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METRO Green Line Shelters St. Paul

Ambassador program makes its mark in downtown St. Paul 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, October 01, 2019 1:26:00 PM

Ambassadors who supported the Streets of Summer pilot program, sponsored by the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance.Keeping busy boarding areas clean isn’t always easy. But a pilot program initiated by a group of downtown St. Paul business owners shows the dramatic impact that can be made when a small group of individuals is hired to pick up litter, remove graffiti and perform other maintenance activities.

The results of the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance’s Streets of Summer pilot program were presented this week, after the three-month test came to an end. According to the Downtown Alliance, five full-time ambassadors picked up 84 bags of trash, erased more than 500 pieces of graffiti and removed more than 5,300 pieces of gum between June and August.

The efforts were part of a broader program that also brought musical performances, public art and trash can mosaics to a four-block area of downtown St. Paul. Some of Metro Transit’s busiest boarding areas, including the METRO Green Line’s Central Station, were included in the Downtown Alliance’s focus area.  

To support the effort, Metro Transit provided ambassadors space to store cleaning supplies and worked with the Downtown Alliance to host activities at boarding areas around Central Station, Rice Park and elsewhere.

“Metro Transit was an incredibly great partner,” said Emma Burns, a project manager with the Downtown Alliance. “We think it was a great success.”

Burns said the group received especially positive feedback from transit customers who appreciated not only the extra maintenance but regularly encountering ambassadors, who sported blue polos with “Street Team” printed boldly on the back.

Ambassadors had more than 2,000 contacts with individuals and business owners, according to a summary prepared by the Downtown Alliance. “First and foremost, it was about having extra eyes and ears on the street,” Burns said. “People told us it was great to see consistent staff tidying up, saying hello and just being around.”

The pilot program was funded by the Knight Foundation and others to determine whether a downtown business improvement district could be created to sustain similar efforts in the future. Discussions about next steps are underway.  

Privately funded improvement districts are common in larger cities, including Minneapolis. Ambassadors with the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, created a decade ago, are similarly focused on providing a clean, safe and welcoming environment downtown.

While the St. Paul pilot has concluded, Metro Transit is continuing to do its part to provide customers a safe, clean and welcoming environment downtown.

The agency’s facilities maintenance team was recently expanded so staff could more proactively maintain busy boarding areas and clear snow during the winter.

Learn more about the impact of the Streets of Summer pilot program

How We Roll

How We Roll: Michael Mechtenberg 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, September 27, 2019 10:50:00 AM

Michael Mechtenberg commutes on Route 134 and other routes that run between downtown Minneapolis and the Heywood Garage, including the METRO C Line.

“How We Roll​” celebrates Metro Transit employees who commute and travel to many other destinations using transit or by biking, walking or carpooling. 

Michael Mechtenberg, Program Manager-Speed & Reliability

How do you get to work?

With two kids in daycare, my wife and I need to coordinate our commutes, which include a mix of driving, walking, busing and light rail. 

In the morning, I take Route 134 to downtown Minneapolis and another bus to Heywood. My wife takes the kids to daycare, leaves the car in their parking lot and walks to the Green Line's Westgate Station. She takes the train from there to her job in downtown Minneapolis. In the afternoon, the process is reversed – I take light rail, walk to daycare to pick the kids up, then drive home in the car while she takes Route 134. 

It sounds complicated but it's not. We've managed this for four years and counting. 

What do you enjoy most about your commute?

My 20- to 30-minute commute on transit is my time to decompress. I catch up on the news, read I SPY, or just look out the window. My commutes can also be productive. I inevitably take note of ways we can improve our rider experience and bring those ideas back to the office.

How do you get around outside of your commute?

I'm lucky to live in a very walkable neighborhood and get around on foot as much as possible. We take family trips to the local brewery on Route 63 and to the YWCA on Route 21. That said, a certain amount of driving is unavoidable as the transportation system seems to be designed to make driving the default option. 

Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Nikolay Mshar 

| Thursday, September 19, 2019 12:28:00 PM

After moving from Belarus to the United States, Nikolay Mshar noticed a lot more people walking around with smiles. Soon, he started wearing one himself.

“In Belarus, I drove buses like I do here,” Mshar said. “The only difference is that here people smile more and are less rude. Culturally, people don’t smile there much.”

Mshar immigrated to the United States in 1992 and began at Metro Transit in 1998. With his prior experience, becoming a bus operator was an obvious career choice. He’s been good at it, too. In 2018, Mshar was recognized for 20 consecutive years of safe driving, a rare accomplishment.

But from the beginning Mshar saw the job as more than a paycheck. Becoming a Metro Transit bus operator, he said, helped him find his way in a new country.

“On a bus, you talk and interact with people,” Mshar said recently from South Garage. “This helped me become part of this country.”

While learning a new language was stressful, he was determined. With help from his wife and a job that immersed him with English-speaking customers, his abilities improved.

“I didn’t want to depend on someone like a translator,” Mshar said. “Those first five years, I soaked up language like a sponge.”

Today, Mshar lives in Shakopee with his wife. He’s raised three daughters in Minnesota and plans to spend the rest of his career with Metro Transit.

While his life has changed, interacting with customers remains his favorite part of being a bus operator.

“If you enjoy what you do, other people will enjoy what they’re doing, too,” Mshar said. “I enjoy driving the bus, and because of that my customers enjoy their ride.”

We're hiring!

