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In the News Safety Transit Police

MPR: Transit drivers get more protections from assaults under new law 

| Tuesday, July 30, 2013 5:00:00 PM

Minnesota Public Radio reports on a new state law that classifies certain assaults against bus and train operators as gross misdemeanors, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $3,000 fine – previously the penalty was up to 90 days in a prison and a $1,000 fine.  

Metro Transit officials successfully advocated for the stiffer penalties in the last legislative session, arguing such assaults put both operators and the public at risk.

Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington is among those who pushed the law change. Speaking to MPR, he said he hoped it would send a message that "assaulting drivers is taken very seriously."

> MPR's report on the new operator assault law

> AP: New Minnesota law ups penalty for bus driver assaults

> Metro Transit's Code of Conduct

Minneapolis Route of the Week

Route 10: High ridership, Hi Frequency and hybrids 

| Friday, July 26, 2013 11:00:00 AM

For the last three decades, Curt Delaney has relied on buses to get to work, appointments and shopping.

One of his favorite and most frequently used routes: Route 10, which runs north of downtown Minneapolis along Nicollet Mall and Central Avenue Northeast, serving Northeast Minneapolis, Columbia Heights and Fridley.

Returning from downtown Minneapolis with a handful of DVDs this week, Delaney said he’s not sure how he’d get around if not for the frequent, all-day service Route 10 provides.

“This is just a Godsend that the buses run so well,” said the Robbinsdale resident, who connects to Route 10 via Route 32.

Delaney isn’t the only one who has come to rely on Route 10. More than 2.7 million customers boarded its buses last year, placing it among Metro Transit’s most heavily-used routes (the route ranked sixth in ridership last year).

Beginning at the Leamington Parking Ramp at 2nd Avenue South, Route 10 buses run northbound on Nicollet Mall, downtown's main artery and open only to pedestrians, buses, emergency vehicles and taxis. Route 10 customers can ride for 50 cents in the Minneapolis Downtown Zone. (Specially-marked southbound buses offer free rides between Washington Avenue and the METRO Blue Line’s Nicollet Mall Station; Route 18 buses offer free northbound service between the Minneapolis Convention Center and Nicollet Mall Station).

After crossing the Mississippi River, buses continue north on Central Avenue and through the Central Avenue Business District, home to an eclectic mix of ethnic restaurants, grocery stores and small businesses.

Buses run every ten minutes between Minneapolis and the Columbia Heights Transit Center at Central and 41st avenues, part of Metro Transit’s Hi Frequency network that eliminates the need for a bus schedule. Trips take roughly 30 minutes end-to-end.  

Steve Schmid, who uses Route 10 on a near-daily basis, said the high level of service has made it remarkably easy for him to use the bus to get where he needs to go. Without a car, he said it's dependability is key to his way of life. “If I want to see anybody I take the bus,” Schmid said. “It’s everything for me.”

Route 10 branches that run north of Columbia Heights – the 10N and 10U – offer additional service to Fridley and Northtown Transit Center at Blaine’s Northtown Mall, passing shopping destinations and employers such as Medtronic, at 53rd and Central avenues.

Transit in this northern service territory has come more recently, but transit has a longer history on Nicollet and Central avenues.

A horsedrawn streetcar ran on Monroe Street and Central Avenue until 1882. In 1891, an electric streetcar line was built on Central Avenue to 29th Avenue NE. The line was extended to Columbia Heights two years later as Thomas Lowry, president of the Minneapolis Street Railway Co., promoted real estate development in the area.

Streetcars were cut back to 37th Avenue NE in 1951 and the entire line was abandoned in 1953. Streetcars never ran on Nicollet Avenue through downtown – the area was instead served by the Nicollet-Hennepin bus line, now Route 17, which began in 1926.

Known for many years as the Grand-Central Line, buses ran from downtown Minneapolis on Marquette and Second avenues to Nicollet Avenue and East 31st Street, heading west to Grand Avenue and south to 46th Street. Buses were later moved to Nicollet Mall to relieve congestion; Grand Avenue is now served by Route 18.

Route 10 has been a part of Metro Transit's more recent history-making efforts, with electric-hybrid buses making up the bulk of the service. The buses are quieter and get up to 25 percent better fuel economy than standard diesel-fueled models. It is also one of just three routes to use a bus "annunciator" system in which stops and transfer locations are displayed and announced through speakers inside and outside the bus.

Minneapolis is now studying transit alternatives for Central and Nicollet avenues. Among the options: a streetcar that would run between East Lake Street and East Hennepin Avenue, near the intersection with Central Avenue Northeast, and could later be extended further north and south. 

Type: Urban Local

Service: Route 10 offers Hi-Frequency service between downtown Minneapolis and Columbia Heights Transit Center, at 4079 Central Avenue NE. Buses run on Nicollet Mall downtown and on Central Avenue. From the Columbia Heights Transit Center, Route 10 branches run further north to Fridley and the Northtown Transit Center in Blaine.

