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Bus METRO Orange Line Minneapolis

Key I-35W transit improvements moving forward 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, March 09, 2017 9:48:00 AM

A transit-only access ramp will allow buses to avoid congestion entering and exiting downtown Minneapolis as they travel to or from Interstate 35W.

Two key improvements included in plans for a new Bus Rapid Transit line on Interstate 35W will be built thanks to a key federal approval.

The Federal Transit Administration’s Letter of No Prejudice allows local funding to be used on a transit-only access ramp between downtown Minneapolis and I-35W (right) and a transit station​ at I-35W and Lake Street.

The improvements are part of plans for the METRO Orange Line, which will bring frequent, all-day BRT service to several new and existing stations along a 17-mile stretch of I-35W between Marq2 in Minneapolis and downtown Burnsville. Service is scheduled to begin in 2020.

“We’re excited to move forward with our partners on these critical improvements, which will benefit not just future Orange Line customers but thousands of people who travel on I-35W and Lake Street every day,” General Manager Brian Lamb said.

Like the station at I-35W and 46th Street, the Lake Street Station will be located in the middle of the interstate with two levels, an indoor waiting area and other amenities, serving Orange Line, express and local bus customers. The access ramp will allow 700 buses to avoid congestion entering and existing downtown each weekday. 

Efforts to secure full funding for the Orange Line are ongoing but the FTA’s approval is important because it allows the transit ramp and Lake Street Station to be incorporated into state-led construction efforts on I-35W beginning later this year.

Local spending on the ramp and station could later be matched by the federal government, which is being asked to cover half of the Orange Line’s total construction costs.​

Learn more about the Orange Line and subscribe to project updates here

Community METRO Green Line

Artist's vision comes to life on light rail train 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, March 07, 2017 1:56:00 PM

Artist Andrea Carlson with the "Water is Life"  train artwork she designed for Northern Spark 2017. Andrea Carlson isn't used to chasing her artwork around. But when her canvas becomes a 100,000-pound light-rail vehicle, it's about the only way to get a glimpse of the finished product. 

Carlson managed to catch up with the train twice last week, traveling down University Avenue and at an informal gathering at the Green Line’s Operations & Maintenance Facility in Lowertown.

Seeing the design come to life, she said, was overwhelming. 

"Of course I'd seen it on the computer screen but this is totally different," the St. Paul- and Chicago-based artist said. "When I got on the train I actually cried a little."

The "Water is Life" artwork was commissioned by Northern Spark organizers to promote the annual arts festival and to bring attention to the event's theme, climate change. The all-night celebration will focus heavily on the Green Line, with more than 70 events happening in neighborhoods along the light rail corridor between sunset on Saturday, June 10, and sunrise on Sunday, June 11. 

Carlson's design has images of a Thunderbird and a Water Spirit, along with two messages about water – Mni Wiconi, Dakota for "water is life," and Nibi gaa-bimaaji’iwemagak, Ojibwe for "water gives life."

The design both reflects the parallels between urban streets and pays tribute to the Native lands the Green Line traverses. It also recognizes efforts by the University of Minnesota's American Indian Studies Department to revive Native languages that are endangered.

“It’s really a love letter to people working on language revitalization,” said Carlson, who studied the Ojibwe language Anishinaabemowin at the U of M.

The train wrap will remain up through the conclusion of Northern Spark. Northern Spark organizers are encouraging people to take photos of the train and to share them on social media with the hashtag #catchatrainNS. A Northern Spark juror will review photos shared before March 31 and the winning photographer will receive two tickets to the Northern Spark launch party

To learn more about Carlson’s inspiration visit the project page at 2017.northernspark.org and read an interview with Northern Spark Curator Elle Thoni

Northern Spark Art Reveal

Bus Light Rail

Taking stock of Metro Transit’s material needs 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, March 07, 2017 1:31:00 PM

A mechanical lift at Metro Transit's Overhaul Base helps stockkeepers to reach items stored on vertical shelves. Head Stockkeeper Michelle Bellfield likes to think of her work the same way she thinks about filling her refrigerator at home.

