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Community METRO Green Line Minneapolis Safety St. Paul University of Minnesota

Strong ridership defines first six months of METRO Green Line service 

| Tuesday, December 16, 2014 2:41:00 PM

There were around 6 million rides on the METRO Green Line during its first six months of service.Strong and growing ridership is the hallmark of the METRO Green Line’s first six-months of operation.

Customers have taken about 6 million rides since service began on June 14, including more than 1 million rides in both September and October. Average weekday ridership in November was 36,240, near the 2030 projection of 41,000 rides. 

“The community response to the Green Line is even better than we imagined,” Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said. “In less than one year of operation, the Green Line has clearly had a major impact on the way people get around, interact with and enjoy the Twin Cities.”  

Combined ridership on the Green Line and routes 16 and 94, which also serve the Central Corridor, has nearly doubled from last year. The Green Line replaced limited-stop Route 50 that ran on University Avenue and service was enhanced on several routes that connect with Green Line stations.

The most popular stops have been East Bank Station, in the center of the University of Minnesota campus, and Nicollet Mall Station in downtown Minneapolis. Stadium Village Station, near TCF Bank Stadium, has also become a hub of activity on gamedays. Around 25 percent of Minnesota Vikings fans took the Green Line to and from the game this season, double the ridership from previous years.

Combined with other rail and bus service, the Green Line is expected to drive Metro Transit’s total year-end ridership to around 84 million, the highest it has been since 1981.

In addition to strong ridership, the first six months of Green Line service are noteworthy for the focus on public safety, enhanced performance and community development.  

Metro Transit continued to educate pedestrians, motorists and others about light rail safety through presentations and a robust marketing campaign, including a billboard on University Avenue.

Transit Police hired 22 new officers to patrol the Green Line and the neighborhoods it serves. Transit Police say there has been no significant change in crime along the corridor since the Green Line opened.

Light-rail operations have also improved through coordination with local partners. Technology called predictive priority has been successfully implemented at 18 low-volume intersections along the Green Line corridor. Predictive priority gives trains their best chance of getting a green light, reducing the amount of time trains spend waiting at signalized intersections.

Transit-oriented development has also continued along the corridor.

Project for Pride in Living started construction in August on its 108-unit Hamline Station Project, which replaces a vacant auto dealership immediately north of the Hamline Avenue Station. On Dec. 19, Surly Brewing Co. will open its new beer hall just east of the Prospect Park Station.

In November, seniors began moving into The Terrace at Iris Park at Episcopal Homes’ new Midway Village development immediately south of the Fairview Avenue Station. In December, move-ins began at Midway Pointe, the second of three new residences at Midway Village. The third residence, Episcopal Church Home – The Gardens, will be ready for occupancy in January 2015.

Residents of the entire campus began using light-rail as soon as it opened, CEO Marvin Plakut said.

“Interest in our community increased even before the Green Line’s opening and continues to grow now that the service is up and running,” Plakut said. “People are excited by the freedom that waits right outside their door. Episcopal Homes is the only senior community that can offer it.”

    > New York Times: Despite cheaper gas, public transit ridership is up 

    > Explore the Twin Cities using our Green Line A to Z guide

    > Green Line tops 1 million rides, again

Bus Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Mary Barnd 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, December 05, 2014 12:57:00 PM

In her tenth year as a Metro Transit bus operator, Mary Barnd is a welcoming, cheerful presence behind the wheel.When Operator Mary Barnd picked up her first customers, she panicked.  

As a 17-year semi-truck driver, Barnd had developed an innate sensitivity to others entering her private driving space and was taken aback when she started training and picking people up.

“The first time customers stepped on that bus, I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” Barnd said in a recent interview. “Opening that door and having them come into that space felt really threatening.”

Barnd recognized where the feeling came from, though, and the unease quickly subsided. In fact, anyone who boards one of her buses today would find it hard to believe she ever had any difficulty with customers coming on board.

Now in her tenth year as a Metro Transit bus operator, Barnd is a welcoming, cheerful presence behind the wheel and is well known among regular customers for her boisterous personality. She deliberately works busy urban routes that have a large number of customer boardings and offers entertaining commentary as she drives.

