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Safety Transit Police

Metro Transit safety and security efforts earn industry accolades 

| Monday, July 08, 2013 11:48:00 AM

Metro Transit’s safety record is getting attention both nationally and locally from industry peers.

The agency has landed three safety-related awards from industry groups this year, including a “Gold Standard” rating for its transit security program announced last week by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The TSA rating is based on a voluntary, comprehensive review focused on security planning, training and outreach. Metro Transit received high scores across all categories in the TSA’s review.

"We commend Metro Transit and the Metro Transit Police Department for the commitment and hard work that this level of accomplishment requires," TSA Administrator John S. Pistole said in announcing the recognition.

Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb (shown presenting the TSA award during a recent Metro Transit Police Awards Ceremony as Chief John Harrington looks on) said it was an honor to be recognized with the prestigious Gold Standard.

"In particular, it's a credit to the Metro Transit Police Department for their leadership in making this agency a national model of transit security," Lamb said.

Earlier this year, Metro Transit was awarded the Gold Award for Bus Safety Excellence for large transit systems by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) for a suite of safety measures involving both operations and communications. This is the second time in five years Metro Transit has received the prestigious award. 

The Minnesota Association of Government Communicators (MAGC) also gave Metro Transit’s marketing department its “Best of Show” award for visual design on a campaign reminding customers how to be safe using transit.  The campaign included bus and train wraps, interior cards and posters and included messages such as “Be safe. Don’t chase,” “Be safe. Be seen,” “Be safe. Be alert,” and “Be safe. Look both ways!”

    > Mass Transit: TSA Commends 16 Mass Transit and Rail Agencies for Highest Security Levels

    > KSTP: Metro Transit Receives 'Gold Standard' for Security

    > Star Tribune: Metro Transit wins safety award

    > Rider's Almanac: Security officer who helped Metro Transit police nab suspect honored

    > Metro Transit Honored With Industry’s Top Safety Award

    > Metro Transit: Safety & Security

Bus Bus Rapid Transit METRO Red Line Route of the Week St. Paul

Route 54: Over the river and to the airport 

| Thursday, June 27, 2013 3:30:00 PM

Minneapolis customers are likely familiar with the METRO Blue Line’s service to the Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. But there’s an equally-convenient transit option St. Paul residents can use to reach the same destinations: Route 54.

Running nearly nine miles from the recently reopened Union Depot in Lowertown St. Paul, the limited stop, Hi-Frequency service offers quick and reliable service to Terminal 1-Lindbergh and the Mall of America Transit Station, which also acts as a hub for the METRO Red Line and METRO Blue Line.

Buses stop in downtown St. Paul and along West Seventh Street before crossing the Mississippi River and making their way to Bloomington. In total, it takes 24 minutes to get from downtown St. Paul to the airport, equal to the time it takes to go from downtown Minneapolis to the airport on the METRO Blue Line.

Nicki Beyioku is among the Metro Transit customers who have come to rely on Route 54 as a quick way to get to the airport and avoid paying for parking. Heading out-of-state this week, she left her car at her downtown St. Paul office and boarded the bus at Fifth and Minnesota streets, a practice she repeats six or seven times a year.

“I could call a friend, but this is just so convenient,” she said.

Route 54 isn’t just about getting the airport or Mall of America, though. St. Paul residents can board Route 54 for just 50 cents in St. Paul’s Downtown Zone, accessing major entertainment venues like the Xcel Energy Center and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts.

With several stops on West Seventh Street, Route 54 also offers access to small businesses, restaurants and employment centers along the growing commercial corridor. Among the major developments now taking place on West Seventh Street is the reuse of the Schmidt Brewery, which is being converted into nearly 250 live-work spaces for artists.

Home to streetcars until 1952, transit service on West Seventh Street has gradually expanded in recent decades.

A limited-stop predecessor to Route 54 began in the mid-1970s. Then, buses made just two stops on West Seventh Street. When the Mall of America opened in 1992, Route 54 was created to run every half-hour. Weekday service moved to 15-minute intervals in 2004. In August, buses will begin running every 12 minutes to accommodate increasing ridership.

The additional service has led to a growing customer base. Customers boarded Route 54 nearly 1.4 million times in 2012. By 2030, an estimated 7,000 passengers will board each weekday – up from around 4,000 weekday boardings today.

