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Northstar

Group creates polka about Northstar Commuter Rail Line 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, August 23, 2018 12:28:00 PM

Josh Larson, who wrote "I Love the Northstar," at the Anoka Station. With support from Achieve Services, Inc., a group of Minnesotans with developmental disabilities are encouraged to express themselves through song in an ensemble called “Dance at Your Own Risk.”

The group’s latest album, “Changing Attitudes,” includes a quintessential Minnesotan piece of music: a German polka about Metro Transit. The song, “I Love the Northstar,” is one of five that group member Josh Larson wrote for the new collection.

“It’s really well written. He came up with the melody and how the song is structured,” Musical Director Joe Loskota said. “He’s really good at understanding musical styles.”

The song is not only catchy, but well written and performed. Even so, Larson maintains a humble Midwestern attitude. “I usually do instrumentals. I’m occasionally a singer,” Larson said. “I’m practicing my vocals.”

To celebrate the release of the new album, a CD release party will be held on Friday, Aug. 24, from  11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at a laundromat run by Achieve Services, Achieve Clean, 7500 University NE, Fridley.

Listen, download and purchase the album online at AchieveServices.org, iTunes, CD Baby, and Spotify or at any Achieve Services location​

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

How We Roll

How We Roll: Glenn Gilbert 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, August 16, 2018 9:38:00 AM

Glenn Gilbert - Business Systems Manager

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 illustrate how much we have in common with our customers when it comes to how we get around. See you out there!

Glenn Gilbert - Business Systems Manager

How do you get to work?

I commute exclusively by transit. I usually take Route 61 to downtown Minneapolis, then walk to Heywood, stopping for coffee on the way. If I miss the 61, I walk to the A Line and transfer to the Green Line. When I lived in Blaine I walked to the Paul Parkway Park & Ride and took Route 865.

What do you choose to commute sustainably?

First, I don’t see how any of us could ever understand what our customers experience without being a customer ourselves. I didn’t appreciate the value of real-time signs and NexTrip until I started waiting on the sidewalk just hoping a bus was on the way.

Because I combine walking with my riding, I’m able to put some physical activity into my daily routine and that’s the most reliable way for me to exercise. I also enjoy reading, listening to podcasts, or drowsily watching the world go by while we travel. 

There is also something about moving around on foot that feels very free. I’m more present with people and places, I experience the neighborhoods at a more deliberate pace, and I’m very aware of the weather. Plus, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching the early morning sun light up the river and the towers downtown.

How do you use sustainable modes outside of commuting?

My wife and I moved from Blaine to Falcon Heights last winter and the transit access let us sell a vehicle and become a one-car family. I take the bus to go shopping at Cub, Target, Har Mar, Rosedale, etc. When we go to baseball games, music or pubs we always walk and use transit because we don’t have to hassle with parking and we don’t risk a DWI.

Sometimes everyone on the bus or train is in their own little world, and sometimes I wish certain people would shut up or get off, but every once in a while there are moments with a real sense of shared community. I’ve seen people immediately surround and care for someone who fainted, and I’ve laughed along with everyone else when a little kid said something funny. It’s a good reminder that we’re all in this world together.

METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Northstar

Fuhrmann leaves passenger rail legacy for generations to come 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, August 09, 2018 10:00:00 AM

Decades from now, people taking trains to college classes, a hospital shift or office job, to restaurants and sporting venues, or to the airport won’t have a clue they have Mark Fuhrmann to thank.

Even today, many have not heard of Fuhrmann—and that’s by his design. Metro Transit’s director of light rail and commuter rail projects has deliberately avoided public recognition.

He carefully stood behind office holders at public events and ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the METRO Blue Line in 2004, Northstar commuter rail in 2009 and Green Line in 2014. (This wasn’t difficult, given his modest height, or his trim figure maintained by 4 a.m. daily runs in all kinds of weather.) If politicians insisted that Fuhrmann join them in the foreground for a photo-op, he would politely oblige but later direct staff to crop him out of the frame.

But leaders at Metro Transit and Metropolitan Council recognize Fuhrmann as the person responsible for the region’s 62 miles of passenger rail (40 miles for Northstar and 22 for LRT). Upon hearing that Fuhrmann is retiring on Aug. 14 after serving the region for 25 years, their praise was universal.