Stops: 109 northbound and 107 southbound, including branches

Length: 12 miles

Vehicles: 40-foot hybrid buses

Ridership: There were nearly 2.73 million customer boardings in 2012, with an average of 7,448 customers per day

History: A horsedrawn streetcar ran on Central Avenue until 1882 and an electric streetcar offered service between 1891 and 1953. 

Bus Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Tony Taylor 

| Friday, July 26, 2013 9:48:00 AM

Before he became a bus driver, Tony Taylor sold shoes. That close personal interaction with people, he says, provided him with just the kind of training he needed to get behind the wheel of a bus, a job that puts him face-to-face with hundreds of customers every day.

Taylor has used those people skills for the last 35 years, logging more than 700,000 miles en route to becoming one of Metro Transit’s most senior and respected drivers. A a frequently called upon spokesman for media interviews, Taylor was named Minnesota Bus Operator of the Year in 2013.

Reflecting on his experience, Taylor says the key to the job is simply having the right outlook.

“I would say that 99 percent of it is attitude,” Taylor says. “You have to have a good attitude, especially if you’ve been here any length of time.”

Not that that’s always easy. Driving a bus in poor weather and heavy traffic are among the challenges drivers face on a daily basis. The job was even tougher when Taylor began in 1978, when buses had no air-conditioning, power steering or electronic fare machines.

Taylor’s most memorable work experiences include the night the Minnesota Twins won Game 7 of the World Series (Oct. 25, 1987), the 1991 Halloween blizzard and the 1992 Super Bowl at the Metrodome.

“Those are monumental moments when you find out what driving a bus is really about,” he says.

Through all the challenges, Taylor has managed to perform at a high level, joining an elite group of operators who have gone more than 30 years without an accident and earning more than two-dozen Outstanding Operator awards.   

As an on-call driver, Taylor has experienced almost every facet of Metro Transit’s bus operation, too. Leading what he describes as a “nomadic” career, Taylor has worked at four bus garages picking up routes as needed. The constantly-changing schedule has put him on express, suburban and urban routes and at all times of day.

Taylor enjoys the variety, but says there is an underlying maxim that ties it all together: “Treat passengers the way you want to be treated.” Also important: not taking anything too personally. “If you can’t let something go and have a little humor it could be a very long day,” he says.

Taylor’s good-natured attitude is something he hopes younger drivers can adopt. “People think anybody can drive a bus. But it takes a certain amount of patience, attitude – and of course people skills,” he says.

Operator at a Glance

Name: Tony Taylor

Hired: Dec. 4, 1978 (Taylor is also one of fewer than 100 Metro Transit employees with a three-digit employee number, 877).

Routes: As an on-call driver, Taylor has driven countless routes and worked out of four different bus garages – Martin J. Ruter, East Metro, Nicollet and Heywood.

Favorite memories: Driving the night the Minnesota Twins won Game 7 of the World Series (Oct. 25, 1987), the 1991 Halloween blizzard and the 1992 Super Bowl at the Metrodome. Taylor has also appeared in several media stories on behalf of Metro Transit, including a 2013 WCCO story on Lost & Found, a KARE story on severe weather driving and a Fox 9 campaign on jobs undeterred by weather. Taylor has also appeared in Metro Transit training videos and participated in the public debut of the Student Pass program. 

Awards: 27 Outstanding Operator Awards, 34-Year Safe Operator. Minnesota Bus Operator of the Year, 2013. 

Hobbies: Traveling, hiking, fishing, motorcycles, bird watching and attending dog shows.

To better get to know those getting you around, Metro Transit offers these profiles of train and bus operators. If you'd like to suggest an operator for a future profile, please email ridersalmanac@metrotransit.org.

Community From the GM METRO Red Line Rider Information

Mid-year Progress Report: On the Right Track  

| Wednesday, July 24, 2013 12:30:00 PM

From Brian Lamb, Metro Transit General Manager

Like any good organization, Metro Transit lays out a set of annual goals and carefully tracks its own progress. Halfway through 2013, it's safe to say we're on the right track.

Ridership is up, customers are happy and buses and trains are running on time. While there's more work to do, these positive takeaways from our own mid-year review give us and our customers reason to celebrate.

Here’s a quick scan of how Metro Transit is faring on its top 2013 goals.

> Grow ridership. After a record year in 2012, Metro Transit is on pace to reach its goal of 82 million passenger boardings this year. Overall ridership is ahead of last year and Northstar Commuter Rail is experiencing the fastest growth in its nearly four-year history, with ridership up more than 15 percent through the end of June. Average weekday ridership surpassed 3,000 customers in the month of June for the first time. Ridership on express and urban buses also continues to see steady growth.

> Improve customer satisfaction. Nine out of ten customers rated Metro Transit’s service as “Good” or “Excellent” in a customer survey completed earlier this year. Customers are as likely to recommend Metro Transit to their peers as some of America's most popular and recognizable brands, including Apple, Jet Blue, Verizon and Costco. More than half of Metro Transit bus customers say they have used transit for more than five years, a good indication that once a customer gives us a try, they tend to stick with us.

