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Community METRO Green Line On the METRO

Model Cities creates a new model near Victoria Street Station 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, June 07, 2018 12:22:00 PM

Desean Isaac was among the first to move in when Model Cities opened the doors to its new mixed-use building in late 2017.

One of the main appeals: The Green Line’s Victoria Street Station is just steps from the building’s door, allowing Isaac to get to church, medical appointments and the grocery store without needing to own a vehicle.

“Wherever I need to go, most likely I end up catching the train,” said Isaac, whose apartment window overlooks University Avenue.

Providing the kind of convenient access that Isaac and other building residents enjoy is among several reasons the St. Paul-based non-profit sought to reinvest in the property it’s long inhabited.

Organization leaders also saw an opportunity to create a place where it could not only carry out its mission but put it into practice. Model Cities has served St. Paul for the past 50 years and has focused in recent years on helping residents access safe and affordable housing, among other services.

“With the addition of light rail, we knew more people would be coming through and that we needed to give them a reason to get off,” said Kizzy Downie, who has worked at Model Cities for the past 12 years and will become its CEO later this summer. “This is that reason.”

Today, what’s known as the BROWNstone building includes 35 apartments, commercial space and offices for Model Cities’ 21 employees. 

Model Cities was able to tear down and rebuild on the property with support from several organizations, including the Metropolitan Council. The support has also helped the organization lower rental costs for residents and business owners.

With vintage barber chairs, couches and flat screen TVs, Privilege Barber Lounge was the first business to move into the new building.

Pausing between haircuts, owner Brandon Cole said he jumped on the opportunity to set up shop in the neighborhood he grew up in, and to enjoy the exposure that would come from being on University Avenue.

“So far, it’s been working out really well,” he said. “People are seeing the business and I’m getting new and diverse clientele.”

A new deli will soon move into the building, bringing life to a small courtyard that was also incorporated into the development. Model Cities hopes to attract a restaurateur and a few other businesses in the future.

While the building addresses the organization and the community’s future needs, it also pays homage to its past.

A space on the first floor, The Reading Room at BROWNstone, was created to showcase and celebrate the history of Pullman porters and other African American railroad workers who lived in the neighborhood. Porters fought for labor and civil rights, and the room’s effects draw a connection between that struggle and the present day.

“Their descendants are here but there really wasn’t really an obvious connection to that history,” Downie said.

In the future, Model Cities hopes to use the space for programs and to invite quiet reflection.

The organization also hopes the stake it’s planted the community will lead others to join in the revitalization effort. Nearby, plans to restore the historic Victoria Theater and turn it into a community arts center are moving forward.

“As an organization that’s been in this neighborhood for over 50 years, we really felt it was our duty to use this opportunity and make an investment that was beneficial long term,” Downie said. “I think we’ve done that.”

Visit BROWNstone's Reading Room on June 14

Model Cities is hosting artists Foster Willey and Guy Willey, who contributed artwork for the Green Line's Victoria Street Station, on Thursday, June 14, in The Reading Room. The event will feature the sculpted portraits of Rondo residents that were created for the Victoria Street Station. The event runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with an artist presentation at 6 p.m. The Reading Room is in the first floor of Model Cities' BROWNstone building, 839 University Ave.

Community

Piano puts emotion, diversity of transit passengers on display 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, June 04, 2018 3:03:00 PM

Alexandra Norwick with her "Voices on Transit" piano. Alexandra Norwick doesn’t spend her time on transit idly.

While riding buses and trains over the past several years, she’s created more than 100 sketches of her fellow passengers – a resting woman with her head tilted back, a man with shaggy eyebrows and a long stare, a tense and nearly tearful man typing deliberately on his phone.

“You see all these glances of emotion when people are on transit,” she said.

Fifteen of those faces, and the emotions that come with them, have now made it from Norwick’s small, cloth-covered sketchbook onto an unlikely new medium: an upright piano.   

The piano is part of “Pianos on Parade, an initiative that brings 25 decorated pianos to downtown Minneapolis sidewalks each June. The project is produced by the mpls downtown council, Mpls Downtown Improvement District and The Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association, in partnership with Keys 4/4 Kids.

The pianos are available for the public to play and will be used for scheduled performances at noon each Tuesday.

Norwick’s piano, titled “Voices on Transit,” is located at the corner of Hennepin Avenue and Third Street, across from the Minneapolis Central Library.