“I can’t imagine how we would have built the Blue Line, Green Line and Northstar commuter rail without Mark’s dogged determination, intelligence and extraordinary professionalism,” said Susan Haigh, who was Council chair when the Green Line opened, and when preliminary engineering started on Southwest LRT (the Green Line extension). “He persevered through the most challenging political conversations imaginable and was always been a beacon of integrity for me.”

Finest of public servants’

“I have had the opportunity to work with many fine public servants in my career, and Mark Fuhrmann is simply the best of the best,” Haigh said. “Mark is able to unravel complex engineering issues and identify the pros and cons of strategic choices for decision makers. He is brilliant, prepared, thoughtful, determined and always respectful to his colleagues. Our rail lines have carried millions of passengers thanks to Mark Fuhrmann. These extraordinary investments have transformed the communities they serve and our entire region.”

Peter Bell, who was Council chair during the Green Line’s engineering and early construction phases, relied on Fuhrmann’s judgment and integrity as they moved the project forward.

“Honest, straight shooting and unflappable is how I would describe Mark,” Bell said. “He was very calm under intense pressure because he always had his facts right. I was always amazed at how people on all sides of the transit issue might disagree with one of our conclusions but never the facts that Mark presented.”

Former Council Regional Administrator Pat Born said Fuhrmann’s mark on the region will last at least a century. “The major transit investments Mark has led have already moved millions of riders to school, work and fun places. They have created thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment,” Born said.

Since the inception of the two LRT lines and Northstar, Metro Transit has served more than 190 million passengers on its rails. At last count earlier this year, more than $8 billion in development investment has occurred or is planned on the Blue and Green lines and their planned extensions to the southwest and northwest. The projects have so transformed the region and communities they serve that as municipalities refresh their comprehensive plans this year, many seek to focus development and density around existing and future transit stations.

Encyclopedic memory, focus on quality and ethics

The public often saw Fuhrmann’s encyclopedic memory for events, dates and financial information on display at public meetings, but he has another side that is less known, Born said.

“Mark’s quiet dignity and ferocious stands for quality and ethics are often overlooked. Building transit projects in the Twin Cities has meant facing huge obstacles and dealing with angry and often powerful people. Mark respected all of them but kept his head down and pushed forward,” Born said.

Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb, Fuhrmann’s supervisor, announced Fuhrmann’s retirement to staff “with great appreciation – and a healthy dose of sadness.”

“With his departure, he hands off projects that are ready to enter construction. Both Blue and Green Line extensions are rated by the Federal Transit Administration as “medium high” and deserve to secure Full Funding Grant Agreements soon. He has expertly guided those projects to their current point,” Lamb said.

Career path in public transit led him to nation’s capital, back home

Fuhrmann is fond of saying he was born at the former Midway Hospital on the Green Line and grew up in northern Golden Valley “in the shadow of Theodore Wirth Park,” which the Blue Line extension will bisect for part of its 13.5 miles from Target Field to Brooklyn Park. He attended Robbinsdale High School and earned his undergraduate degree in urban geography from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

In his first foray into public service, Fuhrmann interned in the summer of 1981 with the Metropolitan Parks and Open Space Commission. He supported the operations and maintenance task force.

“One of the recommendations we came up with was to seek permission from the Legislature to levy a candy tax. It didn’t get any traction,” Fuhrmann recalled, with a smile.

After finishing his graduate studies in planning at the University of Minnesota, Fuhrmann worked for a private bus company. He then moved to Washington, D.C., to work on the build-out of the Metro system from 1985 to 1993. His assignment was in northern Virginia, where he worked on the opening of three Metro extensions and the introduction of the first two commuter rail lines in northern Virginia, the Virginia Railway Express. After eight years, he returned to Minnesota to work for the Metropolitan Council’s transportation division.

It was an opportunity to come back home and be closer to family while working in his area of professional practice.

“Initially, rail discussions were not positive,” Fuhrmann noted, “but then in 1998 Governor Arne Carlson and the Legislature decided to approve the first installment of $40 million in funding for Hiawatha.” Fuhrmann eventually became project director of the METRO Blue and Green Lines and Northstar Commuter Rail Line when they were in engineering and under construction. The Minnesota Public Transit Association named him the state’s 2014 Transit Professional of the Year.

