the project. It’s also her first piece that offers viewers a 360-degree experience, as the mural covers all four sides of the customer waiting area at the station.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better day,” said Ashley. “Sun was out, so many kind strangers and friends came by, the energy was so, so right.”

This is the third in a series of annual Metro Transit temporary public art installations I’ve led that have each had very colorful themes, which is one reason I specifically sought out Ashley Mary for this year’s project. You might remember last year’s “We Are Metro Transit” installation at Government Plaza Station or the “Yarn Bus” project from 2016. The idea behind each of these projects has been rooted in bringing happiness to our customers through colorful, fun, engaging and (of course) Instagram-worthy art brought to you by local artists.

The Color Pop Bus Stop installation will be in place at Uptown Transit Station through February of 2019, on the southbound side of Hennepin Avenue. Riders and visitors to the station are encouraged to take photos or videos of the mural and post them on social media using the hashtag #ColorPopBusStop for a chance to win prizes from Metro Transit and Ashley Mary. Fun tip: You can catch a great view of the installation from below if you’re on the Midtown Greenway bike path just west of Hennepin Avenue.  

My hope for the Color Pop Bus Stop installation is that it will bring a little bit of joy into the lives of those who experience it, especially as we head into the grey, cold days of winter. Maybe it will spark a fun conversation between two customers waiting for their bus who wouldn’t have looked up from their phones otherwise. Maybe it will inspire someone to take the bus for the first time and experience their city in a new way. Maybe it will become a child’s favorite part of the day as they wait for the bus with mom or dad.

I know from hanging out at Color Pop Bus Stop all day Monday that so far, it’s on track to do its intended job.

“’Happiness’ is the one word I would use to describe this,” said one rider as he looked into the station with a smile on his face near the end of the installation Monday evening.

Column by Kathy Graul, Metro Transit Social Media Strategist 

Color Pop Bus Stop

On Off The Clock

On/Off the Clock with Samantha Wicks 

Posted by John Komarek | Wednesday, October 24, 2018 1:16:00 PM

Name: Samantha Wicks
Lives: Saint Paul
Job: Mechanic-Technician, East Metro Garage
Years of Service: 2

How did you come to work at Metro Transit and what do you do?

I was in South Korea serving in the Air Force as a mechanic. My term of service was coming to an end, so I scoured the Internet for another mechanic job. I found MetroTransit had openings and applied.

Currently, I’m a general-purpose mechanic at East Garage. On any given day I can be doing anything from shocks and bellows, troubleshooting DINEX modules, road calls, or covering bay service. Every day is different.

Where are you from originally? Tell us a little bit about your background.

I’m from Anoka, MN. I went to college for law enforcement but found that most positions required prior military experience and was a highly competitive job market for those with that experience. In the meantime, I started towing and became fascinated by how vehicles work. I wasn’t inclined to take out more loans for college, so I decided to join the Air Force as a special vehicle mechanic. During active duty, I went to college part-time and earned my Associates of Science in Vehicle Maintenance. During my service, I lived in California, Texas, North Carolina, and South Korea.

What is your favorite part about working for Metro Transit?

My fellow mechanics. I work with some real awesome guys and we have some great supervision/management. Morale is important in any working environment and we manage to get the job done and have fun while we do it.

What are your favorite activities when you’re working or “On the Clock”?

As a general-purpose mechanic, I love that every day is different. Every service job I’m called on requires me to put on a different hat to solve the issue. It requires not only skill, but ingenuity. Also, while I work, I love “punishing” the guys at my neighboring hoists with my “horrible taste” in music. It’s fun to razz each other on the job in good fun. It’s great for morale.

What are your favorite activities when you’re not working or “Off the Clock”?

As one of the few female mechanics not only at MetroTransit, but in the state, I do what I can to help empower women. As one of the few female mechanics at Metro Transit, I know what it’s like to be looked at differently. Women are just as capable as men to do hands-on technical work and I hope I can inspire other women. Outside of my job, I enjoy teaching women how to do technical jobs and to be self-reliant.

This October, I’ll be teaching a clinic for women about how to install a spare tire in West Saint Paul.

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