In addition to 15 hand-drawn faces, the piano also includes familiar transit messages. Like the back door of a bus, the keyboard cover presents this invitation to anyone who sits down: “Touch here to open.”

Speaking beside the piano, Norwick said she saw Pianos on Parade as a unique opportunity to showcase the diversity she encounters while riding transit – something that can easily be missed while looking at a phone or otherwise distracted.

“It was a way to give people an opportunity to look at each other and to see how diverse they really are,” she said.

The piano is also a reflection of the way Norwick moves through each day. A native of Ukraine, she has lived in the Twin Cities for the past four years and still has a strong sense of being a visitor in an unfamiliar place.

Taking just a few minutes to notice and draw the people around her, she said, is a “good way for me to explore and connect with the local community.”

Learn more

Pianos on Parade 

See more of Norwick's sketches on Instagram

How to propose having public art on transit property

Awards Bus Safety

Bus operator training efforts receive national recognition 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, May 11, 2018 9:57:00 AM

Metro Transit’s efforts to improve safety through repeated and enhanced operator training have earned national accolades.

The American Public Transportation Association awarded Metro Transit with a Certificate of Merit at its Bus Safety & Security Awards this week. The awards recognize programs or projects that lead to documented success.

The Certificate of Merit acknowledges a range of training efforts led by the Safety Department, including:

  • > The use of on-board video footage to provoke conversation about avoidable safety incidents among new operators and operators going from part- to full-time. 
  • > Safety conferences with operators for all responsible and non-responsible collisions.
  • > Regularly-scheduled Safety Keys courses, coupled with customized training focused on winter driving, pedestrian and bicycle safety and distracted driving.

“The innovation is not that there is training, but rather that the training takes many forms, and is repeated, data driven, measured and season-specific,” Director of Safety Mike Conlon said.

There were 2.88 collisions for every 100,000 bus passenger miles in 2017, a historic low. The rate is especially notable since nearly half of bus operators have been at Metro Transit less than five years.  

In 2017, Metro Transit earned a Gold Award in APTA’s Rail Safety & Security Awards for outreach efforts related to light rail safety. 

Learn more about other recognition for Metro Transit and its employees

Bus Bus Rapid Transit E Line Minneapolis

Bus-only lanes to be piloted on Hennepin Avenue 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, May 10, 2018 2:33:00 PM

A southbound Route 6 bus rolled past traffic during the morning rush hour on Wednesday, May 16. Bus-only lanes were created on sections of southbound and northbound Hennepin Avenue for three days to test their impact on travel times, reliability and traffic. Bus customers who travel on Hennepin Avenue know traffic moves slowly when the street is full of vehicles. In fact, during rush hour, buses travel an average of just six miles per hour.

Exploring ways to provide faster, more reliable service, Metro Transit and the City of Minneapolis will test bus-only lanes on a portion of the corridor between Tuesday, May 15, and Thursday, May 17. Data and public input will be collected during the pilot to evaluate impacts and determine next steps.

What’s happening? 

A northbound bus-only travel lane will be created by restricting street parking on the east side of Hennepin Avenue between 26th Street and Franklin Avenue each morning from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. A southbound bus-only travel lane will be created by restricting parking on the west side of Hennepin Avenue between 26th Street and the Uptown Transit Center each evening from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 

Parking meters will be marked in advance of the parking restrictions and vehicles that have not been moved will be towed. The bus-only travel lanes will be marked with traffic delineators that will be removed during off-peak hours.

All Hennepin Avenue bus routes will use the bus-only lanes. Customers who board at stops adjacent to the bus-only lanes will see no changes at their boarding locations.

Why is this pilot being undertaken?

The bus-only lane pilot will help answer three key questions:

 > What are the changes in travel time and reliability?

 > What is the reaction from riders, neighborhood residents, businesses and other property owners?

 > Are there other improvement strategies that would complement the bus-only lanes?

What are the expected advantages?

Bus-only travel lanes are used in many large cities to help buses move more efficiently through busy urban corridors. In the Twin Cities, designated bus-only shoulders allow buses to bypass traffic on more than 200 highway miles. The Marq2 corridor also uses bus-only lanes to provide bus riders safe and efficient access in and out of downtown Minneapolis.

