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Bus In the News Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line

Rail lines set records as Metro Transit ridership tops 81.9 million in 2017 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, January 25, 2018 3:00:00 PM

A record number of light rail and commuter rail rides were taken in 2017 as Metro Transit’s annual ridership topped 81.9 million. 

Metro Transit has provided more than 80 million rides in each of the past seven years, sustaining the highest ridership the agency has seen in three decades. Average weekday ridership in 2017 was 264,347. 

“Last year’s strong ridership underscores just how many people across the region are relying on us to get them safely to and from work, school and many other destinations,” Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said. “On behalf of everyone at Metro Transit, I’d like to thank all those who are placing their confidence in us and making transit a part of their lives.”

The 2017 ridership total includes a record 13.1 million rides on the METRO Green Line, which has seen ridership grow every year since its 2014 opening and had its highest single-day ridership ever on Aug. 31, 2017. Nearly 10.7 million rides were taken on the Blue Line, breaking the previous record set in 2015. 

Ridership on the Green Line increased about 3.5 percent compared to 2016, while Blue Line ridership increased nearly 4 percent. 

Nearly 794,000 rides were provided on the Northstar Commuter Rail Line, a nearly 12 percent increase over 2016. Last year’s Northstar ridership broke a record set in 2013. 

Metropolitan Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff announced the ridership records in her State of the Region address on Thursday

“Congratulations and thank you to all our Metro Transit employees who play a role in providing a service that people across this region use in record numbers. This is yet another reminder that we do truly have one of the best transit systems in the nation,” said Chair Tchourumoff.

“2017 was a trifecta for our rail lines in the metro,” Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said. “With gas prices hovering at $2.50 per gallon, all three of our rail lines – Green, Blue, and Northstar – set ridership records. These three rail lines now constitute 31 percent of all rides on Metro Transit. This is another piece of strong evidence that rail investment is good for the Twin Cities.”

Systemwide, ridership remained essentially flat compared to 2016. 

Metro Transit provided more than 57.3 million bus rides in 2017, including more than 1.5 million rides on the A Line. Average weekday ridership in the A Line corridor has increased by about one-third since the rapid bus line opened. 

“The A Line is a prime example of the investments this region needs,” said B Kyle, president & CEO of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. “Bus rapid transit is an integral part of the system, which we know the vast majority of people are using to get to work or school. Every day I hear from our business members how critical transit investments are to their ability to attract and retain talent.”

“Our region needs to keep the momentum we’re seeing with these ridership records,” said Jonathan Weinhagen, president & CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Continuing to maintain and improve our regional system will pay huge dividends for everyone, not just the business community. We’ve reached a tipping point where maintaining the status quo means we’re falling behind our peer regions. It’s time to double down on transit investment.”

Total bus ridership declined about two percent. The decline mirrors a national trend attributed in part to low gas prices. Ridership losses were greatest during off-peak hours and on routes that were detoured off Nicollet Mall during construction. 

  2017 Ridership 2017 Average Weekday Ridership

Bus

55,751,961

184,736

Green Line

13,142,163

40,554

Blue Line

10,668,832

31,510

A Line

1,570,670

4,727

Northstar

793,796

2,819

Total

81,927,422

264,347

 

Learn more about Metro Transit's 2017 accomplishments

Bus Rapid Transit Rider Information Transit Planning

Doing data science at Metro Transit  

| Thursday, January 25, 2018 11:00:00 AM

Rebecca Freese has worked as a data science intern for Metro Transit’s Strategic Initiatives Department since June 2016. She’s currently a graduate student at the University of Minnesota studying biostatistics. Freese wrote this post for the Rider's Almanac to share her experience with the important Strategic Initiatives projects she’s been working on and to entice others to apply to the Metro Transit internship program.

Growing up in a small town, public transportation wasn’t an option for me until I moved to Minneapolis to study mathematics in college. Without a car, I soon started to rely on buses and trains to get where I needed to be each day. With graduation approaching, I happened across an internship with Strategic Initiatives at Metro Transit, and the rest is history. Here’s a little more about the department and the projects I’ve worked on.

What is Strategic Initiatives?

Strategic Initiatives’ mission is to “improve the efficiency of transit operations and the customer experience with rigorous data analysis, research, and collaboration.” What that boils down to is we develop models, data visualization techniques, and provide analysis to help the agency make data-driven decisions.

