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Bus In the News Light Rail METRO Green Line On the METRO St. Paul Transit Improvements

St. Paul connections go every direction, including up 

| Thursday, August 29, 2013 1:12:00 PM

Construction on a new vertical connection between the METRO Green Line’s Central Station and the St. Paul Skyway is now underway.

The connection was celebrated Wednesday morning in St. Paul as disability advocates and downtown business leaders joined officials from St. Paul, Ramsey County and the Metropolitan Council for a ceremonial groundbreaking at the corner of Fifth and Cedar streets, where the connection will be located.

Expected to be completed in time for the opening of the METRO Green Line, the verical connection will serve as a link for commuters while improving accessibility at the Central Station.

The vertical connection is just one part of a suite of transit improvements planned for downtown St. Paul.

Planning is also underway to improve bus boarding areas at Cedar Street and Fifth Street, Fifth Street and Minnesota Street, Sixth Street and Cedar Street and Minnesota and Sixth Street in mid-2014.                                                                                 

New shelters, public art, security upgrades, real time arrival signs, lighting, bicycle amenities and landscaping are planned for each of the stops, which together see more than 6,000 daily boardings.

Stations at Fifth Street and Minnesota Street and at Sixth Street and Cedar Street will also be built to accommodate ticket vending machines and other components of Arterial Bus Rapid Transit, planned for West Seventh Street and East Seventh Street.

A $3.2 million federal grant is paying for the station improvements and a share of the vertical connection.

This week, service was expanded on a dozen Metro Transit bus routes serve downtown St. Paul, including routes 21, 54, 62, 64, 68 and 74.

> METRO Green Line

> Downtown St. Paul Transit Improvements

> Metro Transit expands bus service in St. Paul, East Metro

> Pioneer Press: St. Paul Skyway elevator, downtown bus stop improvements planned

Bus Bus Maintenance Safety

More maintenance, more miles 

| Thursday, August 29, 2013 1:03:00 PM

Judging strictly by appearances, the 1984 Ford tow truck kept at the Martin J. Ruter Garage in Brooklyn Center may not seem particularly noteworthy.

But the truck has a distinct honor: it is the oldest vehicle in Metro Transit’s fleet. After nearly three decades in service, it has logged just 35,000 miles retrieving broken down buses or vehicles caught in winter storms.

The truck’s longevity is more than a piece of trivia, however. The extended life is a testament to how well Metro Transit’s buses perform on a daily basis.  

In 2012, Metro Transit buses collectively traveled an average of nearly 7,500 miles between calls for roadside service, peaking in October with an agency record of 8,293 miles between road calls. The “miles between maintenance” measurement is calculated by dividing the total number of miles traveled among all buses by the number of maintenance-related roadcalls.

Last year's performance marks an 89 percent improvement from a decade earlier. Such improvements don't just happen, though. A group of nearly 300 specially-trained mechanics work around the clock at Metro Transit’s five garages and the St. Paul Overhaul Base to keep buses in top condition.

Buses are regularly inspected to ensure all systems are functioning correctly and that any concerns that are identified are quickly addressed before a bus goes back on the road.

In addition to being vigilant, maintenance staff use operator feedback to better understand how vehicles are performing on the road and have built relationships with industry suppliers so that Metro Transit gets the best buses it can.

Better transmissions and other components have not only made buses more dependable and improved engine life, but improved fuel efficiency and overall comfort for customers. Metro Transit’s persistence on quality and reliability has also led to product improvements that have been incorporated into the bus builder’s product line – providing a better, more reliable product not just for Metro Transit customers but all transit users.

“There’s a continual drive to improve each year,” said Rob Milleson, Metro Transit’s director of bus maintenance. “We’re constantly monitoring and constantly learning.”

The combination of high-quality maintenance and procurement helps keep Metro Transit buses in service at least 12 years before they are put into service for the Minnesota State Fair or put up for public auction.

Most buses in Metro Transit’s fleet log an average of 410,000 miles before being replaced. By comparison, the average car lasts 11 years and 165,000 miles
Milleson said that performance record is particularly impressive considering all of the challenges – most notably Minnesota’s harsh winters – that buses face as they transport customers throughout the year.

