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Carpool Go Green Promotions Rider Information Rider Profile Rideshare Transit Planning

Enjoying the shared ride 

| Monday, September 30, 2013 2:45:00 PM

Thomson Reuters carpoolers together as they prepare to leave work at the end of the day.

When Jan Kaster’s knees began to go and she found it too difficult to use the bus, she thought she might have to retire early. But the Thomson Reuters editor found a way to keep working: she joined a carpool.

Using Metro Transit’s Carpool Matching Tool, Kaster connected with fellow employee Kristen Estrada, one of more than 800 Thomson Reuters workers who have created an online profile that connects carpoolers by home address, place of employment and other preferences.

The online tool, being promoted in October as part of Carpool to Work Month, helped the then-strangers discover they lived just a mile apart and worked at the same building.

Kaster said she was thrilled to have found a match so she could continue to come to the office, get dropped off near the door and receive help loading her heavy bag in and out of the car.

“I really appreciate that I’m still able to work,” she said recently from Thomson Reuter’s Eagan headquarters. “I wasn’t ready to quit yet.”

Kaster’s continued employment is just one of the many benefits that have come from the carpool, which began in early 2012 and grew to include another employee, Brandon Dandl, earlier this year.

For Estrada, the only driver in the group, providing rides to and from work helps cover her transportation costs. Kaster and Dandl each pay $3 for every 10-mile, 20-minute trip they take.

The group also gets to use a preferred carpool parking area near the building entrance – a perk that becomes especially important in winter. Though they haven’t needed it, the carpoolers are also eligible for the Guaranteed Ride Home, which covers the cost of a cab if a carpooler needs an emergency ride home.

Carpooling has also allowed the group to learn more about each other’s work. Kaster has spent 23 years as the editor of the U.S. Code Annotated, a 400-volume compilation of federal laws. Estrada sells hard copies of the books and Dandl sells electronic versions.

“When I learned that I thought, ‘Oh, great, I can ask you all about this,’” Estrada said, “I’ve been able to ask her about the book and how laws are written and have really learned a lot.”

Work isn’t the only topic of conversation among the group, however. As the trio has spent more time riding together, they have swapped advice and shared more of their personal lives. Estrada’s one-year-old baby will occasionally share the back seat with Dandl as the group rides together to drop her off.

They also listen to Minnesota Public Radio to catch up and discuss the news and have made a routine of listening to KDWB’s War of the Roses every Thursday morning (in the farcical skit, a significant other listens in as their mate is asked where they’d like to send a dozen roses).

While the practical benefits are important, the carpoolers say the camaraderie they enjoy has become one their favorite parts of sharing the ride. 

“We all get to vent a little bit, which can be very therapeutic,” Kaster said.    

> October is Carpool to Work Month

> Set up a Commuter Account

Bus Know Your Operator Minneapolis

Know Your Operator: Lillie Loving 

| Thursday, September 26, 2013 12:45:00 PM

Operator Lillie Loving drives the Route 5 bus between Minneapolis and the Mall of America. Lynette Haugen has spent the last five years traveling to and from her job at the Midtown Exchange on Route 5.

On most mornings, that means getting greeted by Metro Transit bus driver Lillie Loving, who welcomed Haugen as if she were an old friend on a recent southbound trip to Mall of America.

“She just makes the morning right,” Haugen, an outreach coordinator at Allina Hospitals & Clinics, said after boarding the bus. “She has integrity, she’s personable – I really can say she’s one of the best [bus drivers] there are. She’s outstanding, she really is.”

The high praise comes in part because Loving is committed to Route 5, establishing strong and good-humored relationships with customers who rely on the bus to get to and from work, school and other destinations.

While many operators routinely change routes, Loving has spent the last decade driving customers from north Minneapolis to Bloomington on Route 5.

“I wouldn’t do anything but the 5,” Loving said in a recent interview at the Martin J. Ruter Garage where she works from. “I just love it.”

Loving said she’s drawn to the route because it’s a constant swirl of activity and leaves little room for boredom. Indeed, on a recent morning the bus was full of customers, including mothers with strollers, elderly women with shopping bags and a blind customer with a seeing-eye dog. (At a busy downtown stop, Loving jokingly ushered customers to board quickly saying, “C’mon now, Christmas has done passed – it’s already New Years now.”)

While the buses are full, Loving still finds time to greet each customer personally and exchange light-hearted barbs with regulars. Panama Hurt, who has taken Route 5 almost daily for the last three years, said Loving’s personality has become a bright spot in his day. “When the ‘Love Bus’ pulls up, it brings body and life—it just inspires me,” he said.

As a mother of four, with 16 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, Loving also knows how to mix humor and sternness. When a customer disputes a fare, causes commotion or uses foul language, she doesn’t hesitate to remind them of the Code of Conduct. The approach helps keep the bus moving on schedule and has reinforced her motherly persona (indeed, many customers refer to her as "mom" or "grandma.")

“They all know when they get on my bus that I’m firm," Loving said. "But I don’t let anything upset me – I do my job and I do it well.”

