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METRO Green Line

Green Line service changes protect investment, shift focus to better housing options 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, May 17, 2019 7:50:00 AM

From General Manager Wes Kooistra

When regularly scheduled service adjustments take effect in August, we will replace four METRO Green Line trips that run between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. on weekdays with buses. These buses will operate as frequently as Green Line trains do today and stop near each Green Line station.  

This change means that the Green Line will operate on a similar schedule as the Blue Line, with nightly breaks on weekdays and 24-hour service on Fridays and Saturdays. The new bus service will ensure that Green Line customers traveling to and from work and other destinations will still have service during these hours. 

We are making this change to allow for safer and more timely maintenance along the Green Line corridor. It will also provide more time to clean and maintain our light rail vehicles and stations.  

Under the current Green Line schedule, maintenance staff is often required to work while overhead power lines remain energized, which can complicate their work. Some maintenance activities are delayed until there are other reasons to suspend light rail service, such as road maintenance and construction. This is clearly not the best way to keep this important public asset in good repair. 

Nearly all light rail providers throughout the country have similar breaks in service to allow for maintenance. There are 22 U.S. transit agencies that operate light rail. In a review, we found that LA Metro, in Los Angeles, Calif., was the only other provider offering 24-hour light rail service on weekdays.​

We know many people ride the Green Line overnight because they do not have a home of their own. We have heard the concerns that people without access to housing or shelter will be displaced by this change. We, too, care about the well-being of our riders experiencing homelessness. We also have heard concerns that these trains, which lack running water, beds and bathroom facilities, do not constitute a humane or dignified shelter, and that using trains for overnight stays is not compatible with providing a transit service. 

In recent on-board surveys, staff found that, between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., there were fewer riders using the Green Line to go from one destination to another than expected. We also observed fewer riders than we expected using transit for overnight stays, although that number was still significant. Some people were simply using the Green Line as a gathering place. 

Allowing the Green Line to be used for overnight stays or as an overnight gathering place undercuts our ability to provide safe, clean and reliable service. It is also clear that transit is an unacceptable option for people who need affordable housing, shelter, or other support. 

While nearly everyone agrees that trains are not a safe and dignified place to sleep, we have heard concerns that appropriate shelter options will not be available. 

We share this concern and are working closely with the Interagency Council on Homelessness and other regional partners to advance meaningful responses to this issue. 

We are offering funding and other resources to better understand the needs of our riders experiencing homelessness, and to help people connect to the services and housing options that will meet their needs. Officers on the Metro Transit Police Department’s Homeless Action Team will continue building trust, providing immediate help and serving as a bridge to resources that can create lasting change. The Council has already dedicated nearly 90 federal housing vouchers to help address the needs of those using transit as a place to stay. 

While these efforts will continue, this work clearly requires partnerships and leadership from organizations and agencies whose primary role is to serve people who are without shelter. 

Through these changes, we will continue to honor our commitment to our riders and the communities we serve. We will better and more safely address maintenance requirements. And we will continue to work together with our partners so that everyone experiencing homelessness can find safe and affordable housing.   

On Off The Clock

On the Clock/Off the Clock: Mechanic Technician Dan Aasen 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, May 09, 2019 1:45:00 PM

Mechanic Technician Dan Aasen with a Metro Transit electric bus.

On the Clock/Off the Clock features provide an introduction to the people who spend their days working at Metro Transit and their free time involved in a variety of interesting hobbies. Read more On the Clock/Off the Clock features here

Lives: Rock Creek, Minn.

Job: Mechanic Technician, Heywood Garage

Years of Service: 25

Where are you from originally? Tell us a little bit about your background.

I grew up in Coon Rapids and attended North Hennepin Technical College to become a diesel mechanic. I worked for Medicine Lake Lines as a driver and mechanic for ten years. While I grew up in the north suburbs, I’ve always been a farm boy at heart. Since 1996, my wife, son and I have lived in Rock Creek, Minn. It’s a long commute (approximately an hour) but worth it to have a chunk of farmland.

How did you come to work at Metro Transit and what do you do?

Twenty-five years ago, a friend of mine mentioned a job opening for a skilled helper at Heywood Garage. I got that job and, six months later, moved into a mechanic position. You’ve been able to find me at Heywood Garage doing general repairs and maintenance on the hoist ever since. 

What is your favorite part about working for Metro Transit?