If you like working with people and want to make a difference in your community, apply to become a Metro Transit bus operator. All Metro Transit train operators begin as bus operators. Learn more about applying at metrotransit.org/drive.

 

Transit Police

Police, military experience guide new chief, Eddie Frizell 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Wednesday, September 18, 2019 2:28:00 PM

Metro Transit Police Chief Eddie Frizell visits with customers at the Nicollet Mall Station in downtown Minneapolis. Metro Transit Police Chief Eddie Frizell has a rich law enforcement and military background.

Before joining Metro Transit in August, he spent 26 years with the Minneapolis Police Department. There, he filled numerous roles, including deputy chief of 911 patrol, crisis negotiator, mounted patrol and inspector of the First Precinct, which includes downtown Minneapolis. Frizell also served as a plain clothes officer and member of the department’s SWAT team.

A 29-year Army veteran, Frizell has served in Bosnia (2003-04), Iraq and Kuwait (2011-12). During his last tour, he was the squadron commander of a Minnesota Army National Guard armored cavalry unit that traveled more than 1 million miles through Iraq, the largest U.S. Army logistical move since World War II.

Frizell, a father of three, also holds master’s degrees from the United States Army War College and Augsburg College, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the Senior Management Institute for Police at Boston University.

An Iowa native, Frizell’s resume is also notable for this reason: he was a two-time state champ jazz band drummer.

As he settles into his new role, Frizell answered a few questions about his experience and vision for the department's future.

How did you choose a career in law enforcement?

In the early 1990s, the Iowa farm industry was in decline, and the area where I lived offered few promising job opportunities. I gathered my meager belongings and moved to Minneapolis where I started working in local security. I was later accepted into the Minneapolis Police Cadet program. When I graduated and became a police officer, I felt I had truly found my calling.

Why did you want to lead the Metro Transit Police Department?

The department is a “diamond in the rough.” There are outstanding law enforcement professionals and support staff. With additional resources and leadership, it can and will be one of the greatest transit police organizations in the country. I wanted to be a part of that and am honored and humbled to serve as the department’s chief.

What are the department’s strengths and how do you plan to build on them?

The department’s greatest strengths are its people! As I begin in this new role, I plan to build strong relationships inside and outside of the organization and spend a lot of time listening. Identifying subject matter experts and hearing from individuals who are not afraid to challenge my assumptions will be especially important. I’ve made some of my best decisions after listening to people who disagreed with me.

What is your vision for the department?

I want the department to be known throughout the country as a cutting-edge, innovative and dynamic organization. I also expect honesty, accountability, integrity and professionalism. The cornerstones of procedural justice, community-oriented policing and fairness will be the norm.

Outside the organization, community engagement and community-oriented policing are at the core of my philosophy. It’s my experience that people who call 911 are in the midst of a significantly stressful and emotional event. Officers who cultivate community relationships and enhance their cultural competency are better prepared to respond appropriately to these situations and are perceived in a more positive and trustworthy manner.

What are your proudest achievements?

I’ve had the honor and privilege to serve and protect for over 26 years. My career has given me the ability to raise a medical school student, as well as a soon-to-be West Point grad. I’ve always considered myself a servant leader, and the ability to lead such selfless, brave men and women in such an honorable profession has been my proudest achievement.

Learn more about the Metro Transit Police Department's leadership

Bus Safety

Born in Twin Cities, Bus Roadeo becomes enduring tradition 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, September 13, 2019 12:42:00 PM

Bus operators who compete in Metro Transit's Bus Roadeo are continuing a tradition that began with a simple idea nearly a half-century earlier.

Mike Hughes became a bus operator for what was then known as the Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) in 1972. After a few years, he moved into the executive department and offered a suggestion.

"I always thought it'd be great to find out who the best driver in the system was so I came up with this idea that we should have a skilled driving competition," Hughes said. "I proposed the idea, and six months later I was called up to the office. They pulled out my memo and said, 'We decided we want to do this and, since you came up with the idea, you can put it together.'"

Hughes left the the MTC in 1984 and recounted his role in the Roadeo's history from his home in Grand Rapids, Minn.

After getting the go-ahead, Hughes spent the summer of 1975 figuring out what the competition would look like. Like today, it included a written test, pre-trip inspection and a course where operators weaved through cones, drove in reverse and completed other maneuvers that demonstrated how precisely they could handle the bus.

Around 80 operators participated in the first competition, held in the parking lot of the old Metropolitan Stadium in September 1975. Police officers from around the region served as judges.

"When you're doing something for the first time there's always that little shadow of doubt and you wonder, 'Is this going to work?'" Hughes said. "But when we all got together for breakfast before the event, I just knew this was going to be a great thing and it was."

Thirty top finishers competed again in a second round held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Hughes can't recall who won, but photos from the award competition ended up on the front page of American Public Transportation Association's monthly newsletter.

After that publicity, transit agencies across the country began calling MTC asking for advice on hosting competitions of their own. To help spread the idea, Hughes put together a guidebook and spent several years on a national organizing committee.

APTA hosted its first international Bus Roadeo in 1976 in San Francisco, Calif. Top bus operators from across the country have been competing annually ever since. The competition also now includes technicians.

Looking back, Hughes, who has never competed himself, said he never imagined his idea would become so widespread or enduring. "I didn't know how far this would go, if it would be a local event or what would be the deal," he said.

Repeat Roadeo champ earns another title

View the list of Metro Transit Bus Roadeo champions

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