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Community Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Safety Transit Police

For Transit Police K-9s, all work and a little play 

| Thursday, January 30, 2014 12:00:00 AM

K-9 Handler Alex Johannes tucked a pound of ammonium nitrate into a canister, sealed the lid and spanned the small conference room. Spotting a small cardboard box in the corner, Johannes concealed the canister and exited the room.

Minutes later, he and his trained bomb-sniffing dog Merle walked back through the door. After 30 seconds of scouring, the three-year-old black lab zeroed in on the box and took a seat. His work here was done.

Johannes and Merle are one of four K-9-officer duos at the Metro Transit Police Department. The officers and K-9s spend their days at busy boarding areas as well as light-rail and Northstar trains proactively searching for potential explosives. The unit also works closely with regional partners and during large events such as Twins and Vikings games.

The good news: the dogs haven’t caught a whiff of anything suspect since Metro Transit’s K-9 unit was created in 2007.

“It’s a huge responsibility so our hope is that he (Merle) would respond just the way he did today,” said Johannes, a former TSA agent who joined Transit Police four years ago.

Like the other K-9 handlers, Johannes said he was drawn to the idea of working with a dog because of the special bond that can be developed. The officers spend their entire days with the animals and keep them at home during their off hours.

Johannes has spent the last 14 months with Merle and said he has grown to see him as another member of his family. It helps that the two share a similar enthusiasm for their work.

“They try to match personalities and we’re a pretty good fit,” Johannes said. “Merle and I are both high drive, high energy.”

Officer Joshua Scharber said he and his K-9 partner Rusty, the newest members of the K-9 unit, have also grown close. “I’ve always wanted to be a part of a K9 unit,” Scharber said. “It’s just the bond you create – you can’t find that with a regular officer.”

Like Merle, all of the K-9s regularly test their skills by sniffing for explosive ingredients hidden by their handlers, typically at Metro Transit facilities. Once found, the specially-trained labs are rewarded with a chew toy and affection.

The furry hedgehog and other toys at officers’ disposal seem to offer more than enough motivation.

“When I say ‘Are you ready to go to work,’ he’s already in the car,” said Steve Schoephoerster, the longest tenured member of the K-9 unit.

While the K-9 unit hasn’t uncovered any active threats, they’ve responded to several unattended or suspicious packages. The unit works hand-in-hand with area bomb squads, which are equipped to disable bombs if anything is found.

While the risk is low, K-9 officer Scott Tinucci said the unit plays an important role in deterring activity simply by being out in the field and remaining visible. And if anything ever were to occur, he said, he and his two- and four-legged partners are ready.

“People will say the reward is when you find something, but the real reward is when you do a sweep and you don’t find anything and can say it’s all clear,” said Tinucci, who partners with the unit’s only female, Izzy.

“The bottom line is you hope you never have to use it but all it takes is one find and how many people have you saved?”

Metro Transit’s K-9 Unit

    Alex Johannes and Merle (black lab, male)                Scott Tinucci and Izzy (yellow lab, female)

   Joshua Scharber and Rusty (brown lab, male)      Steve Schoephoerster and Cooper (black lab, male)      

A Line BRT METRO Green Line St. Paul Station Spotlight

Shows, support and supplies await at Snelling Station 

| Monday, January 27, 2014 3:21:00 PM

Jim Segal is rethinking the type of bags he provides customers at his University Avenue store, Ax-Man Surplus.

That’s because he thinks more than a few of them will be boarding the METRO Green Line after shopping at the store, located less than a block from the Snelling Avenue Station.

“We’ll probably have to get bags with handles to make it easier for people to carry their stuff on the train,” said Segal, whose store deals in everything from bowling pins to snail magnets.

Segal doesn’t mind making a few tweaks at his business, though. In fact, he’s looking forward to the Green Line’s opening as much as anyone along the 11-mile corridor.

“The thing I’m most interested in seeing is new folks coming up and down the avenue,” he said. “We’re going to have exposure to a whole new audience.”

Segal isn’t alone in his anticipation.

Jeri Quest, the co-founder and CEO of Dress for Success Twin Cities, said she expects light rail to greatly improve the non-profit’s ability to help women entering the workforce. The organization, which provides professional attire and career counseling, is located just north of the Snelling Avenue Station on University Avenue.

“We’re thrilled that this station is opening literally across the street from our office,” Quest said. “Our clients really rely on public transportation so we can’t wait for it to open.”

Quest estimated that more than half of the 700 economically disadvantaged women Dress for Success Twin Cities worked with last year used public transportation. Employees and volunteers are also expected to use the train, she said.