I work with great people who are dedicated to sharing their knowledge and cross training so we’re able to keep our buses ready for the street. And as a mechanic there’s no shortage of projects that make work more challenging and interesting. From diesel to hybrid, and now to electric, technology is always changing. Today, most of my days are spent on the electric bus team. It’s a welcome challenge to be a part of the team ensuring the electric bus fleet is prepared for the opening of the METRO C Line.

What are your favorite activities when you’re not working or are “Off the Clock”

I’m a mechanic on and off the clock. Except off the clock I work on vintage tractors, like my 1929 McCormick Deering tractor or 1951 Farmall. I find understanding these old machines interesting and so do a lot of other people. We get together at old time tractor and thresher shows in Almelund, Rock Creek and other places throughout Minnesota. It’s a great community of people who not only share their love of tractors but the stories around the machines. My son shares a love of vintage tractors, too. Between the two of us, we have eleven vintage tractors!  

Awards Bicycle Community Metropass

Commuter Choice Awards celebrate sustainable transportation leaders 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, May 07, 2019 2:53:00 PM

Metro Transit recognized sustainable transportation leaders at the 2019 Commuter Choice Awards.A bakery that boasts of being St. Paul’s only carbon-free carb delivery and a YMCA that rewards members for working out on the way to their workouts were recognized as area mobility leaders this week.

Metro Transit and Transportation Management Organizations (TMOs) celebrated their efforts, along with several others, at the annual Commuter Choice Awards. The awards were presented on Tuesday, May 7, at the University of Minnesota.

Brake Bread, based on St. Paul’s West Seventh Street, was named Organization of the Year. The Midway YMCA, on University Avenue, received an honorable mention in the same category.

Formed in 2014, Brake Bread makes as many as 80 deliveries a day using an electric-assist bike with a trailer attachment. In 2018, they eliminated an estimated 11,000 car trips by relying on bike delivery. Brake Bread also supports customers who bike to its store by participating in the Bicycle Benefits program.

Leaders at the YMCA Midway and YMCA Blaisdell, its sister branch, instituted the Clean Commuter Club in 2018 to encourage members to walk, bike or take transit to the gyms. Members who do not drive to the gym are rewarded with guest passes and other perks.

Metro Transit works with TMOs like Move Minneapolis and Move Minnesota to encourage the use of transit and other alternatives to driving alone. The Commuter Choice Awards were introduced more than a decade ago to celebrate government entities, building owners and individuals who support sustainable transportation.

Nominations are reviewed by transportation and human resources professionals, public officials and advocates. Others recognized at this year's Commuter Choice Awards were:

Employer: Quality Bicycle Products

Quality Bicycle Products of Bloomington offers many benefits to encourage sustainable commuting, including contributions to Health Savings Accounts and credits for bike parts, accessories and apparel. “HealthPartners estimates that Quality Bicycle Products saves $170,000 per year in health care costs by investing $45,000 in incentives,” the company said.

Employer Honorable Mentions: SPS Commerce, University of St. Thomas

Commuter Benefits Coordinator: Heather Galvin, Kari Scanlon

When Rally Health relocated, Heather Galvin worked with Metro Transit to enroll the company in the Metropass program. Kari Scanlon, director of human resources for Touchstone MH, also worked with Metro Transit to join the Metropass program.   

Commuter Champion: Katie Peters

When I Work accountant Katie Peters has coordinated outreach events with Move Minneapolis, organized the company’s Metropass participation and helped lead World Car-Free Day activities. When I Work is in the Ford Building, just east of Target Field Station.

Commuter Champion Honorable Mention: Dana DeMaster

Government Entity: Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board

Board staff responded to the opening of the METRO Green Line and other Capitol-area investments by prioritizing transportation management in an updated comprehensive plan. The plan will serve as a reference for developers and property owners seeking board approval.

Learn how Metro Transit and area TMOs can help promote transit and other alternatives to driving alone 

B Line

Community members voice support for the METRO B Line 

Posted by John Komarek | Thursday, May 02, 2019 11:52:00 AM

The proposed METRO B Line promises to provide fast, frequent service connecting Minneapolis and Saint Paul along Lake Street/Marshall, and potentially along Selby to downtown Saint Paul.

At South High School, community members got their first look at some of the proposed B Line and give feedback.

For transit riders Hannah and Hattie, they agree that having the B Line is appealing. Both commute to downtown Saint Paul via express routes, but once there ride the current route 21 frequently.

“I’d love to have the flexibility to leave the office mid-day and not have to figure out bus schedules,” Hannah said. “And with consistency and frequency, I wouldn’t need to. I can’t wait for the METRO B Line.”