Jenna Bennett encountered Barnd for the first time during a recent Route 6 trip from downtown Minneapolis to Uptown. As Barnd narrated the trip down Hennepin Avenue, Bennett quickly saw that this was going to be unlike many of her daily trips.

“I’d never had a bus driver that had so much energy and was so clearly having fun at her job,” said Bennett, who brought the experience to light on Twitter. “She really seemed to brighten everyone’s day and definitely stood out in a good way.” 

Though she has driven more than a dozen routes her current and favorite route is Route 6, which runs between downtown Minneapolis and Edina. The route carries a wide range of customers traveling to work downtown, Uptown or the Southdale Shopping Center.

Spending the day with people all around her is a far different experience, Barnd said, than the time she spent hauling cargo across the country. Barnd said being out on the road alone for weeks was “excruciatingly lonely.”

“As chatty as I am, I never liked talking on the radio,” she said. “I like talking in person.”

Barnd came to love driving, though, and began working at Metro Transit in 2004 when she moved back to her native Bloomington to be closer to family. After getting more comfortable on the job, she began interacting with customers and using her trademark humor to diffuse whatever issues arose on the road.  

While her main occupation was as a semi-truck driver and driving instructor, Barnd initially studied to become a dental assistant at the University of Minnesota. Missing the collegiate atmosphere, she wound up working as a secretary at Princeton University and later became the school’s first female carpenter, a job she kept for 11 years.

All of the different experiences she’s had serve her well at Metro Transit, the 65-year-old Barnd said.

“If you’re a little older, hopefully you have a little more life experience, which I think is very helpful,” she said.

All the miles she’s driven over the years have also helped Barnd become a skilled operator. Barnd has gone almost her entire career at Metro Transit without a responsible accident.

As long as she continues to enjoy the work, Barnd said she has no intention of getting out of the driver’s seat, either. Her goal, she said, is to continue driving until she’s 80-years-old.

Revealing some of her quirky sense of humor, Barnd said: “I’m just going to get a face lift so no one thinks they’re getting driven around by some old broad.”

Operator at a Glance

Name: Mary Barnd

Hired: June 21, 2004

Employee Number: 64221

Routes: Barnd has driven several routes during her career, including the 2, 4, 11, 12, 18, 21, 23, 113 and 156. Her current – and favorite – route is Route 6.

Garage: South Garage

Hobbies: Barnd likes to write poetry and sing, especially old country dance music. She also enjoys spending time visiting her friends and family.

To better get to know those getting you around, Metro Transit offers these profiles of train and bus operators. If you'd like to suggest an operator for a future profile, please email

Bus Transit Information

1 million calls and counting 

| Friday, November 21, 2014 11:14:00 AM

Transit Information Center Representative Gary Bier coaches a new TIC rep.When Gary Bier began working in the Transit Information Center, his trip planning tools included a large wall map, a tape measure and a robust memory.

“If you were taking 20 calls a day you were really cooking,” Bier said recently. “Each of those calls could take 30 to 40 minutes.”

Bier and his fellow TIC representatives are able to help customers a lot more efficiently these days. Using online resources, representatives can plan trips in a matter of minutes and handle up to 200 calls a day. (Despite a growing amount of online information, TIC representatives still collectively take more than 1 million calls a year.)

While times have changed, Bier’s devotion to the job has not. On Nov. 26, Bier will celebrate 35 years of service, making him the longest-tenured TIC representative in Metro Transit history. He has handled an estimated 1.26 million calls since he began more than three decades ago.

Impressive as the cumulative total is, Bier is demure when asked to reflect on all the customers he’s helped along the way. “I don’t really think about it,” said Bier, who has no immediate plans to retire. “I just do what I need to do.”

The institutional knowledge goes a long way, though. In 1999, Bier stepped into a leadership position and began coaching new TIC representatives. As a coach, he listens in on calls and provides advice as representatives build the confidence they need to succeed. Beyond the practical tools he teaches, Bier stresses patience and understanding.

A level head and the simple pleasure of helping customers find their way, he said, is what keeps him going after all these years.

“I could imagine myself doing something else, I just couldn’t see myself enjoying it as much or doing it as long,” he said. “I feel really satisfied knowing that I’ve helped someone get from point A to B.”

