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Rider's Almanac Blog

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.


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.