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How We Roll

How We Roll: Senior Planner Scott Thompson 

Posted by John Komarek | Tuesday, April 23, 2019 10:00:00 AM

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!

Scott Thompson, Senior Planner

How do you get to work?

I commute almost exclusively on transit. My commute usually begins and ends at SouthWest Transit's SouthWest Station in Eden Prairie. Depending on the weather, I either walk or transfer to another bus to get to the Heywood Office where I work. Sometimes I'll park at the Blue Line's 28th Avenue Station Park & Ride and take light rail. 

Service Development has a friendly competition and a traveling trophy for whomever takes transit, bikes or walks every month. Last year, I took 752 transit trips. That might sound like a lot, but I have co-workers who have taken even more trips! 

What do you enjoy most about your commute?

I enjoy avoiding the headache of driving and dealing with traffic. Considering all the transit advantages we have now -- including MnPASS and shoulder lanes, and Marq2 in downtown Minneapolis -- I’m always surprised at the number people who continue to sit in traffic in their cars as my bus goes past. 

How does taking transit impact your work?

I try to use transit as much as possible during the work day. I plan service in St. Paul and surrounding communities so I often find myself taking the Green Line to get to meetings in the East Metro. We have terrific tools that help planners make better decisions about our service, but there's no substitute for personally experiencing what our customers experience.

Are there any other transportation services you find invaluable?

Transit has been important to my entire family. About 8 years ago, my mother quit driving and started using Metro Mobility, the Council's transportation service for individuals who can't use regular route transit. Without Metro Mobility, our family would have become responsible for all her transportation needs or she would have needed to live in an assisted living facility much earlier than she did. Instead, she was able to continue living independently at her home in Richfield. She couldn’t say enough good things about how kind all the drivers were to her and how deeply she appreciated the service. My family and I will always be grateful.

Bus

Closed course experience designed to keep road to employment open 

Posted by John Komarek | Tuesday, April 23, 2019 8:23:00 AM

(Left to right) Bus Trainees Linda Wilke, Erica Young, Steve Gartner and Patricia Young join Instructor Ken Johnson for a chance to drive a bus on a closed course.

Before they can pick up any customers, new hires on their path to becoming bus operators must get behind the wheel and show they’re capable of handling what may be the largest vehicle they’ve ever driven. 

For prospective operators who have never driven a bus before, passing the required road test and earning a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) can be a significant hurdle, potentially disrupting an otherwise promising career just weeks after it began.

To help address that barrier, Metro Transit is now providing unfamiliar, prospective operators the chance to spend several hours driving a bus on a closed course before taking their road test.

The hope is that this experience will help participants earn their CDLs and continue in their training.

“This is just to give you a feel of the bus and to get the jitters out,” Relief Instructor Ken Johnson told a group of new hires who gathered last week at a Metropolitan Council facility, where a parking lot became a temporary, asphalt classroom.

The group that assembled last week was the first to get some practice in before taking their road test. None of the participants had driven a bus before or had yet obtained a Commercial Driver's License (CDL).

Among those who participated in the new five-day program was Linda Wilke, who found herself needing to compensate for a bit of a lead foot. “It’s not like driving a car at all,” Wilke said. “The brakes and the gas pedal on a bus are far more responsive.”

Patricia Morgan was surprised to find the turn signals by her feet, and to learn that moving from forward to reverse meant pushing a button. “Now when I get into my car I start looking for the right buttons to push on my dashboard to put it in drive,” she said.

Another big takeaway, participants said, is how strongly safety is emphasized.

“Drivers out on the road take lots of tight, fast turns,” Steve Gartner said. “With a bus, that back wheel is a lot farther back so you learn to take a wider turn, which is much safer.”


Instructor Johnson talks through an alley back-in with trainee Young. This is one of the more difficult maneuvers in the CDL test.

Providing more hands-on experience is part of a larger effort to make the path to becoming a bus operator at little less daunting.

Job seekers can get help completing their applications and studying for their Commercial Driver’s License Permit, a prerequisite to getting a CDL. New hires are also being matched with experienced operators through a mentorship program.

Erica Young is among those benefiting from the extra support.