“There are the things you use every day, like milk or eggs, that you always want to have on hand,” she said. “And then there all the other things you use once in a while, so you only get them when you need them.”

Bellfield’s metaphor is a good way to sum up the philosophy that drives the Materials Management Department, which includes more than 40 employees working at Metro Transit facilities across the Twin Cities.

The scale of the operation, though, is quite a bit grander than what you’d encounter in the kitchen.

More than 18,000 unique items are included on Metro Transit’s constantly-evolving shopping list, including everything from exhaust filters and alternators to bolts, toilet paper and disposable gloves. Among the largest and most valuable items in the inventory is a transformer that comes within an inch of the ceiling at the Rail Support Facility.

At the end of 2016, the collective inventory had a combined value of nearly $40 million, the majority of which represented rail equipment like the trucks that sit beneath the passenger car and move light-rail trains down the track.

Amid this dizzying array of items and a constant stream of new deliveries, Materials Management keeps a close eye on what’s coming in and going out.

The goal is simple: have parts and supplies available in a timely fashion, without investing too heavily in items that wind up sitting idle on a shelf.

“That’s our real challenge — figu​ring out which mechanic at which garage is going to need that one part and when they’re going to need it,” said Chris Haefner, Materials Management Manager.

Despite the challenges, Materials Management has built a record of success. Requested items are almost always available immediately, keeping the time buses or trains are out of service while waiting on parts at a minimum.

That record partly reflects the fact that the majority of the organization’s needs are fairly predictable, with around 1,000 items accounting for about 70 percent of the inventory. But there are also 15,000 items that make up a much smaller share of the inventory.

One way Materials Management controls the supply is by only stocking items that are requested two or more times within a six-month period.

Software that has been in use since 2015 has also helped Materials Management become more precise, using historical data to predict future needs and guide purchases. Just 15 percent of Metro Transit’s inventory has been forecasted to date, a share that will grow over time, but around $750,000 in savings has already been realized.

Another challenge for Materials Management is simply keeping track of everything that comes through Metro Transit’s doors. Deliveries arrive daily at five different locations, including the 50,000-square-foot warehouse at the Overhaul Base.

There, a computer system linked to a massive machine with rotating shelves helps stockkeeepers store new deliveries and pull supplies ordered by service garages and other work locations, which go out daily.

“It’s really an amazing machine,” said Lead Stockkeeper Ong Vang, standing on a platform that rises to reach the top shelves. 

Between these activities, stockkeepers here and at other sites are prompted to manually count dozens of items each day, contributing to a “cycle count” that replaces what would be an otherwise overwhelming, annual task. In 2016, these counts almost exactly matched recorded inventory.

Haefner said those results reflect how seriously stockeepers, analysts and planners in Materials Management take their work. 

“Our mission is to be responsible stewards of the taxpayers’ money while also supporting our internal customers,” he said. “Everyone in our group takes that very seriously.”​

Members of the Materials Management Department, from left to right: Head Stockkeeper Stephanie Armstead, Lead Stockkeeper Ong Vang, Manager Chris Haefner, Head Stockkeepr Michelle Bellfied, Head Stockkeeper Dan Alcaraz, Inventory Analyst Jason Adams, Garage Stockroom Coordinator Bill Neuenfeldt and Supervisor/Material Planner Mike Rood.​

A Line BRT

A Line tops 1 million ride mark 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, February 16, 2017 5:00:00 PM

A Line buses pass near the station at Snelling and Randolph.Robert Connoy has the kind of job that allows him to work from home.

But since the A Line opened just a few blocks from his Mac-Groveland residence, he’s started venturing out to a co-working space in downtown Minneapolis, a commute that involves a quick trip on the rapid bus line and light rail.                     