To accommodate future growth, plans call for improved station areas, real-time signs, off-board ticket vending equipment and low-floor buses – amenities designed to speed travel time for buses and improve the overall customer experience.

After the changes, buses would begin running every ten minutes between the Mall of America and downtown St. Paul on West Seventh Street during peak periods and with greater frequency during nights and weekends.

The state has already dedicated $5 million to the planned station improvements, and another $3 million in federal funds for buses and technology. There are hopes to obtain another $15 million so that construction can begin in 2015 and completed by 2016.

Improvements at four key downtown St. Paul stops, including the station at Fifth and Minnesota streets, are also planned. Designs are still in the works but are expected to include features such as real-time signs, heated shelters and ticket vending machines. The hope is to complete the improvements before the METRO Green Line opens next year, enhancing connections between bus and light rail service.

The station improvements in downtown St. Paul are being funded by a $2.6 million federal grant, a portion of which is also being used to build a vertical connection between the Green Line's Central Station and the St. Paul Skyway system. The Metropolitan Council on Wednesday awarded a construction contract for the vertical connection to PCL Construction services; work is to begin later this year and be complete before the Green Line's mid-2014 opening.

Route 54 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local (Limited-stop)

Service: Route 54 is part of Metro Transit's Hi-Frequency Network, with service at least every 15 minutes during peak periods. Buses travel between the Union Depot, in Lowertown St. Paul, and the Mall of America Station in Bloomington. At the Mall of America Station, customers can connect to the METRO Blue Line and the METRO Red Line. Route 54 stops at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International, Terminal 1-Lindbergh, and at five locations on West Seventh Street. Route 54 is also part of St. Paul’s Downtown Zone, with 50-cent fares.

Route length: Nine miles.  

Vehicles: Standard 40-foot and 60-foot articulated ("accordion") buses.

Ridership: Nearly 1.4 million customers boarded Route 54 buses in 2012. Since 2004, ridership has grown from about 1,800 weekday and Saturday rides to more than 3,800 daily rides.

History:  Limited-stop service in this corridor was launched in the mid-1970s. When the Mall of America opened in 1992, Route 54 began offering service every half-hour seven days a week. Weekday service moved to 15-minute intervals in 2004 and buses were re-routed to West Seventh Street, replacing Route 69.

Future: West 7th Street is among the corridors under consideration for Arterial Bus Rapid Transit, which would expand service in the corridor up to every 10 minutes during peak periods. Infrastructure improvements such as enhanced station areas, real-time signs, off-board ticket vending equipment and low-floor buses are also envisioned.

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line METRO Red Line On the METRO Transit Improvements

METRO Blue Line marks ninth anniversary 

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013 6:50:00 AM

For the last four years, Lisa Nguyen-Gaulke has relied on the METRO Blue Line to reach her job in downtown Minneapolis, a trip she estimates takes half the time she’d spend commuting by car from her Standish-Ericsson home.

Nguyen-Gaulke also uses the Blue Line to get to Twins games or other weekend events and as an easy connection to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Combined with their bikes, Nguyen-Gaulke’s use of the Blue Line allowed she and her husband to downsize to a single vehicle two years ago.

“It makes a big difference, especially with gas as high as it’s been recently,” Nguyen-Gaulke said this week.

Nguyen-Gaulke is among a growing number of residents who – nine years after the Blue Line’s opening and more than 30 years since it was first envisioned – have come to see light rail as an integral part of their daily lives.

As the Blue Line marks another anniversary today, here's a quick snapshot of how the state's first light rail line is performing and a look at what is yet to come.

