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Bus Fares From the GM Light Rail

Fare toolbox grows with introduction of new mobile app 

| Thursday, November 03, 2016 9:52:00 AM

Metro Transit's app allows customers to buy fares in advance and display them on a mobile device. From General Manager Brian Lamb

When people leave their homes, there are a few essential items they’re likely carrying with them, including identification, credit or bank cards and a mobile phone.                                                                   

Less likely to be in their pocket: a Go-To Card or the exact change it costs to board a bus or light-rail train.

Confusion about the fare and the need to have the right amount ready to board has long been a challenge for new or infrequent riders, sometimes discouraging them from using transit altogether.

Ticket vending machines that accept cash and credit cards at rail and rapid bus stations helped us begin to address this challenge. This week, we took another major step forward as we introduced a new Metro Transit app that allows people to buy and instantly use fares using a smartphone.

With the app, customers can purchase mobile tickets in advance and use them when they’re ready to ride. These customers will prove they’ve paid their fare by showing bus operators or police officers a screen with a unique, moving image that can’t be replicated or used after time has expired.

Created in partnership with tech company moovel, the app also provides access to our website’s most popular trip planning tools. In the future, it will give customers a simple way to let us know about immediate concerns and to receive alerts about the routes they most often use.

Operators and police have been trained to recognize valid mobile tickets over the last several months and a number of employees have successfully tested it in the field over the last few weeks.

Time will tell how the successful the app and mobile ticketing will be in attracting new customers, but there are several reasons to believe it will be a powerful tool. Consider:

    > Nearly 7 in 10 U.S. adults own a smartphone, and a third have used them to make a mobile payment. Our largest customer group, Millenials, are even more likely to own a smartphone and use it to make purchases. For many low-income residents, smartphones are the only reliable access to online resources.

    > The Twin Cities has become a top tourist destination, attracting more than 30 million visitors a year. An even greater number of visitors will arrive in the coming years for the Super Bowl and other large events. While special fare products that serve travelers have been introduced, mobile tickets are more immediate and convenient.  

    > About 72 percent of our website’s visits are from mobile devices and 16 percent of fares are sold through our online store. Use of a new service that allows customers to access NexTrip information by text message has grown exponentially since being introduced last June.

There are advantages for our operations, too. Cash-paying customers take more time at the farebox when boarding and face longer lines when buying tickets after large events. Customers who use mobile tickets will board just as efficiently as those using Go-To Cards.

While there are several clear advantages, the number of customers expected to use mobile tickets is likely to be small – we hope they will account for around 5 percent of all fare payments within the next year.

But getting customers to purchase their fares through the app on a regular basis isn’t really our goal. Instead, we want the app and mobile ticketing to move transit up on the list of options people consider when making a trip, eventually earning their trust so Go-To Cards become just as indispensable as their smartphones.

Learn More

Learn how to download the app, create an account and purchase mobile tickets at metrotransit.org/app 

Bus Light Rail

Good Question: How are buses and trains cleaned? 

| Tuesday, October 25, 2016 2:42:00 PM

With thousands of passengers boarding each day, keeping buses and trains clean isn't easy.

In fact, Metro Transit has nearly 100 employees who devote all or part of their time to sweeping, mopping, scrubbing and otherwise tidying up the fleet of nearly 1,000 buses and 86 light-rail vehicles. Here's a brief look at how they manage the task.


Bus

When buses are pulled back into the garage after being in service, they are parked and stored until their next pull-out.

Because fewer buses are on the street overnight, Cleaners spend the late night and early morning hours going through each vehicle to sweep the floors and remove litter. Helpers also re-fuel the buses and put them through a high-pressure bus wash overnight. If a bus has been vandalized or has other visible damage, it will also addressed or set aside for future repair.

