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Bus Community Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Hussein Mohamed 

| Monday, November 23, 2015 12:29:00 PM

Hussein Mohamed had just graduated from high school when he was driven from Somali amid a violent civil war.

As a refugee in Kenya, he spent six years selling gasoline and other provisions so he could earn a modest income. In 1996, seeking a better future for himself and his family, he boarded a plane, flew 16 hours across the Atlantic Ocean, and set out to create a new life in the Twin Cities.

Nearly two decades later, the father of seven has become an active and enthusiastic leader for other Somalis who have made their homes here. He’s also become a home owner and gone back to school, studying business management at a local community college.

Getting to this point wasn’t easy. Mohamed held several jobs, as a dishwasher, janitor and taxi cab driver, before realizing that he had a calling for customer service. He’d taken the bus to work and knew a friend who was a bus driver at Metro Transit. So he applied and called until he got hired. At the time, he was one of just a few Somali-born operators.

After 14 years of driving, his message to others looking for a rewarding career is simple and unequivocal: working at Metro Transit is the opportunity of a lifetime.

“This is a job that brings hope to people from all over the world, including myself,” Mohamed said. “I send a lot of people here, telling them that the best company in the world is right at their doorsteps.”

Indeed, Mohamed has played a leading role in Metro Transit’s efforts to recruit drivers and to encourage ridership among the local Somali community. He does so both as a representative for Metro Transit and as community organizer who takes it upon himself to help Somali youth and to keep his peers informed.                                                                                            

“My father was a chief back in Somali so we always had people around and it taught me how to be a leader,” he said. “Helping people is my life.”

Mohamed offers a helping hand to those he works with as well. After being trained through Metro Transit’s peer support program, he is often called upon to work with operators who have gone through a traumatic event or are facing challenges.

“It’s all about making someone love their job when they’re down,” said Mohamed, whose warm demeanor and outgoing personality has earned him the nickname “King.”

While the job has its challenges, Mohamed said his best advice to himself and other operators is to simply take it one day at a time and to let things go easily. “When I leave home, I put my job number one so I have a fresh mind,” he said. “When I sit in the seat and press the gas, it’s a new day and it’s exciting.”

A ten-year safe driver, Mohamed has worked several routes throughout his career. Lately, he’s been driving Route 16, which continues to provide local service on University Avenue.

His hope for the future is to earn his degree, continue building his career and to expose more of his fellow Somalis to the opportunities available at Metro Transit. 

“You can tell just from my face that I’m happy and grateful,” Mohamed said. “I call myself a Minnesotan now and I look forward to raising my family here. This is my final destination.”

Operator at a Glance

Name: Hussein Mohamed

Hired: Oct. 8, 2001

Employee Number: 2406

Routes: Mohamed has driven several local and express routes, usually in Minneapolis and its immediate suburbs. Most recently, he has been on Route 16 with local service on University Avenue.

GarageHeywood Garage (previously spent time at the Martin J. Ruter and South garages)

Hobbies: Mohamed used to play soccer, but today he dedicates much of his time to his family, school and community. “My hobby is moving – constantly moving and talking to people,” he said.

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

Bus Fares Light Rail

Balancing the books between the farebox and the bank 

| Thursday, November 19, 2015 11:19:00 AM

A growing numbers of customers are using Go-To Cards and other passes to pay their fares without reaching for their wallets. But for many of Metro Transit’s customers, cash is still king.

Collecting, counting and quickly depositing all the bills and coins inserted into fareboxes and ticket vending machines is a daily task that requires a combination of manual labor, good accounting and appropriate safeguards.

The epicenter of this work is Metro Transit’s Central Counting Department, staffed by a team of revenue processing specialists who sort and stack piles of bills, feed mountains of coins through machines that organize them by denomination and weed out the unlikely debris that enters the mix.

“It’s a daily challenge to make sure we’re balancing the books and that everything comes out as it’s supposed to,” Revenue Collections and Processing Supervisor Abdul Ahmed said. “But we always do it.”

