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Community METRO Green Line Safety Transit Police

Transit Police geared up for Green Line 

| Thursday, May 29, 2014 10:51:00 AM

Guest post by Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington

University Avenue looks much different today than it did when I began riding Metro Transit buses as a patrol officer more than 20 years ago. The METRO Green Line promises to bring even more change to the corridor, long the busiest east-west transitway in Minnesota.

While we don't expect light rail to dramatically alter the public safety dynamic in St. Paul, the return of rail service is something everyone along the route must prepare for – including local, county and state police.

Metro Transit Police officers are doing just that, connecting with community members and residents, strengthening partnerships with partner agencies and growing to meet the demands of our growing transit system.

In March and April, Metro Transit and partner agencies held joint emergency preparedness exercises at Stadium Village and Raymond Avenue stations to simulate emergencies involving light-rail. To reinforce safety messages, Metro Transit and St. Paul police in April began an outreach campaign to provide motorists, pedestrians, transit customers and bicyclists the information they need to safely navigate the Green Line corridor. We’ve interacted directly with hundreds of residents and will continue this important work after trains open to the public on June 14.

We’ve also grown the department to keep up with the expansion of transit services. Another 20 part-time officers were sworn in this week, expanding the force to a diverse group of 94 full-time and 100 part-time officers. Many of these officers will work out of our new East Command center near University Avenue, including 22 who will focus specifically on the Green Line and the neighborhoods it serves.

As Capt. Jim Franklin recently told The Star Tribune, the “rail beat concept” will be a key to effectively policing the Green Line corridor. “You get officers that know the area very well,” Franklin told the newspaper. “They know the businesses. They know the community and really will get to know the ridership.”

Building these relationships will be aided by the fact that officers will spend more time than ever patrolling on foot, on bike and on board trains and buses. A number of officers were recently added to our bike patrol squad, which can be more nimble in Green Line’s dense urban environment. In Minneapolis, we are participating once again in Minneapolis SafeZone, a multi-agency effort that provides additional patrols to ensure safety during the busy summer months.

While building personal relationships is important, we are also harnessing data to focus our efforts and using technology more than ever. Each Green Line station and all light-rail trains are equipped with multiple security cameras that can be monitored in real time. Call boxes at each station are available in the event of an emergency.

Like University Avenue, our department will continue to evolve and grow as trains transform the way Twin Cities residents get around. Whatever the future holds our fundamental approach to policing and commitment to providing a safe, secure environment for all who use or interact with transit will never change.

    > Star Tribune: Get a driver's point of view riding alongside Green Line

    > Police Chief John Harrington on MPR's Daily Circuit

    > MPR: Walk, bike and drive safely along the Green Line

    > Pioneer Press: Policing the Green Line: Metro Transit promises cameras, cops, analysis

    > Star Tribune: Police prepare for safety on Green Line

    > WCCO: Officials work to educate public on Green Line safety

    > Fox 9: Officers patrol University Avenue to raise light rail awareness

    > KSTP: Navigating the new METRO Green Line

    > Pioneer Press: Green Line will require safety heads-up by motorists and pedestrians

    > Star Tribune: Emergency-preparedness drill near the U tests response to train-bus crash

    > Pioneer Press: Light rail readies to roll, and St. Paul responders prepare, too

    > KSTP: Crews practice emergency response with light rail derailment situation

    > Star Tribune: Busier, safer St. Paul streets

    > Green Line Safety

    > Transit Police on board and on bike

Bus From the GM Light Rail Northstar Rider Information

Saving big by trading the car for transit 

| Wednesday, May 28, 2014 12:00:00 AM

From General Manager Brian Lamb

A recent Route of the Week story features transit customer and former auto driver Maxine Veith. Three years ago, Maxine’s vehicle started to show its age. Instead of throwing good money after bad, she decided to get a Go-To Card and started riding Route 767.