Examples of this include forecasting ridership for a certain route for the next few months, investigating the effects of route and fare changes, and analyzing customer and employee surveys. We mainly use the statistical computing language software R, but occasionally branch into other languages, depending on project need. We’re a small group with a wide range of backgrounds, but we all have a common passion for our work.

What does a data science intern do?

During my time at Metro Transit, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects. I’ve built an interactive mapping tool using R Shiny to visualize where bus accidents have occurred. Transit safety specialists can use this tool to determine if more training is needed on a particular stretch of road and to alert bus operators (drivers) about trickier locations.

I’ve also analyzed survey data that asks Metro Transit customers what features are important to have at a bus stop, and where the agency should prioritize placing shelters. The plot below shows the how important participants felt each of the features were to have at a bus stop. The dark and light green colors represent the proportion of people who felt a particular feature was essential or very important, whereas the purple and red indicate the proportion of people who thought that feature was just nice to have or not important. We can see that the benches, posted schedules, safe street crossings, and shelters had the highest proportion of people indicating they were essential or very important. Lights inside the shelter and wide sidewalks were marked as not important most frequently.

Similar questions were asked about where people preferred to have bus shelters, and highly ranked locations included where many people wait for the bus and near hospitals, social service centers, and senior housing. This information was then used as the basis for updating guidelines for where Metro Transit places bus shelters and what features to include in them.

Bikes on the A Line (Rapid bus service)

A fun project I worked on during the summer of 2017 was visualizing when and where A Line customers tend to use the bike racks mounted on the front of the bus. Magnetic counters were installed on all A Line buses, so that when someone takes their bike on or off the bus, the time and location of the event is recorded. This data helps us better understand our multimodal customers, particularly, where they prefer to ride their bike and where they prefer to ride the bus. Maybe we should consider installing more secure bike lockers and tire pumps at stops where many bikers get on or off the bus? As more data are collected, we hope to be able to tell waiting customers if there’s an open spot for their bike on the next bus approaching.

Below is an interactive plot showing the stations along the A Line where customers used the bike racks on the bus, between April 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. Locations where someone puts their bike on the bus are at the top of the plot, and where they get off is on the bottom. The thicker the ribbon between two locations, the more people have taken that trip. Hover above “origins” or “destinations” to get the option to sort the stations alphabetically or by how many people use the bike racks. You can also click and drag the name of a station to a new location for custom sorting. Additionally, hovering above a colored ribbon gives the percentage of people who ride the bus with their bike on each of the segments.

We can see that for southbound customers, people have ridden the A Line with their bike 570 times between Rosedale Transit Center and Snelling and University, which is 8% of the total trips. The majority of customers who put their bike on the bus at Snelling and University, heading south, ride to the 46th St Station.

Play around with sorting the stations by origin or destination and see what inferences you can make.

A Line plot for bike rack usage

I like this plot for a few reasons. One, because it’s kind of pretty (although the director of our department wishes he could run a hairbrush through it to untangle it), and two, it shows a lot of information quickly.

I will admit, it’s got a lot going on, but once you find an interesting pattern, you can dig deeper with other plots or models to investigate further. For example, why are the above-mentioned trips so popular? We could look into bike lanes in the area to see if that stretch of road is biker-friendly. It’s very likely that the areas where bikers prefer to ride the bus are along roads with heavy traffic or without marked bike lanes. Snelling and University is probably a popular station because of its proximity to the Green Line.

Would you like to be a data science intern for Metro Transit?

If you’ve made it this far, I have good news! My internship is coming to an end this spring, so we are in search of a data science enthusiast to take my place. This is not the kind of internship where you’re stuck going on coffee runs for the office or doing other mindless busywork. This is a hands-on environment to hone your skills while working with a supportive and dedicated team.

If any of what I mentioned above appeals to you, check out the positions available in Strategic Initiatives:

Performance Analyst

Data Scientist 

Students interested in interning at Metro Transit are invited to submit applications through Sunday, Feb. 4. Applicants must be enrolled in a post-secondary education program or have graduated within the past year. Interns work full-time, from late May through the end of the summer. Some interns may also stay on in part-time roles through the school year. All interns are paid $18.50 an hour.

