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Fleet plan calls for gradual addition of electric buses 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, December 10, 2018 4:30:00 PM

An electric bus being made by New Flyer will be included in Metro Transit's C Line fleet beginning in 2019.Electric buses will be gradually added to Metro Transit's bus fleet over the coming years under a plan presented this week to the Metropolitan Council. 

The plan will begin going into effect next year, when Metro Transit starts the process of purchasing 19 new 40-foot electric buses. The buses would arrive in 2020 and will be used to help Metro Transit understand how electric buses effect scheduling, operations and maintenance.

Electric buses could also make up half of the fleet for future rapid bus lines on Chicago and Fremont avenues (D Line), Lake Street (B Line) and Hennepin Avenue (E Line). Additional 40-foot electric buses could go into service as early as 2022.

Combined, Metro Transit may purchase up to 125 electric buses by 2022. The fleet plan may evolve based on funding and an ongoing evaluation of electric bus technology.

Metro Transit’s first electric buses will be used on the C Line, a rapid bus line that will largely replace Route 19 service in 2019.

The first of eight electric 60-foot buses is currently being built in St. Cloud by New Flyer (above).

Charging equipment will also be installed at the Heywood Garage and the Brooklyn Center Transit Center.

Metro Transit was among the first transit agencies in the country to begin using hybrid-electric buses. Today, the fleet includes more than 130 hybrid-electric buses, which are partially propelled by electric power stored in a large battery on the roof of buses. 

Electric buses are fully-propelled by rechargeable batteries, eliminating tailpipe emissions.

Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Shamara Baggett 

Posted by johnkomarek | Sunday, December 09, 2018 1:37:00 PM

After years of exhaustion working two jobs to make ends meet, Shamara Baggett decided to upgrade her career to achieve a work/life balance as a Bus Operator with Metro Transit.

Whether she put on the uniform of a nursing assistant, private care provider, or school bus driver, her weeks would consist of working eight hours overnight, then followed by six during the day.

“I made it to work, but I was exhausted,” Shamara Baggett said. “It got to the point that my life was work, and I couldn’t remember the last time I slept well.”

It was in one of those tired moments she remembered Metro Transit and the good pay and benefits they offer.

“It’s something a lot of young people just don’t think about,” Baggett said. “Being able to work one job and go to the doctor are very important, especially as you get older.”

She started the application process, but quickly found out that even with a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and school bus experience, it’s difficult to earn the title of Operator with Metro Transit.

“It was a lot harder than I expected, but I was determined to get this job,” Baggett said.

It took her a total of three tries to earn her uniform, but she was bound and determined to work here. Today, she now works one job with set hours, benefits, pension, and was able to purchase her first home.

By itself, her story is an inspiration, but even more so, being on the job became an inspiration for another to not give up on their pursuit of working as an Operator.

While driving Route 4, a regular rider named Willie Moses shared his story about failing the operator test and about how he was going to give up.

“I told him I failed it three times before passing, but I learned from it, and I’m here now,” Baggett said. “I told him to go back, that he can pass it!”

Years went by, and she started to wonder what happened to Moses. By a stroke of fate, as she was walking down the hall in South Garage, she stopped and did a double-take. She was standing across from Moses and they were both wearing Metro Transit uniforms.

“A big smile immediately came to my face.” Baggett said. “He made it!”

They still see each other often on the job and are happy talk about the conversations they’d have when she drove him home each night on the Four.

However, she likes their new job-related arrangement better.

“I’m glad he’s driving someone else now. Maybe he can inspire another person to keep trying, too!”

 

Operator at a Glance
 

Name: Shamara Baggett
Hired: 5/6/2013
Employee Number: #73199
Routes: 14, 113, 134 and a Relief Garage Instructor
Garage: South

Lives: North Minneapolis

Family: A 4-year-old daughter and I’m expecting my second next year.

Hobbies: My daughter is my life, and it’s great! Whenever I’m not at work I spend time with her. We love going to the park or the Children’s Museum.

Accomplishment: Not only the tenacity to overcome difficulties, but also the ability to inspire others to do so, too. 

Best Advice: “Persistence pays off” and “Don’t hold on to things – let them go.”