Loving’s time in the driver’s seat is coming to an end soon, however. After 13 years with Metro Transit, Loving plans to retire this spring. After moving to the Twin Cities to be with family, the Decatur, Ill. native said she plans to move back closer to her children.

There are no grand retirement plans except to spend plenty of time in the yard planting flowers. Loving said she’ll miss her co-workers and her customers but that she’s ready for the next phase of her life.

“I’ve been in this world a long time,” she said. “It’s time to do something else.”

Operator at a Glance

Name: Lillie Loving

Hired: Aug. 17, 1998

Routes: Loving drove Express Route 854, Route 22 and served as an on-call driver at the beginning of her career. She has been driving Route 5 for the last decade.

Hobbies: During breaks, Loving likes to wind down with a game of Candy Crush. She’s currently on Level 117.

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

 

Bus Bus Rapid Transit On the METRO Transit Planning

Report: Transit investments bring more private spending 

| Thursday, September 26, 2013 12:30:00 PM

The HealthLine in Cleveland, Ohio has led to transit-oriented development.

A new report underscores the economic development potential of transit investments like the METRO Red Line launched this summer along Cedar Avenue and planned Arterial Bus Rapid Transit lines in the Twin Cities.

The report from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy analyzed the impact of 21 transit corridors around the country, measuring the amount of transit-oriented development investment per dollar of transit investment.

The study did not include any local transitways but found that BRT lines in Cleveland, Ohio and Kansas City, Mo., each led to more than $5 billion in private development – more than $100 for every $1 spent on transit. Investment in transit-oriented development outweighed transit investments in two-thirds of the corridors included in the study. Researchers also looked at light rail and streetcar lines in their study.

Government support was found to be a leading contributor to transit-oriented development in the study, followed by market conditions and "transit quality."    

   Photo of Cleveland HealthLine courtesy Greater Cleveland RTA

> ITDP: More Investment For Your Transit Dollar

> On the METRO

> Met Council: Strategic Investments in TOD

> The A Line: Snelling Bus Rapid Transit

Bus Express Bus Minneapolis Route of the Week Suburban Transit

Route 675: From lakeshore to the City of Lakes 

| Wednesday, September 25, 2013 1:00:00 PM

A customer rides Route 675 from Minnetonka to Minneapolis.

Visiting from Worcester, Mass., Mary Magnuson, James Cooper and David Barnett thought they’d take a cab from their hotel to downtown Minneapolis. Then they found a more cost-effective solution.

In the Twin Cities for a wedding, the trio hopped aboard an eastbound Route 675 bus that stopped right outside the Minneapolis Marriott West at Interstate 394 and Highway 169. They paid $2.25 a person instead of the $30-plus it would have cost to use a taxi.

“When I called the front desk and they told us how much it be, we quickly decided to take the bus,” Magnuson said after boarding and getting directions from the driver.

Other customers sharing the bus trip were a bit more familiar with Route 675, among the longest and oldest routes that Metro Transit operates.

Traveling between Mound Transit Center and downtown Minneapolis, Route 675 winds around the northern edge of Lake Minnetonka through Wayzata and Minnetonka, stopping at five Park & Ride lots on the I-394 corridor before bringing customers downtown.

In downtown Minneapolis, Route 675 buses use "Marq2" bus-only lanes, dropping customers off on 2nd Avenue South and picking them up on Marquette Avenue for trips headed to locations in the western suburbs.

On a recent eastbound, 8:08 a.m. trip, the 60-foot articulated ("accordion") bus filled with commuters as it made its way towards Minneapolis. While many commuters traveled downtown, customers also got off at Plymouth Road to go shopping or go to work and at Ridgedale Center to reach connecting rotes.

Kelsea Kern, 17, was among those who boarded at Mound Transit Center. The three-level municipal parking ramp, north of the Dakota Rail Regional Trail, opened in 2007 and includes 50 reserved spaces for Metro Transit customers.

Customers board Route 675 at the Louisiana Transit Center in St. Louis Park. Kern drove 10 minutes from her home in St. Bonifacius and said she takes the bus nearly every day to get to Minneapolis Community and Technical College, where she is taking courses to earn early college credit.

“This takes a little longer (than driving) but it’s a better use of my time because I can read and study along the way,” Kern said of her trip, which takes just over an hour. “It just makes a lot more sense.”

Kern was one of a handful of passengers who boarded in Mound. But the bus filled quickly as it made its way east, stopping at Wayzata Blvd. & Barry Ave. Park & RidePlymouth Road Park & Ride, Ridgedale Center, I-394 & County Road 73 Park & Ride ramp, General Mills Blvd. Park & Ride and Louisiana Transit Center in St. Louis Park.

The boardings add up: in 2012, more than 431,000 customers used Route 675, which operates between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays and on a slightly more limited schedule on weekends.

Deon Williams, who boarded at the I-394 & County Road 73 Park & Ride, is among those who ride on a regular basis. Williams said she has used Route 675 for the last year to get to her job in downtown Minneapolis, taking the bus to avoid traffic, read and catch up on work.

“With three kids at home, this is really the only time I can do it,” Williams said. “What I tell everyone is that this is my quiet time.”