Internship positions are available in Strategic Initiateives, Marketing, Engineering & Facilities, Finance, Service Development and Rail Operations. There are also positions in the Green Line Extension and Blue Line Extension project offices and the other Council divisions.

Review openings and learn more at the Metropolitan Council's internships page.

Bus Community METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line

Big snow met with persistence, praise 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, January 23, 2018 12:56:00 PM

The Twin Cities was hit with its biggest winter storm in seven years on Monday, bringing a foot or more of snow to several parts of the metro.

Snow-covered roads and traffic delays caused widespread bus delays, with many operators pulling in hours after their shifts were scheduled to come to an end. Street Supervisors and Mechanic Technicians spent a large part of the evening responding to buses that had become stuck in the snow. Public Facilities Workers and Facilities Technicians were also out throughout the night and following day clearing snow from boarding locations (How does Metro Transit prioritize snow removal? Good Question!

The demand for service updates during the storm was overwhelming: Transit Information Center representatives handled more than 3,400 calls on Monday, 25 percent higher than the average weekday call volume. The number of customers using the “Show My Bus” feature, the online tool that shows where buses are at in real time, also saw a huge increase in usage.

Despite the difficulties, many customers expressed their appreciation.

Operator Thomas Logan received two commendations from customers who were impressed with the way he handled his stuck bus, 146A: 

"Everyone transferred onto Thomas' bus, but it too became stuck in the exact same spot. Infinitely patient Thomas persevered, however, rocking our bus to and fro, to and fro, for a good 15 minutes until he finally got it moving. We all clapped and cheered him on! He made the turn onto 50th St., but it wasn't long before he ran into more stranded buses with more spinning wheels, as well as cars blocking the road in every haphazard way imaginable -- in other words, countless obstacles to our continued progress. Thomas persevered patiently, diligently and carefully until we finally crossed Highway 100 into Edina. Thomas not only exemplifies "Minnesota Nice," but he's a driver of superb skill with a genuinely humane nature, and he does Metro Transit proud. He deserves your highest commendation for his outstanding level of service last night."

"You need many more drivers to be like Thomas. He was just great in the face of very poor weather and driving conditions. Wonderful job!"

A sampling of other comments is below. Did you witness great service? Submit a commendation online or by phone.

Learn more about how to stay informed when winter weather strikes at metrotransit.org/snow

 

 

A post shared by Kunal Garde (@kunal_garde) on

 

A post shared by Enoch Kan (@kandidshotz) on

Bicycle Bus How We Roll

How we Roll: Jared Fette 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, December 20, 2017 9:12:00 AM

Jared Fette, Transit Information Center Representative, with his bike at the Heywood Office building in Minneapolis.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 are a chance to illustrate how much we have in common with our customers when it comes to how we get around. See you out there!

Jared Fette, Transit Information Center Representative

How do you get to work? 

I bike daily year-round from the Audubon Park neighborhood in northeast Minneapolis to Heywood. It’s about four miles each way. I take various bike routes on side streets and the Plymouth Avenue Bridge, which has awesome, wide bike lanes. The city of Minneapolis does a great job during the winter of plowing the Plymouth Avenue bike lanes. I love it because I don’t have to bike through downtown anymore to get to work. I usually take turns riding my regular road bike or my cargo bike, depending on if I need to pick up groceries on the way home. 

Why do you choose to bike to work? 

It helps me to stay healthy and happy. In college, I didn’t bike as much and thought about getting a high-mileage car. And then one day I realized that I’m already getting the best mileage and it’s so much cheaper! The sustainability part of cycling is a bonus. 

How do you use sustainable modes in your personal life? 

I like to take my dog to the dog park on my bike trailer, although she’s still getting used to it. I play drums at different venues around Minneapolis (and sometimes St. Paul), so I try to haul my drums on my cargo bike or bike trailer when possible. It’s really nice to be able to park right in front of the venue and not have to carry my drums from a block away. Lately, I’ve been getting into “bike packing” in the summer, which is biking long or short distances with camping gear and staying at campgrounds. 