The longest-tenured member of the revenue collection team is Ian Stevens, who started as a coin counter more than 42 years ago and continues to begin the money-counting process each morning around 2 a.m.

“I had just gotten out of the service and I thought I’d get a few days to goof off but my wife said, ‘No, you’re getting a job,’” Stevens said. “This was the first place that called back.”

On a recent morning, Stevens pulled an orange metal bin up to a coin counting machine, releasing a small door and allowing coins to spill onto a conveyor belt. After rising several feet, the coins noisily fell through a cyclone of spinning metal that separated dimes, nickels, quarters and other denominations.

In about 20 minutes, 25,330 coins – including nearly 14,000 quarters – had fallen into cloth bags to be re-counted for verification and bagged according to U.S. Federal Reserve standards.

Removed from the mix was a 15-year-old Chuck E. Cheese token and several pieces of foreign currency that will eventually be exchanged. (Stored in a separate box is a collection of Pesos, Canadian dollars, Chinese Yuan, Euros and other bills from around the globe).

The machines used to organize the coins are new to the department but are very similar to those that were recently taken out of service after counting more than 3 billion coins over the last three decades. (Fun fact: that is more than enough coins to make a continuous roll from Metro Transit to the US. .Mint in Philadelphia, Penn., where the coins were minted.)

The recently-retired machines, slightly bulkier and less efficient, are waiting to go into storage and have been signed with wishful good-byes from staff in Central Counting.

Much of the other equipment used in Central Counting also dates back several decades, a reminder that while inflation has impacted the value of U.S. currency little has changed in its form or function.

The enduring quality of cash is why Central Counting is expected to remain a vital part of the revenue collecting operation at Metro Transit. Around half of Metro Transit’s customers now use a Go-To Card or pass, but just as many are relying on crumpled bills and loose change.  

In 2014, around $28 million was collected in cash fares, representing about a quarter of all fare revenue.

“Automatic fare payments are a convenient option for many of our customers, but we also know that a lot of people who ride still rely on and expect us to accept cash,” said Revenue Processing Manager Dennis Dworshak. “It’ll keep coming and we’ll keep counting it for the foreseeable future.”

    > Good Question: Why no sales tax on fares?

    > Good Question: Why does it cost more to ride during rush hour?

Bus Rapid Transit Minneapolis

Input sought on North Minneapolis BRT plans 

| Monday, November 16, 2015 8:52:00 AM

A draft station plan for the C Line.Residents are invited to provide feedback on plans for a new arterial Bus Rapid Transit Line that will serve North Minneapolis at a series of November open houses.

Like the A Line on Snelling Avenue​, the C Line will improve on local bus service through a combination of enhanced stations, larger buses and faster, more frequent service.

The C Line will follow the Route 19 alignment between downtown Minneapolis and the Brooklyn Center Transit Center, with service on Penn Avenue and Olson Memorial Highway. In downtown Minneapolis, the C Line will operate on 7th and 8th streets. 

A Draft Station Plan, published last week, provides more details on 24 locations where BRT stations are planned. The public can learn more about those station plans at the open house and provide comments through Dec. 6.

Feedback will be incorporated before plans are finalized and more detailed engineering work begins in 2016. With funding, construction will begin in 2017.

C Line open houses will be held according to the following schedule:

    > Tuesday, Nov. 17 — 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Minneapolis Central Library, and 6-8 p.m. at Patrick Henry High School 

    > Wednesday, Nov. 18 — 6-8 p.m. at Harrison Education Center 

    > Thursday, Nov. 19 — 6-8 p.m. at Lucy Laney Community School 

C Line resources

    > C Line Station Plan

    > C Line Fact Sheet

    > C Line FAQs

    > Subscribe to C Line Update

METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Ridership

Light-rail ridership continues to climb 

| Thursday, November 12, 2015 9:21:00 AM

Customers exit a light-rail train at Nicollet Mall Station in downtown Minneapolis.Light-rail ridership continued to climb in October, continuing a historic year for the METRO Green and Blue lines. 

Nearly 1.3 million Green Line rides were recorded last month, beating the light-rail line's previous monthly high of 1.25 million set in September. More than 10.2 million rides have been taken on the Green Line through the end of October.  