The east-west service from the western suburbs is hardly new, either. Buses began running along Highway 12 as early as the 1920s as small bus companies sought to bring transit to the outer rings of the Twin Cities. The service was the first to be assumed by the Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) when it was created in 1967.  

After I-394 was built in the 1980s, Route 675 buses began running a more circuitous route along frontage roads. More direct service is now provided by complementary Route 677, which runs between Mound and Plymouth Road Park & Ride then continues non-stop to downtown Minneapolis. Due to the fewer number of stops, trips on Route 677 take roughly 20 minutes less end-to-end than Route 675.

The Wayzata Boulevard Park & Ride is one of the stops on Route 675, which runs from Minnetonka to Minneapolis. Route 675 At a Glance

Type: Express

ServiceRoute 675 buses travel between Mound Transit Center and downtown Minneapolis with stops at five regional Park & Rides – Mound Transit Center, Wayzata Park & RidePlymouth Park & Ride, I-394 & County Road 73 Park & Ride, General Mills Blvd. Park & Ride and Louisiana Avenue Transit Center. Buses operate from approximately 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and more limited hours on weekends. Trips are available roughly every half hour between Ridgedale Center and downtown Minneapolis; service on the far west end of the line runs approximately every hour. Buses use managed lanes, the I-394 MnPASS lanes and bus-only should to speed commutes. Downtown, buses use the Marq2 corridor and the PayExit system to speed boarding times. 

Route length: Approximately 26 miles

Stops: 105 eastbound, 108 westbound

Vehicles: 60-foot articulated

Ridership: More than 431,000 customers in 2012, with an average of 1,178 customers per day.

History: Suburban bus service began in the Route 675 corridor in the 1920s, operated by Boulevard Transportation Company. It was the first service assumed by the Metropolitan Transit Commission when it was created in 1967. Buses originally made stops along Highway 12. When I-394 was built in the 1980s, buses began taking a more circuitous path that involved more frontage roads.

Future: I-394 is among eight corridors included in the Metropolitan Council's Highway Bus Rapid Transit Corridor Study. The study, due to conclude in early 2014, aims to determine how regular, all-day service similar to the METRO Red Line might work the corridor. A 2008 study that included input from the state, Metro Transit, communities along the corridor and other partners envisioned a continuous south frontage road along I-394 that could be used for such a service.

Bus Safety

Using 'Keys' to put safety first 

| Monday, September 23, 2013 1:00:00 PM

A bus driver watches as a firetruck passes by during a Metro Transit safety training course.

When Randy Finch began working at Metro Transit, fares were 30 cents, bus drivers didn’t wear seatbelts and buses could move with relative freedom on local streets and highways. The world has changed a bit since then.

But there is one thing that has stuck with Finch over the course of his 35-year career: the Safety Keys promoted by the Smith System.

The training program was developed for professional drivers more than 60 years ago in response to dangerous driving conditions and is widely used by transit agencies, trucking companies and other organizations that employ professional drivers. Metro Transit bus operators go through the course when they are hired and are regularly re-certified throughout their career.

A trainer at South Garage for the last decade, Finch said he follows the Smith System “religiously” on and off the job and tells new bus operators to do the same. Speaking to a recent class, he urged trainees to focus on its three essential components: space, visibility and time.

“If you have all three of those things, the majority of the time you won’t get into trouble,” Finch said.

Other tenants of the Smith System encourage drivers to keep their eyes in constant motion, seek eye contact from other drivers and to get the “big picture.”

Relying on the Smith System’s lessons has served Finch well. After three decades of service, Finch has won 33 consecutive Safety Awards. Finch has also been named Garage Champion at South Garage at four of the last six Roadeo competitions and was named Roadeo Champion in 2010. Roadeo is a voluntary annual safety and skills competition for bus drivers.

Finch says the lessons taught in the Smith System apply to all drivers but are particularly important for bus drivers facing unique challenges as they usher customers around the Twin Cities.

Metro Transit buses weigh 20 to 33 tons and their 8.5-foot wide frame makes them among the widest vehicles on the road. Add weather, customers and schedules to the mix and the conditions become even more difficult.

“It’s the hardest thing in the world to come to this job and drive a bus,” Finch said. “It’s not just getting behind the wheel – there are a lot of things you have to remember.”

Kerwin Hall drove semis before joining Metro Transit in May and said his brief experience driving route 4, 14 and 589 has already shown him just how demanding the job can be.

“This is operating a bus, not driving a bus,” he said after finishing Finch’s class. “There’s just so much that comes into play. It really involves putting a lot of things together to make things happen.”

Whatever the difficulties, Finch said there is a simple way to put operating a bus in perspective: treat the customers onboard as if they were members of your own family.

“You wouldn’t want your family to get hurt and you don’t want your passengers to get hurt either,” he said. “They just want to get from ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B’ safely, that’s all.”

    > WCCO: Testing Bus Driving Skills with Metro Transit 

    > Metro Transit safety and security efforts earn industry accolades

    > Metro Transit Roadeo

    > Bus Safety

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