Young tried to get her CDL on her own but came up short. But after taking a CDL study course provided by Metro Transit, she earned her CDL permit and found herself among those taking the wheel of a bus for the first time last week.

While there’s a long road ahead, her confidence showed as she put the bus into reverse, correcting course to avoid hitting a cone. Backing up is one of the more difficult maneuvers in the CDL test.

“You did well,” Johnson, the instructor, told Young. “You were able to see and adjust.”


Johnson debriefs Young with a thumbs-up after the alley back-in.

We're Hiring!

Attend an upcoming application event to learn more about becoming a bus operator with Metro Transit. Learn more at metrotransit.org/drive

Light Rail

Light Rail art celebrates Earth Day, partnership 

Posted by John Komarek | Friday, April 19, 2019 12:51:00 PM

A light rail vehicle carrying METRO Green Line customers to their destinations now doubles as a work of art.

The outside of the vehicle shows a caterpillar becoming a monarch butterfly. Inside, the walls are covered with illustrated scenes of moose, mice and other furry creatures exploring local landmarks like the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in every season.

The unique display is the culmination of a partnership between students at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul-based artist Sarah Nelson and Metro Transit. 

Last fall, students in a Leadership for Social Justice course conducted a series of interviews about the connections between transit, sustainable communities and social justice.

The interviews provide the foundation of a recently published book, Transit Transformations. Nelson’s hand-drawn illustrations of a monarch butterfly adorn the cover of that book and were adapted for the exterior of the light rail vehicle.

The monarch was chosen for the book cover because transformation was a common theme in the interviews.  

The illustrations inside the light rail vehicle were purely Nelson’s vision.

“You might think of it as (children’s book author and illustrator) Richard Scarry meets Where’s Waldo, but with my own spin,” Nelson said as she saw the finished product for the first time. “I hope that this artwork engages people of all ages and captures fun.”

Transferring Nelson’s designs to such an unusual canvas took hundreds of hours and careful planning. Advertisements are regularly applied to the outside of light rail vehicles, but they rarely take over the inside the way Nelson’s illustrations do. 

The unusual display was made possible by an arts program connected to St. Thomas’ Sustainable Communities Partnership. Through the partnership, students work with community partners on projects that support human and environmental well-being.

The project was also supported by the SOLV Initiative, a St. Thomas’ College of Arts and Science program that, in part, seeks to support the public interest through arts and the humanities.

The artwork will remain in place through at least the end of May. But Professor Mike Klein, who led the students whose interviews provide the foundation for the book and light rail artwork, said he hopes it leaves an impression that lasts well beyond its lifetime.

“We hope this artwork will capture the rider’s imagination,” he said. “And to help us imagine a world we want to see.”

Earth Day Light Rail Wrap

Switch to LEDs lowers costs, brightens environment 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, April 18, 2019 1:55:00 PM

As a technician, supervisor and manager, Steve Engnell has spent more than 20 years working in garages characterized by cement walls and sparse natural light.

So when crews recently exchanged the yellowish fluorescent bulbs inside Nicollet Garage with LED fixtures, he was among many who welcomed the change.

“It really fills the room with what feels like sunlight,” said Engnell, Nicollet’s maintenance manager. “It looks like a totally brand new garage.”

Others will notice a similar transformation as an ambitious effort to install around 10,000 new LED lights throughout each garage and four other support facilities unfolds over the coming year. Lighting is being replaced not just in maintenance areas but in all parts of the buildings, including offices, conference rooms, locker rooms and even closets.

LEDs will also be installed at several METRO Blue Line stations in 2020, continuing work that began in 2018. 

Creating a more welcoming environment is just one of many benefits that will come from the sweeping conversion to LEDs.

LED lights are expected to last at least a decade, meaning facilities staff will be able to avoid time-consuming and disruptive lighting replacements. Fluorescent lights are changed out as often as every six months.

LEDs are also expected to use about a third less energy, lowering utility costs. Between those savings and rebates from Xcel Energy, the $2 million investment in new lighting is expected to be recovered within three to four years.

“Not having to maintain or change our bulbs for 10 to 15 years allows facilities to take care of higher priorities, and that efficiency is all part of a measured payback,” said Mark Lanthier, a principal contract administrator who is overseeing the work.