The credit, he says, goes to those who spend their days making sure buses perform at their peak.

“While a combination of factors impact reliability and bus longevity it’s our front line employees that really make it all come together,” Milleson said. 

> New buses hit the streets

> Fact Book tells Metro Transit's story by the numbers

Bus METRO Blue Line METRO Orange Line Minneapolis Route of the Week

Route 46: Students, sanctuary and synergy in south Minneapolis 

| Wednesday, August 28, 2013 5:00:00 PM

As classes let out at Southwest High School for the first time on Monday, buses lined up around the perimeter of the school. But they weren’t yellow. Instead, the buses came from Metro Transit and bore all the hallmarks of public transportation – including the route number.

Along with Route 6, buses brandishing the Route 46 label parked outside the brick-walled school, filling quickly with students who poured out of the building just after 3 p.m. For the first time this year, students at Southwest High School have Go-To Student Passes that offer unlimited bus and light-rail rides between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., allowing students to use regular-route service to get to and from classes and extracurricular activities.

While some students taking Route 46 home after class this week said they had used public transportation before to visit friends, get to jobs or go to the gym, others were experiencing Metro Transit for the first time.

Hasan Bteibet, a freshman at Southwest, said he used to ride his bike to school or get a ride from his mom. But with temperatures soaring on the first day of class, he appreciated the air conditioned bus and said he looked forward to the independence his new MPS Student Pass will provide.

“I can use this to get to all the places I need to go like the mall and work,” he said.

Students from Southwest High School aren’t the only ones using Route 46 to get to and from school, though. Washburn High School and Roosevelt High School are also located on the Route 46 corridor and participating in the Student Pass program. To accommodate the extra students, extra morning and afternoon runs are added to Route 46 during the school year.

Route 46 is about more than students, however. Running between Edina and St. Paul, Route 46 buses provide year-round service to several key landmarks, including 50th & France, the I-35W & 46th Street Station, the 46th Street Station on the METRO Blue Line, Minnehaha Park and Highland Village, in St. Paul.

Eric Laport, who lives near 50th and France, has used Route 46 for the last two years as a way to get to and from work in downtown Minneapolis. Boarding with his Go-To Card, Laport rides Route 46 to the I-35W & 46th Street Station where he connects with a limited stop Route 535 bus to get downtown.

Occasionally, he will also use Route 46 to get to the Blue Line’s 46th Street Station where he boards the Blue Line to get to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

“I do have a car but it’s much more convenient to take the bus,” Laport said. “It really couldn’t be any easier.”

Route 46 also serves a number of churches with limited parking, including Saint Joan of Arc, located at 4537 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis.  

JP Fitzgibbons, an administrative assistant at Saint Joan of Arc, said he regularly bikes and rides Route 46 to the church, as do several other parishioners. He said using transit can be more convenient than driving and is also in line with the church’s environmental values. 

“It really blends in with the philosophy here,” Fitzgibbons said.

Created in 2004, Route 46 combined parts of routes 4, 9 and 22, and follows a nearly identical route that began in 1947 but was discontinued just three years later. John Dillery, a Metro Transit service planner who helped develop Route 46, said the goal was to create a more seamless crosstown connection and improve service west of Nicollet Avenue.

“There are a lot of purposes for this route and a lot of passengers who get on and off a lot and make short trips,” Dillery said. “You may never that many passengers aboard at any one time, but if you ride it end-to-end you’ll see it carries a lot of people.”

In 2012, more than 349,000 customers boarded Route 46, up nearly 3 percent from the previous year. With the addition of Southwest High School, more than 500 high school students are expected to ride Route 46 every weekday during the school year.

Route 46 could become yet more popular with the advent of the METRO Orange Line, a planned Bus Rapid Transit line that would bring high-frequency service between Burnsville and Minneapolis. The proposed route includes a stop at the I-35W & 46th Street Station, improving service for Route 46 customers who transfer at that location.