We know from customer surveys that Maxine is not alone. The cost of owning and maintaining a vehicle is among the top reasons people try Metro Transit.

According to the department of Driver and Vehicle Safety, the average age of cars on Minnesota roads is now 11.3 years. Not only are our cars getting older, but the cost of repairs is going up. The 2014 edition of “Your Driving Costs” recently released by the American Automobile Association (AAA) finds that auto maintenance costs have ticked up again – resulting in about a 15 percent increase since 2012.

AAA published the first edition of their report 64 years ago when gas was 27 cents a gallon. The Interstate System wouldn’t exist for another six years. This year, AAA estimates it will cost 59.2 cents per mile to own and operate an average sedan. This cost assumes the cost of fuel will be $3.28 a gallon (though the gas station near Metro Transit's Minneapolis offices is currently advertising $3.53).

Although insurance and depreciation costs dropped slightly from 2013, driving an average automobile 15,000 miles is still expected to add up to nearly $8,900 per year. Costs are significantly higher for SUVs, trucks and vans. And this doesn’t include parking.

These costs add up quickly. For an average family, transportation is the second-highest expense behind housing. Here are some examples of daily savings for households choosing transit. This table shows the average length of a customer trip and the average fare paid, factoring all fare levels and discounts for frequent riders using employer, student or other programs (Metropass, children and seniors, College Pass, disabled veterans, Fares Direct, etc.).

Mode Avg. Roundtrip Miles AAA est. Car Cost ($0.592/mile) Avg. Fare Savings/Day
Bus 8.1 $4.80 $2.30 $2.50
Light-rail 10.6 $6.28 $1.94 $4.34
Northstar 50.5 $29.90 $6.48 $23.42

As you can see, there are clear savings for those who choose transit – even for a few trips per week. Factoring in parking, too, the American Public Transportation Association recently reported that a multi-car Twin Cities household would save $887 each month by living with one fewer car and choosing transit or using other alternatives to driving alone.

Many of Metro Transit's customers can’t afford to drive. But more than two-thirds of customers have automobiles and still chose to take a bus or train. Without transit service, folks like Maxine would be pouring more money into the gas tank and less into their savings accounts and our local economy.

I invite you to see how much you can save by pledging to replace a drive-alone trip with transit through the Switch My Trip campaign. Fill out a pledge and start saving today!

    > Switch My Trip

    > APTA Transit Savings Report and Calculator

METRO Green Line St. Paul Station Spotlight

Car-free and creative at Raymond Avenue Station 

| Tuesday, May 27, 2014 12:00:00 AM

A METRO Green Line train pulls into the Raymond Avenue Station.When David Needham and his wife Alyscia moved from San Francisco to Minneapolis in 2013, they didn’t think they’d be able to sustain their car-free life. Eight months later, they drove south to visit family in Texas, left their car behind and flew home.

The decision to relinquish their vehicle was aided in part by the fact that Needham and his wife live on University Avenue, just south of the METRO Green Line’s Raymond Avenue Station in the recently-opened C & E Lofts.

Using the train, they and their 10-month old daughter will be able to ride the train to the airport, get to church in downtown Minneapolis and travel to other destinations along the light-rail line. Improved connecting bus services at the station will help them get to Grand Avenue and other key destinations.

“Part of the reason we moved to this neighborhood was the convenience of being able to get to either downtown really easily,” said Needham, an entrepreneur who runs a freelance support business, Triplo, and frequently travels downtown for meetings. “Moving here, we decided we should have a car, but we found the transit system to be really good and reliable and just decided we wanted to be one less car on the road.”

The ease of traveling to, from and within the St. Anthony Park neighborhood surrounding the Raymond Avenue Station is drawing all types of people like Needham who are looking for a central location with a plethora of transportation options.

In their footsteps are a fresh crop of new businesses, residential development and a groundswell of community-building efforts centered on the creative economy. The activity is interwoven with well-established neighborhoods of single-family homes and industry.