Just up the street, Danya Frank said the Snelling station will be a huge asset for concertgoers at the Turf Club. Frank is the executive vice president at First Avenue, which purchased the Turf Club in 2013.

“We’re really excited about what light rail is going to mean for the Midway as a whole and the Turf Club specifically,” Frank said. “A lot more people will have access to come see shows, which gives us a much bigger audience.”

Frank said the train will also be an asset for employees traveling back-and-forth between St. Paul and Minneapolis since many of the venues’ employees don’t have vehicles.

“Having the train makes transportation between the clubs not even easier, but really possible,” she said.

Kari Canfield, the executive director of the Midway Chamber of Commerce, said her group is also looking forward to traveling the corridor on light rail. The Chamber’s offices are in Spruce Tree Centre, at University and Snelling, so visits up-and-down University Avenue will start and end at Snelling Avenue Station.

“Instead of jumping in the car to visit them, we’ll just be getting on the train,” Canfield said. “It’s a great connector and will make our jobs a lot easier.”

Public art at the METRO Green Line's Snelling Avenue Station.Snelling Avenue Station At a Glance

Connecting bus routes: Route 16 buses will continue to serve University Avenue between downtown St. Paul and TCF Bank Stadium. Route 21, which runs between Uptown and downtown St. Paul, travels on University Avenue between Snelling and Hamline avenues. Route 84 travels through the intersection of University and Snelling avenues as it runs between the METRO Blue Line’s 46th Street Station and Rosedale (this is a particularly popular route for those attending the Minnesota State Fair). The A Line (Snelling Avenue BRT) will also open in 2015, bringing high-frequency, limited-stop service to Snelling Avenue between 46th Street Station and Rosedale.

Public art: Artist Roberto Delgado assembled historic and current photos from around the Twin Cities, using a silk screen process to transfer them to tiles. The murals and columns included hundreds of faces, including some of present-day bus riders Delgado photographed. Delgado said the resulting art is “pretty abstract” but is intended to invite the curiosity of those traveling to or from the station. “If you look hard enough you’ll find something,” he said. “And if you find something that’s a pretty good trip, artistically.” Delgado also designed artwork for the Stadium Village and Central stations. Learn more

Area landmarks: Midway Shopping Center, Hamline-Midway Library, Hamline Elementary, Hamline University, Hancock Recreation Center, LEAP High School, Hamline Park, Aldine Park, Dickerman Park

Bike-ped connections: Charles Avenue bike boulevard (construction to be complete in summer 2014); bike lanes on Pascal Street North between I-94 and University Avenue; pedestrian bridge crossing I-94 between Aldine Street and Concordia Avenue; bike lanes on Marshall Avenue west of Snelling Avenue; bike lanes on Minnehaha Avenue west of Hamline Avenue. 

Neighborhood groups: Hamline-Midway, Union Park

Bus METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Route of the Week

Route 8: From the city border to the Blue Line 

| Friday, January 24, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Update: Route 8 was consolidated with Route 67 on June 14, 2014.View the Route 67 schedule here

When Meital Kashi and her husband moved from Las Vegas to Minneapolis last fall without a vehicle, they knew they wanted to live somewhere with strong transit connections.                            

They landed in Prospect Park, where Kashi’s husband is able to ride the bus to-and-from his job at the University of Minnesota. For their everyday chores, the couple has also become regular users of Route 8, which serves the Prospect Park and Seward neighborhoods.                       

“We ride just about every day, for grocery shopping and everything else,” Kashi said while on a westbound trip en route to pick her son up at daycare. “I don’t know what I’d do without it – probably have to take a taxi.”

Kashi isn’t the only one has made Route 8 a part of their daily travels. Running between the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station and the intersection of University Avenue and Emerald Street, Route 8 provides a key link for residents connecting to light rail in Minneapolis, shops on Franklin Avenue or bus service on University Avenue.

“I don’t drive so, for me, it’s very important,” said Knol Tate, a Prospect Park resident who has used Route 8 for the last five years to run errands on Franklin Avenue and access the Blue Line.

Students also make use of Route 8 as they travel to and from school.

McCall Atkinson, 16, travels on Route 8 between her home and the Franklin Avenue Station, where she continues south to the Lake Street Station and then walks to school at South High. Atkinson is among the more than 20,000 area high school students with a Student Pass, which provides unlimited rides on buses and METRO lines.                            

“Without this, I would have no other way to get to school,” said Atkinson, who isn’t in any rush to obtain her license and get behind the wheel.

When the METRO Green Line opens on June 14, service improvements will go into effect that will help Route 8 customers get around even more freely. The changes are part of a suite of improvements designed to provide better connections to the Green Line.

