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How We Roll

How We Roll: Christina Morrison, Project Manager, Bus Rapid Transit 

Project Manager in a one-car household finds benefits in taking kids on transit
Posted by Kathy Graul | Wednesday, July 19, 2017 2:07:00 PM

“How We Roll” profiles are a chance to illustrate how Metro Transit employees travel to and from work and many other destinations. To learn more about alternatives to driving alone – including transit, walking, biking and carpooling – visit Metro Transit’s website or contact The Transit Information Center at 612-373-3333, option 2.

Christina Morrison, Project Manager, Bus Rapid Transit

How do you get to work?

I live in St. Paul and I take the A Line to the Blue Line to downtown Minneapolis. My husband and I moved last Spring after living on University Avenue for about ten years. When I lived on University, I took the bus and the Green Line. I’ve been a daily transit rider for about twelve years.

Why do you choose to take transit?

We’ve been a one-car household since 2007. My husband works in the northern suburbs so he takes the car to work. I’ve always worked in the city, first as a planner for the City of St. Paul and now for Metro Transit, and haven’t needed a vehicle to get to work. As a Metro Transit employee with a free transit pass, my transportation costs are zero.

When my husband and I had kids, we chose a daycare on transit instead of getting a second car. We have twins who are now two years old. I walk the twins to daycare every morning right now, but in our previous location we used a combination of the Green Line and bus. That’s when I really discovered the challenges of bringing kids on transit! Strollers can be tough on buses, and with two infants I did not have a choice about using a stroller. Unlike the A Line or the train, buses don’t all have low-floor doors and open layouts — things you take for granted when you’re traveling by yourself. Like anything, you find a way to make it work.

How do you use transit outside of commuting?

We take the A Line to the Rosedale Mall, to dinner, to get groceries, or to get to the Blue Line and the Mall of America. We also rely on transit for doctor’s appointments, haircuts and any other kind of errand.

What are the benefits of bringing your kids on transit?

There’s something about having twins that make people want to talk to you. I had a woman tell me twins are good luck in her culture and asked if she could sit next to us. Another time, my kids were crabby and an older gentleman started singing Sinatra to them. People really identify with children and when they see them on transit they want to say hello. It also teaches my kids about the community and how to interact with people. I like that it will have been part of their lives since the day they were born. I always say kids are our future ridership. If you start them at a young age they will be comfortable with it and more likely to continue riding for the rest of their lives.

Bus Bus Maintenance

Fareboxes stay the same, but new challenges arise 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, July 07, 2017 3:16:00 PM

Lead Revenue Mechanic Technician Tim Maloy has spent the past 20 years repairing and maintaining fareboxes, a job he says continues to pose new challenges every day. To improve reliability, Maloy has been on a campaign to replace the metal pieces that hold transfer cards so they are less prone to jam. Metro Transit has been using the same fareboxes for nearly a quarter-century.

But even after more than 20 years of keeping them in shape, Lead Revenue Mechanic Technician Tim Maloy says his job is as interesting as ever.

“It’s a little strange to be working with the same piece of equipment after all this time, but there are still days they beat you up,” he said from the Instruction Center, where he and several other farebox technicians work. “There’s never boredom.”

The intrigue comes in part from the fact that the fareboxes are largely mechanical pieces of equipment – carefully-calibrated sets of plastic gears, belts, sensors and circuit boards that pull in cash and coins deposited by cash-paying customers.

With so many moving parts, the margin for error is small. Lint, sunflower seeds and other small debris that comes from a customer’s pocket can easily jam the machines.

The puzzles technicians face aren’t easily  solved by reading a manual or running a quick diagnostic test, either.

“There are things you can look at, but you don’t really have a troubleshooting process,” said Trevor Scholtz, one of two-dozen farebox technicians. “All you can do is take it apart and eventually find out what’s wrong with it. And the only way to test is to put it all back together again.”

More recently, Maloy has been on a campaign to steadily replace the metal pieces that hold stacks of transfer cards in what’s known as a trim unit, which attaches to the coin and bill collecting machine. A slight offset in the old design would cause more than one ticket to get fed into the machine, frequently causing jams that required repair.

“That’s been my main goal, because that was what was contributing to the bulk of our road calls,” said Maloy, whose 37-year career also includes stints as a vault puller and in Central Counting.

The majority of the cassettes have now been replaced, and farebox-related road calls have been cut in half.