Among the recent arrivals is Barely Brothers Records, an all-vinyl record shop that opened in February. The record shop sits amid a collection of restaurants and eclectic businesses that line Raymond Avenue and are less than a block north of the Raymond Avenue Station.

Mike Elias, who opened Barely Brothers with friend Spencer Brooks, said the store’s proximity to the Raymond Avenue Station was a “major selling point” in choosing where to locate. The hope is to draw from each downtown as well as students from the University of Minnesota.

“It should be pretty easy to hop off the train and get right here,” said Elias, who will be able to commute to work using the Green Line and Route 83, a new bus service that will run on Lexington Parkway beginning June 14.

Transportation was also a motivating factor for the recent relocation of the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute, which was previously located on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis.

The nonprofit provides tutoring services to nearly 500 youth who come from throughout St. Paul and can now easily reach the center’s office at the corner of University and Raymond avenues. The organization also draws more than 100 tutors, many of whom come from colleges along the Green Line.

“We did an informal poll of parents and many of them said they would use the train,” said Chad Kampe, the group’s executive director.

Kampe said the cheekishly-named organization is also planning to open a small retail component to raise funds for their work and that being near the station will be a good way to increase visibility and draw in new people.

As interest in the area around Raymond Avenue Station grows, developers are breathing new life into old properties and creating new homes for urban dwellers, nonprofits, artists and other small businesses.

The C & E Lofts building, where Needham lives, dates to the 1920s and was originally a furniture warehouse and showroom. The 104-unit building reopened in 2013 following a yearlong renovation and now boasts a host of amenities, such as a rooftop deck, bike storage and repair station and an HOURCAR hub.

Two blocks south of University Avenue, Minneapolis-based development company First & First is renovating a collection of office and warehouse buildings on Vandalia Street.

The Vandalia Tower development will create 200,000 square feet of office, creative and warehouse space that will serve as a hub for creative businesses, technology firms, tradespeople and artists.  A restaurant and brewery could also locate there.

First & First founder Peter Remes, who grew up nearby, said light rail “was definitely an influencer” in taking on the ambitious redevelopment. Remes said light rail will not only benefit current and future tenants but create a vibrant streetlife that has a positive impact.

“New prospective tenants we’ve been in conversation with all view light-rail as a very positive thing,” Remes said.

The Vandalia Tower project builds on the development of the Creative Enterprise Zone, a community-led effort to support and grow creative entrepreneurship around Raymond Avenue Station. The Creative Enterprise Zone's mission is to make the area a “recognized center of creativity and enterprise” where people “make a living by their creative capacities.”

Catherine Reid Day, a Creative Enterprise Zone board member, said the Green Line’s opening is an important milestone that strengthens the group’s efforts and the wider community.

“It’s a very exciting time for us all,” she said. “For me, this area is a true hub for our city, and keeping it strong will contribute to assuring all the spokes that radiate from it stay strong too.”

Raymond Avenue Station At a Glance 

Connecting bus routesRoute 16, with local service on University Avenue between Stadium Village Station and downtown St. Paul. Route 30, with service to Northeast and North Minneapolis. Route 63, with service on Grand Avenue to downtown St. Paul. Route 67, with service on Minnehaha and Thomas avenues to downtown St. Paul and west on Franklin Avenue to the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station. Route 87, with service on Raymond and Cleveland avenues between the Rosedale Transit Center and Highland Park.

Public art: Andrea Myklebust and Stanton Sears carved wheels out of granite that mimic those on earlier modes of transportation, including streetcars and Empire Builder passenger trains. Myklebust and Sears created similar works for the Green Line’s Westgate and Union Depot stations. Learn more.

Area landmarks: Hampden Park, Jennings Community Learning Center, Avalon School, St. Anthony Park Branch Library, Langford Recreation Center, College Park, Commonwealth Park, Luther Seminary, Murray Middle School, University of Minnesota-St. Paul Campus, Desnoyer Park.