    > For TIC rep, job changes but motivation stays the same

    > Transit help just a phone call away

    > Much more than a store

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Safety

Light-rail vehicles ready for all seasons 

| Wednesday, November 19, 2014 1:10:00 PM

Electro mechanical technicians Tom Astedt and Chris Kostohris install ice cutters on a light-rail vehicle.Metro Transit’s light-rail vehicles are becoming even more weather-hardened.

Pantographs that are specially-equipped to cut through ice on overhead wires are being installed on all 27 Bombardier light-rail vehicles and 32 of the newer Siemens light-rail vehicles to improve winter weather service on the METRO Blue and Green lines.

Mounted atop each light rail vehicle, pantographs transfer energy from the overhead wires to the train. The connection between the pantograph and the overhead wire, also known as catenary, is made by a long metal strip. To reduce wear on the overhead wire, the carbon strips have a smooth surface. But that smoothness is less effective at cutting through ice so textured, copper strips are used whenever severe weather threatens.

In past seasons, rail vehicle maintenance staff has replaced the strips each time ice was in the forecast. Because that is a labor intensive and time consuming process, trains are being equipped with an additional pantograph with textured contact strips that can be raised and used as needed.

The ability to respond quickly has become more important as Metro Transit’s light rail vehicle fleet has expanded to nearly 90 trains serving two light rail lines.

“We have to be able to deploy them (light-rail vehicles) immediately or you’ll never be able to keep up,” said Rick Carey, assistant director of light-rail vehicle maintenance.

The new pantographs come largely assembled but the brackets used to mount the equipment on top of the train were designed in house and are fabricated by maintenance staff. To install the pantographs, the equipment is hoisted above the train, welded into place and then wired. The entire process can take up to eight hours.

Electro-mechanical technicians Chris Kostohris and Tom Astedt are responsible for assembling the brackets and putting the pantographs on the trains. The installations began in August and will continue through the winter months.

Astedt said he likes the work because each vehicle poses a new challenge. Each train is a little different, so Astedt and Kostohris carefully measure and level each new pantograph to fit the space.

“It could probably be off an inch and no one would know it, but we’d know,” Astedt said while recently installing a pantograph at Metro Transit’s Operations and Maintenance Facility. “We’ve got a work ethic that requires us to make sure everything is straight and true.”

The ice-cutting pantographs aren’t the only all-weather feature on the light-rail trains. Each train comes equipped with a snowplow that pushes snow out of the rail right of way. The trains are also heavily insulated and heated to keep customers comfortable during cold weather.

“Operating in Minnesota winters certainly has its challenges, but we are committed to delivering safe, reliable rail service in all conditions,” Deputy Chief of Rail Operations John Humphrey said. “These new pantographs are just another example of our commitment to serving customers when they need us the most.”

    > Pioneer Press: Nuts and bolts: How the Green Line trains work

    > Track maintainers keep a careful eye on light-rail lines

    > How does Metro Transit prioritize winter storm cleanup?

    > Service during severe winter weather  

Light Rail METRO Green Line

Green Line tops 1 million rides, again 

| Thursday, November 13, 2014 2:40:00 PM

Customers riding the METRO Green Line.For the second straight month, customers boarded the METRO Green Line more than 1 million times.

There were 1,131,264 rides on the Green Line in October, up 6 percent from September’s total and a new monthly record. Average weekday ridership was 38,597 in October, which is 40 percent higher than 2015 projections. Projected average weekday ridership for 2030 is nearly 41,000.

There have been 4,609,209 total rides on the Green Line since service began in June.

The Green Line, local Route 16 and express Route 94 had a combined ridership of 1.25 million in October. Ridership on these University Avenue routes was up 78 percent compared to the same month last year, when service was provided by routes 16, 94 and the limited-stop Route 50 that was replaced by the Green Line.

The most active stop on the Green Line was East Bank Station, which had an average of 4,994 weekday boardings in October. The top five busiest Green Line stations were East Bank, Nicollet Mall, Central, Snelling and Stadium Village.

There were just over 8 million rides in October, up 6 percent compared to the same month last year. There have been nearly 70.8 total rides this year, more than 2 million rides or 3 percent ahead of 2013.

Regional transit ridership, including suburban, contracted and University of Minnesota service, is up 7 percent through the third quarter at 25.9 million total rides.

    > Vikings fans bleed purple, ride Green

    > Explore the Twin Cities using the Green Line A to Z Guide


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