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Bus From the GM Minneapolis

Nicollet Mall revamp puts transit back at the center of downtown 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, November 30, 2017 10:34:00 PM

From General Manager Brian Lamb

For the past two years, construction has prevented us from using one of the most important and popular features of our transit network – Nicollet Mall

Moving six of our busiest local bus routes to Hennepin Avenue – bringing 800 more daily trips to a street already full of buses, cars, pedestrians and bicyclists – brought its share of challenges.

I want to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who moved with us from Nicollet to Hennepin, and to all those have stuck with us through all of the road and light rail construction downtown in recent years. 

Hopefully, like me, you’re excited about what all this work means for our city center. 

The Nicollet Mall project has brought new lighting, more than 200 trees, public art and other improvements, creating a much richer and pedestrian-friendly environment. Later this year, we’ll build on the city's reconstruction efforts by putting in a dozen new shelters with heat, light and real-time displays.

Hybrid buses and free rides on some routes will also remain features of our Nicollet Mall service. 

And while the remake of “Minnesota’s Main Street” is significant, transit improvements are being made throughout the downtown area. 

We’ve added to our downtown shelter network and spruced up our light rail stations. We’re putting the finishing touches on track and system improvements that will improve light rail operations downtown. And we’ve worked with partners like the Downtown Improvement District on creative placemaking efforts at several of our busiest stops. 

There’s more to come, too. 

Next year, construction will begin on a new transit-only access ramp that will make it easier for express and Orange Line buses to get in and out of downtown. Our next two rapid bus lines, the C Line and D Line, will also provide faster, more frequent service to and from downtown. 

These improvements come at an opportune time. 

Increasingly, downtown is not just a home to major employers but a place to live, dine, shop or take in a show. The Super Bowl and other future large events will also bring more visitors and attention to our downtown area. 

With so much going on within just a few square miles, transit is more than a nicety, it’s a necessity. 

Thank you again for sticking with us through all the recent construction. We hope our customers enjoy the new Nicollet Mall and join us in looking forward to all the other improvements that lie ahead. 

Nicollet Mall History

Nicollet Mall opened in 1968, championed and largely funded by a group of downtown business owners intent on competing with suburban shopping centers like the newly-opened Southdale Mall. It was the first of many transit malls that would eventually be built for similar reasons in large U.S. cities. 

When Nicollet Mall opened, it was served by routes 17 and 18. Several other routes later operated on the mall, including Route 10, and express buses to Richfield, Bloomington and Minnetonka. 

Nicollet Mall was also briefly home to a downtown circulator known as Quick Transit, or QT, which began in 1971. The propane-powered QT minibuses ran along Nicollet Mall until 1980. 

To reduce the number of buses traveling on the mall, express routes were moved to Marquette and Second avenues nearly 20 years ago. Today, the mall is served by routes 10, 11, 17, 18, 25 and 59. Prior to construction, there were around 12,500 average daily boardings on Nicollet Mall. 

Free rides have been available on select Nicollet Mall routes since 2010 (southbound routes 10 and 59 and northbound Route 18).

Ridership Safety Transit Police

Transit Police make arrests in recent wave of cell phone thefts 

Posted by Marisa Helms | Wednesday, November 29, 2017 11:30:00 AM

Metro Transit police officers have arrested 11 suspects for committing a bold crime of stealing cell phones from riders’ hands. Four of the suspects have been charged with felony theft and are facing thousands of dollars in fines and up to five years in prison. More arrests are expected as the investigation continues.

Over the past month, cell phone theft has increased significantly, with more than 30 victims reporting the robberies to transit police. This is the most significant rash of thefts since a federal investigation into cell phone robberies led to several arrests a few years ago.

Transit Control Center Supervisors on police dispatch gathered key information about the suspects from distraught victims and pulled video of the crime. In many cases, within minutes of receiving the victim's call, police dispatch forwarded the suspects' identifying information to transit officers, who in turn spotted the suspects - out of thousands of people - while conducting fare checks.

Officers were able to return several of the phones to their owners. Some victims received their stolen phones within a few hours of being robbed. "The recovery of victims' phones, containing valuable personal information, especially one belonging to a blind victim, is priceless," said Capt. Michael LaVine.

Riders are reminded this holiday season to be aware of their surroundings and take care with their phones. Electronics are a target for thieves, especially near vehicle doors, and should be tucked away while riding. Calls should be brief and quiet.

Riders should call 9-1-1 in an emergency. Or, if anyone has a tip about a crime on transit, they are encouraged to call Transit Police at 612.349.7222.

Find more smart riding tips on our Security on Transit page.

Bus Good Question Light Rail Shelters Winter Weather

Good Question: Why do shelter heaters need to be replaced so frequently ? 

Posted by Marisa Helms | Thursday, November 16, 2017 10:26:00 AM

When the cold weather hits the metro area, customers who wait at hundreds of bus shelters and rail platforms have access to on-demand heaters that allow push-button activation when the temperature drops to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.

The heaters improve the customer's waiting experience, but they are fragile, subject to vandalism, and require constant care and replacement from maintenance staff.

Manager of Facilities Mike Maddio said every winter the 1,500 heat lamps throughout the system must be replaced again and again. This winter is no different, and Maddio estimates replacing the vandalized heaters has cost the agency tens of thousands of dollars over the past few years.

The heaters are made from one or more 12-inch glass tubes, and are targets for vandals, especially in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, Maddio said. Since early October, he said a staff of four electricians have replaced more than 400 heat lamps and are scheduled to replace another 800 in the coming weeks.

"It's daunting," Maddio said. "We fix one heater at 7 a.m. and by 2 p.m. it's destroyed again."