  • > Ridership is exceeding expectations. Nearly 10.5 million customers boarded Blue Line trains in 2012, a record number of passengers for the 11-mile light rail line. Ridership levels have been trending nearly 30 percent ahead of projections for the year 2020. In Metro Transit's 2012 Customer Survey, 60 percent of respondents said they were on their way to work; 15 percent were running errands and 9 percent were on their way to school. Riders said they chose transit because they had no access to a vehicle, wanted to avoid stress and avoid gas and parking expenses. More than 42 percent of passengers have ridden for more than five years and more than 90 percent rated service as “good” or “excellent.”
  • > Development is surging. At the north end of the Blue Line, housing and office projects are planned or underway in the North Loop and near Target Field. Directly adjacent to the Nicollet Mall Station, a 26-story apartment building is rising from the ground -- the first high-rise in Minneapolis in 30 years. Plans to add offices, green space and apartments near the site of the new Vikings Stadium are taking shape. East of the 38th Street Station, a 180-unit apartment building, Longfellow Station, is nearing completion. And in Bloomington, plans for a 50-acre transit-oriented development around the Bloomington Central Station are taking shape as the Mall of America continues to expand.
  • > Property values along the corridor have been strengthened. Single-family homes within a quarter-mile of the Blue Line have sold for 4.2 percent more than homes in a comparison area, with values increasing an average of $5,000 per home. A 2013 study found home values within a half-mile of hi-frequency transit like the Blue Line performed 48 percent better during the recession compared to those farther away.
  • > Connectivity is growing. With the opening of the METRO Red Line last weekend, customers in the south metro have access to a frequent, all-day service connecting to the Blue Line at the Mall of America Transit Station. In 2014, the METRO Green Line will provide light rail passengers with a convenient connection to St. Paul and the University of Minnesota. When the Interchange transit hub adjacent Target Field opens next spring, connections between transit services, including the Northstar Commuter Rail line and bus service, will further improve. Future connections include the Snelling Bus Rapid Transit Line, which would run from the 46th Street Station and along Snelling Avenue to Rosedale Center, and the Green Line Extension, which would run light rail between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.
  • > Service will continue to improve. A dozen new light rail vehicles have been added to the Blue Line fleet in the past few months, providing service with all three-car trains during peak periods and special events. The vehicles are designed to be more energy-efficient and comfortable for passengers. Planned streetscape improvements on Hiawatha Avenue will make the corridor more inviting to pedestrians and bikers. And reconfigured traffic signal technology will help move traffic more quickly along Hiawatha Avenue. A growing police force will provide additional law enforcement presence throughout the entire Metro Transit system.
Community Safety Transit Police

Security officer who helped Metro Transit police nab suspect honored 

| Friday, June 21, 2013 3:43:00 PM

Sabrina Banks is an observer.

It’s that quality that led her to a job working security at St. Paul’s Alliance Bank Center – and to the Metro Transit Police Department on Friday, where she received a Civilian Award of Commendation.

Banks was recognized for identifying a suspect in an armed robbery of a Roseville group home and alerting Metro Transit police officers Peter Peterson and Leo Castro, who made an arrest following a foot chase through the St. Paul skyway. Metro Transit police had provided Banks with a photo of the suspect and asked her to be watchful, believing he might show up in the area.

The arrest later led police to three other robbery suspects, charges and subsequent convictions. Banks successfully identified another suspect earlier this year and has also worked with beat officers in St. Paul to address electronics thefts. (Above: Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington presents Banks with the award)

Before accepting her award, Banks said she has always had a keen eye and is constantly aware of her surroundings. “I look at everyone all day long and I never forget a face,” said Banks, a Woodbury resident who has worked security since 1996.

Recalling last year's arrest, Banks said it was an exciting moment and that she was proud to have helped officers make their arrest. “I like it when they get the bad boys,” she said.

Other citizens won recognition at the 16th annual event for chasing down a suspect who had smashed a transit shelter window with a skateboard and helping to prevent a suspect from entering a METRO Blue Line tunnel near the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Along with the citizen awards, nearly two-dozen Metro Transit police officers received accolades for extraordinary service. The group included two officers and a Metropolitan Council project manager who developed a system that provides better coordination with the Minneapolis Police Department, saving officers hundreds of hours in paperwork every year.

Adam Marvin, who joined the Metro Transit Police Department in 2009, was named Police Officer of the Year for his dedication and attention to detail. Officer Marty Williams was awarded the Timothy Bowe Memorial Award, which is given to a part-time Metro Transit Police officer.

Presenting the awards, Police Chief John Harrington described the officers as the “best of the best” and heralded them for being a “voice of reason and calm when things seemed to be completely out of control.”

“These are the people who make our world – the transit world – a better, safer place,” he said.

