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Community Northstar Rider Information

Let history be your guide on the Northstar Commuter Rail Line 

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013 11:40:00 AM

From Ford Motor Co.’s downtown Minneapolis factory to the Oliver H. Kelly Farm in Elk River, a trip on the Northstar Commuter Rail Line is rich in history. 

And now there’s more of it.

Minnesota Public Radio’s audio tour of the 40-mile commuter rail line, part of its Sound Point® series, was recently expanded to provide customers additional history about the sights along the corridor (which we learn began as a route for ox carts delivering furs from northern Minnesota and Canada...). 

The 25-minute tour is accessible by smart phone, allowing transit customers to listen and look as they travel the line. Passengers with WiFi-enabled devices can also access the tour using Northstar's new WiFi service later this year.

In Ramsey, where Northstar’s newest station opened in 2012, the tour tells the story of one of Minnesota’s first paved highways, Highway 10. The road was built in the 1920s to serve wealthy city residents who wanted to drive to their lake homes.

> Listen to the Northstar Commuter Rail Line audio tour

The tour also touches on the 1986 tornado that hit the Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley, which circled for 16 minutes and is considered one of the most-photographed tornadoes in history. Other anecdotes include the story behind the Rum River’s name, a mix of spiritual and spirit-driven inspiration, and the construction of the United States’ first rural nuclear power plant, in Elk River.

Jeff Jones, Engagement Editor for MPR's Public Insight Network, created the audio tour. Jones said he hopes the history will give customers who regularly ride Northstar a greater appreciation for the corridor, which he said “exemplifies the story of Minnesota’s development.”

“I want someone riding it (Northstar) to understand what connects Minnesotans together,” Jones said. “Whether you live in the city or live out in the exurbs of Big Lake, there’s so much that we depend on each other for. But more simply than that, I want people to know what they’re looking at every day, to be able to look at a factory and say, ‘I know what’s going on in there.’”

Jones hopes to continue building the series, adding additional audio and information Big Lake, at the north end of the line. Anyone who would like to share information is invited to contact Jones at

Bus Light Rail Links of Interest Transit Information Transit Planning

Apps put transit in the palm of your hand 

| Friday, June 07, 2013 4:04:00 PM

In addition to Metro Transit’s mobile website, the agency provides third-party developers the information they need to build apps that provide route and schedule information, frequently in real time. That trove of data comes primarily from The Minnesota Geospatial Commons, which collects GIS information from the seven-county metro region, and Metro Transit's real-time departure info system, NexTrip.

Standing at the corner of East Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue and need to find a bus to Uptown? There’s an app for that. In fact, there are several.

Several developers have already put that data to use, creating apps that offer information about Metro Transit routes and schedules. The Pioneer Press has reviewed several available options; a complete list of apps with Metro Transit information can be found here.

Here’s a quick look at some of the available apps that could be of help to Metro Transit riders:

The Transit App. The Transit App automatically locates the nearest transit stop or can be used to find the nearest stop to a manually-entered address. After the stop has been identified, the app shows the next scheduled arrival and provides real-time information about the location of the bus or train. After entering a desired destination, the app can be used to get specific route information and to provide an estimated travel time. Free,  iPhone,

HopStop. Like The Transit App, HopStop allows users to enter their location and preferred destination to find the nearest stops, routes and estimated travel times. The app also features full schedules and allows users to post live updates, adding a unique conversational element. Free.

Google Maps. Like its web-based bigger brother, Google’s map app automatically locates a user or allows a start address to be manually entered. Enter the final destination and select the bus icon to see what transit options are available. Free, iPhone, web.

Twin Cities Tripr. The Tripr app allows users to search by route or stop and provides information about the next available local service or express bus. Information on Northstar, the Blue Line and the Red Line is also available. Free. iPhone.

In addition to these apps, Metro Transit’s website is available in a web-friendly format. Simply enter or into your browser. The site allows users to view schedules, NexTrip (real-time departures), plan trips and locate service. On GPS-enabled devices, the “Find Me” feature can also be used to determine your location with just a touch.

Twin Cities Transit and also serve mobile web users.