For longer trips around town I usually take my bike on the train or bus. I like routes that take me across barriers, such as freeways or railroad yards. For example, Route 30 from the Quarry to Westgate Station, the A Line on Snelling, the Green Line to St. Paul, the Blue Line to Bloomington, and routes 4 or 10 to Uptown or downtown Minneapolis.

Self care: Take the bus! 

| Wednesday, December 13, 2017 9:06:00 AM

Kayla Fahey-Ahrndt, a Blood Bank Supervisor at the University of Minnesota, has been taking public transportation off and on for the past nine years for school, work and fun. As a student at the U of M from 2008 through 2012, she mostly took routes 16, 3 and 2, before the Green Line opened. Now, as a professional, she has recently started commuting from Maple Grove on the 781 Express Route, and then transfers to the Green Line to get to work. 

She's come to notice that commuting via Metro Transit has led to some major benefits, including improved mental health and reducing her ecological footprint. We're excited to feature Kayla as a guest blogger on Rider's Almanac. The blog has been edited for content and space.

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Self care: Take the bus!

By guest blogger Kayla Fahey-Ahrndt

Some of you have probably read or heard about self care. The idea is that we need to be the best version of ourselves to do well at work, to take care of our families, to think clearly, etc. I am a firm believer in taking time for yourself, but it’s not always been easy for me.  I recently found an unconventional way of taking care of myself that I wanted to share with you – taking public transportation to work. Yup, I am in love with Metro Transit!

Some of you know I’m in a Master’s of Public Health program through George Washington University. I recently took an Environmental Health Class, and the topic of public transportation came up. We were required to calculate our ecological foot print – includes our carbon footprint and more. The Global Footprint Network describes the ecological footprint this way, “It shows how carbon emissions compare and interact with other human demands on our planet, such as food, fibers, timber, and land for dwellings and roads.” I highly recommend taking the ecological footprint calculator. It only takes a few minutes.

I will say I was SHOCKED at my ecological footprint, but then when I started to think about it, I realized my footprint has gotten bigger over the last few years. I used to take the bus to school and work about three years ago, and I rented a small apartment in a neighborhood where I could walk to the store and to eat, etc. This year, my husband and I just bought a large home on the outside edge of the greater Minneapolis metro. Transportation really affects my footprint. My commute is only 18 miles, but I’m driving my car at least a half hour on the way to work and sometimes up to an hour on the way home from work each day. I really need to think about taking the commuter bus!

I realized that not only was my drive contributing to my ecological footprint, but it really is a part of my day I dread. I also can’t stand the stress of trying to get somewhere quickly or having to park or paying for so much gas all the time. The drive simply stresses me out!

I had seen transit buses in our town before, so I decided I was going to look up the bus services in my area and see if I could realistically use Metro Transit to get to work and to work on time!

Lo and behold, the bus comes about one block from my house, I take it to downtown Minneapolis, and then I take the light rail two or three stops and it drops me off a block from the hospital where I work. It’s amazing! 

So far I’ve taken public transit on and off for about a week and a half. Below is a list of all the benefits I’ve noticed from not driving myself to work.

  1. Improved mental health: No more stressing with road rage, the pain of parking, or the anxiety of driving in bad weather 
  2. Smoother morning: No more last minute gas light issues or warming up the vehicle.
  3. Time for reading or listening to podcasts: I am finally reading for pleasure again.
  4. Time for writing: Hence ceruleanonline.com; my blogging time has been given back!
  5. Time to prep for work, catch up on email or other tasks.
  6. Time for meditation: It’s a good time to unwind.
  7. Idea brainstorming: The ride and walk to the Metro clears the mind, making space for awesome idea generation.
  8. Feelings of being part of something bigger than you! Global, responsible citizen! You’re there for your fellow bus mate!  Your lives touch other lives every day.

Overall, my commute takes about 50 minutes to and from work. It’s slightly longer than driving sometimes, but by the time I park or sit in traffic, the time is similar. For me, the benefits are totally worth it!

If you’re sick of hearing the same self care tricks like get a massage, etc (even though massages are amazing!), try this trick and take the bus or train instead if there’s one near you. You may even think about driving to a Park and Ride and taking the bus or train the rest of the way.

Follow Kayla's blog posts at ceruleanonline.com

Want to be featured as a guest blogger on Rider's Almanac? Contact us at ridersalmanac@metrotransit.org

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