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2017 Metro Transit Accomplishments

Rail ridership sets annual records

Annual ridership records were set on each of Metro Transit’s rail lines and nearly 82 million total rides were provided in 2017. Systemwide, there were 264,347 average weekday boardings. More than 13.1 million rides were provided on the METRO Green Line and more than 10.6 million rides were provided on the METRO Blue Line, increases of more than 3 percent from the previous year. The Northstar Commuter Rail Line had its highest annual ridership since 2013, with nearly 794,000 rides taken.

Nearly 1.6 million rides were also provided on the region’s first rapid bus line, the A Line, during its first full year of operation. Ridership in the A Line corridor has increased by nearly a third since the introduction of the A Line’s faster, more frequent service. Total bus ridership topped 57.3 million, down about 2 percent from the prior year. The return of buses to Nicollet Mall in late 2017 is expected to help rebuild ridership on those routes.  

Two new ridership records were also set in 2017: the Green Line saw its highest single-day ridership ever on Aug. 31, 2017, with 68,071 rides. The record was set as fans traveled to home games for the Twins, Vikings, Gophers and Saints and to the Minnesota State Fair. A record 654,000 rides were provided to and from the Minnesota State Fair.

System safety improves

The number of recorded bus collisions and passenger falls reached its lowest level in 18 years, a testament to Metro Transit’s skilled operators and effective training at all stages of an operator’s career. Rail safety was also maintained, with less than one collision for every 100,000 vehicle miles. In June 2017, Metro Transit received a Gold Award for Safety from the American Public Transit Association for steps the agency took to improve light rail safety, including a public safety campaign focused on grade crossing awareness, improved warning devices and the installation of alternate flashing headlights on light rail vehicles. 

Metro Transit police increased the number of rides they took on trains and buses and exceeded their goal of conducting more than 2 million fare checks in 2017. The department also welcomed 13 new full-time officers, many of whom speak more than one language, and continued to develop strong relationships in the community, focusing especially on mentoring youth, partnering with resource agencies for the homeless and strengthening ties with the local Native American community. Construction on the new Metro Transit Police Headquarters also got underway at the Metro Transit Campus in Minneapolis.

Workforce recruitment, retention efforts expand

Metro Transit continued its efforts to recruit and retain top talent in 2017, expanding outreach efforts while supporting current employees through new and expanded career development programs. Metro Transit welcomed more than 400 new hired, including 274 bus operators. Council representatives promoted career opportunities at more than 100 different community events, reaching an estimated 7,000 people.

The Metro Transit Technician Training program also continued, putting a third group of job seekers with little or no experience on a path toward full-time technician roles. The program combines life skills training, a paid internship and support toward earning a two-year degree.

To support current employees, the Council updated its online learning program, adding thousands of new courses, and introduced a new program that partners employees with mentors who have the types of skills they’d like to acquire.

Bus stops keep getting better

Efforts to improve the waiting experience moved forward with improvements at more than 40 bus stops, primarily in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Shelters were installed at 28 locations where there hadn’t previously been one, and more than a dozen shelters were replaced. New shelters with heat, light and real-time signs were also installed at 13 locations along the newly-renovated Nicollet Mall. Community partners who led community engagement efforts around future bus stop improvements came to a successful conclusion, too, leading to recommended changes to shelter guidelines that will be implemented beginning in 2018. A campaign to roll out new bus stop signs with more information at nearly 12,000 locations neared completion as well. The new signs help customers how to access predicted real-time departure information by displaying unique stop numbers, leading the number of requests submitted by text message to nearly triple from the previous year.

Buses and trains remain reliably reliable

Metro Transit’s fleet of buses and trains continued to become more reliable thanks to sustained preventative maintenance efforts and strong partnerships with bus manufacturers. Buses traveled an average of nearly 8,000 miles between maintenance road calls, sustaining a 14-year improvement trend and setting a new annual record. A monthly record was also set in February 2017, when buses traveled an average of more than 10,000 miles between maintenance road calls. Bus Maintenance also helped put 18 new buses into service and was awarded a federal grant to purchase some of the country’s first 60-foot electric buses.

Efforts to replace around 40 outdated bus hoists across all service garages and the Overhaul Base also advanced. Five hoists were replaced and another four hoists were refurbished in 2017.

The average distance between light rail vehicle, light rail systems and Northstar equipment failures also rose. Thirteen years after light rail service began, Metro Transit also undertook its largest rail maintenance project ever, installing new track, signals and systems throughout downtown Minneapolis. Efforts to rebuild the trucks and other body components on the fleet’s oldest light rail vehicles also continued.

Making fare payments fair

As part of the agency’s first fare change in a decade, Metro Transit introduced a program that allowed qualified individuals access to $1 fares. More than 2,000 people enrolled in the Transit Assistance Program (TAP) by the end of 2017, and nearly 232,000 rides were taken using TAP cards in just two months. Partnerships with dozens of community organizations will help the program grow in the future.

Mobile ticketing takes off

Introduced in late 2016, Metro Transit’s app became increasingly popular throughout the year. By the end of 2017, it had been downloaded nearly 104,000 times and been used to purchase more than $500,000 in mobile fares. The app was also updated to include a feature that allows customers to exchange text messages with trained Metro Transit employees when they encounter suspicious or unwanted behavior. The Minnesota Transportation Association recognized the app at with a Management Innovation Award at its annual awards in October.

A sustained commitment to sustainability

Already an industry leader in sustainability, Metro Transit achieved additional fuel and energy savings in 2017. Energy efficient LED lighting fixtures were installed at multiple support facilities and rail stations, the first phase of a comprehensive replacement program that will save hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy and maintenance costs. A new 40-kilowatt solar array was also installed atop the Maplewood Mall Transit Center and Park & Ride. And a comprehensive recycling and compositing program was introduced at three Metro Transit facilities, diverting waste at those sites by more than 60 percent. Metro Transit also hosted APTA’s Sustainability and Multimodal Workshop. 

Transitway plans advance

Plans for several new transitways, including two light rail extensions and two new Bus Rapid Transit lines, advanced in 2017. Federal funding for extensions of the Green and Blue lines and the METRO Orange Line will be sought in 2018 in the hopes that each line will be in service as early as 2022. With local funding secured, several elements of the Orange Line (BRT on I-35W) will also be built as part of the state’s reconstruction project, which began in 2017. In addition, Metro Transit assumed responsibility for developing the METRO Gold Line, which will become the region’s first Bus Rapid Transit line operating in a dedicated busway. Plans for future rapid bus lines also advanced. Following 2017 planning efforts, the C Line will be under construction and engineering work for the D Line will begin in 2018.

Plans to support expanded bus operations with a new service garage on the Metro Transit Campus in Minneapolis also moved forward. Engineering work for the new garage was 70 percent complete by the end of 2017.