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Transit Information

Looking for your bus or train? "Show my bus" now in NexTrip! 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, February 06, 2017 8:43:00 AM

Customers can track the physical location of their bus using Metro Transit's Map It!  tool.Customers can track approaching buses or trains in real time using a feature called Show My Bus. The feature can be accessed through Metro Transit's app or website. Links are found on route schedule pages and through NexTrip. In the app, select Trip Tools, then Routes & Schedules, select your route, choose any additional filters you wish to apply, then choose Show My Bus.

Show My Bus shows the location of at least one approaching bus or train, as well as the route number and direction of travel. Locations automatically refresh as vehicles move. 

Show My Bus was introduced in 2017 as part of an ongoing effort to improve Metro Transit’s NexTrip system, which provides predicted departure times.

“We wanted to provide transit information in the way that customers want to see it, and this is one of those ways,” said Ben Rajkowski, Assistant Manager-Transit Information.

Accessibility METRO Orange Line

Expanding access and accessibility on the Orange Line 

| Monday, January 30, 2017 10:39:00 AM

Associate Planner Natalie Westberg directs Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee Sam Jasmine to station features on a layout printed in braille during a recent station design workshop.On Marq2, hundreds of buses pull quickly in and out of stops during the afternoon rush hour. At Interstate 35W and Lake Street, customers ascend a steep set of stairs to wait in what is essentially the freeway shoulder. And at the I-35W & 46th Street Station, buses pull in and out of what seems to be the wrong side of the street as passing trucks and cars overwhelm the senses.

These are just some of the challenges faced by express and local bus customers traveling on the Interstate 35W corridor south of downtown Minneapolis. And they are all the more daunting for members of the disability community.

Planners and engineers working on the METRO Orange Line are attempting to address these and other potential barriers to using transit, though, as designs for the new Bus Rapid Transit line continue to take shape.

A key step in that process came last week, when members of the Council’s Transportation Accessibility Advisory Committee (TAAC) met with Metro Transit staff to review station designs and share their initial reactions. Representatives from the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority and cities of Minneapolis, Burnsville and Bloomington were also involved in the meeting.

TAAC members routinely advise the Council on ways to improve accessibility and get regular updates on transitway expansion plans. But the design workshop was a unique opportunity to dive deeper into the plans while there are still chances to make changes.

“These may seem like small things, but if that small thing causes you to miss the bus and you can’t get home that’s not a little thing,” said Kjensmo Walker, who chairs the TAAC. “All of these little components have to work just right.”                                                                                                                      

As Walker and others went through each station, several questions arose:

  • > How can audio announcements – both inside and outside of enclosed waiting areas – be better used to let customers know their bus is approaching?
  • > How can uniformity in gate letters, colors and signage make boarding locations more intuitive?
  • > Is there enough room on platforms for customers in mobility devices to pass safely?
  • > How will sidewalks and street crossings bring people to and from stations?

TAAC member Sam Jasmine, using layouts imprinted with braille, was especially interested in any audio features that would provide cues. Bus annunciators are helpful, she said, but they can be difficult to hear, especially in noisier areas like Marq2 and the freeway.

“It was a little bit humbling making sure I was getting on the right bus,” she said of the last time she boarded at Lake Street.

Feedback from previous workshops has proved useful. After TAAC members reviewed plans for facility improvements at the Mall of America Transit Station, restroom entry doors that could have been a barrier for people in mobility devices were replaced with a wrap-around entrance.

TAAC members have also reviewed stations plans for the Green Line Extension and will look at station designs for the Blue Line Extension and future light-rail vehicles later this year.

Comments provided during last week’s Orange Line workshop will be considered as design work continues. Final designs for the Lake Street Station are due this spring, and other station designs are expected to be completed by this fall. The Orange Line is scheduled to open in 2020.

“We’re starting the conversation today, but we want to continue to hear from this group and all our future users,” Project Manager Christina Morrison said. “This is the type of feedback that not only benefits the Orange Line, but the entire system.”

Jasmine also sees feedback from the disability community as a way to improve the system for all riders. “The rule is if something is good for someone who can’t see, it’s good for everyone,” she said.