Bicycle Bus Community Go Green Light Rail

Bike Walk Week's transit tie-ins 

| Friday, June 07, 2013 3:23:00 PM

Expect to see more bikers and walkers on local streets this week – and not just because the sun has finally broken through the clouds.

Bike Walk Week 2013 begins on Monday, June 9, and continues through Friday, June 14. Throughout the week, bicyclists will be treated to free tune-ups, repairs, refreshments and other perks as part of a push to encourage commuters to consider alternatives to their vehicles. The “Commuter Pit Stops” will be available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and include several destinations near transit, such as the east entrance to the Martin Olav Sabo Pedestrian Bridge on the Blue Line.

On Wednesday, near the Blue Line’s Government Plaza station, a celebration will be held from 7:30 and 9 a.m. featuring guest speakers, The Current, Nice Ride, vendor tents, prizes and breakfast from Park Café. St. Paul is hosting its Bike Walk to Work Day Celebration from 6:30 to 9 a.m. on Wednesday at Rice Park. A full list of events is available on the Bike Walk Week website.

Metro Transit buses and trains can be used by bicyclists to help round out their commutes. For a refresher on how bikes are loaded onto buses and transit visit Metro Transit’s “How to Ride” page.

With more walkers and bikers on the road, safety is key. The Minnesota Department of Transportation warns that more than half of bicyclist deaths and 60 percent of injuries over the last five years have occurred between June and September. One-third of crashes happen during afternoon rush hours, according to MnDOT. Find Metro Transit's safety trips about bicycling and transit here.

> See WCCO's report on Bike Walk Week 2013

> Star Tribune: Bike Walk Week pushes more women to pedal to office

Bus In the News Know Your Operator Safety

Star Tribune: Driver Jerry Olson honored for dozens of awards 

| Friday, June 07, 2013 2:12:00 PM

"Metro Transit’s most celebrated driver has never lived up to his nickname, “Crash.” And for that, he was honored Thursday. Jerry Olson was recognized by Metro Transit for having earned 25 Outstanding Operator Awards and 39 consecutive Safe Operator Awards; he’s the first to achieve the latter feat..."

> Read the Star Tribune's report on Jerry Olson and Metro Transit's Outstanding Operator awards

> Star Tribune: Metro Transit drivers get their due

> Read more about Metro Transit employees who have served for more than 30 years

Bicycle Bus Go Green In the News Light Rail

Metro Transit's shared connections 

| Wednesday, June 05, 2013 12:47:00 PM

The sharing economy is on the rise in the Twin Cities – and Metro Transit is playing a role in its growth.

Writing for Thirty Two Magazine, Jessica Conrad tells the story of how HOURCAR, Nice Ride and other shared services are changing people's travel habits and the local economy.

Metro Transit bus driver Alec Johnson, who has incorporated Nice Ride into his daily commute, provides a fitting anecdote for the piece. Johnson uses a Nice Ride bike to get to Metro Transit’s Nicollet Garage in Minneapolis and again to get home again after finishing his day at the Uptown Transit Center.

“It’s not uncommon for me to use Nice Ride a few times a day, mixed in with a bus ride or two,” Johnson, 32, says in Thirty Two Magazine’s piece, The next new economy, published at “Bike sharing has revolutionized my life. I don’t know how I lived without it.”

Like Nice Ride, the car-sharing service HOURCAR works in tandem with Metro Transit buses and light rail to offer residents more mobility.

HOURCAR program manager Christopher Bineham said transit is "absolutely essential" and the "number one thing that needs to happen to make car sharing possible."

"The reason that HOURCAR can exist is because there is a transit system," Bineham said. "The transit system is really the backbone."

Among the locations where residents can find Nice Ride, HOURCAR and Metro Transit in the same place is  46th Street Station, on the METRO Blue Line. Additional Nice Ride and HOURCAR locations can be found on Metro Transit's Interactive Map.

It's the interplay between such services that leads Conrad to conclude the sharing economy is more than just a "flash in the pan or a niche that only serves the well-to-do" but is instead a movement "capable of growing a community in a profound way.”

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