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How We Roll

Why we chose to Get on Board 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, April 24, 2019 12:04:00 PM

Taking transit provides some obvious benefits, like saving thousands of dollars a year on gas, repairs and car insurance and having the freedom to safely use the phone that’s become an extension of your right hand. But as many Metro Transit employees can tell you, there are many other reasons to Get on Board.

To celebrate the American Public Transportation Association's National Get on Board Day, we’re highlighting some of the unique reasons our employees chose to take the bus or train.

Tell us why you ride for a chance to win a $50 Go-To Card. E-mail ridersalmanac@metrotransit.org or share your reason on Twitter using the hashtag #getonboard. We’ll chose three responses at random.

Moments of Zen

My commute acts like a daily meditation. Not having to drive gives me the time and freedom to de-stress by just listening to music in my headphones. This is especially important to me to help me mentally prepare for each day during my morning commute.

Karyssa Jackson, Green Line

Spend some quality time with Harry

Usually I read or do crosswords on my phone – I’m 20 years late but am finally reading the Harry Potter series. 

Michaela Ahern, Routes 46 or 74, A Line, Blue Line

Make a BFF

You never know who you’ll meet on board. Recently, I became reacquainted with a friend from college who rides the bus. Now we catch up often.

Steve Baisden, Route 355

Appreciate random acts of kindness

I like how my daughters and I have had random positive encounters with perfect strangers. A lady on Route 10 once gave my youngest daughter a fresh flower from her bouquet.

Jeremy Hop, Blue Line, bike

Togetherness

Every once in a while there are moments with a real sense of shared community. I’ve seen people immediately surround and care for someone who fainted and I’ve laughed along with everyone else when a little kid said something funny. It’s a good reminder that we’re all in this world together.

Glenn Gilbert, Route 61, A Line

Get a breath of fresh air

My commute is sometimes the most relaxing part of the day. It feels good to come into the office after a little physical activity and fresh air, or to catch up on the news or a podcast while riding the train.

Shaun Morrell, Blue Line, Route 21, bike

Earn bragging rights

The benefits for me are immense. I get regular exercise from walking – frequently taking more than 10,000 steps a day. 

Jovita Oghumah, Route 768

More room in the garage

My wife and I bought a house near the Blue Line’s 46th Street Station about 11 years ago because we wanted walkable and green areas nearby and wanted to live near light rail. Thanks to the convenience of the Blue Line, about four years ago we started sharing just one car. 

Charles Carlson, Blue Line

Find your good luck charm

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.

Christina Morrison, A Line, Blue Line

Catch some zzzzs

It’s a smoother commute both ways with few surprises. Going home, I traded the stress of fighting the traffic for fighting to stay awake, so I didn’t miss my stop. I’ll take that trade. 

Mike Conlon, Northstar

Enjoy some "me time”

Riding transit is 100 percent “me time.” I can read, play Candy Crush, catch up on e-mails, or listen to podcasts.

Kecli Stones, Blue Line

Awards Bus Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line Minneapolis Safety

Sarah Gibson claims Rail Rodeo crown with calm demeanor 

Posted by Laura Baenen | Tuesday, April 23, 2019 1:42:00 PM

Rail Supervisor Connie Skinner (top left) scores Train Operator Sarah Gibson during Metro Transit's 2019 Rail Rodeo. Train Operators Joe Bretto (top right) and Mose Mahir (bottom right) perform pre-trip inspections during the contest.

Train Operator Sarah Gibson’s laid-back approach won her Metro Transit’s Rail Rodeo crown last Saturday.

“I really didn’t do much to prepare. This is what I’ve been doing for five years now so operating a train is almost second nature, and I’ve always been pretty good at written tests,” said Gibson, who has worked for Metro Transit for seven years, the first two as a bus operator.

Gibson will represent Metro Transit at the American Public Transportation Association’s International Rail Rodeo in Toronto in June. She also was named the Green Line’s Garage Champion, a new award this year, and won a jacket.

Joining her in Toronto will be fellow Train Operator Joe Bretto, who placed third. Train Operator Paul Gillespie placed second but is unable to attend.

