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From the GM METRO Green Line Minneapolis Safety St. Paul Transit Improvements

Green Line progress on track 

| Wednesday, September 11, 2013 2:00:00 PM

From Brian Lamb, Metro Transit General Manager

The Minnesota State Fair is over but our planning for next year’s event is already underway. One of the most changes we’re preparing for: light-rail connections from the METRO Green Line.

The Green Line’s role in next year’s State Fair service is just one example of the myriad ways transportation in the Twin Cities will change when the region’s second light rail line begins operating.

We’re getting closer to that new reality with every passing day, too. Green Line construction is 96 percent complete and testing is well underway. Light-rail vehicles have been towed the full length of the new track and trains have run on energized segments of the line through the University of Minnesota campus.

Here’s a snapshot of where the project stands today:

> Infrastructure: In August, ground was broken for an enclosed connection that will provide access between the Central Station and skyway system in downtown St. Paul. Over the next several months, more overhead wire and equipment will be installed and ticket machines, NexTrip display signs and security cameras will begin appearing at station areas. Staff will be at Sunday’s St. Paul Open Streets event to provide tours and answer additional questions about these station areas.

> Vehicles: To date, we’ve received nearly half of the 59 new type II Siemens light-rail cars that will be used on the Green and Blue lines. Twenty of these light-rail vehicles have already been put into service on the Blue Line while more are being tested and certified each week. Support vehicles will also be required to maintain and operate the line. In October, we expect to receive a new vacuum truck that will be used for clearing street-embedded track on the Green and Blue lines. Equipment that will be used for snow clearance and overhead line maintenance is also arriving.

> Outreach: A public safety campaign that urges pedestrians and motorists to be aware around stations and construction ares was rolled out earlier this year. As testing activities accelerate, we will focus the campaign more heavily on safety around trains themselves and continuing to share this message with schools and other groups located on and near the line. 

> Service: More trips on several connecting bus routes were added in late August, giving customers an early opportunity to become acquainted with the new bus schedules over the months ahead. It’s expected that more than one-third of Green Line rides will be transfers from buses. A comprehensive plan for optimizing bus service in the Central Corridor area was completed last year. 

> Personnel: About half of the 176 new jobs – from rail supervisors to technicians to track maintainers and helpers – have been filled. Nine Green Line train operators have begun training and by the end of the year the majority of the 61 new operators will have moved over from our bus operations division.   

In both obvious and subtle ways, the METRO Green Line will change the fabric of the Twin Cities. We at Metro Transit hope you’re looking forward to it as much as we are.

Bus Good Question

Good Question: Why go out the back? 

| Wednesday, September 11, 2013 12:00:00 PM

This week’s Good Question comes from Ken Paulman (@kenpaulman), who asked: "How much time is wasted by people exiting out the front instead of the rear door?"

Like virtually every transit agency, Metro Transit generally encourages customers to depart buses using the rear exit. This allows customers to step aboard, pay their fares and get settled on the bus quickly as others circulate through the back door. Following this practice where possible adds up into time savings which helps buses to remain reliably on schedule.

 

“It’s good practice because it helps the flow of passengers getting on and off and, if you’re sitting near the back, it’s much easier to use the back door than to weave through customers who might be standing in the aisle,” said Douglas Cook, a Metro Transit Customer Advocate who helps teach new customers how to use Metro Transit at How-To-Ride sessions. 

Not every customer should use the rear exit, however.

To use the ramp or lift, customers with wheelchairs or mobility devices use the front door for boarding and departing. Customers who board with strollers or large luggage that is kept in the area near the front entrance are asked to exit through the front door to reduce interference with other passengers. Those using onboard bike racks should also be prepared to exit from the front door so they can alert the bus driver that they will be retrieving their bike. In winter, conditions at bus stops may also make it safer to exit out the front door. 

Customers on most afternoon and evening express trips departing the downtowns or University of Minnesota area pay fares at their destination (typically a Park & Ride) instead of paying as they board. This "Pay Exit" approach is another way of speeding passenger boardings and providing more reliable and efficient service.

> How To Ride

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

METRO Blue Line Minneapolis On the METRO

Supportive housing, supportive transit 

| Monday, September 09, 2013 1:51:00 PM

RS Eden’s new Emanuel Apartments in downtown Minneapolis has 101 units and 10,000 square feet of commercial space but not a single parking space. And that suits the people who live and work there just fine.

Instead of driving to work, appointments or classes, residents and employees at the 822 South 3rd Street building simply walk a block west to the METRO Blue Line’s Downtown East/Metrodome Station, catch a bus on nearby Chicago Avenue or bike.