Bike-ped connections: The City of St. Paul recently rebuilt Raymond Avenue, adding bike lanes between University and Hampden Avenues, as well as wider sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly medians. Further north, there is a seven-mile stretch of Como Avenue with bike lanes between the U of M campus and Rice Street. A Nice Ride kiosk is located at University Avenue and Carleton Street.

Neighborhood groupsSt. Anthony Park Community Council

METRO Green Line St. Paul Station Spotlight

Past and present converge at Victoria Street Station 

| Tuesday, May 20, 2014 12:00:00 AM

A METRO Green Line train at Victoria Street Station. Sam Hayat opened his first car repair shop on University Avenue nearly 30 years ago. After struggling to sustain the business, he tried making a go of it at locations in south Minneapolis, Bloomington and Brooklyn Park.

A year ago, he returned to the place where it all began, opening the doors to Eco Garage at the northwest corner of University Avenue and Victoria Street and just north of the METRO Green Line’s Victoria Street Station.

After years of bouncing around, it appears Hayat has finally hit the sweet spot.

“We’ve been busy since day one,” Hayat said recently. “It’s been a huge difference as far as business goes. This is really beyond my expectations.”

Hayat, who has expanded from one to four mechanics since opening in 2013, is expecting things to get even better after the Green Line opens on June 14. His thinking is that customers who need to leave their cars for the day will come to Eco Garage because of its convenient location on the Green Line.

Business owners and community leaders say Hayat’s success is a precursor of what is to come for those who live and work near Victoria Street Station. In addition to increased mobility and improved conditions for small businesses, light-rail is viewed as a catalyst for residential, commercial and retail development, as well as a springboard for community building.

One of the groups leading the charge is Model Cities, a nonprofit human service and community development group that has been active on University Avenue for nearly 50 years.

Based just north of Victoria Street Station, Model Cities hopes to begin construction in 2015 on two sites at or near Victoria Street Station, together known as  Model Cities Redevelopment. The Model Cities BROWNstone and Central Exchange projects would together bring 60 new units of family and workforce housing as well as two new pocket parks, public art and a reading room that focuses on the role African Americans played in St. Paul’s early railroad industry.

Dr. Beverly Oliver Hawkins, the chief executive officer at Model Cities, said the project is part of a larger goal to develop and promote a distinct cultural district that celebrates the area’s history and the mix of cultures that now reside there.

“The window of opportunity has opened up and we are jumping through it,” Hawkins said.

Community leaders driving to restore the Victoria Theater also see the Green Line’s opening as a seminal moment for their efforts. Located just north of Victoria Street Station on University Avenue, the 1915 theater was a popular community hangout through the 1930s, when it was converted to retail use.

After nearly 20 years of vacancy, the Victoria Theater Arts Initiative is working to purchase the building and re-open it as a community arts center. The theater is one of several locations where community celebrations will be held for the Green Line’s opening and will continue to feature art from the community throughout the year.

Tyler Olson, who lives nearby and is involved in the restoration effort, said having light-rail trains run outside the theater’s doors will be critical to building interest in the site.

“This is probably something that could move forward without light rail, but having that adds a real depth of audience and allows us to share a lot more easily,” he said. “This could be a community center in a very traditional sense but now it will be open to a huge number of people from across the Twin Cities.”

Mary Milton, the owner of Transformation Salon, is also hoping the extra attention will be a boon for her nine-year-old business, located on University Avenue just west of Victoria Street Station. While the construction period was difficult, she believes the future will be much brighter.

If business improves as she expects, she wants to expand into a larger space and offer shoes, clothing, jewelry and other items.

“That was kind of my vision in the beginning,” she said. “I’m hoping that people will see the business and be encouraged to stop and get off.”

The renewed entrepreneurial spirit reflects a deep-seeded culture of self-reliance in the area surrounding the station.