During the skills competition, operators were judged on the thoroughness of a pre-trip inspection and their operation of a light rail vehicle in the rail yard and on the Blue Line. They also took a written exam on light rail rules and had to pass a uniform inspection.

This wasn’t Gibson’s first Rail Rodeo. In 2017, the only other time she’s competed, she finished third. She was also a finalist in the 2013 Bus Roadeo.

Gibson is taking the same relaxed approach to the international competition that she took to the local one.

“I enjoy my job and do it the best I can every day, so I suppose I’ll just keep doing that,” Gibson said.

Gibson’s family will join her in Toronto to cheer her on. They also hope to catch a Toronto Blue Jays game since the team will be at home during the competition dates.

Meanwhile, Metro Transit’s reigning Bus Roadeo champion, Heywood Operator Jack Berner, will compete in APTA’s International Bus Roadeo in May. This is expected to be Berner’s final Roadeo before retirement. He has won Metro Transit’s Bus Roadeo seven of the past 12 years.

Metro Transit’s annual Bus Roadeo will be held in St. Paul on Saturday, Sept. 14, Tuesday, Sept. 17, Wednesday, Sept. 18 and Thursday, Sept. 19.

How We Roll

How We Roll: Senior Planner Scott Thompson 

Posted by John Komarek | Tuesday, April 23, 2019 10:00:00 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 illustrate how much we have in common with our customers when it comes to how we get around. See you out there!

Scott Thompson, Senior Planner

How do you get to work?

I commute almost exclusively on transit. My commute usually begins and ends at SouthWest Transit's SouthWest Station in Eden Prairie. Depending on the weather, I either walk or transfer to another bus to get to the Heywood Office where I work. Sometimes I'll park at the Blue Line's 28th Avenue Station Park & Ride and take light rail. 

Service Development has a friendly competition and a traveling trophy for whomever takes transit, bikes or walks every month. Last year, I took 752 transit trips. That might sound like a lot, but I have co-workers who have taken even more trips! 

What do you enjoy most about your commute?

I enjoy avoiding the headache of driving and dealing with traffic. Considering all the transit advantages we have now -- including MnPASS and shoulder lanes, and Marq2 in downtown Minneapolis -- I’m always surprised at the number people who continue to sit in traffic in their cars as my bus goes past. 

How does taking transit impact your work?

I try to use transit as much as possible during the work day. I plan service in St. Paul and surrounding communities so I often find myself taking the Green Line to get to meetings in the East Metro. We have terrific tools that help planners make better decisions about our service, but there's no substitute for personally experiencing what our customers experience.

Are there any other transportation services you find invaluable?

Transit has been important to my entire family. About 8 years ago, my mother quit driving and started using Metro Mobility, the Council's transportation service for individuals who can't use regular route transit. Without Metro Mobility, our family would have become responsible for all her transportation needs or she would have needed to live in an assisted living facility much earlier than she did. Instead, she was able to continue living independently at her home in Richfield. She couldn’t say enough good things about how kind all the drivers were to her and how deeply she appreciated the service. My family and I will always be grateful.

Bus

Closed course experience designed to keep road to employment open 

Posted by John Komarek | Tuesday, April 23, 2019 8:23:00 AM

(Left to right) Bus Trainees Linda Wilke, Erica Young, Steve Gartner and Patricia Young join Instructor Ken Johnson for a chance to drive a bus on a closed course.

Before they can pick up any customers, new hires on their path to becoming bus operators must get behind the wheel and show they’re capable of handling what may be the largest vehicle they’ve ever driven. 

For prospective operators who have never driven a bus before, passing the required road test and earning a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) can be a significant hurdle, potentially disrupting an otherwise promising career just weeks after it began.

To help address that barrier, Metro Transit is now providing unfamiliar, prospective operators the chance to spend several hours driving a bus on a closed course before taking their road test.

The hope is that this experience will help participants earn their CDLs and continue in their training.

“This is just to give you a feel of the bus and to get the jitters out,” Relief Instructor Ken Johnson told a group of new hires who gathered last week at a Metropolitan Council facility, where a parking lot became a temporary, asphalt classroom.