Faster, more reliable bus service makes transit a more appealing alternative to driving alone. The Hennepin Avenue bus-only lanes are expected to improve consistency and save a few minutes of travel time in either direction. The benefits would be even more pronounced when snow or other unforeseen incidents create heavier traffic than usual.

Why Hennepin Avenue?

With 400 daily bus trips, Hennepin Avenue is one of the region’s busiest transit corridors. More than 3,300 people board buses between Lake Street and Franklin Avenue each weekday. During peak periods, nearly half of the people traveling on Hennepin Avenue are on a bus.

Metro Transit is also planning for future rapid bus improvements on Hennepin Avenue. Planning for the E Line will begin with a corridor study in 2018. Like the A Line on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, the E Line will provide faster service, enhanced stations and larger vehicles.Bus only lanes could also be incorporated into the project. 

Pending full project funding, the E Line could be under construction as soon as 2022, in coordination with other street construction projects in the corridor. The E Line is on track to becoming the region's fifth rapid bus line. 

Share your feedback

Awards Bicycle Bus Metropass Minneapolis

Commuter Choice Awards recognize promoters of sustainable transportation 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, May 02, 2018 1:40:00 PM

When Thrivent Financial began considering building a new corporate center in downtown Minneapolis, the company had to find ways of helping employees who relied on parking lots that would be lost during construction.

Part of their answer: Promote transit.

Over the past year, the company has invited employees to six commuter education events, including bus and light rail demonstrations. Thrivent also further offset the cost of using transit by increasing its Metropass subsidy, leading to a 40 percent increase in program participation.

The efforts were undertaken in partnership with the Minneapolis-based Transportation Management Organization Move Minneapolis and with financial support from Hennepin County’s Green Partners program.

“The Thrivent workforce lives throughout the Twin Cities area, and around 50 percent of them use some sort of transit or alternative commuting method,” said John Bachhuber, vice president of HR Services at Thrivent. “We’re pleased we’ve been able to help even more of our employees learn about ways they can get to work safely, cost-effectively and efficiently using available transit resources.”

For their efforts, Thrivent was recognized as the Employer of the Year at the annual Commuter Choice Awards on Thursday, April 26. The awards recognize companies, building owners, individuals and organizations that support sustainable transportation in the Twin Cities.

Metro Transit works with area Transportation Management Organizations (TMOs) to organize and host the awards. Other Commuter Choice Award winners include:

Building Owner/Management Company: Opus Group

Opus Group’s Nic on Fifth is the definition of transit-oriented development: its lobby level is fully-integrated into the Nicollet Mall Station, one of the busiest boarding locations in the Twin Cities. In addition to the Green and Blue lines, the building is served by nearly 100 bus routes. The high-rise apartment building, which opened in 2014, also offers secure tenant bicycle parking and a tenant ride-sharing program. 

Commuter Benefits Coordinators: Tim Bruzek and Ericka Palmer, Sleep Number

Tim Bruzek and Ericka Palmer helped nearly 1,000 Sleep Number employees understand their commute options when the company relocated from a corporate campus in Plymouth to downtown Minneapolis. During its move, Sleep Number joined the Metropass program and began offering carpool parking to employees.

Government Entity: City of Saint Paul

City staff worked with Saint Paul Smart Trips-Transit for Livable Communities to make transit and biking more prominent features of the city’s transportation webpages. The city’s website also now provides real-time parking information during large events, allowing people to make more-informed, real-time decisions about their travel choices.

Commuter Champion: Sean Hayford Oleary

Sean Hayford Oleary has led the charge for better bicycle facilities in Richfield for several years. He was the founding member of Richfield Bike Advocates and has served as a commissioner on the city’s transportation commission. As commissioner, he helped advance plans for 2.5 miles of protected bike lanes on 66th Street – the longest stretch of such bike lanes in Hennepin County. 

Honorable mention: Anne Schultz, Richfield Chamber of Commerce President

Organization: Native American Community Clinic

The Native American Community Clinic has been an active promoter of the Transit Assistance Program, which provides qualifying low-income residents reduced-cost fares. More than 70 members of the Native American community have enrolled in the program with help from clinic staff. 

Honorable mention: Ravoux Hi-Rise Resident Council, University of Saint Thomas Sustainable Communities Partnership

Learn how Metro Transit and area TMOs can help promote transit and other alternatives to driving alone 

Commuter Choice Awards 2018

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