“I didn’t used to go out as much, but now it’s become really effortless to get downtown from where I live,” Connoy said as he headed toward home on a recent afternoon commute.

Connoy is among thousands of customers who have come to appreciate the region’s first rapid bus line, which runs between the Rosedale Transit Center and the METRO Blue Line’s 46th Street Station on Snelling Avenue, Ford Parkway and 46th Street.

Almost eight months to the day after opening, the A Line surpassed 1 million total rides on Tuesday, Feb. 14. Average weekday ridership on the A Line corridor, including local Route 84, has increased by about one-third since the new service began.

Customers riding the A Line this week said its biggest perk is faster, more frequent service, which allows them to travel without needing to use a schedule. A Line buses run every 10 minutes most of the day and every 15 minutes in the evenings.

“It just seems like the best thing ever to me to have a bus line going through more often and more predictably,” said Annette Rondano, who uses the A Line to commute between her Minneapolis home and her business, the Great Metropolitan Backrub. “It really takes the stress away from being stuck at work thinking I have to wait an hour to get home.”

Customers also said they liked the A Line’s light-rail like stations, which have off-board ticket vending machines, real-time displays and security features. Even small things, like the stop request buttons that have replaced pull cords on A Line buses, were counted as positives.

The A Line’s most popular boarding location, by far, has been at the corner of Snelling and University avenues, where customers can transfer to and from the Green Line. Around 22 percent of all A Line boardings have occurred at the northbound and southbound stops adjacent to University Avenue.

Ray Doss, a first-year student at Hamline University student, is among those who utilize the connection. Since moving from Washington in September, Doss has regularly used the A Line and light rail to run errands and explore the Twin Cities.

“Immediately when I got here I found it super easy to use,” he said. “As someone who had no experience with Metro Transit, I was really able to just get right into it and experience this new place I’m in. It’s been really phenomenal.”

While Connoy, Rondano and Doss are all within blocks of the A Line, others are going out of their way to use the service.

Jakenthia Simms is one of them. The Roseville High School senior used to travel to and from school on Route 65; now she uses the A Line to enjoy the free WiFi and make quick trips to Rosedale Mall.

“It’s more of a walk, but it’s worth it – and I get a good workout,” she said.

Transit Information

Looking for your bus or train? "Show my bus" now in NexTrip! 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, February 06, 2017 8:43:00 AM

Customers can track the physical location of their bus using Metro Transit's Map It!  tool.Customers can track the physical location of their anticipated bus or train in real time with a new feature called Show My Bus. 

The new feature can be accessed through Metro Transit’s website, as well as the agency's new app. A link to Show My Bus is included in the NexTrip section. 

Like NexTrip, Show My Bus information is linked to unique stop number IDs, found through the Interactive Map or automatically with the GPS-based Find Me feature. A map with markers showing the location of at least one bus, as well as the route number and direction of travel, is then displayed for that particular boarding location. Locations automatically refresh. 

Show My Bus was tested by around 50 customers who volunteered to provide input and was made available to all customers this week.

“We want to provide transit information in the way that customers want to see it, and this is one of those ways,” said Ben Rajkowski, Assistant Manager-Transit Information.

Show My Bus is part of a broader effort to improve Metro Transit’s NexTrip system, which provides predicted departure times.

In addition to the website and app, NexTrip is available through text message. NexTrip information is also displayed on digital signs at all rail and A Line stations and at select bus stops. There are ongoing efforts to improve NexTrip accuracy.​

How to use Show My Bus

If using Metro Transit's app, go to the menu and select Trip Tools, than NexTrip. Use the Find Me feature or enter the route, direction of travel and stop. If you already know your stop number, simply enter it here. When NexTrip details appear, a link to Show My Bus will appear at the bottom of the screen.

A link to NexTrip is found on the homepage of Metro Transit's mobile and desktop websites. Follow the same steps to access Show My Bus using these websites.

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