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Bus Express Bus In the News Light Rail

Fact Book tells Metro Transit's story by the numbers 

| Tuesday, August 06, 2013 12:57:00 PM

How many square miles do Metro Transit's buses and trains cover? How many commuter rail cars are there on the Northstar Commuter Rail line? And how many items arrive at Metro Transit's Lost & Found every year?

The answers to those questions — and much more  can be found in the 2012 Metro Transit Fact Book, now available online. Other numbers featured in the Fact Book include:

127  the total number of Metro Transit routes, including the METRO Blue Line, Northstar and urban local, express and suburban bus routes.

30 million  the number of real-time departures requested using NexTrip in 2012.

12,360  the total number of Metro Transit bus stops.

270 — the number of regional employers participating in the Metropass program.

The Fact Book provides an at-a-glance illustration of the growing Metro Transit system.

Recent profiles provide a more in-depth look at the growth. In its August issue, Minnesota Business gave a rundown of recent transit improvements and the impact they're having on local entrepreneurs. Community Transportation magazine also profiled Metro Transit in their story, "The Twin Cities' Transit Awakening."

> Mid-year Progress Report: On the Right Track

> About Metro Transit

Safety Transit Police

New officers, new diversity for Metro Transit police 

| Monday, August 05, 2013 10:49:00 AM

As new immigrants to the United States, Abdulkhayr Hirse and Salah Ahmed relied heavily on transit to get to work and school.

A few short years later, their experience is coming full circle. The Somali-born men were among 19 new full-time Metro Transit police officers sworn in on Friday, Aug. 2, as the department welcomed one of the most diverse groups of new hires in the history of the 20-year-old organization.

With their hire, the department now includes four Somali officers, including the first Somali sergeant in the country, Waheid Siraach. Mukhtar Abdulkadir, who was also born in Somalia, was among 22 part-time officers who joined Metro Transit Police this spring.

Following Friday’s ceremony Hirse and Ahmed said they were excited to begin their new roles, serving as role models for young Somalis as well as ambassadors to the wider transit community. As with all transit police, they will be responsible for patrolling light rail and commuter trains, buses and station areas and will play a key role policing the METRO Green Line when it opens next year.  

“We’re here because we want to change someone’s life, or at least make their day or night a little bit better,” said Hirse, who worked in security after moving from Kenya to the United States in 1998.  

Ahmed, who previously worked as a probation officer and park ranger, said he was eager to join the force because it will allow him to have more interactions with community members. “It’s not just about sitting in a squad car but getting out and talking to people, connecting with the public,” he said.

The visibility could encourage other young Somalis to consider law enforcement as a career as well, said Siraach, who joined the department nearly six years ago and was named acting sergeant in July.

“It’ll be a great thing for them to have somebody to look up to,” he said. “This is really exciting for us and it makes us better as an agency.”

For Police Chief John Harrington, the department’s growing diversity represents a “changing of the guards” that will be key to building bridges in the community. This year, the department has made a point of increasing time spent on the streets doing beat work and connecting with community groups at events like Tuesday's National Night Out (Transit Police plan to attend 50 events in Minneapolis and St. Paul).

With transit customers speaking dozens of different languages, Harrington said it’s vital for officers to reflect and be able to relate to the people they serve. Officers in the new class speak Arabic, Spanish and Somali.

“People come here from every point on the globe,” he said addressing the officers at Friday’s ceremony. “Today, as you go forth from here, you will bring a new meaning to the phrase, ‘By the people, for the people, of the people.’”

General Manager Brian Lamb echoed the sentiment. Besides introducing more diversity, Lamb said the department’s growth will allow officers to take a more proactive approach to policing and ensure Metro Transit customers feel safe and welcome. There are now 83 full-time Metro Transit police officers and 59 part-time officers.  

“It’s easy to be focused on the problems at hand, but that will only get us part of the way there,” he said.

Another 26 part-time officers will be hired this fall. Acting Lt. Jason Lindner, who oversaw the hiring of the new class, said the department received more than 500 applications when it advertised the new jobs earlier this year.

The response was due in part to greater outreach, something Lindner said would continue as the department continues to grow.

“It’s really important for every class to get a good cross-section of people,” he said. “That’s what’s going to allow us to be able to hit more areas than we ever have.”

> Star Tribune: New officers join Metro Transit police force

> Coverage by Mogadishu Times, Hiiraan Online

> Metro Transit Police Department 

Top left: Abdulkhayr Hirse poses with St. Paul and Minneapolis police officers prior to the Metro Transit Police Department's swearing in ceremony on Friday. Bottom right: Salah Ahmed poses with an officer from the Dakota County Sheriff Department on Friday.

Bus Good Question

Good Question: Why is there no Route 1? 

| Thursday, August 01, 2013 9:30:00 AM

There’s a Route 2. There are also routes 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. But there is no Route 1. Why? Good question.                      

Steve Legler, Metro Transit's assistant director of Service Development, believes the answer goes back to the mid-1950s, when Twin City Lines began numbering routes following the conversion from unnumbered streetcars to buses. At that time, the Route 1 moniker went to an infrequent route that ran between Bryn Mawr and northeast Minneapolis.

Bryn Mawr later was served by Route 9 while Route 1 began running to south Minneapolis. More service changes that took place 15 years ago led Route 1 to be renumbered as Route 25. Legler remembers that decision came because the Route 1 label inferred an importance its ridership didn’t necessarily support.