Buses are scheduled for more extensive cleanings at least every 45 days. During these cleanings, the ceilings, windows, window ledges, walls and floors are wiped down with a variety of cleaning agents, such as degreaser, dish soap and hot water. Upholstered seat bottoms and backs are cleaned with a carpet extractor, and damaged seats are replaced. Magic Erasers, deodorizer and putty knifes are also among the most frequently-used tools. While most of the attention is on the inside of the bus, Cleaners also wipe down the wheels and the front and back of the bus.

In most cases, it takes around three hours to clean a bus from start to finish.

Cleaner Ralph Mason has spent more than 25 years on the job. “I love my job to tell you the truth,” Mason said from Nicollet Garage. “I take pride in putting out a good product and being a part of a system that keeps the cities going.”


Light rail

Like buses, trains are swept and cleaned nightly. Helpers also pull the train through a high-pressure wash, refill windshield wiper fluid, make sure the boxes that hold sand are full (sand is released as needed to help with traction) and get trains in position for their next pull-out. Helpers also clean or replace seat bottoms and backs as necessary.

Trains are thoroughly cleaned at 6,000-mile intervals, or at least once a month. Like their peers in Bus Maintenance, Helpers wipe-down the ceiling, windows, posts and handles. A Kaivac floor cleaner is also used to get dirt, sand and other material off of the floor, a particularly important job during the winter months.

It can take a single Cleaner up to eight hours to completely clean a train.

While most of the cleaning is done while trains are in storage, Helpers sometimes pick up trash while trains are stationed at Target Field or Union Depot between trips. 

Wearing calf-high rubber boots, Helper Jim Johnson said he enjoyed the work and the satisfaction of keeping the fleet in top condition. “The more you keep the trains clean, the cleaner they stay,” he said.  


Help keep buses and trains clean

Customers play an important role in keeping buses, trains and boarding areas clean. Remember, Metro Transit’s Code of Conduct prohibits customers from eating on board; drinks with a sealed lid are acceptable. To report a spill or excessive litter, call Customer Relations at 612-373-3333. 

 
Fares In the News

Wilken recognized with Distinguished Career Award 

| Wednesday, October 19, 2016 3:11:00 PM

Revenue Operations Supervisor Bill Wilken was recognized this week with the Minnesota Public Transportation Association’s Distinguished Career Award.Revenue Operations Supervisor Bill Wilken has seen quite a few changes since he began his career cleaning buses more than 40 years ago.

Many of them were of his own making, too.

After transferring to Sales Operations in the early 1980s, Wilken led the opening of the original Minneapolis and St. Paul service centers, the conversion to electronic fare payments, set up the Metropass program and launched Metro Transit’s original online store. 

He has also helped simplify fare products, expand Metro Transit’s retail outlets, introduce Go-To Cards and shepherd multiple fare increases (regular adult fares were just 30 cents when Wilken’s career began; today, adult fares start at $1.75).

For his efforts, Wilken was recognized this week with the Minnesota Public Transportation Association’s Distinguished Career Award. The award was presented at MPTA’s annual conference in Rochester.

“As much as I appreciate this award and as grateful I am for it, the greatest reward I have is the thank you I get from customers that we serve,” Wilken said in accepting his award.

Nick Eull, senior manager of Revenue Collections, nominated Wilken for the award. It’s not only Wilken’s effectiveness as a change agent that makes his career stand out, he said.

“Through all of this change and advancement of technology, Bill’s mission has always been the same – make it easy to pay the bus, and later train, fare, and treat those funds with respect,” Eull said. “From that goal he’s never wavered.”

Wilken said he’s been fortunate to work alongside many talented individuals. Beyond having a strong team, he said he’s found success by committing to process improvement, understanding what customers want and having clear goals.

“When I started, most fares were paid in coin,” Wilken said. “Today, we offer a whole host of prepaid transit fare programs. This evolution was achieved through the process of continual improvement with help from dozens of people.”  

More recently, Wilken has played a leading role in planning for and coordinating fare sales and crowd management at Target Field, U.S. Bank Stadium and TCF Bank Stadium.