During a recent visit to East Metro, Lanthier and employees from Apadana, the Minneapolis-based company replacing the lights, pointed other less obvious benefits.

Fluorescent lights have mercury that, if broken, can be a hazard. LED lights can also be dimmed or brightened to meet the needs of particular areas within a space. As part of the lighting replacement project, dimmer and motion sensor technology is being added or updated in some bust storage and office spaces. 

Some lighting is also being moved to better meet the needs of the users and the work performed in a space. At Nicollet, fixtures moved parallel to the bus lifts, where techinicans need more light. 

Ameer Kian, Apadana’s director of procurement, said LEDs are becoming more common among retailers like Walgreens, Target and Best Buy. The company is also replacing lights at the Central Library in downtown Minneapolis.

“LED technology has really matured,” Kian said. “There was some uncertainty at first but now that we have 15 to 20 years of experience there’s confidence.”

Metro Transit installed some of its first exterior LED lights at the Northstar and Blue Line operation and maintenance facilities several years ago. In 2018, they were installed at seven of the METRO Blue Line’s stations.

Associate Engineer Claire Warren, who is managing the LED replacement project, said there are plans to replace nearly all of Metro Transit’s interior and exterior lighting with LEDs in the coming years.

“We’re excited to move forward with these large-scale lighting replacement projects and join other large transit agencies by making intentional capital investments in premium LED technology," Warren said. 

Where and when LED replacements will occur

LED lighting was installed at several Northstar and Blue Line stations, outside several service garages and the Overhaul Base in 2018. Future installations will occur at Metro Transit support and customers facilities in the coming years. 

2019: Nicollet, East Metro, South, Ruter and Heywood garages, Rail Support Facility, Blue Line Operations & Maintenance Facility, Transfer Road, Northstar Operations & Maintenance Facility

2020: Exterior lighting at Metro Transit Campus facilities (Heywood Office, Transit Control Center, Instruction Center), Blue Line stations between downtown Minneapolis and Bloomington

2021-22: Interior lighting at Metro Transit Campus facilities and the Green Line Operations & Maintenance Facility, Green Line station walkways

Top: Ameer Kian, left, and Shayan Beizaee, center, from the Minneapolis-based lighting company Apadana, with Metro Transit Principal Contract Administrator Mark Lanthier, right, during a recent visit to East Metro Garage. Kian and Lanthier are holding LED lighting fixtures, which are replacing the florescent lighting held in the middle by Beizaee.

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Minneapolis Ridership

Final Four leads to record light rail ridership 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, April 18, 2019 11:46:00 AM

Metro Transit brought tens of thousands of fans to U.S. Bank Stadium for the 2019 NCAA Men's Final Four in Minneapolis.The METRO Blue and Green lines each set single-day ridership records on Monday, April 8, when the NCAA Men’s Final Four championship game was held at U.S. Bank Stadium.

There were 62,686 rides provided on the Blue Line and 68,210 rides on the Green Line that day. The combined total of 130,896 light rail rides topped the previous single-day light rail ridership record set on Sept. 11, 2017.

April 8 was the busiest day on the Green Line since Oct. 3, 2016, when the Vikings played a Monday night game at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Blue Line’s previous single-day ridership record was set on Aug. 24, 2018.

Altogether, Metro Transit provided nearly 160,000 more light rail rides between Friday, April 5, and Tuesday, April 9, when Final Four activities were being held across downtown Minneapolis. Total rides on those dates are being compared to the same days the prior week.

Metro Transit also played a key role on Saturday, April 13, when Minnesota United hosted its inaugural match at Allianz Field. An estimated 5,500 fans took the Green Line and A Line to the stadium, at the corner of University and Snelling avenues.

Fans can take light rail to every major stadium in the Twin Cities, including CHS Field, TCF Bank Stadium and Target Field.

“As Minnesota sports fans and visitors can attest, transit is the most convenient, affordable and enjoyable way to get to and from large events,” General Manger Wes Kooistra said. “We are happy to support our community in this way and look forward to having an even greater ability to do so as our network grows in the years ahead.”

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