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Light Rail METRO Blue Line

Keeping light-rail vehicles in shape for the long haul 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, December 04, 2015 1:55:00 PM

Electro Mechanic-Technicians at the Minneapolis Operations and Maintenance Facility recently embarked on a comprehensive overhaul of the so-called trucks that are bolted to the bottom of each vehicle, containing all of the mechanics that move trains down the tracks.After logging more than 700,000 miles, Metro Transit’s first generation of light-rail vehicles is getting some extra attention.

Electro Mechanic-Technicians at the Minneapolis Operations and Maintenance Facility recently embarked on a comprehensive overhaul of the so-called trucks that are bolted to the bottom of each vehicle, containing all of the mechanics that move trains down the tracks.

"It’s a lot like getting a car overhauled after 200,000 miles," Rail Maintenance Supervisor Keith Meisinger said. "Every single part is taken apart and checked, replaced if necessary."

At 12,500 pounds, each truck includes a traction motor, brake pads, calipers, gear boxes and an axle. Each of these parts will be removed and replaced with new or refurbished equipment. The stripped frames will be sandblasted and repainted, and new wiring and suspension components will also be installed.

The fleet overhaul is considered preventative maintenance that doesn’t necessarily indicate that the vehicles have dangerously deteriorated. Swapping out salt-corroded and worn parts is instead intended to help avert in-service breakdowns that can lead to delays.

Year-to-date, light-rail vehicles are traveling an average of nearly 39,500 miles between service calls.

This is the second time the trucks on the Bombardier vehicles have been overhauled. In 2009, specific parts were replaced through a less-intensive maintenance effort.

Taking the trucks apart for the first time, mechanics relied on diagrams to get the work accomplished. That experience will help speed things up this go around, but it will still take up to six weeks to complete work on each truck.

"There was a learning curve the first time around and this one will be too," said Neal Rambeck, one of five Electro Mechanic-Technicians working on the overhaul. "It’s a different process and a little more intense."

With 27 Bombardier passenger cars, and two trucks per car, it will take at least three years to overhaul the entire Bombardier fleet. By that time, work will likely be getting underway on the newer Siemens vehicles that went into service when the METRO Green Line opened in 2014.

The Bombardier trains are expected to stay in service through at  least three additional overhauls, which occur roughly every 350,000 miles. Light-rail trains are expected to be in-service at least 30 years. 

In other words, Rambeck and his peers will have their hands full for the foreseeable future.

"I’m definitely going to be able to retire here," Electro Mechanic-Technicians Clarence Blackmon said.

In addition to the truck overhauls, the exteriors of each Bombardier passenger car are being restored and repainted​. An interior refresh will likely begin in 2016.

"Our goal is to keep these vehicles in the best condition possible so they can continue to stay in service for future generations," said Rick Carey, Director of Light Rail Vehicle Maintenance. "They’re big, long-term investments and we treat them as such."

Electro Mechanic-Technicians working on an overhaul of the Bombardier light-rail vehicles briefly paused for a photo at the Minneapolis Light Rail Operations & Maintenance Facility. They include, from left, Will Fetterly,Daryl Long, Mike Lund, Neal Rambeck and Clarence Blackmon.

    > New paint brings new life to light-rail trains

    > Light-rail vehicles ready for all seasons

 

Bus Community METRO Blue Line Shelters

In S. Minneapolis, new shelter ‘shines like a beacon’ 

| Tuesday, November 24, 2015 9:52:00 AM

Ann Erickson, owner of Keen Eye Coffee, Doris Overby, a neighborhood block leader, and Francy Scurato, also a neighborhood block leader, with the shelter they adopted at the corner of East 38th Street and South 28th Avenue. After years of campaigning, Standish-Ericsson resident Francy Scurato finally got her wish.

Earlier this year, Metro Transit removed a rusting, privately-owned shelter at the corner of East 38th Street and South 28th Avenue and put in its place a new agency-standard shelter with a bench, lighting and transit information.

On a recent morning, Scurato and others who advocated for the new shelter celebrated that victory and watched as a sign noting its adoption was centered and fastened into place. The sign includes the names of Hiawatha Square, a nearby condo, and Keen Eye Coffee, which is located just across the street.

By adopting the shelter through Metro Transit’s Adopt-A-Shelter program, Scurato, Keen Eye Coffee owner Ann Erickson and others agree to keep an eye on the site and to alert staff if any issues arise.

"Adopters are a great resource for our Facilities team, which has to cover a lot of ground," said Bill Hultberg, who manages the Adopt-A-Shelter program for Metro Transit. "We really appreciate their efforts and are happy to partner with them wherever we can."