Safety Transit Police

Transit police welcome new K-9s 

| Wednesday, December 07, 2016 11:01:00 AM

Metro Transit police officers with their K-9 partners in Minneapolis.Officer Matt Wilkinson has always been a dog person.

So when the opportunity arose to become one of the Metro Transit Police Department’s new K-9 handlers, he took it. And since late-October he’s been side-by-side with Carlo, one of three Belgian Malinois the department recently acquired to expand its K-9 Unit.

“I’ve got a couple of dogs at home already but having him is a lot different because he’s super high-energy and has such a super high drive to work,” Wilkinson said during a recent break from training at the Hiawatha Operations & Maintenance Facility. “It’s almost a 24-hour kind of deal working with him.”

But Wilkinson and the other new K-9 officers – Jason Michaud and Erica Fossand – all agree working with their new companions has quickly proven to be one of the most rewarding moves of their careers.

And if anything, they say, it’s the dogs who are training them.

“Handling is completely more work than I ever imagined because I don’t want to get in his way, and there are a lot of things I can do to disrupt him from doing his job,” said Fossand, her K-9 Nico sitting calmly beside her.

Imported from Holland with help from the St. Paul Police Department, the K-9’s were trained to detect and point out explosive materials before being brought to Minnesota. The officers are going through an eight-week training course and will begin their patrols in early 2017.

As part of their training, the officers and K-9s spent a recent morning at the OMF looking for odors that had been planted around a train. The dogs are taught to alert the handler when they discover one of around 21 differently potentially explosive odors.

In practice, Metro Transit’s K-9s spend most of their time at rail stations and large events proactively patrolling. The K9 unit can also be called out for suspicious packages or to assist other agencies.

As the officers are quickly learning, the K-9s are eager to work, too.

“It’s not 6-4, it’s all the time,” said Michaud, whose K-9 companion, Jack, is the smallest and most energetic of the new group. “You can just see how much energy he has.”

With the latest additions, Metro Transit’s K-9 Unit has expanded to seven officers. Other members include Scott Tinucci and his K-9 Merle; Larry Wright and his K-9 Rocky; and Josh Scharber and his K-9 Rusty. The department’s older K-9s are all labs.  

The department is supervised by Sgt. Jeremy Rausch.

Carlo, Nico and Jack are expected to work for at least a decade, so the new officers have all made a long-term commitment to their new companion. But as close as they’ll likely become, there will be some obvious differences from previous partners.

“My human partners don’t sit in the back and bark at every car that goes by,” Michaud said. “So that’s different.”

    > Transit Police welcome 13 new officers

    > Police put youth on a new path through diversion program

Community Transit Police

Police put youth on a new path through Youth Diversion Program 

| Friday, December 02, 2016 11:59:00 AM

Metro Transit officer Brooke Blakey with participants in the department's Youth Diversion Program.A juvenile diversion program piloted this year has helped Metro Transit police build relationships with youth offenders.

Officers involved in the Youth Diversion Program work directly with juveniles (ages 12 to 18) facing their first charges from Metro Transit police for minor, non-violent violations such as fare evasion, fighting or disorderly conduct. 

“Our goal was meeting these kids where they are and peeling back the layers to find out why they are getting in trouble, often more than one time,” said officer Brooke Blakey, who has a background in social work and child psychology. 

“What we found was that with a little help and guidance, these kids can turn for the better and make better choices that may impact their whole lives.”

Youth are screened and given the choice to participate in the program. Follow-up actions are customized to the individual’s needs, and participants can also access services like counseling, education and family support. 

Youth who successfully complete the program have their charges dismissed. In most cases, it takes four to six months to satisfy program requirements.

Services are provided in partnership with Minneapolis-based Headway Emotional Health Services and Saint Paul Community Ambassadors, a city-funded outreach unit dedicated to improving safety on city streets.

Blakey said many of the kids’ she’s worked with struggle with truancy, jobs, learning disabilities and sometimes mental health issues.

“A lot of these kids are looking for structure and support and stability but haven’t had that in the past, or not much of it,” she said. 