Average weekday ridership on the Green Line has also exceeded 40,000 for the last 10 weeks. The average weekday projection for 2030 was 41,000 rides.

With another 961,000 rides in October, total Blue Line ridership has reached almost 9 million and is on pace to set a new annual ridership record. The previous record of 10.5 million rides was set in 2012.

October's ridership is just the latest in a string of milestones for the light-rail lines. Previously:

    > On Sept. 3, single-day ridership on the Green and Blue lines topped 100,000 for the first time ever.

    > More than 1 million rides were taken on both the  Blue and Green lines in July. 

    > In April, East Bank Station became the first Green Line stop to reach 1 million boardings

    > A decade after opening, the Blue Line surpassed 100 million total rides in January. 

Combined, more than 7.75 million total rides, including 5.5 million bus rides, were taken last month. Nearly 72.3 million rides have been taken through the end up October, up about 2 percent compared to last year.  

Bus Transit Information

NexTrip signs added to several new locations 

| Monday, November 09, 2015 3:57:00 PM

A NexTrip sign provides expected real-time departures for upcoming bus trips. The sign posts also have a button for audio information.Digital displays that provide NexTrip information have been installed at several busy boarding areas around the region, nearly doubling the number of signs up systemwide.

NexTrip signs are now located at transit centers in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Brooklyn Center, Columbia Heights, Maplewood, Robbinsdale and Roseville. Signs have also been added to bus stops near several METRO Blue Line stations, including Franklin, Lake Street/Midtown, 38th Street and 46th Street.

The signs provide real-time predicted departure information for all routes departing within 15 minutes at the stops where they are located. The sign posts also have buttons that can be pushed for audio announcements of upcoming departure times.

NexTrip signs have been in use since 2009 along the Marq2 corridor in downtown Minneapolis and at the I-35W and 46th Street StationSouth Bloomington Transit Center and the Mall of America Transit Center.

Digital displays with NexTrip information were activated at all light-rail stations earlier this year. New downtown St. Paul bus shelters that opened at busy boarding locations this year also include NexTrip signs. 

Metro Transit is focusing on improving bus boarding areas through its Better Bus Stops program. In addition to NexTrip displays, enhanced signage and shelters are being installed at sites across the region

    > Stay in the know with NexTrip

    > Texting to find the NexTrip

Transit Police

Transit Police welcome new officers 

| Friday, November 06, 2015 12:00:00 PM

Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington and officers at a swearing-in ceremony at the Union Depot on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015.Mukhtar Abdi spent ten years interacting with the public as a Metro Transit bus operator. He’ll continue to do so, but in a much different way.

This week, Abdi was among 13 men and women who were sworn in as the newest members of the Metro Transit Police Department in front of friends, family and fellow officers.

“I really just wanted to serve the community in a new way, to have more interactions and more engagement,” said Abdi, the latest officer of Somali descent to join the department. 

With the latest hires, the department now has 108 full-time officers. With another 100 part-time officers, the department is among the largest in the state. Transit Police patrol busy transit areas and regularly ride on buses and trains. They can respond to any call for service in Metro Transit’s seven-county service area.

In addition to growing the force, the new class builds on the department’s continuing efforts to diversify and reflect the community it serves. Around half of the new hires speak a second language; there are also three officers of Hmong descent. Six of the new officers are female.

The group also highlights the department’s efforts to build from within, with five officers previously serving as Community Service Officers. CSOs assist officers and police staff while pursuing law enforcement degrees.

“We’re creating a pathway for people right here at Metro Transit to pursue their dreams without having to go anywhere,” Police Chief John Harrington said.

To learn more about job opportunities with the Metro Transit Police Department visit metrotransit.org/police

2015 Metro Transit Police Academy swearing in

Bus Minneapolis Suburban Transit

Minneapolis commute made easy with Maple Grove Transit 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, November 04, 2015 9:14:00 AM

Customers exit a Maple Grove Transit bus in downtown Minneapolis.For nearly 20 years, Leslie Ross has taken the bus to and from his job in downtown Minneapolis.