“Twenty years later, we have three rail lines in revenue service that have served over 190 million passengers, and the two LRT extensions are well positioned to secure federal funding and go into construction soon,” Fuhrmann said.

Fuhrmann recalls a career highlight of giving President Barack Obama and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx a tour of the Green Line’s operations and maintenance facility on Feb. 26, 2014. “I was deeply honored to be asked to host the president and secretary. I still pinch myself that that actually happened.”

Another highlight was giving Gov. Jesse Ventura a tour of the Hiawatha LRT Project Office in 2001, the first full year of construction. “Contrary to his public persona, he was a very thoughtful and curious leader who wanted to know more about the project and when we were going to open it.”  

Next stop: Northern Indiana rail projects with HDR Engineering

Although Fuhrmann officially is retiring, he starts a second career in August. His new title is associate vice president for HDR Engineering. He will serve as HDR’s program director for New Starts projects for the Northern Indiana Commuter Transit District (NICTD), which operates commuter rail service between South Bend, Ind., and Millennium Station in downtown Chicago.

With an average weekday ridership of about 11,500 passengers, NICTD is the only interurban electrified line that continues in operation in the United States. Service began in 1908. NICTD has two New Starts projects that Fuhrmann will shepherd from their offices in Chesterton, Ind. One is West Lake, a nine-mile southerly extension of the South Shore Line between Hammond and Dyer, Ind., in western Lake County. The second one is the Double Track Project, which will install a double track where currently only a single track lies between Gary and Michigan City. Trains traveling in opposite directions will no longer need to take turns.

“I recognized at the Council’s 50th anniversary celebration earlier this year that 2018 was my 25th year anniversary with the Council,” Fuhrmann said. “I have seen a lot of great things for the last 25 years of the Council’s existence. It made me reflect maybe there are some new challenges and opportunities out there that I should explore.”

“The thing that makes me sad is I am going to miss the dedication of all my colleagues and the friendship of working with them all these years as we all worked with one purpose in mind: to build out the METRO system here in the Twin Cities,” he said.

Fuhrmann had some words of wisdom for staff as he leaves. “Communicate, collaborate and coordinate with all the stakeholders – political, community and staff,” he said.

A Line BRT C Line D Line E Line

Three future rapid bus projects move forward 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, July 26, 2018 12:57:00 PM

Bus shelter construction

Plans to bring the kind of fast, frequent service that has been so successful on the A Line to three additional corridors advanced within the past week. Here is a summary of the latest advances: 

C Line

Crews recently began assembling the first C Line shelters in downtown Minneapolis, including the above shelter at the corner of Fourth Avenue South and South Seventh Street, near Government Center. 

Around 20 new shelters with real time signs, on-demand heat, light and ticket vending machines are being built along the C Line corridor, which runs largely along Penn Avenue. The C Line will largely replace Route 19 service beginning next spring. The new shelters will remain out of service for several months while crews continue to install wiring and equipment. 

Learn more about the C Line

D Line

Plans to make Metro Transit’s busiest bus route up to 25 percent faster moved forward as the Metropolitan Council approved plans for 40 enhanced stations along an 18-mile corridor now served by Route 5.

Engineering will begin later this year and continue through the end of 2019. Construction is scheduled to begin as early as 2020, pending full funding. The D Line corridor is expected to see more than 23,500 average weekday rides by 2030. Route 5 is the region’s busiest bus route, with more than 15,000 average weekday rides. 

Learn more about the D Line

E Line 

The Minneapolis City Council last week approved plans for a stretch of Hennepin Avenue that position the corridor for future rapid bus service. 

Plans call for the construction of eight enhanced bus stops between Washington Avenue South and 12th Street. The city also plans to add one-way, protected bikeways in both directions, and to route the bike lanes behind the new stations to avoid conflicts at boarding areas. 

The new shelters will be served by routes 4, 6, 7, 12 and 61 and are designed to eventually become a part of the E Line, which will largely replace Route 6. 

The changes are part of a larger reconstruction of Hennepin Avenue. Utility work is expected to begin in 2019 and heavier construction is expected to begin in 2020. 

Learn more about the E Line

A previous study that identified a dozen rapid bus corridors will be re-valuated in 2019 to determine next steps for other future lines. Learn more at metrotransit.org/rapidbus

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