Route 46 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

Service: Route 46 runs largely on 46th Street between Vernon and Eden avenues, in Edina, and West 7th Street, in St. Paul
. Buses run approximately every 20 minutes during rush hour and every half hour off-peak between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. Extra morning and evening trips are added during the school year to accommodate high school students with Go-To Student Passes. Destinations along the route include 50th & France, 
I-35W & 46th Street Station46th Street Station on the METRO Blue Line, Minnehaha Park and Highland Village, in St. Paul.

Route length: Approximately 12 miles

Stops: 106 eastbound stops and 110 westbound stops

Vehicles: 40-foot standard buses

Ridership: Route 46 saw more than 349,000 customer boardings in 2012, up nearly 3 percent from the previous year.

History: A crosstown route that mimics Route 46 was inaugurated by Twin City Rapid Transit in 1947 but discontinued three years later. Route 46 was created in 2004, assuming parts of routes 4, 9 and 22 to create a seamless crosstown connection.

Future: The METRO Orange Line, slated to be in service in 2019, would bring more frequent bus service to the I-35W corridor. Increased bus service would benefit Route 46 customers who transfer at I-35W & 46th Street Station to get to downtown Minneapolis or points south on I-35W.

Bus Express Bus In the News State Fair

Ridership strong on State Fair's opening weekend 

| Monday, August 26, 2013 12:28:00 PM

Fairgoers poured onto buses before pouring into the Midway over the first weekend of the Minnesota State Fair.

As of Sunday, nearly 80,000 customers had boarded Metro Transit's express State Fair buses or used regular route service to get to the fairgrounds. That’s up about 3 percent compared to the same time period of last year’s State Fair.

In all, about 14.5 percent of fairgoers used Metro Transit to get to the Great Minnesota Get Together over the first four days of the 12-day event.

Express State Fair buses are running from more than a dozen Park & Ride locations across the Twin Cities metro. Parking is free at the sites and a round-trip fare is $5.

A new Park & Ride site added this year is Northstar Commuter Rail's Fridley Station, where more than 1,800 customers had boarded as of Sunday. Customers can incorporate Northstar into their State Fair commute this coming weekend with a Northstar Family pass - an $11 to $20 roundtrip fare good for two adults and up to three children ages 6-17 (children under 5 ride free).  

The most popular express bus location has been the Park & Ride at I-394 & County Road 73, in Minnetonka (pictured above). Nearly 14,000 people boarded at that location over the first four days of the State Fair. The Bloomington Park & Ride, near Mall of America connection between the METRO Red Line and METRO Blue Line, has seen nearly 13,000 customer boardings.

> Metro Transit: The fast and friendly way to the State Fair

> Star Tribune: Transit agencies ready for State Fair

> State Fair Express service

> Regular Route bus service

Good Question Light Rail METRO Blue Line

Good Question: Why doesn't the METRO Blue Line have NexTrip? 

| Friday, August 23, 2013 2:00:00 PM

This week’s Good Question comes from William Lindeke (@BillLendeke), who asked: Why don't we have NexTrip technology on the METRO Blue Line?

Adding NexTrip to light rail on the METRO Blue Line has been a lower priority than adding it to buses. This is because light-rail trains operate most hours of the day – typically every 10 minutes – and are very rarely delayed due to weather or traffic congestion (on-time performance is 95 percent).

However, NexTrip will be added to the Blue Line next year as technology upgrades are implemented for the METRO Green Line. When installed, the system will display real-time departure times on existing digital signs at every station platform on the Blue and Green lines.

NexTrip information is also accessible by calling 612-373-3333 and at metrotransit.org. Third-party developers who use the GPS-based data from buses and Northstar trains to build their own mobile apps can incorporate real-time departure information into their software as well.

NexTrip technology was introduced to Metro Transit customers in 2008 and has been available for all Metro Transit buses and most regional buses since 2009; Northstar was added to the system in 2012. The system uses GPS technology on vehicles to track their location and predict departure times.

NexTrip displays are currently installed on Marq2, regional Park & Ride lots, select transit centers and the Union Depot in St. Paul. Future plans call for the use of NexTrip displays on Arterial Bus Rapid Transit corridors, including Snelling Avenue.

> About NexTrip

> Apps put transit in the palm of your hand

Have a “Good Question” that you want answered? Email it to goodquestion@metrotransit.org.

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