Just like any other mechanical failure on a bus, fareboxes that break down while in service can cause a bus to be replaced. Farebox technicians may also be called out to replace parts or make quick repairs during a layover. To prevent those kind of situations, each service garage has at least one farebox technician who spends their mornings repairing fareboxes before pull-out each morning.

Maloy and several other Farebox Technicians at the Instruction Center also focus heavily on preventative maintenance, disassembling, cleaning and rebuilding each machine every six months. Each rebuild takes up to four hours.

“It’s the only thing that keeps these things going this length of time,” Maloy said.

Technicians at the Instruction Center also maintain ticket vending machines that customers use to purchase fares at stations and vault equipment used to securely collect farebox collections when a bus pulls in.

Technicians do not maintain the fare care readers, but they did take the lead on a recent fleetwide replacement and will continue to outfit new buses with the latest technology. 

Like Maloy, several technicians have spent long careers working with fare collection technology, and are still excited about what they do.

Technician Lisle “Butch” Vickerman helped install the existing fareboxes 24 years ago, crawling under buses to detach older machines that accepted only coins and tokens, and weren’t able to count the change. These days, he spends his time repairing circuit boards.

“It’s still fun after all these years,” Vickerman said.

    > Balancing the books between the farebox and the bank

Bicycle Community How We Roll Light Rail Rider Profile

How We Roll: Ed Alvarez, Facilities Technician 

Posted by jennasbennett | Tuesday, June 13, 2017 11:37:00 AM

Many Metro Transit employees are committed to sustainable transportation, riding the bus or train, biking or walking to work and other destinations across the region. These “How We Roll” profiles are a chance to illustrate how much we have in common with our customers when it comes to how we get around. See you out there!

Ed Alvarez, Facilities Technician

How do you get to work?

I live in Burnsville and do a mix of taking the Blue Line and riding my bike. Usually what I do is load my bike on my vehicle, drive to the 28th Avenue Park and Ride and get on the Blue Line with my bike. Depending on how much I feel like biking that day, I’ll take the light rail to either Fort Snelling or Minnehaha Park, get off and bike the rest of the way. From Fort Snelling, it’s nine miles to Transfer Road (Metro Transit's facilities team is based at this location, just north of University Avenue). Out of curiosity, one time I rode my bike from my house to Transfer Road and it took me two hours!

Why do you choose to bike?

Really, it’s for the exercise. I play hockey and biking keeps me in shape for that. It’s amazing how you can stay fit by biking just a few hours a week. I even bike in the rain and snow. I actually love riding in the rain! For rain, I wear protective gear, including booties that cover my shoes so they don’t get wet. For snow, I have a bike with studded tires and that helps eliminate my worry about hitting an ice patch. I have five bikes total – three mountain bikes, a road bike and a hybrid.

How long have you been biking?

I’ve been biking my whole life. I started biking to work in 1981 when I was at Ruter Garage and a lot younger. Then I got older, got married, had kids and stopped biking to work for a number of years and drove instead. Over the past three years, I’ve started biking again to stay in shape. I've been at Metro Transit for 37 years and I hope to keep biking to work as long as I’m able.

What do you enjoy most about your methods of commuting?

When I’m on the Blue Line, I like to use the time to listen to music. What I love about biking is that it is so relaxing and peaceful on the path. When I’m driving on I-35W it’s so crowded and stressful. When I get up in the morning for work and the alarm goes off, I look forward to starting my day with a bike ride.

Light Rail Safety

Light rail safety efforts receive national recognition 

| Monday, June 12, 2017 11:05:00 AM

Train operators Peter Mooers, left, and Bill Morris, right, took fourth place in the American Public Transit Association’s International Rail Rodeo held earlier this month in Baltimore, Md. Efforts to enhance safety at pedestrian crossings along Metro Transit’s light rail corridors have been recognized by the American Public Transit Association (APTA). 

APTA presented Metro Transit with a Gold Award for Safety for actions taken following a series of collisions that began in late-2015. Those efforts included a public safety campaign focused on grade crossing awareness, improved warning devices and the installation of alternate flashing headlights on light rail vehicles. The award was presented on Monday, June 12, at APTA’s 2017 Rail Conference in Baltimore, Md. 

This is the third Gold Award for Safety that Metro Transit has received since 2009. APTA presents one Gold Award annually, judging entries on effectiveness, innovation and project transferability. 

The number of light rail collisions per 100,000 vehicle miles has steadily declined since the Green Line opened in 2014. Through the end of April, there have been 0.51 collisions per 100,000 vehicle miles, down slightly from the same time last year. 