Route 8 will be replaced by an extension of Route 67, which will run between downtown St. Paul and the Blue Line's Franklin Avenue Station and connect with Green Line stations at Fairview and Raymond avenues.

Service will improve to every 20 minutes on Franklin Avenue and trips Monday through Saturday; trips will run ever hour on Sundays.The route will also move from Franklin Avenue to Riverside Avenue between 25th and 26th avenues to better serve Augsburg University and the Fairview University Medical Center.

Sam Mabbs is among those who use Route 8 and look forward to the change. The Prospect Park resident now rides the bus to University Avenue to catch a connecting bus route. In the future, he expects to use light rail to travel the University Avenue corridor. “I’m looking forward to it – I think it’ll be really, super convenient,” he said.

Route 8 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

ServiceRoute 8 runs between the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station and the intersection of University Avenue and Emerald Street, in the Prospect Park neighborhood. Buses run along Franklin Avenue and cross the Mississippi River on the Franklin Avenue Bridge. Eastbound buses travel north on Emerald Street – effectively the city line between Minneapolis and St. Paul – while westbound buses travel south on Curfew Street. Buses run every 20 minutes during rush hour and every 30 minutes midday between approximately 5 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Route Length: Approximately 2 miles

Stops: 17 eastbound, 19 westbound

Vehicles: Standard 40-foot

Ridership: More than 44,000 customer boardings in 2013, with an average of 174 rides a day.

History: Streetcars ran from downtown Minneapolis to Franklin Avenue SE and 27th Avenue South beginning in 1914. Streetcar service was extended across the Franklin Avenue Bridge in 1924 and was replaced by buses in 1940. When the METRO Blue Line opened in 2004, Route 8 was shortened to end at the Franklin Avenue Station. 

Future: When the METRO Green Line opens on June 14, Route 67 will be extended to include what is now covered by Route 8. Route 67 buses will run between downtown St. Paul and the METRO Blue Line's Franklin Avenue Station, largely along Franklin and Minnehaha avenues. Service will improve to every 20 minutes, Monday through Saturday and every hour on Sundays between approximately 5 a.m. and 1 a.m. The route will also be re-routed from Franklin Avenue to to Riverside Avenue between 25th and 26th avenues to better serve Augsburg University and the Fairview University Medical Center. See complete details here.

Bus METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Route of the Week University of Minnesota

Route 2: A catalyst for going car-free 

| Wednesday, January 15, 2014 4:56:00 PM

When Pete Huff moved to the Twin Cities a few months ago, he looked for a location that would allow him to continue living a car-free life. He found it in the Seward neighborhood, where he can readily access the METRO Blue Line and connecting bus routes.

The route he turns to when traveling to and from work every day: Route 2, which runs along Franklin Avenue between Hennepin Avenue and the University of Minnesota and connects with the Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station.

“I chose to live where I live because I knew I could pretty much get anywhere in the city – east, west, north or south,” Huff said during a recent westbound trip on Route 2.

The ambition to go without a car was shared among several customers recently interviewed aboard Route 2. Others on the bus said they couldn’t afford to have a vehicle or simply preferred the convenience of using transit to get around.

Bruno Oakman is among those who use Route 2 and believe it to be easier than driving. Oakman works at The Commons Hotel, on Washington Avenue, and takes the bus to avoid traffic and parking costs on the U of M campus.

“I like being able to relax, catch up on e-mail and take some time for myself,” said Oakman, who walks less than a block from his home to catch the bus.

While Oakman was on his way to work, many others on Route 2 were on their way to class at the U of M or Augsburg University. Traveling eastbound from Franklin Avenue, Route 2 buses continue north on Riverside Avenue to the West Bank, cross the Mississippi River on the Washington Avenue Bridge and run through the heart of the East Bank campus on the Washington Avenue Transit Pedestrian Mall. At the far east end, Route 2 travels on 4th Street SE and University Avenue, serving Dinkytown and residents in the Marcy Holmes neighborhood.

U of M student Marie Barland lives in Uptown and has used Route 2 throughout her college career. Instead of owning a car and driving, she has a $97-a-semester U-Pass and gets unlimited bus and METRO rides.

“I’m one of those rare people who never got my license and take Metro Transit everywhere,” said Barland, who uses the money she saves on transportation to travel.

Students and others who use Route 2 will have even more connectivity when the METRO Green Line opens June 14.

On the west end of the Washington Avenue Bridge, Route 2 will connect with the Green Line’s West Bank Station, located on Washington Avenue between 19th and Cedar avenues. On the other side of the bridge, Route 2 customers can get off at Coffman Memorial Union and access the East Bank Station.