Star Tribune: Metro Transit honors top cops

> Metro Transit Police Honor Top Officers at 16th Annual Ceremony

> Previous award winners

Bus Express Bus METRO Orange Line Minneapolis Route of the Week Suburban Transit

Route 467: Fast growth for a fast commute 

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013 2:00:00 PM

Nathan Ondricek lives in Lakeville and works in downtown Minneapolis. But for the last two years he’s managed to avoid getting behind the wheel and enduring the stream of traffic on Interstate 35W.

Instead, Ondricek leaves his car at the Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride, located just east of I-35 in Lakeville, and boards Metro Transit’s Express Route 467. In just a half hour, he’s getting off the bus at 2nd Avenue South and 8th Street South and is on his way to work.

Sitting near the back of the comfy coach bus, he fills his 21-mile commute time napping or using his smart phone. The leisurely trip in has allayed any fears Ondricek had about being isolated in the city without his car, an SUV he knows would put a strain on his wallet were he to drive in every day.

“I was skeptical about losing the control aspect, worried I couldn’t leave whenever I wanted, but the buses run so frequently I really haven’t had to worry about it,” he said.

Ondricek isn’t the only one finding value in Route 467’s easy commute, aided by the bus's direct interstate access and ability to use dedicated lanes that allow them to bypass general traffic congestion.

Nearly 224,000 people boarded Route 467 last year, up 21 percent from 2011 and 74 percent from 2010, the first full year of express bus service at the 750-space Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride. The $8.7 million Park & Ride was built in 2009 with the help of federal funding directed at addressing congestion on I-35.

The spike in ridership puts Route 467 among Metro Transit’s fastest-growing express services. Among all 53 Metro Transit express routes, there were 9.46 million boardings in 2012, a nearly 10 percent increase from five years ago.

Service at the Kenrick Avenue has expanded from six inbound and six outbound trips to and from Minneapolis to 13 inbound and 13 outbound trips to accommodate the growing demand. Customers can now begin boarding at the Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride at 5:53 a.m.; the three earliest trips drop off customers at I-35W and Lake Street (on demand only) and the 10 following trips go directly to downtown Minneapolis, dropping customers off at different sites on 2nd Avenue South. Beginning just after 3 p.m., commuters have 13 scheduled departures to pick from.

The downtown waiting areas on 2nd Avenue South offer NexTrip real-time departure information and were added as part of the federally-funded Marq2 project. The work also led to bus-only lanes on 2nd Avenue South and Marquette Avenue, allowing for faster transit service downtown. Route 467 is part of Metro Transit’s Pay Exit network that speeds bus departures from the downtown core by requiring customers to pay their fare when they reach their destination.  

The growth on Route 467 is part of the conversation behind the planned METRO Orange Line, a Bus Rapid Transit service that could offer all-day, station-to-station trips to downtown Minneapolis on I-35W. The service would be modeled after the METRO Red Line between Bloomington and Apple Valley.

Along with stops in Minneapolis, Bloomington, Richfield and Burnsville, planners are studying whether there is enough demand to extend Bus Rapid Transit south to the Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride. Transit planners predict the METRO Orange Line could draw up to 3.4 million annual riders by 2030, complementing continued express bus service.

The Orange Line would also benefit express bus service by adding MnPASS lanes on southbound I-35W between downtown Minneapolis and East 42nd Street and providing updated stations and technology along the corridor. A new station in the middle of I-35W at Lake Street is also planned that would allow Route 467 and other express buses to better serve the Midtown area.   

Route 467 At a Glance

Type: Express

Service: 13 trips to downtown leave Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride between 5:53 a.m. and 8:12 a.m.; 13 trips leave downtown Minneapolis between 3:14 p.m. and 5:54 p.m. The earliest three inbound buses stop at I-35W and Lake Street; in the afternoon, buses stop at Lake Street on-demand.

Vehicles: Coach buses

Ridership: 223,694 total customer boardings in 2012, with an average of 840 weekday riders. Ridership has grown 74 percent since 2010, the first full year of express bus service at the Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride.

History: Service began in 2009 with the opening of Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride, which sits immediately east of I-35. Funding came largely from a federal grant. The Counties Transit Improvement Board is an ongoing funding partner.

Future: The METRO Orange Line could bring all-day, frequent bus to I-35W and I-35, potentially as far south as the Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride.

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