Two Metro Transit train operators also competed in APTA's International Rail Rodeo. Operators Peter Mooers, left, and Bill Morris, right, took fourth place in the skills competition, which tested operators' safety and customer service skills.

    > Awards and Recognition

    > Safety on METRO lines

In the News METRO Blue Line

Northern Spark brings virtual reality experience to Green Line 

Posted by jennasbennett | Friday, June 09, 2017 2:24:00 PM

With events spread throughout the Green Line corridor, light rail will play a major role in this year’s Northern Sparks arts festival.

That’s especially true for CHAOS ON THE GREEN LINE, one of 70 public art pieces that will be featured during the all-night festival that begins on Saturday, June 10, and continues through sunrise the following morning. 

CHAOS ON THE GREEN LINE invites participants to don a virtual reality cardboard viewer while riding between Snelling Avenue and Lexington Parkway. It is believed to be the world’s first virtual reality experience using public transit.

“As the train rolls by, the world as you know it will fall away from view and be replaced by a whole new world we’ve created – one affected by climate change,” said Todd Boss, executive and artistic director at Motionpoems.

Boss created the experience with help from dozens of animators and creatives from local agencies like Pixel Farm, Manufacture, Egg Creative and Fallon Worldwide.

The GPS-activated visuals reflect Northern Spark’s “Climate Chaos, People Rising” theme, which encourages people to a radically climate-altered world and actions they can take to reduce their environmental impact. 

Boss said the experience is more poetic than blunt, but that he hopes the impact will still be plenty powerful. “I don’t know that it will change people’s minds but I do think it will touch them and stir a lot of emotions and thoughts the way good art should,” he said.

Story circles, group weaving, a film festival and a night market in the Little Mekong cultural district are among the many other planned activities. Activities will be focused around several Green Line station areas, including the U.S. Bank Stadium, West Bank, East Bank, Snelling Avenue, Lexington Parkway, Western Avenue and Union Depot stations.

A light rail train that was wrapped in custom-designed artwork promoting the event will also be in service throughout the evening.

Eventgoers can ride free on all buses and trains during the event using a downloadable pass available on the event website. Green Line trains will run at least every 30 minutes throughout the evening. 

To learn more about Northern Spark or download a free ride pass, visit 2017.northernspark.org.

Bus

New buses bring new look both inside and out 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, May 30, 2017 1:35:00 PM

Metro Transit's newest buses replace three rows of front-facing seats on the passenger side with a single row of inward facing seats that customers can put in the up or down position.New 40-foot buses that recently began arriving feature a more open seating arrangement and several other improvements.

The Gillig-made, standard-diesel buses replace three rows of front-facing seats on the passenger side with a single row of inward facing seats that customers can put in the up or down position.

The change is intended to make riding a crowded bus more comfortable and to provide additional space for mobility devices, strollers or other large objects.

The buses also have an easier to use wheelchair securement system and frameless windows that are easier to maintain and better looking. These features were also included in the buses used on the A Line, a rapid bus service on Snelling Avenue.

Ten of the new buses will arrive this year. The buses will be sent to the East Metro, Heywood and Nicollet garages.

Metro Transit has around 900 buses in its fleet, the majority of which are 40-foot standard diesel buses. 

To provide feedback on the new buses, contact Customer Relations

Bus Community Light Rail

Tech program helps jobs seekers find new hope, career path 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, May 12, 2017 9:19:00 AM

Participants in the Metro Transit Technician program work on a pantograph at the Hiawatha Operations & Maintenance Facility.Some eager job seekers are getting an opportunity to pursue careers as Metro Transit technicians. 

The Metro Transit Technician program combines workforce readiness and on-the-job training, support toward earning a degree and an internship. Participants can enter the program with little to no experience but apply for full-time roles by the end of the two-year program. 

Participants pursuing careers in bus maintenance are currently enrolled at Hennepin Technical College while working as interns in several of Metro Transit's bus service garages. A second group of participants pursuing careers in rail vehicle and systems maintenance recently began their on-the-job training. 

WCCO recently caught up with a few of the participants working in the Hiawatha Operations & Maintenance Facility, where they were repairing a light-rail vehicle.  

    > Technician training program gets national recognition

The Metro Transit Technician program is not currently accepting new applications. Job seekers interested in learning more about career opportunities at Metro Transit should visit metrotransit.org/jobs

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