METRO Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) services like the B Line offer pickups about every 10-15 minutes all-day.

Hannah and Hattie at an open house at South High School. Both were eager to share their excitement about the METRO B Line.

Hattie’s a biker who uses transit and supports the B Line because it’s a faster option than the current Route 21, which she finds to be occasionally late.

“Fast and frequent pickups sound great, especially when I bike to stations,” Hattie said. “I won’t have to worry about timing it just right to match a schedule.”

A new proposal to extend the B Line along Selby Avenue to downtown Saint Paul is one of the reasons Metro Transit is out in the community getting feedback.

Part of the B Line implementation would be improvements along the corridor that help lessen the effects of traffic and improve transit services, like bus bump outs, improved bus shelters, and a fleet of buses to match the promised frequency.

Community groups like the Lake Street Council also see the potential benefits of the B Line for the Lake Street corridor.

“Improved transit options will make it easier for customers and employees to reach their destinations on Lake Street,” Matt Kazinka, Sustainability Program Coordinator said. "We're hopeful that Metro Transit's investment in the B Line will make the street more welcoming and accessible."

Outreach with the community will continue through the beginning of 2020. Pending full funding, station design will occur in 2020-2021 and construction in 2022.

Find out if there’s an upcoming community session near you or visit the METRO B Line Project page for more information.

Transit Information

Meet the mapmaker behind the ambitious new METRO map 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, May 01, 2019 10:13:00 AM

Senior Graphic Designer Leah Janz with the latest version of Metro Transit's METRO map.Senior Graphic Designer Leah Janz has made a lot of maps. But none have been quite as ambitious as her latest creation, which depicts each of the current and future Light Rail Transit and Bus Rapid Transit lines that make up the METRO network.

LRT and BRT lines in the METRO network have fast, frequent, all-day service. Today’s METRO network includes the Green, Blue, A and Red lines. The network will expand in June with the opening of the C Line, which will provide BRT service between downtown Minneapolis and the Brooklyn Center Transit Center. 

This week, Janz talked about how she created the latest version of the METRO map and how she hopes it will help build enthusiasm for future expansion.

How do you begin to create a map like this?

I created the first version of this map in 2012 when we were preparing for the Green Line opening. I started with a geographic map of all the METRO routes and simplified it using straight lines. Since that original version, the layout has changed to accommodate additional lines and stations. Some design elements have also changed, like using a 10-point grid, restricting the lines to 45- and 90-degree angles and new station icons. Making changes can take several hours as stations and lines are reorganized to fit new information. There’s a lot of trial and error, too. This latest version went through more than five rounds of revisions before it was finalized. Even as the map has grown, simplicity remains the most important goal.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when making this map? 

Adding the future arterial BRT network within the existing network was a big challenge. Because they are identified by letters instead of colors, we used a neutral gray and letter to identify each line. Then we had to figure out how to communicate what exactly those gray lines are in the legend. To make the new lines and stations fit, a lot of the existing lines had to change. We almost didn’t include the station names because they’re long and weren’t going to fit without some major modifications. I had to make the map larger to accommodate the names, which required a lot of finessing of the lines and stations. As our system grows, I expect to do a lot more creative problem solving.

What examples did you look to when creating this map?

This map was modeled after the topological (also called diagrammatic or schematic) style created by Henry Beck for the London Underground in 1931. He believed that simplifying maps through straight lines and geography distortion made the map easier to understand. Ridership increased because customers could make faster decisions. A traditional geographic map, while physically accurate, is harder to understand. Many people don’t want to invest that time and decide not to try transit. Beck’s style was and is so successful that many other transit agencies, including us, have adopted the concept. When making this map, I also referenced maps in the book Transit Maps of the World to see how things like station iconography and transfer points have been handled elsewhere. The most recent printing of the book (2015) has my original METRO map in it, but it’s evolved a lot since then. I’ve also sought out other resources that have informed some of my decisions, including a transit map blog written by a graphic designer.

Do you have a favorite line on the map?

As a former St. Paul resident and University of Minnesota alum, I prefer the Green Line. I just wish it had opened ten years earlier so I could have used it while I was in school! The Orange Line will become a close second when it opens in a few years. I’m looking forward to riding that when I move to the south metro.

What do you hope people think when they see this map?

I hope the map communicates that the METRO network is easy to use and that it encourages more people to use transit. I also hope it helps lead to more public investment in transit so that open areas of the map are filled in and we’re able to serve more people.

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