Since moving to Maple Grove in 2007, that’s meant riding Maple Grove Transit Route 781, an express service that gets him from to and from work in a little over a half-hour.

“It’s my time before and after work to just relax and read the newspaper or a book,” Ross said on a recent morning commute. “I don’t even check work e-mail because it’s just so nice to have this small amount of time that I can unwind.”

The opportunity to trade a stressful and time-consuming commute for a faster and more enjoyable ride has led many others in the north metro community to the same conclusion. In 2014, more than 788,000 rides were provided on Maple Grove Transit’s six express routes with service to downtown Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota.

Though buses and Park & Rides are owned by and carry the name of Maple Grove Transit, the service itself is operated under contract by Metro Transit. Metro Transit’s operators drive the buses, mechanics at Metro Transit’s Martin J. Ruter Garage maintain the 39-bus fleet and fare payments are made using the same system used on Metro Transit vehicles. Metro Transit’s Customer Relations department also assists with feedback from Maple Grove Transit customers.

The City of Maple Grove manages Maple Grove Transit through its Transit Administrator, who conducts transit planning, administration, customer service and marketing.  The city also has a Transit Commission of eight customers who provide input.

Metro Transit has provided Maple Grove Transit services since 1990 and will continue to do so through at least 2018 after the recent approval of a three-year contract extension.

Maple Grove Transit Administrator Mike Opatz said Metro Transit has consistently provided great service and that he looks forward to building on the successes of the last 25 years. Among the improvements made this year was the addition of free WiFi to some Maple Grove Transit buses.

“We truly appreciate all of our partners throughout Metro Transit,” Opatz said. “We’re particularly grateful for the service and support we receive from the operators, garage staff and supervisors, and we look forward to continuing to work together in the years ahead.”

Maple Grove is one of 12 suburban communities that have chosen to “opt-out” and directly contract their transit services through other providers. SouthWest Transit provides service in Chanhassen, Chaska, and Eden Prairie; the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority provides service in seven south metro suburbs; and Plymouth Metrolink provides service in Plymouth. (MVTA merged with contracted providers in Shakopee and Prior Lake in 2014.)

For customers, the fact that the buses say Maple Grove Transit while the operators wear a Metro Transit uniform isn’t all that significant. Instead, they’re just happy to have an alternative to battling congestion on Interstate 94 (Maple Grove Transit routes use bus-only shoulders to bypass traffic).

On the same trip as Ross, the 20-year transit veteran, was newcomer Tara Roberts who began riding the bus just a few weeks earlier when she started training in downtown Minneapolis. Able to board just blocks from her home, Roberts uses her time commuting to text with her children instead of stressing about traffic and parking.

“I get anxiety when I drive downtown so I really didn’t want to deal with it,” she said.

After moving from Puerto Rico this summer, Carlos Muniz said he will be especially grateful that he can walk or take a short drive to the Maple Grove Transit Station near his home instead of having to drive as he faces his first Minnesota winter.

“It’s all new to me, so I think there would be a lot of complications with that,” he said. “I’m glad I’ll just be able to rely on the bus.”

Maple Grove Transit At a Glance

Routes: Routes 780, 781, 782, 783, 785 and 788 provide express, weekday service to and from downtown Minneapolis during peak periods. Route 787 offers midday and evening service on weekdays. Route 789 provides weekday express service to the University of Minnesota when fall and spring classes are in session.

Park & Rides: Free parking is available at five Park & Ride locations. Open since 2003, the largest Park & Ride is the Maple Grove Transit Station near the Shoppes at Arbor Lake; it features 926 parking spaces, a climate-controlled waiting area and bike storage. Open since 2010, Parkway Station has 800 parking spaces. Smaller Park & Rides are located on Zachary Lane, at Cross Winds Church and at the Shepherd of the Grove Church. 

Ridership: Customers took 788,000 rides on Maple Grove Transit routes in 2014; ridership has increased more than 10 percent since 2010.

More information: maplegrovemn.gov   

    > Good Question: Why are some routes operated under contract?    

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