If Scurato has noticed anything since the new shelter was installed, though, it’s that the shelter has become an invitation to take transit.

“Before, I think people were hesitant to use the shelter,” Scurato said after the sign was put into place. “Now it shines like a beacon and lights up the whole intersection. I’ve seen a lot of people using it.”

In 2014, Metro Transit took responsibility for shelters in Minneapolis that had been privately owned and operated. All such shelters will be replaced with Metro Transit shelters in the coming years. Shelters will also be placed at some locations where none had previously existed through the Better Bus Stops Program.

After giving up driving a few years ago, Scurato frequently finds herself standing in the shelter while waiting for the bus. Students at Roosevelt High School, neighbors and people visiting Keen Eye and other nearby businesses also use the stop, which is served by routes 22 and 23.

“A lot of our customers take transit, so it was kind of a no-brainer to be a part of it (adopting the shelter),” said Erickson, who opened her coffee shop two years ago.

Erickson, Scurato and others are hoping the shelter will lead to further improvements. The goal is to make the few blocks between the shelter and the METRO Blue Line’s 38th Street Station more inviting so people will be encouraged to hop off the train and explore the neighborhood.

“If you want people to come to the businesses on this street, you have to make it look nice,” Scurato said. “You can’t have dark streets and a beat-up shelter. This is a jumping little corner of town and with improvements like this we can make it even more so.”


 

Bus Community Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Hussein Mohamed 

| Monday, November 23, 2015 12:29:00 PM

Hussein Mohamed had just graduated from high school when he was driven from Somali amid a violent civil war.

As a refugee in Kenya, he spent six years selling gasoline and other provisions so he could earn a modest income. In 1996, seeking a better future for himself and his family, he boarded a plane, flew 16 hours across the Atlantic Ocean, and set out to create a new life in the Twin Cities.

Nearly two decades later, the father of seven has become an active and enthusiastic leader for other Somalis who have made their homes here. He’s also become a home owner and gone back to school, studying business management at a local community college.

Getting to this point wasn’t easy. Mohamed held several jobs, as a dishwasher, janitor and taxi cab driver, before realizing that he had a calling for customer service. He’d taken the bus to work and knew a friend who was a bus driver at Metro Transit. So he applied and called until he got hired. At the time, he was one of just a few Somali-born operators.

After 14 years of driving, his message to others looking for a rewarding career is simple and unequivocal: working at Metro Transit is the opportunity of a lifetime.

“This is a job that brings hope to people from all over the world, including myself,” Mohamed said. “I send a lot of people here, telling them that the best company in the world is right at their doorsteps.”

Indeed, Mohamed has played a leading role in Metro Transit’s efforts to recruit drivers and to encourage ridership among the local Somali community. He does so both as a representative for Metro Transit and as community organizer who takes it upon himself to help Somali youth and to keep his peers informed.                                                                                            

“My father was a chief back in Somali so we always had people around and it taught me how to be a leader,” he said. “Helping people is my life.”

Mohamed offers a helping hand to those he works with as well. After being trained through Metro Transit’s peer support program, he is often called upon to work with operators who have gone through a traumatic event or are facing challenges.

“It’s all about making someone love their job when they’re down,” said Mohamed, whose warm demeanor and outgoing personality has earned him the nickname “King.”

While the job has its challenges, Mohamed said his best advice to himself and other operators is to simply take it one day at a time and to let things go easily. “When I leave home, I put my job number one so I have a fresh mind,” he said. “When I sit in the seat and press the gas, it’s a new day and it’s exciting.”

A ten-year safe driver, Mohamed has worked several routes throughout his career. Lately, he’s been driving Route 16, which continues to provide local service on University Avenue.

His hope for the future is to earn his degree, continue building his career and to expose more of his fellow Somalis to the opportunities available at Metro Transit. 

“You can tell just from my face that I’m happy and grateful,” Mohamed said. “I call myself a Minnesotan now and I look forward to raising my family here. This is my final destination.”

Operator at a Glance

Name: Hussein Mohamed

Hired: Oct. 8, 2001

Employee Number: 2406

Routes: Mohamed has driven several local and express routes, usually in Minneapolis and its immediate suburbs. Most recently, he has been on Route 16 with local service on University Avenue.

GarageHeywood Garage (previously spent time at the Martin J. Ruter and South garages)

Hobbies: Mohamed used to play soccer, but today he dedicates much of his time to his family, school and community. “My hobby is moving – constantly moving and talking to people,” he said.

To help you better get to know those getting you around, Metro Transit offers these 'Know Your Operator' profiles of train and bus operators. To suggest an operator for a future profile, please email ridersalmanac@metrotransit.org.