MK Nguyen grew up in Frogtown as the daughter of Vietnamese refugee immigrants who became pioneers in the Southeast Asian small business community, opening Ala Francaise Bakery, the Twin Cities’ first bánh mì shop. As community leaders, they helped many others establish small businesses on University Avenue and St. Paul.

Nguyen now hopes to build on that legacy by opening a retail space of her own. She also wants to help grow the capacity of residents and business owners to work together and build a "healthy, wealthy, vibrant Frogtown for the next generation." The Green Line is an integral part of that vision, creating new opportunities for residents and youth to engage and develop a healthy, participatory, and sustainable model for social and economic growth, she said.

“My mind is blown every single day by the genius of the people in my neighborhood," Nguyen said. "My goal is to unleash the human potential that already exists in Frogtown, invite others to join our story, and add to the rich and dynamic history embedded in Frogtown.”

While focused on the future, residents around the station remain ever-mindful of the neighborhood’s history. The historic Rondo community was divided by the construction of Interstate 94, and that past experience remains front of mind for many who still live in the area.

To recognize the leaders who held the neighborhood together throughout the years, the Victoria Street Station features 17 images of people who have impacted the community. The group includes educators, historians and entrepreneurs, such as Tiger “Jack” Rosenbloom who ran a small shop at the corner of St Anthony Avenue and Dale Street and is remembered for saying “Never say can’t.”

Scultptor Foster Willey learned about the individuals while crafting the station artwork and said he was struck by the number of strong personalities that called St. Paul home.

“There is a very compelling story of a very vibrant community that had some rough times and their resilience in overcoming that while continuing to thrive and celebrate their history and culture,” he said.

Victoria Station At a Glance 

Connecting bus routesRoute 16, which will provide local service on University Avenue between Stadium Village Station and downtown St. Paul.

Public art: Minneapolis artist Foster Willey partnered with his brother Guy to sculpt portraits of historic people and landmarks from the Rondo community which are affixed to the station walls. Around 80 individuals were nominated for inclusion in the “Faces of Rondo” project and community members helped select 17 people to include. Among those featured at the station is Gordon Parks, who overcame trying circumstances to become a well-regarded author, photographer and filmmaker. Others featured at the station are Pearla Mae Barnes, Lou Bellamy, Dorothea Burns, Charles Crutchfield Sr., Mahmoud El-Kati, Beverley Oliver Hawkins, Katie McWatt, Debbie Montgomery, Rhoda Stroud, Billy Williams, Floyd Massey Jr., Sharon Sayles Belton, Tiger Jack Rosenblum, Hallie Q. Brown and Evelyn Fairbanks. There are also images of the Rondo-Stryker streetcar, a familiar sight in the neighborhood from the 1920s to the 1950s; Mechanic Arts High School, a fixture in the community until it closed in 1976; and Pullman porters. Many early African American Rondo residents worked on sleeping cars as Pullman porters, and fromed the first all-black union. Learn more

Area landmarks: Ryan Park, Carty Park, Frogtown Park and Farm, Maxfield Elementary

Bike-ped connections: A NiceRide kiosk is located in the northwest corner of University Avenue and Victoria Street.  This summer, St. Paul will construct a bike boulevard on Charles Avenue between North Aldine Street and Park Street. There are pedestrian crossings over I-94 at Chatsworth and Grotto streets.

Neighborhood groupsFrogtown Neighborhood Association; Summit University Planning Council

Bus Express Bus Minneapolis Route of the Week Suburban Transit

Route 767: Trading a tiring trip for transit 

| Monday, May 19, 2014 12:00:00 AM

For more than a decade, Christina Stensby commuted from Brooklyn Park to downtown Minneapolis with her husband. When a new job disrupted that routine last year, Stensby didn’t hesitate to turn her occasional back-up plan – riding Route 767 – into an everyday habit.