At the time, he says, planners suggested renumbering popular Route 16 as Route 1, but decided against it, believing there would be confusion and that it could be difficult to distinguish on overhead signs.

The Route 1 void has persisted ever since. Why it hasn’t been affixed to any service – or may never be – is a good question for which there is no clear answer.

One theory promoted by Manager of Route Planning Cyndi Harper: its implied status renders it unusable. Like parents with multiple children, she says, all of Metro Transit’s routes are loved equally!

Have a ‘Good Question’? Email it to goodquestion@metrotransit.org.

> WCCO's Jason DeRusha tackles a viewer's Good Question about the numbering of bus routes

Bus Route of the Week Suburban Transit

Route 615: Connecting the dots in the western suburbs 

| Wednesday, July 31, 2013 5:00:00 PM

Prabhu Prakasham boards a Route 615 bus once a month to get from his Hopkins apartment to Park Nicollet, on Excelsior Boulevard in St. Louis Park. At least three times a week, Alexander Nemets takes it the other direction from his St. Louis Park home to go shopping at Cub Foods and Sam’s Club.

The non-car owning customers were among a group of 20 passengers who recently boarded a westbound bus as it made its way from St. Louis Park to downtown Hopkins and Ridgedale Center on a warm late afternoon.

Also on the bus: Jennifer Robinson, who uses Route 615 so regularly she’s memorized the schedule, is on a first-name basis with the driver and is confident she could get behind the wheel and know exactly where to go.

“I think it’s safe to say I’m one of the more frequent users,” said Robinson, who was traveling from the St. Louis Park Library to downtown Hopkins.

Because of its popularity, Route 615 will offer an extended weekday schedule when service changes take effect on Saturday, Aug. 24. Instead of making its final weekday trips between 5 and 6 p.m., the last trip will run between 7 and 8 p.m.

Route 615 is directly contracted by the Metropolitan Council and operated by a third-party provider, not Metro Transit. But it is a part of the regional transit network with scheduled connections to other routes, common fares and technology, and the same trip planning and customer service resources that make using it seamless for riders.

To further build on this connection, Metro Transit is introducing a suite of transit upgrades in St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Minnetonka that go into effect in August.

Weekday hours on Route 9N, which travels between Minnetonka through downtown Minneapolis to the METRO Blue Line’s 46th Street Station, will be extended and new Route 614 will begin service between Ridgedale Center and Minnetonka Heights. Route 614 trips will leave every hour from 5:15 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. on Saturdays.

Steve Mahowald, a senior planner at Metro Transit who helped organize the adjustments, said the goal is to improve service for suburban residents who rely on transit just as much as their urban counterparts.

Launched in 2001, Route 615 shows how important suburban transit can be. One of just a handful of so-called “suburban circulators,” the bus weaves a path through St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Minnetonka and stops at major shopping destinations, service centers and residences.

Among the landmarks on the route: the Excelsior & Grand mixed-use development, the Miracle Mile Shopping Center, Knollwood Mall, Ramsgate Apartments, the Hopkins Center for the Arts, Greenbrier Condos and Ridgedale Center.  

Customers who don't own a car describe the service as vital to their daily lives and say it allows them to get to appointments, shop or simply see friends despite not owning a vehicle. They also say Route 615 plays an important role filling the gaps between other commonly-used bus routes that connect the western suburbs and Minneapolis, including routes 17D and 12.

For customer Dan Tonn, Route 615 completes his commute from Hopkins to his job in Mound. Tonn boards the bus outside his Hopkins apartment and rides to Ridgedale where he catches Express Route 675 to Mound Transit Center, where he is just a short bike ride away from his office.

Tonn owns a car but said he uses transit because it saves gas money and is a more enjoyable ride. Without Route 615, he said, “I would bike a lot further and be a lot hotter.”

Route 615 At a Glance

Type: Suburban Circulator 

Service: Route 615 provides hourly weekday service. The first trip begins at 7:15 a.m. and the final trips begin at 4:51 p.m.

Route length: 11 miles

Stops:  70 eastbound stops and 80 westbound stops.

Vehicles: 30-foot buses

Ridership: Route 615 attracts an average of 170 customers on weekdays and 87 customers on Saturday.

History: Suburban circulator service was added in the early- to mid-90s.Route 615 was launched in 2001. Service is contracted directly by the Metropolitan Council.

Future: Beginning with service changes that take effect Saturday, Aug. 24, Route 615 will offer an extended weekday schedule. Service on weekdays will be available two hours later and begin a half-hour earlier.

In the News Safety Transit Police

MPR: Transit drivers get more protections from assaults under new law 

| Tuesday, July 30, 2013 5:00:00 PM

Minnesota Public Radio reports on a new state law that classifies certain assaults against bus and train operators as gross misdemeanors, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $3,000 fine – previously the penalty was up to 90 days in a prison and a $1,000 fine.  

Metro Transit officials successfully advocated for the stiffer penalties in the last legislative session, arguing such assaults put both operators and the public at risk.

Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington is among those who pushed the law change. Speaking to MPR, he said he hoped it would send a message that "assaulting drivers is taken very seriously."

> MPR's report on the new operator assault law

> AP: New Minnesota law ups penalty for bus driver assaults

> Metro Transit's Code of Conduct

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