In place of parking, land outside the mixed-use building has been used to create a private backyard with trees, benches, grills and grass for residents’ pets to roam. In the basement, a large space has been dedicated to bike storage and a room has been set aside for bike maintenance and repairs.

Laura Craig, supportive services program director for RS Eden, said she rides the Blue Line to work at Emanuel Apartments every day and that the dozen other staff members who also work at the site commute largely by bus or train.

“This has been a wonderful incentive to use the train,” Craig said.  

Proximity to transit was one of the main reasons RS Eden landed on its new location. Emanuel Housing is a sober supportive housing development that offers permanent residence to those who commit to a life free of drugs and alcohol.  

The non-profit RS Eden was created 40 years ago to serve Vietnam veterans and has evolved to serve a range of clients, including families and single adults. RS Eden now manages nine sober supportive housing projects in Minneapolis and St. Paul, many of which are located on transit-rich corridors.

For many of RS Eden’s residents, vehicles aren’t an option and transit is a critical connection for classes, work and services. With nearly a dozen rooms at Emanuel Apartments reserved for veterans, the Blue Line’s connection to the Veterans Administration is especially important.

“It’s a perfect location for us,” said RS Eden President Dan Cain. “There’s no need for parking because our tenants have immediate access to transportation, to job opportunities, medical centers and other services.”

Emanuel Apartments opened in August following the renovation of an existing four-story structure and the construction of a connecting four-story building immediately south. The $18 million project was funded through low-income housing tax credits, as well as funding from the state, city and RS Eden.

Since the doors opened, nearly 90 residents have moved in; the building is expected to be fully occupied by the end of the year.

More than a dozen RS Eden case managers and staff with the Council on Crime and Justice work at the building. Remaining space is expected to be used for a medical and legal clinic that would be open to the general public.

For Cain, the combination of supportive housing, transit and public services creates what he considers to be RS Eden’s crowning achievement. “This is really the jewel in our crown,” he said.

A grand opening for Emanuel Apartments is set for noon on Wednesday, Oct. 9.

> RS Eden

> METRO Blue Line

> Finding a home on the METRO Blue Line

Bus Go Green METRO Blue Line

Recycle when you ride 

| Monday, September 09, 2013 12:03:00 PM

Metro Transit customers will notice something new the next time they’re at the METRO Blue Line’s Target Field Station: a blue and yellow recycling bin.

The station is home to one of ten new recycling containers that were installed after Labor Day as part of a pilot recycling program. Recycling containers have also been placed at Uptown Transit CenterSun Ray Transit Center28th Avenue Park & Ride lot and  Fred T. Heywood Office Building and Garage.

Wayne Schafer, assistant director of Facilities Maintenance, said customers are encouraged to recycle newspapers, as well as clean aluminum and plastic in the new bins. “For us, this is just the right thing to do,” he said.

Material from the new containers will be combined with recyclables already being collected at Metro Transit’s support facilities.

Metro Transit has trash containers at all Blue Line and Northstar stations as well as Park & Ride lots and Transit Centers. Future expansion of the recycling program will depend on funding. Metro Transit paid for the purchase of the 10 bins now in use.

> Go Greener with Metro Transit

> Solar power lighting Metro Transit buildings, shelters

Bus METRO Blue Line Promotions University of Minnesota

U of M students invited to enjoy the ride 

| Thursday, September 05, 2013 4:00:00 PM

For the first time ever, University of Minnesota students are getting a chance to try Metro Transit for free.

From 6 p.m. Friday through the end of service on Saturday, students can simply show their U Card to board a bus, a light rail train on the METRO Blue Line or use the METRO Red Line, a new Bus Rapid Transit system with service to Eagan and Apple Valley.

Students can use the passes to get to home games at Target Field on Friday and Saturday nights or any other event occurring in the Twin Cities this weekend. The University of Minnesota campus is served by several local bus routes. Routes 2, 3, 6, 16 and 50 provide connections to downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Several express routes also feed into campus during the week, allow students to study, read or simply relax as they travel to and from campus. Students on Route 252, which runs from the 95th Avenue Park & Ride in Blaine, said this week that they also used transit to avoid traffic and parking expenses.

This weekend’s special promotion is meant to introduce these benefits to new and returning students and encourage the purchase of U-Passes, which offers unlimited rides through the end of the semester for just $97. Nearly 500,000 U-Passes have been sold since 2000.

Jacqueline Brudlos, spokesperson for the University of Minnesota’s Parking and Transportation and Services department, said the school is excited to partner with Metro Transit on the free ride weekend promotion.

“This gives our students a chance to spread their wings and try out riding the bus - something that many of them have never done - before committing to purchasing a pass,” she said. “Our hope is that once they try out public transit, they'll be hooked.”

> University of Minnesota transit service

> Route 252: Blaine to books, on the bus

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