Bus Fares Light Rail

Balancing the books between the farebox and the bank 

| Thursday, November 19, 2015 11:19:00 AM

A growing numbers of customers are using Go-To Cards and other passes to pay their fares without reaching for their wallets. But for many of Metro Transit’s customers, cash is still king.

Collecting, counting and quickly depositing all the bills and coins inserted into fareboxes and ticket vending machines is a daily task that requires a combination of manual labor, good accounting and appropriate safeguards.

The epicenter of this work is Metro Transit’s Central Counting Department, staffed by a team of revenue processing specialists who sort and stack piles of bills, feed mountains of coins through machines that organize them by denomination and weed out the unlikely debris that enters the mix.

“It’s a daily challenge to make sure we’re balancing the books and that everything comes out as it’s supposed to,” Revenue Collections and Processing Supervisor Abdul Ahmed said. “But we always do it.”

The longest-tenured member of the revenue collection team is Ian Stevens, who started as a coin counter more than 42 years ago and continues to begin the money-counting process each morning around 2 a.m.

“I had just gotten out of the service and I thought I’d get a few days to goof off but my wife said, ‘No, you’re getting a job,’” Stevens said. “This was the first place that called back.”

On a recent morning, Stevens pulled an orange metal bin up to a coin counting machine, releasing a small door and allowing coins to spill onto a conveyor belt. After rising several feet, the coins noisily fell through a cyclone of spinning metal that separated dimes, nickels, quarters and other denominations.

In about 20 minutes, 25,330 coins – including nearly 14,000 quarters – had fallen into cloth bags to be re-counted for verification and bagged according to U.S. Federal Reserve standards.

Removed from the mix was a 15-year-old Chuck E. Cheese token and several pieces of foreign currency that will eventually be exchanged. (Stored in a separate box is a collection of Pesos, Canadian dollars, Chinese Yuan, Euros and other bills from around the globe).

The machines used to organize the coins are new to the department but are very similar to those that were recently taken out of service after counting more than 3 billion coins over the last three decades. (Fun fact: that is more than enough coins to make a continuous roll from Metro Transit to the US. .Mint in Philadelphia, Penn., where the coins were minted.)

The recently-retired machines, slightly bulkier and less efficient, are waiting to go into storage and have been signed with wishful good-byes from staff in Central Counting.

Much of the other equipment used in Central Counting also dates back several decades, a reminder that while inflation has impacted the value of U.S. currency little has changed in its form or function.

The enduring quality of cash is why Central Counting is expected to remain a vital part of the revenue collecting operation at Metro Transit. Around half of Metro Transit’s customers now use a Go-To Card or pass, but just as many are relying on crumpled bills and loose change.  

In 2014, around $28 million was collected in cash fares, representing about a quarter of all fare revenue.

“Automatic fare payments are a convenient option for many of our customers, but we also know that a lot of people who ride still rely on and expect us to accept cash,” said Revenue Processing Manager Dennis Dworshak. “It’ll keep coming and we’ll keep counting it for the foreseeable future.”

    > Good Question: Why no sales tax on fares?

    > Good Question: Why does it cost more to ride during rush hour?

Bus Rapid Transit Minneapolis

Input sought on North Minneapolis BRT plans 

| Monday, November 16, 2015 8:52:00 AM

A draft station plan for the C Line.Residents are invited to provide feedback on plans for a new arterial Bus Rapid Transit Line that will serve North Minneapolis at a series of November open houses.

Like the A Line on Snelling Avenue​, the C Line will improve on local bus service through a combination of enhanced stations, larger buses and faster, more frequent service.

The C Line will follow the Route 19 alignment between downtown Minneapolis and the Brooklyn Center Transit Center, with service on Penn Avenue and Olson Memorial Highway. In downtown Minneapolis, the C Line will operate on 7th and 8th streets. 

A Draft Station Plan, published last week, provides more details on 24 locations where BRT stations are planned. The public can learn more about those station plans at the open house and provide comments through Dec. 6.

Feedback will be incorporated before plans are finalized and more detailed engineering work begins in 2016. With funding, construction will begin in 2017.

C Line open houses will be held according to the following schedule:

    > Tuesday, Nov. 17 — 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Minneapolis Central Library, and 6-8 p.m. at Patrick Henry High School 

    > Wednesday, Nov. 18 — 6-8 p.m. at Harrison Education Center 

    > Thursday, Nov. 19 — 6-8 p.m. at Lucy Laney Community School 

C Line resources

    > C Line Station Plan

    > C Line Fact Sheet

    > C Line FAQs

    > Subscribe to C Line Update

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