In one example, Blakey said a youth could “barely exist” in the same space with their mother. The relationship issues were addressed through anger management, family therapy, money management and a parenting class for the mother. “It was like night and day, and only a few months later,” Blakey said.

Another rewarding moment was when two juveniles came downtown to visit Blakey on the night of their high school graduation ceremonies last June wearing their caps and gowns (photo).

“That was really something,” she said. “I was so impressed that they reached out to me in that way and on that night instead of being with other friends. It shows a lot of promise to me.”

Thirty-eight cases have been managed through the program since it launched in January. Several cases remain ongoing.

Gwen DeGroff-Gunter, a retired Minneapolis police officer, was hired to develop the diversion program. She said a lot of lessons have been learned since work began, including the importance of face-to-face interactions, consistency and follow-up. 

“It has been an interesting and valuable program,” DeGroff-Gunter said. “The overall highlight, I think, was discovering the potential this program has to truly make a difference in a young person’s life.”

Looking ahead, DeGroff-Gunter hopes officers can continue to engage more directly with area schools and be more directly involved with juvenile participants.

“This is a critical demographic for us in several ways, and we all want to increase safety for the riding public,” she said. “There is a huge opportunity here.”

Know Your Operator METRO Green Line

Know Your Operator: Alex Abay 

| Wednesday, November 30, 2016 2:59:00 PM

Train Operator Alex Abay at Union Depot Station in St. Paul. Alex Abay wanted to be a part of history.

So as the METRO Green Line approached its 2014 opening, he was among the first train operators to get involved in the light-rail line’s initial test runs. And when opening day arrived in 2014, he made sure to be sitting in the operator’s chair.

While the excitement of that day has subsided, Abay still gets a thrill when he’s on the job.

“It’s just amazing to me, to pull into a platform, see 100 people standing there, and in less than ten seconds  they’re all on board and off you go,” Abay said recently from the Green Line’s Operations & Maintenance Facility, where he and other Green Line operators are based.

Abay didn’t always envision himself working in transit, however.

After growing up in Ethiopia, Abay followed a distant cousin to the Twin Cities to pursue a career in industrial chemistry or finance.

To improve his English, he regularly listened to public radio. He got a job at the Minnesota Science Museum and enrolled at Century College, traveling to and from his St. Paul home on Route 62.

After graduating and landing a job in banking, he looked to transit again, picking up part-time weekend work to help repay his student loans.

“I saw other people driving and just said, ‘Let me try this,’” Abay said. “I was so young and skinny people thought I was a kid. One woman got on, couldn’t believe it, turned around and left.”

Abay stuck with it, though, and after a few years he decided to leave banking behind to go full-time at Metro Transit. He spent the next 14 years as a bus operator.

In 2012, with the region’s light rail system poised for growth, he decided to become a train operator. Abay said he missed interacting with customers but quickly grew to enjoy the different challenges he found at light rail.  

“To be given the trust to operate a train, that’s a big responsibility,” Abay said. “The first time, I was sweating. Your brain is always working and you always have to be ready to react.”

Abay’s focus has served him well, though. Since starting at Metro Transit, he’s received 17 Safe Operator awards. 

As Abay’s career has grown, so too has his family. Today, Abay lives in Farmington with his wife and two children. Outside of work, he spends as much time with them as he can, playing soccer, going to movies and attending church activities.

Looking back at the path that’s brought him here, Abay said he knows he was right to leave banking behind. “This was 100 percent the right decision,” he said. “I have absolutely no regrets.”

Operator at a Glance

  • Name: Alex Abay
  • Hired: April 10, 1999
  • Employee Number: #9975
  • Route: Green Line
  • Hobbies: Abay enjoys spending time with his family, going to movies and attending church activities. He also enjoys exercising – outside of work, he plays soccer and during his downtime at work, he can frequently be found playing ping pong (Abay advocated for the ping pong table so he and his fellow operators could stay active in their time between trips.)

To help you better get to know those getting you around, Metro Transit offers these 'Know Your Operator' profiles of train and bus operators. To suggest an operator for a future profile, please email ridersalmanac@metrotransit.org.

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