The group that assembled last week was the first to get some practice in before taking their road test. None of the participants had driven a bus before or had yet obtained a Commercial Driver's License (CDL).

Among those who participated in the new five-day program was Linda Wilke, who found herself needing to compensate for a bit of a lead foot. “It’s not like driving a car at all,” Wilke said. “The brakes and the gas pedal on a bus are far more responsive.”

Patricia Morgan was surprised to find the turn signals by her feet, and to learn that moving from forward to reverse meant pushing a button. “Now when I get into my car I start looking for the right buttons to push on my dashboard to put it in drive,” she said.

Another big takeaway, participants said, is how strongly safety is emphasized.

“Drivers out on the road take lots of tight, fast turns,” Steve Gartner said. “With a bus, that back wheel is a lot farther back so you learn to take a wider turn, which is much safer.”


Instructor Johnson talks through an alley back-in with trainee Young. This is one of the more difficult maneuvers in the CDL test.

Providing more hands-on experience is part of a larger effort to make the path to becoming a bus operator at little less daunting.

Job seekers can get help completing their applications and studying for their Commercial Driver’s License Permit, a prerequisite to getting a CDL. New hires are also being matched with experienced operators through a mentorship program.

Erica Young is among those benefiting from the extra support.

Young tried to get her CDL on her own but came up short. But after taking a CDL study course provided by Metro Transit, she earned her CDL permit and found herself among those taking the wheel of a bus for the first time last week.

While there’s a long road ahead, her confidence showed as she put the bus into reverse, correcting course to avoid hitting a cone. Backing up is one of the more difficult maneuvers in the CDL test.

“You did well,” Johnson, the instructor, told Young. “You were able to see and adjust.”


Johnson debriefs Young with a thumbs-up after the alley back-in.

We're Hiring!

Attend an upcoming application event to learn more about becoming a bus operator with Metro Transit. Learn more at metrotransit.org/drive

Light Rail

Light Rail art celebrates Earth Day, partnership 

Posted by John Komarek | Friday, April 19, 2019 12:51:00 PM

A light rail vehicle carrying METRO Green Line customers to their destinations now doubles as a work of art.

The outside of the vehicle shows a caterpillar becoming a monarch butterfly. Inside, the walls are covered with illustrated scenes of moose, mice and other furry creatures exploring local landmarks like the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in every season.

The unique display is the culmination of a partnership between students at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul-based artist Sarah Nelson and Metro Transit. 

Last fall, students in a Leadership for Social Justice course conducted a series of interviews about the connections between transit, sustainable communities and social justice.

The interviews provide the foundation of a recently published book, Transit Transformations. Nelson’s hand-drawn illustrations of a monarch butterfly adorn the cover of that book and were adapted for the exterior of the light rail vehicle.

The monarch was chosen for the book cover because transformation was a common theme in the interviews.  

The illustrations inside the light rail vehicle were purely Nelson’s vision.

“You might think of it as (children’s book author and illustrator) Richard Scarry meets Where’s Waldo, but with my own spin,” Nelson said as she saw the finished product for the first time. “I hope that this artwork engages people of all ages and captures fun.”

Transferring Nelson’s designs to such an unusual canvas took hundreds of hours and careful planning. Advertisements are regularly applied to the outside of light rail vehicles, but they rarely take over the inside the way Nelson’s illustrations do. 

The unusual display was made possible by an arts program connected to St. Thomas’ Sustainable Communities Partnership. Through the partnership, students work with community partners on projects that support human and environmental well-being.

The project was also supported by the SOLV Initiative, a St. Thomas’ College of Arts and Science program that, in part, seeks to support the public interest through arts and the humanities.

The artwork will remain in place through at least the end of May. But Professor Mike Klein, who led the students whose interviews provide the foundation for the book and light rail artwork, said he hopes it leaves an impression that lasts well beyond its lifetime.

“We hope this artwork will capture the rider’s imagination,” he said. “And to help us imagine a world we want to see.”

Earth Day Light Rail Wrap

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