“I didn’t even have to think about it,” Stensby said during a recent morning commute. “Parking downtown is so expensive and driving is too time consuming.”

Stensby’s disdain for battling traffic was shared by many customers recently found traveling on Route 767. The express bus provides a convenient alternative to driving alone for northwest suburban residents in Maple Grove, New Hope and Brooklyn Park who travel to and from downtown Minneapolis on Interstate 94.

Congested roadways are circumvented by using bus-only shoulders while buses move swiftly in and out of downtown using the Marq2 corridor. Trips between Route 767’s largest boarding location, the Bottineau Boulevard and 63rd Avenue Park & Ride, and downtown Minneapolis typically take around 30 minutes due in part to these features.

Doug Bastyr has been enjoying the speedy trip since he began taking Route 767 this winter. After years of driving to and from his job in St. Paul, he grew frustrated and elected to leave the car at home.

His commute now involves a 40-second walk to the bus stop, a trip on Route 767 and a transfer in downtown Minneapolis to reach his job near Highway 280 and University Avenue. When the METRO Green Line opens June 14, he’ll be able to ride light-rail to Westgate Station, a short distance from his office.

“A couple of months of sitting in traffic and taking two hours to get to and from work got pretty tiring,” Bastyr said. “I actually get to work quicker now than I did when driving.”

Tayu Lee, of New Hope, stopped driving alone last year when he decided he no longer needed to have his car with him during the day. Lee telecommutes once a week so he can run errands and make midday trips that require a vehicle and spends his time in Minneapolis focused on work.

Besides the convenience, Lee saves more than $100 a month in parking costs and makes far fewer trips to the gas station. An employer-subsidized Metropass costs him around $50 a month.

“This has been much better than I expected, honestly,” said Lee, who drives three miles from his home to the Park & Ride.

Maxine Veith began taking Route 767 three years ago, when her 15-year-old car started to show its age and she decided she didn’t want to put any more money into it. Today, Veith relies on transit not only to get to and from work but as her primary means of transportation.

“You get so used to it, it really doesn’t matter to me anymore,” she said of living car-free.

New Hope resident Ron Goodson still uses his vehicle to run errands and take other local trips, but said he’d never consider driving to work. Taking Route 767 allows him to relax and catch up on reading. A few times each week, he’ll also bring his bicycle on the bus and pedal home – a roughly 11-mile trip that takes around an hour.

“I like getting rid of some of the stresses of driving while fitting in a workout,” Goodson said.

Route 767 At a Glance

Type: Express

ServiceRoute 767 provides express service from Maple Grove and Brooklyn Park to downtown Minneapolis. On the north end, select trips provide local service to the residential area east of the Bottineau Boulevard and 63rd Avenue Park & Ride, located in the northwest corner of Bottineau Boulevard (County Road 81) and 63rd Avenue North. Buses run non-stop on interstates 694 and 94 to the Marq2 corridor in downtown Minneapolis. There are five morning trips that run southbound between 5:15 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. and five evening trips that run northbound between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Trips between the 63rd Avenue Park & Ride and downtown Minneapolis are scheduled to take approximately 30 minutes.         

Route Length: Approximately 15 miles

Stops: 53 southbound, 60 northbound

Vehicles: 40-foot standard diesel buses

Ridership: Total ridership of 46,742 rides in 2013, with an average of 185 passengers per day.

History: Route 767 began service in March 2007, at the same time the Bottineau Boulevard and 63rd Avenue Park & Ride opened. The Park & Ride was built with funding from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ).

Future: The Bottineau Boulevard and 63rd Avenue Park & Ride has been identified as one of 12 future stations for the METRO Blue Line Extension (Bottineau Transitway), which would bring light rail from Target Field Station in Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park along Bottineau Boulevard. Planners working on the Bottineau Transitway envision the area surrounding the Park & Ride being redeveloped with the addition of light rail. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the transitway is available for public comment through the end of May. For more information visit bottineautransitway.org.

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