Catching vandals in the act isn't always possible, but, Transit Police Lt. Troy Schmitz said police will pursue criminal charges if they're are able to obtain video of the vandalism and identify suspects.

Awards Bus Transit Improvements Transit Planning

TransitMaster upgrade improves the customer experience 

Posted by Marisa Helms | Thursday, November 09, 2017 3:15:00 PM

Most customers are unaware of all the behind-the-scenes technology that goes into catching a bus.

In fact, at the core of every rider experience, and the decisions we make to improve operational efficiency, is a computer system called TransitMaster.

Bus Operations has been using TransitMaster since 2002 to provide the entire agency with data that can be used to share real-time bus departures with customers, deploy extra buses when operators need support due to extreme weather, events or traffic, and write more accurate schedules.

And soon, an enhanced version of TransitMaster will enable buses to communicate location data more accurately and faster than ever before, adding up to significant gains for customers and staff.

Manager of Technology Systems Gary Nyberg and Transit Control Center (TCC) staff are systematically rolling out the TransitMaster upgrade over the next couple of months to all 950 buses. Each bus, which is equipped with an onboard cellular router, will communicate location data to TCC and NexTrip. NexTrip is the customer-facing system that feeds the mobile app, the website and the electronic schedule displays located at various bus stops and shelters.

Nyberg said when the upgrade is fully implemented by the end of 2017, buses will be able to send their location message every five to 10 seconds.

“That’s a huge improvement from the current 30 to 60 seconds,” Nyberg said. “It enhances a customer’s experience by improving NexTrip prediction accuracy and reliability, and therefore, their trust in Metro Transit.”

The latest TransitMaster improvements also provide the foundation for another key technology called Transit Signal Priority (TSP). TSP improves on-time performance because it allows a bus to request a longer green light or request that a red light be turned to green.

The TransitMaster upgrade also uses an embedded gyroscope sensor to improve accuracy when a bus is at the Mall of America, at Transit Centers, or whenever a bus is otherwise not receiving a valid GPS signal. A gyroscope is a small device that always maintains its direction and orientation to the earth, so whenever a bus’s GPS device loses its GPS signal, the gyroscope kicks in and continues to send accurate location data to TCC and NexTrip.

“Now we’ll know even more precisely where every bus is, everywhere, at all times,” Nyberg said. “That’s key, and it further improves the way we can manage our system and the accuracy of the data it provides to operations, planners, and to our customers.”

Other teams also rely on TransitMaster data and will benefit from the system upgrade.

Street Operations uses TransitMaster’s real-time information to better understand operators’ experience with delays. Service Development analyzes TransitMaster data to adjust schedules and routes. And Customer Relations staff use TransitMaster to respond to a customer who calls because their bus didn’t show up. With TransitMaster, Customer Relations staff can look at a live screen to see where the bus is in that moment and give the customer an answer in about 30 seconds.

“TransitMaster’s improvements are invisible to the customer, but they make us better able to deliver on the promise of service," Nyberg said.

Editor's Note: Nyberg’s leadership with TransitMaster and other important technology projects led to his TCC colleagues secretly nominating him for an Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Minnesota award. In October, Nyberg was presented with a 2017 ITS Minnesota Public Sector Achievement Award in recognition for his outstanding contributions to the ITS community and for improving the efficiency of public transportation operations in Minnesota.

Transit Police

New class of MTPD officers reflects diversity of transit community 

Posted by Marisa Helms | Friday, October 27, 2017 4:32:00 PM

The Metro Transit Police Department welcomed 13 new full-time officers during a swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 26. The event included remarks from Chief John Harrington, General Manager Brian Lamb and Metropolitan Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff.

More than half of the new officers are women and people of color and half speak more than one language, including Hmong, Laotian, Spanish, Somali, Arabic and Turkish.

Harrington has been a strong advocate for diversifying the department since he joined Metro Transit in 2012. He said the current group of new officers expands the department's force strength to 121 full-time officers and boosts the department's diversity, with nearly half of the force made up of women and people of color.

During the ceremony, Harrington pinned badges on the recruits to mark their graduation from MTPD’s 10-week police academy into their new roles as sworn officers.

Harrington said the academy curriculum emphasized the recruits' roles as guardians of the community, training them in communication skills, ethics, mindfulness, and sensitivity to disabled people and immigration status.

“Everything you went through was designed to get you to one purpose: To get you ready for what I promise will be the most exciting, but also the most challenging, job you'll ever have," he said.

Among the newly-minted officers are Liban Ibrahim and Tong Xiong, who served as Community Service Officers before attending the academy. They are the first CSOs to participate in a pilot program for CSOs who want to become officers. Before the academy started, they received mentoring and additional field experience to help them succeed in the academy.

Ibrahim and Xiong both said they were inspired to move forward in their policing careers because of their long-held desires to help others.

“I like how officers do the beat, how they connect with people," Xiong said. "I want to become a beat officer to help prevent problems, but also help people solve their problems when they come up."

Tchourumoff thanked the graduates for their commitment to public service and praised them for their high level of professionalism as they serve Metro Transit's diverse communities.

Lamb remarked on the growth, maturity and respect of the diverse department. He said the transit police play a special role in its service to Metro Transit's thousands of daily customers.

“More and more, this department reflects who we are and where we’re going," he said. “You as new officers have the opportunity to represent diversity, but also to respect the diversity we have. We're excited you're here to assure people that when they take transit, they can do so with confidence and a sense of security.”

Also during the swearing-in ceremony, 12-year officer Bret Fraser received a new badge to mark his recent promotion to Sergeant.

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