The new rail connections will allow customers to travel east through campus towards downtown St. Paul on University Avenue. Green Line trains will travel westbound to Target Field, sharing five Blue Line stations in downtown Minneapolis.

Johanna Gorman-Baer lives near Franklin and Cedar avenues and uses Route 2 to visit friends near the U of M. Gorman-Baer said she is looking forward to the Green Line’s opening so she can explore more parts of St. Paul. She is considering moving nearer to the Green Line so she can have easier access to frequent, all-day transit.

“I’m looking for a new apartment and that’s the number priority – living along some form of major transit line,” Gorman-Baer said.

Shawn Vriezen is also looking forward to the expanded options the Green Line will offer. Vriezen uses Route 2 to get to work on the East Bank, but also bikes and uses car sharing services like Car2Go to visit friends and run errands as a way to avoid car ownership. Green line trains will only open his horizons that much more, Vriezen said.

“I don’t go to St. Paul as much as I used to, but that pretty much opens up all of University and downtown,” he said.

However Route 2 changes as a result of the Green Line, operator C.J. Camp said it’s likely to remain one of his favorites. Camp has driven the route off-and-on over the last 12 years and said he enjoys the mix of customers and destinations he encounters while traveling east and west.

“It’s got a real-cross section of the city," he said. "No matter what time of day, it’s always lively.”

Route 2 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

Service: Route 2 runs between Hennepin Avenue and the U of M, largely along Franklin Avenue. Traveling east, buses run from Hennepin and Franklin avenues to the METRO Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station. The route continues northbound at Riverside Avenue and crosses the Mississippi River on the Washington Avenue Bridge, running through the heart of the U of M’s East Bank campus on the Washington Avenue Transit Pedestrian Mall towards Dinkytown. Route 2’s eastern terminus is located at 6th Street SE and East Hennepin Avenue, which has a high concentration of student housing. Buses run from approximately 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily with service every 5 to 15 minutes during rush hour, every 15 minutes midday and every 20 to 30 minutes on evenings and weekends.

Route Length: Approximately 8 miles

Stops: 48 eastbound, 47 westbound

Vehicles: Standard 40-foot

Ridership: More than 1.67 million customer boardings in 2012, with an average of 4,576 passengers per day. 

History: When Route 2 began in 1971, it crossed the Mississippi River on Franklin Avenue and stopped short of the U of M campus. The route was later moved to Riverside Avenue so that it served Riverside Medical Center, Augsburg University and Washington Avenue, on the U of M campus. The change led to a dramatic increase in ridership. Metro Transit introduced a service connecting student housing on 8th Street SE and later combined it with Route 2 to create the roughly 8-mile route that exists today. Ridership expanded when the U Pass was introduced in 2000 and again in 2004 with the opening of the METRO Blue Line

Future: When the METRO Green Line opens June 14, Route 2 will connect with the West Bank Station and East Bank Station and share right of way with Green Line trains on the Washington Avenue Transit/Pedestrian Mall. Service will continue at its existing level.

In the News METRO Green Line Minneapolis St. Paul

Green Line grand opening set 

| Monday, January 13, 2014 11:00:00 PM


The countdown to the METRO Green Line's opening can now be measured down to the second.

On Wednesday, Metropolitan Council Chair Sue Haigh joined project partners at Union Depot Station to announce that light-rail vehicles will begin running between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul beginning Saturday, June 14.

"Starting service 60 years to the month after the last streetcar left the Twin Cities is fitting," Haigh said. "For me, seeing two vibrant downtowns, numerous job, education and medical centers and tens of thousands of people connected by this project is the most exciting part."

The Met Council, Metro Transit and project partners are collaborating with the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, business owners and community leaders to coordinate opening day celebrations at select stations along the 11-mile corridor. Free rides will be offered on the Green Line and all of Metro Transit's other rail and bus routes June 14 and 15.

METRO Green Line construction is now 98 percent complete. As construction winds down, testing and rail operator training will ramp up between now and opening day.

On the same day Green Line trains begin running, bus service changes will go into effect throughout the corridor. Service is being adjusted and improved to provide better connections to Green Line stations.

Read coverage of today's announcement in the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, KSTP, KARE 11, Fox 9, WCCO, Minnesota Daily, Finance & Commerce and at Minnesota Public Radio.

    > Green Line countdown

    > June 14, 2014: Grand opening for METRO Green Line

    > Central Corridor transit service changes

    > Good Question: How much will it cost to ride the METRO Green Line?

Reactions to this morning's announcement on Twitter.

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