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How We Roll

How We Roll: Molly Ellis 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, November 11, 2019 2:48:00 PM

“How We Roll​” celebrates Metro Transit employees who commute and travel to many other destinations using transit or by biking, walking or carpooling. 

Molly Ellis, Senior Project Coordinator, Engineering & Facilities

How do you get to work?

My habits change throughout the year, depending on the weather and whatever's quickest. In the winter, I mainly take the bus. I live just south of downtown and catch the 11, then transfer to routes 5, 22 or the C Line to get to Heywood. 

Other times of the year, I walk, take the bus or use a scooter. When they're available, I'll rent a shared scooter to get to the bus stop or complete my trip home or to the office. Recently, I also got a personal scooter. I live in a single-car household and am only a few miles from the office so all these other modes are easier and more convenient than driving.

What do you enjoy most about your commute?

I enjoy feeling the sun and walking through downtown as a part of my commute. It's a good time to listen to a favorite podcast or just have some quiet time before I get to work.

How do you get around outside of your commute? 

Outside of my commute, I usually travel by car or use my personal scooter.

On Off The Clock

On the Clock/Off the Clock: Billy Le 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, November 11, 2019 2:41:00 PM

Lives: Richfield
Job: Schedule Technician
Years of service: 6 

How did you come to work at Metro Transit and what do you do? 

After earning a degree in civil engineering, I entered the job market during the Great Recession. I found myself working as a dispatcher and trainer for the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (DID) and as a part-time weekend bus operator for Metro Transit. As a lifelong transit rider, I always felt like transit was calling me. I even took a course on transit planning. 

After five years as a full-time bus operator, I became a schedule technician. Schedule technicians take data about trips and organizes them into blocks that become new schedules. As a former operator, I understand some of the frustrations they can have. As a schedule technician, I try to make good schedules for the routes I work on. Specifically, I help schedule work out of Ruter Garage. 

Where are you from originally? Tell us a little bit about your background. 

I live in the city where I grew up in riding transit: Richfield. My wife doesn't drive, so we made sure to buy a house near transit offerings like the 5, 18, and the 515. As a kid in Richfield, my mom didn't drive either, so I would take the bus everywhere around the city. My routes were the 4, 6, and the old 15. I continued my bus riding throughout college until I got behind the wheel myself. I enjoyed my part-time weekend work, and even more so my full-time extra board work, which puts you on-call for open work on any routeon any route and makes every day different. 

What is your favorite part about working for Metro Transit? 

My co-workers and managers. Whether it's in a garage or in the office, there's always someone there who can help answer any question. I'm new to the scheduling team, but there's people with decades of experience who are more than happy to help whenever I have a problem. And, the little kid in me that loved to ride the bus is still grinning that I found a job in transit.

What are your favorite activities when you're not working or "Off the Clock"? 

My childhood hobby, Legos, has become an adult obsession. When I got this new position, I treated myself to a new Lego set to help decorate my new office. I'm a huge Star Wars fan, so most of my collection are Star Wars ships. A Y-Wing now sits proudly in my office next to a Tie Interceptor. It took a while to complete this 2,000-piece set, but believe it or not, I've done more, like a Star Destroyer, which has tens of thousands of pieces for a four-foot long piece. 

And my passion is rubbing off on 7-year-old daughter, Mara. She wants Lego sets for birthdays and Christmas. I am more than happy to shop for those! It's great daddy-daughter time when we can work on a project together. 

Bus Light Rail Minneapolis Shelters St. Paul Winter Weather

Snow removal pros' goal this winter: collaboration 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Monday, November 11, 2019 1:34:00 PM

Metro Transit hosted snow removal managers from across the region in October. The goal: develop a more coordinated approach to one of winter’s biggest challenges – keeping bus stops, roads and sidewalks clear of snow and ice. 

Representatives from Minneapolis, St. Paul, Hennepin County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation attended the symposium, and a snow removal consultant shared tips on how to reduce salt use. 

In addition to getting some practical advice, the biggest accomplishment may have been simply getting acquainted before the flakes fly. 

“We see this collaboration blossoming into a long-term relationship that benefits all parties,” said Marilyn Porter, Metro Transit’s director of engineering and facilities. “The Metropolitan Council takes a regional approach to transportation, wastewater treatment and affordable housing, so it only makes sense to try a regional approach to snow removal, too.’’ 

With limited resources, Public Facilities Manager Donn Rude said avoiding conflicting snow removal efforts is critical. 

“Knowing each other’s capacities and protocols is important so we’re not just trading snow all the time,” Rude said. “It’s better for our people to be close behind the snowplow when they’re digging out bus shelters.” 

Rachel Walch, senior innovation consultant for the City of St. Paul, attended the symposium to pick up tips she could share with the city’s public works department. To help this winter, Walch said the city may ask businesses to adopt a corner and provide them with snow clearing supplies and training. 

“We have 1,900 miles of city streets, almost as much as all of Hennepin County’s (main arterials), and plows can get only so close to a curb,” Walch said.

Metro Transit’s snow removal arsenal includes salt, liquid chemicals, shovels, snowblowers, skid steer loaders and a small, enclosed tractor that can operate on sidewalks. Before storms, crews pre-treat surfaces with a liquid salt mix that repels snow. 