> Enhance safety and security. We're proud to have received two key safety accolades -- the Transportation Security Administration’s Gold Standard and the American Public Transportation Association’s Gold Award for Bus System Safety. A safety campaign was also named “Best of Show,” by the Minnesota Association of Government Communicators. As the Metro Transit Police Department continues to grow, we believe Metro Transit will continue to serve as a national model for transit safety and security.

> Improve operational reliability. Despite a protracted winter, disruptive spring storms and ongoing construction, buses are running on time for 89 percent of trips. ​Although weather and traffic are not within our control, pulling buses out of garages on schedule is. Bus pull-outs have been on time 997 of every 1,000 trips so far this year. Northstar commuter trains are operating on time for more than 95 percent of trips. With the receipt of 12 additional light rail vehicles for METRO Blue Line operations, we’re now able to run all three-car trains during our busiest times. 

> Promote energy conservation and environmental stewardship. Metro Transit's buildings and bus garages are being made more efficient through retrofits while employees continue to reduce their personal energy use through simple habits like turning off their computers at the end of the workday. The use of clean soy-based biodiesel fuel blends is also expanding in the bus fleet, with testing of 20 percent blends now in progress. More hybrid buses are being added to the fleet while Metro Transit's and the new light rail vehicles appearing on tracks are lighter and more energy-efficient.

> Support and foster transit-oriented development. Development along the METRO Blue Line continues to advance, with more housing and retail space coming online. At Nicollet Mall Station, Nic On Fifth is rising out of the ground directly east of the LRT platform. The 253-unit apartment building will be the first skway and LRT-connected apartment project in Minneapolis history. New housing, offices and retail developments are also emerging along University Avenue and the University of Minnesota as the METRO Green Line's mid-2014 opening approaches.

> Recruit, retain and develop a diverse and talented workforce. A historic hiring effort to bring more than 100 new bus drivers on board is nearing completion, allowing some longtime operators to transition into new roles on the METRO Green Line. Metro Transit's Police Department is also growing to meet the demands of an evolving transit network. Nearly 20 new officers were sworn-in in April. Both the new drivers and new officers reflect our riders' diverse backgrounds.

> Be a visible and respected presence in the community. Through open houses, social media (more than 25,000 now follow us on Twitter or 'Like' us on Facebook), customer advocate engagements and other outreach efforts, Metro Transit is listening to its customers in an effort to improve its service. We're is also making an effort to share more news and better connect with customers through this new Rider's Almanac blog.  

> Advance the development of new transitways. Now 93 percent complete, the METRO Green Line is coming to life with overhead wires, tracks and stations. Near Target Field, the Interchange transit hub is also taking shape, setting the stage for the METRO Green Line extension from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie and other regional transit improvements. Minnesota's first Bus Rapid Transit service, the METRO Red Line, launched in June with promising early returns while preparations for the next evolution of bus service, Arterial Bus Rapid Transit continue to evolve.   

        > METRO: Light Rail Ridership Growth Spurs Minneapolis' Metro Transit to Expand Services

        > METRO: Q & A With Metro Transit GM Brian Lamb

Bus Rider Profile

The Love Bus 

| Thursday, July 18, 2013 9:20:00 AM

Andrew Humphries didn’t get a name. But he had learned enough over the course of a short bus ride to guess how he could find the girl he’d met while riding Route 6, the Italian he couldn’t seem to get out of his mind.

The next day, he found himself standing at a receptionist’s desk with flowers in his hand and a note. ‘To the smile on Route 6, if you’d ever love to brush up on your Nintendo or go to dinner I’d love to take you out,’ it read.

The girl who had casually joined a debate over video games on the bus the night before had just left for vacation and wasn’t at work. But she could be reached by phone. On a layover, she learned of her admirer’s bold move.

“I was shocked,” Sofia Farone said, remembering the phone call this week. “I’d thought of him as a ‘single-serving friend,’ like someone on a plane you never meet again.”

Still, she was intrigued enough to take a chance. The pair met after her return to Minneapolis and quickly picked up where they’d left off.

Four years after their chance February encounter, Humphries coaxed Farone back aboard the Route 6 bus where it all began. It was her birthday. She wanted to stay in but he was persistent. On Hennepin Avenue, en route to one of their favorite restaurants and sitting in the same rear seats where they’d met, Humphries got down on one knee and proposed.

There were at least two other passengers on the bus to serve as witnesses. Overcome, Farone and Humphries can’t really remember how they reacted. In a blur, they exited the bus and finished their trip on foot.

For Humphries, the proposal was a fitting conclusion. The night they’d met, he’d unsuccessfully tried to get Farone to join his friends at the Green Mill. It was the same restaurant they were going to on the night of the engagement. 

“I finally got her to the bar that she shot me down at,” Humphries said.

In June, the engagement ended with a wedding that played up their relationship’s bus origins. A model bus served as a cake topper while a bus stop sign and route maps were among the décor. “And of course it was mentioned in all of the speeches,” Farone said.

Photo courtesy Garrett Tetrick

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