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.