Even with all that machinery and preparation, clearing bus stops, rail platforms and Park & Rides is a time-consuming endeavor. 

“It’s not unusual for everyone to work 12 hours or more a day for days on end,” Rude said. “Last January and February were extremely difficult and labor intensive.” 

Because there's so much ground to cover, Metro Transit is always game to try new approaches. One year, crews tried melting ice with a beet juice mix, a product that smelled awful and was easily tracked into buildings and vehicles. 

At the recent symposium, staff was intrigued by a plow that could be compact enough to get on light rail platforms with sharp, narrow turns too tight for other equipment.

Learn more about Metro Transit's snow removal procedures

Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Minneapolis Transit Improvements

Signal improvements help trains get out of town 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Thursday, November 07, 2019 4:13:00 PM

Metro Transit and City of Minneapolis staff, gathered here at the Warehouse District/Hennepin Avenue Station, have collaborated on rail signal improvements that are helping light rail trains get out of downtown faster. From left to right are, Ryan Heath, an associate engineer at Metro Transit, Ryan Anderson, Allan Klugman and Ryan Armstrong, from the City of Minneapolis, and Phil Wellman, a senior signal engineer at Metro Transit.​

​Light rail trains are exiting downtown Minneapolis a little faster than they used to.  

The increased efficiency is the result of recent signal improvements, as well as an investment in equipment that allows trains to switch tracks downtown. Some of the signal technology that's been added didn't exist when the METRO Blue Line opened 15 years ago. 

"The light rail and traffic signals weren't talking with each other," said Tom McGannon, a principal engineer for Metro Transit. 

McGannon worked on the improvements as part of a team that included staff from Rail Operations, Rail Systems Maintenance, Engineering & Facilities and Strategic Initiatives. Staff from the City of Minneapolis, Kimley-Horn and ACT Traffic Solutions performed the signals work. 

With upgraded signals, trains are now less likely to get stopped at intersections between stations. In most cases, trains can get out of downtown Minneapolis in less than eight minutes, about two minutes faster than they used to. 

Because of the time savings, Blue Line and Green Line schedules will be slightly adjusted on Saturday, Dec. 7. The hope is that the schedule changes will improve on-time performance throughout the light rail corridors. 

Vehicles crossing light rail tracks are also benefiting from longer green lights due to the recent improvements. 

Getting to this point wasn't easy. It took hundreds of hours to get the city's signals to work with Metro Transit's signals, which govern light rail movements throughout the Blue Line and Green Line corridors. There are a dozen intersections between the Target Field and U.S. Bank Stadium stations. 

Signal improvements were also needed to allow Blue Line trains to operate in either direction, which they prevent delays if a track is being repaired or can't be used for some other unexpected reason. 

Trains couldn't switch tracks before new equipment was installed as part of a major track improvement project that occurred in 2017. 

Staff from Metro Transit and the City of Bloomington continue to work on signal improvements between the Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. That work is expected to continue through next year. 

Reduced fare program described as a ‘lifesaver’ 

Posted by John Komarek | Tuesday, October 29, 2019 1:48:00 PM

In Rosalind Graham’s world, every dollar counts.

So when Metro Transit introduced a fare program that would allow her to ride for $1, she welcomed the opportunity to cut costs. The Minneapolis resident enrolled in what’s known as the Transit Assistance Program, or TAP, in 2018.

Today, she rides transit multiple times a week to get to and from work, applying the savings to housing and other expenses.

“TAP was a lifesaver,” Graham said. “Before TAP, I had to scrape together whatever change I could to get to work, and if I missed a transfer, it really hurt to find enough change for another fare.”

Graham is among 20,000 individuals who have participated in the TAP program since it was introduced two years ago, collectively taking more than 2 million rides. The program allows income-qualified residents to ride any bus or train for $1, half the cost of a regular adult fare.

TAP participants take about 30 rides a month, using a special Go-To Card.

While stories like Graham’s are becoming more common, there remains plenty of room for growth. Around 624,000 residents meet TAP’s eligibility requirements.

Metro Transit hopes to reach more of those residents by working with community partners and expanded marketing efforts. Operators are also encouraged to provide information with customers.

“Increasing housing and transportation costs really put pressure on people of modest means,” said Mary Capistrant, who helped introduce the program as Metro Transit’s revenue operations supervisor. “TAP is indispensable for many residents, but many still don’t know that they’re eligible.”

Among the organizations helping get the word out is Minneapolis-based Pillsbury United Communities, which serves residents who are in crisis and on the verge of homelessness.

Like dozens of other community partners, Pillsbury United Communities raises awareness and helps residents apply. In some cases, partners also verify incomes and distribute Go-To Cards on behalf of Metro Transit.

“98% of the people we serve don’t have a car and rely solely on transit to get around,” said Kelly Leuca, Pillsbury’s director of family services. “TAP helps them not only get around but get to us for support services.”

In addition to lowering the cost of getting to work and services, TAP has helped some individuals open entirely new chapters in their lives.

Donte Curtis invested the money he saved into his fledgling business, through which he provides diversity, equity and inclusion workshops, among other services. 

“TAP really helped me during a difficult period and I’m thankful for the program,” he said.

For more information about enrolling in TAP or becoming a TAP visit metrotransit.org/tap

 
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