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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 jjones@mpr.org.

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,  thetransitapp.com

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. hopstop.com

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. google.com

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. appannie.com

In addition to these apps, Metro Transit’s website is available in a web-friendly format. Simply enter metrotransit.org or metrotransit.org/mobile 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 mspbus.org also serve mobile web users.

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

Bus Good Question Light Rail Promotions

Good Question: Why are free rides offered to some events? 

| Tuesday, February 26, 2013 3:42:00 PM

With St. Patrick's Day around the corner and basketball and hockey seasons underway, customers have asked us about Metro Transit's free ride promotions.

Minnesota Wild bus light rail Metro TransitWe partner with organizations and events throughout the year to provide free trial rides in exchange for advertising and promotional opportunities. For instance, Metro Transit’s partnership with the Minnesota Timberwolves offers fans with game-day tickets free rides on buses and trains before and after games. In exchange, Metro Transit receives a valuable advertising package that promotes public transportation to fans before they get to the arena and also during games at Target Center.

Factors considered for selecting events and partnerships include the amount of value received in exchange for rides, minimum ride and attendance projections, transit service levels to the event and partnerships that are aligned with Metro Transit’s Mission Statement and Guiding Principles.

Promotions are a great way to get to know us!

Graphic promotion for TimberwolvesThe free rides are generally redeemable with a downloadable pass that is shown to bus drivers or Transit Police officers. We ask customers to answer a couple of questions before they download their pass. Last year, about 80 percent of those downloading passes said they had never tried transit or had only used it occasionally, and 75 percent said the free rides made them more likely to attend the event.

Miller Lite Free Rides promotions during St. Patrick’s Day and New Year’s Eve are different because rides are paid for directly by MillerCoors Brewing. In 2012, there were about 89,000 free rides given to customers during these annual programs.

Free trial rides offered through promotions or partnerships total about 0.3 percent of total annual ridership. 

Similar to sampling programs popular in the private sector (for example, free food samples in grocery stores), these trial rides provide easy opportunities for event goers to try transit. Our customer research shows that once people try buses and trains, they overwhelmingly have a good experience (90 percent) and are likely to refer our service to friends and family (95 percent). Sporting events are targeted because surveys show that fans who normally don’t take transit are willing to try it to games and then continue riding to other events. 

> See Metro Transit's Event Calendar for upcoming promotions and events

> Star Tribune: Try before you ride: free rides on the Red Line

Bus Good Question Light Rail Rider Information Winter Weather

Good Question: How does Metro Transit prioritize winter storm cleanup? 

| Thursday, February 21, 2013 10:49:00 AM

When winter weather hits, customers often ask us how Metro Transit organizes snow clearance.

photo metro transit bus in snow

 

Prioritizing the Metro Transit To-Do List

With a modest staff and large winter storm workload, snow clearance is prioritized to keep the transit system moving and safe. For a comprehensive description, visit Metro Transit's snow removal procedures.

Priority #1 – Operations

  • Clear the way for trains and buses by servicing bus garages, rail yards and support facilities. No one will be moving if our buses and trains are snowed in. 
  • Plow bus roadway at park-and-ride lots and transit centers and areas where buses layover or turn around. If a bus gets stuck, it takes a lot more than a friend to help push it out.
  • If there is a lot of a snow accumulation, plow the light rail track area.
     

Priority #2 – Passenger Movement

  • Clear snow and ice from customer areas with the highest activity including light-rail stations, Northstar stations, transit centers and park-and-ride lots. 
  • In very heavy snowfalls, clearing passenger paths is done in two stages. First, crews will clear walkways to bus loading areas and the edges on rail platforms, returning later to complete the work.photo transit center winter
 

Priority #3 – Customers with Limited Mobility

  • Clear snow and ice from customer areas that have high use by limited mobility customers. Metro Transit is able to track this information by reviewing data where those paying fares with limited mobility Go-To Cards are boarding. 
 

Priority #4 – Customer-Waiting Shelters

  • Clear the 700 Metro Transit-owned customer-waiting shelters throughout the seven-county metro area.
  • Remove snow and ice within a 6-foot radius of the Metro Transit-owned shelter.
  • Shovel a 4-foot-wide path from the curb through the plowed snow on the road side to provide a clear path for loading and unloading.
 

Priority #5 – Revisit and Groom

  • Continue to revisit areas to plow, chip ice and shovel out paths from the curb for bus loading and unloading. 
     

Partnerships are Key in Keeping Transit System Moving

 

Park & Rides, Bus Stops and Transit Centers

Not all bus stops and transit facilities are maintained by Metro Transit. Other transit agencies also maintain bus service, bus stops, transit stations and park-and-ride facilities.

Here is contact information for providers other than Metro Transit.

Clearing Sidewalks 

Clearing snow and ice from sidewalks is the responsibility of the property owner adjacent to the sidewalk. Many cities require snow and ice to be removed to bare concrete from back of sidewalk to curb within 24 hours of accumulation.

Each city has it own policy on snow removal:

Bus Shelters

Shelters or benches with advertising on them are not maintained by Metro Transit (except for Marquette & 2nd avenues in downtown Minneapolis). Shelters and benches with advertising are owned by private companies that are responsible for their maintenance. 

photo bus shelter not owned by metro transit   photo metro transit bus shelter
Maintenance of shelters with advertising is not the responsibility of Metro Transit.    Snow clearance and maintenance of Metro Transit shelters are performed by Metro Transit staff.
     

Let Us Know about Winter Cleanup Needs at Metro Transit Facilities

photo of man clearning snow in 1951 in St. Paul

Depending on the severity of winter storms, Metro Transit staff may be required to focus on the first few priorities on our to-do list to ensure that transit operations are maintained. Please be patient as our employees make the rounds to clean up after winter storms and consider conditions following a snowfall that may further hinder cleanup progress, such as freezing rain and drifting snow. 

Metro Transit wants to hear from customers if problems persist at particular locations following a snowfall. Please call Customer relations at 612-373-3333, option 3, or use the online contact form. If cleanup is needed at a Metro Transit location, we send crews to address the issue. If the cleanup needed is on property managed by a different municipality, agency or private shelter company, we will pass along the cleanup request.

 

Photo left: Snow is nothing new to our transit system. Pictured left a man clears a sidewalk in front of his business as a streetcar filled with passengers goes by in the background. Photo taken outside St. Pierre Liquor Store, 256 West Seventh Street, St. Paul, 1951. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society.

 

 

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