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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

Bus Minneapolis Northstar Route of the Week

Route 20: Small route to big train 

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013 3:07:00 PM

It doesn’t go far but it does fill an important niche. 

That’s the abbreviated story behind Route 20 – the shortest trip among Metro Transit’s 130 local, suburban and express bus routes.

Launched in 2009, Route 20 makes five one-mile trips from the Ramp B/5th Street Transit Center to 5th Avenue South and 7th Street South each weekday. In the afternoons, there are five reverse trips that run from 9th Street South and Chicago Avenue to the Ramp B/5th Street Transit Center. 

The short trip is half the distance of Metro Transit’s next shortest routes – routes 8 and 27 – and was created as a downtown link for customers using Metro Transit’s longest route, the 40-mile Northstar Commuter Rail Line.

Many Northstar commuters can use the METRO Blue Line, which runs along 5th Street South to Target Field Station. Route 20 also runs east-west through downtown but is designed to better serve those coming from west downtown.

Southbound Route 20 buses run five blocks southwest of the Blue Line, on 10th Street South; northbound buses run four blocks southwest, on 9th Street South. The Minneapolis campus of the University of St. Thomas, Target, the AT & T Tower and the Hennepin County Medical Center are among the landmarks on the Route 20 corridor.

“We have this great connection with the Blue Line but for people who need to get to 9th, 10th and 11th that’s pretty far for them,” said Cyndi Harper, a route planning manager with Metro Transit. “We didn’t really have anything that could hit that south end of downtown, which is why we started Route 20.”

Several customers aboard a Route 20 bus this week said they appreciate not having to walk several blocks in the summer heat or when it snows.

Though short, the bus is getting its share of customers. In 2012, an average of 93 customers boarded Route 20 every weekday. And as Northstar ridership climbs – boardings are up 15 percent through the first half of 2013 – use of Route 20 could continue to grow. In length, though, probably not.

Route 20 At a Glance

Type: Urban Local

Service: Route 20 provides five southbound trips every morning between 6 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. and five northbound trips every afternoon between 3:30 p.m. and 5:50 p.m. Buses run from the Ramp B/5th Street Transit Center to  the southwest corner of downtown Minneapolis.

Route length: 1 mile

Stops:  7 southbound stops and 6 northbound stops.

Vehicles: 40-foot standard buses

Ridership: More than 23,600 customers boarded Route 20 in 2012, with an average of 93 weekday customer boardings.

History: Route 20 was launched in 2009, with the opening of Northstar Commuter Rail.

Community Light Rail METRO Blue Line Minneapolis

Garden partnership blooming on METRO Blue Line 

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013 9:07:00 AM

Three years ago, volunteers planted nearly 1,800 flowers, vines and trees on an small corner lot west of the METRO Blue Line’s 50th Street/Minnehaha Park Station. The effort is paying off.

At the peak of its second full growing season, the collection of Giant Hyssops, Wild Geraniums and Purple Prairie flowers that help make up what’s now known as the Nokomis East Gateway Gardens is in full bloom.

For those behind the garden, the space has also become a meeting ground for neighbors and a point of pride that delivers a fitting welcome to the Nokomis East neighborhood.

“I walk by here every day and have a great sense of pride in the neighborhood,” said Sally Einhaus, a 17-year neighborhood resident who has worked on the garden since its inception.

Einhaus was among a group of five volunteers at the garden on a recent Saturday morning pulling weeds and enjoying the company of neighbors.

Less visible than the oranges, yellows and purples that fill the space is the partnership the garden represents.

Metro Transit purchased the small corner property northwest of the Hiawatha Avenue and East 50th Street intersection as part of the METRO Blue Line construction effort. The land was needed to build an electrical substation that provides electricity for trains.

Preparing to demolish a 1920s-era dry cleaning business that sat on the site in 2009, Metro Transit approached the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association to discuss how the land could be reused.

Neighbors viewed the site as important because it serves as an entry to the Nokomis East neighborhood and quickly landed on the idea of a garden because of its proximity to the Nokomis Naturescape Gardens, known nationally for its collection of monarch butterflies.

“Nobody wanted to see a chain link fence with weeds behind it when they turned into the neighborhood,” said Trish Schilling, one of the garden’s most active leaders. “This really is a gateway to our community.”

Local design firm colberg | tews Landscape Architecture provided complimentary designs for the site. From above, the paths form an outline of a butterfly wing.

Metro Transit agreed to install a fence around the substation, grade the site, install a water line and helped acquire the plants, trees, compost and mulch needed to get the garden off the ground.

Planting occurred over two days in October 2010 and neighborhood volunteers have maintained the site ever since. The garden has attracted several butterflies and been enhanced with the addition of pavers, birdhouses and other decorations.

Schilling said the effort has been sustained “in the spirit of community service” and that the garden has taken on a “look, feel and personality” as it has evolved.

The garden has also helped build connections between the community and Metro Transit.

“Just from a relationship-building standpoint it’s been really valuable,” said Julie Quinn, a planner in Metro Transit’s engineering and facilities department who helped organize the garden project.

> Metro Transit's Adopt-a-Shelter program

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