Wilken lives in Chanhassen with his wife Marcia. Outside of his work, his hobbies include disc golf and flying. Wilken also ran a marathon at age 60 and has earned a red belt in Taekwondo.

The last Metro Transit employee to receive MPTA’s Distinguished Career Award was Maintenance Manager Silas Sharp, who retired earlier this year. Sharp was honored in 2013.

    > Awards and Recognition

Bus C Line Community

C Line plans being shaped by outreach 

| Friday, October 14, 2016 3:16:00 PM

Plans for the region’s second rapid bus line, the C Line, are being shaped by coordinated outreach and engagement efforts that invite residents to think about transit improvements as one of several community-building tools.

For the last several years, Hennepin County planners have worked closely with Metro Transit, the City of Minneapolis and local partners on the Penn Avenue Community Works project. 

The partnership was forged in part because Hennepin County plans to reconstruct Penn Avenue between Broadway and Lowry avenues and to repave portions of Penn, Lowry and Dowling avenues at the same time the C Line is under construction along Penn Avenue.

With full funding, C Line construction will begin in 2018. The C Line will be the region’s second rapid bus line, with service between downtown Minneapolis and the Brooklyn Center Transit Center.

Planned light rail extensions will also bring new transit investments to the Penn Avenue corridor.

Beyond these investments, Penn Avenue Community Works is looking at street lighting, green space, transit-oriented development and other improvements that could help make the Penn Avenue corridor more attractive and stimulate economic development.

Engagement efforts occurring this month bring attention to the C Line, which will provide faster and more frequent bus service to customers currently served by Route 19. The customer experience will also be improved through enhanced stations, off-board fare payment and specially-designed buses.

The Council approved station locations in April and will take up a recommendation to align C Line construction and operations with the planned Blue Line Extension later this year.

Scheduled to open in 2021, the Blue Line Extension will bring light rail from Target Field to Brooklyn Center, including two stations on Olson Memorial Highway (Penn Avenue and Van White Memorial Boulevard).

The C Line is scheduled to open on the same stretch of Olson Memorial Highway in early 2019.

Metro Transit is recommending that three temporary C Line stops on Olson Memorial Highway be built and later replaced by permanent shelters on a nearby section of Glenwood Avenue, now served by Route 9, after the Blue Line Extension opens.

Moving the stops to Glenwood Avenue would have no impact on travel time. But the switch would spread the transit investment and could help attract more riders in the future.

The recommendation will be presented for feedback at an open house at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the Harrison Education Center. Staff is also sharing information with neighborhood groups and directly with customers through bus stop and on-board outreach.

    > Learn more about the C Line

    > Penn Avenue Community Works

METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Ridership

Monday Night Football helps set new single-day light rail ridership record 

| Thursday, October 13, 2016 2:40:00 PM

Fans exit Metro Transit's light rail at U.S. Bank Stadium Station in Minneapolis.A dose of Monday Night Football helped set a new single-day light rail ridership record on Monday, Oct. 3.

There were a combined 122,529 rides on the METRO Green and Blue lines on that day, surpassing the previous single-day light-rail ridership record of 117,063 rides set on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016.

The Oct. 3 total includes 66,018 Green Line rides – also a single-day record – and another 56,511 Blue Line rides.

Ridership got a boost on Sept. 1 from fans traveling to Twins, Vikings, Gophers and Saints games. On Oct. 3, the Vikings played the New York Giants at the new U.S. Bank Stadium.

Around a quarter of Vikings fans are taking light rail to games this season.

The Green Line is finding success outside of special events, too.

Average weekday ridership in September was 46,109, the highest monthly average since the Green Line opened in June 2014. The average weekday projection for 2030 was 41,000 rides on the Green Line. 

There were just over 1.2 million Green Line rides in September, the third highest monthly total since service began (there were 1.3 million rides in October 2015 and 1.25 million rides in September 2015).

There have been 9.4 million Green Line rides through the end of September, up almost 5 percent compared to the same time last year. 

Learn more about service to U.S. Bank Stadium at metrotransit.org/vikings.

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