 

Learn more about becoming a bus operator at Metro Transit

 

Shared Mobility

Meet Metro Transit’s new Shared Mobility Program Manager 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, December 07, 2018 11:15:00 AM

Growing up in a farming community outside of Columbus, Ohio, Meredith Klekotka took long bus trips to and from school and didn’t have many places she could safely walk to. 

Frustrated by the lack of options, she developed an early interest in urban planning and transportation. 

That interest has been evident throughout her career – as an advocate for bicyclists and pedestrians, a proponent for high speed rail and, most recently, as a transportation planner in Indianapolis, Ind. 

As Metro Transit’s new Shared Mobility Program Manager, Klekotka will work with staff and partners to help integrate new mobility options into the existing and planned transit network. Shared mobility refers to car, bike and scooter sharing services, on-demand transit and ride hailing companies like Lyft. 

Klekotka recently shared some of her thoughts on transit’s role in the fast-changing transportation landscape. 

Why is shared mobility important? 

Shared mobility is about providing a multitude of options so people can leave their vehicles behind, and so those without a car have full access to their community. Everyone working in this space sees transit as the backbone of a multimodal system. Having a suite of options available to people can make them more comfortable traveling without a vehicle, which will ultimately help attract more riders to transit. 

What can Metro Transit do to support shared mobility? 

One of the things we can do is to expand upon our transit stations to create mobility hubs, where people can take transit but also access things like car share or ride share services to reach their destinations. We can also look at making payment systems more nimble, working with partners to package fares and other transportation options to provide travelers with a host of options to get where they need to go. We’re part of a community-led group, the Twin Cities Shared Mobility Collaborative, which allows partners to share ideas and information, advance regional shared mobility initiatives, and to work together toward common goals. 

What challenges might arise as transportation options expand? 

We need to define and aim to achieve equity so that no one is left behind. One of my friends has a saying about service with dignity – that people should have the freedom to choose and be able to travel with dignity no whatever mode they’re using. 

We also should also remember that transit can move more people more quickly and more safely than any other mode.  A key task is to work closely with our city partners to make sure shared mobility options work with transit and don’t impede our service or access to service. 

So how do you get around the Twin Cities? 

From where I live, I can walk just a few minutes to the Blue Line’s 38th Street Station and take the train to and from work. I also really love to bike, which is part of what brought me to the Twin Cities. My partner and I share a vehicle, but it’s almost always in storage. 

To learn more about Metro Transit’s Shared Mobility Program, contact Klekotka at meredith.klekotka@metrotransit.org. A summary of current and potential shared mobility options is available at sharedusemobilitycenter.org. The Twin Cities Shared Mobility Action Plan was developed by the Shared-Use Mobility Center, with support from the McKnight Foundation and input from local officials and transportation advocates.  ​

 

Transit police get new tools to help the homeless 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, December 06, 2018 2:44:00 PM

Metro Transit police are doing more to help individuals seeking shelter on transit – and now they have a few new tools at their disposal.

The most powerful tool they’ve received are vouchers that can be used to get people into a federally-funded rental assistance program. Such vouchers are typically hard to come by, but the Council’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) secured nearly 100 of them this fall.

The vouchers are being directed to adults (ages 18 to 61) who have a disability and have previously engaged with Metro Transit police or other service providers. Individuals must also be prepared to live independently.

Transit police made their first two referrals at the end of November. After a referral, HRA staff or other service providers will help individuals find an affordable apartment whose owner is willing to participate in the program. 

“We hope to have a handful of families placed in permanent housing by the end of the year,” said Terri Smith, the Council’s HRA director.  

The vouchers are part of a larger and ongoing effort to assist individuals taking shelter on transit.

Earlier this year, the Metro Transit Police Department formed a dedicated group of officers, known as the Homeless Action Team, who spend their nights helping people in need.

This fall, the team received two paratransit buses, including one with a wheelchair lift, to transport people to emergency shelters. While these shelters are routinely full, a new Ramsey County facility is reserving spaces only for people brought by transit police.

Lt. Mario Ruberto, who leads the department’s homeless outreach efforts, said the officers’ regular presence has helped them earn trust and begin making inroads.  

“They’re waiting for us, and they want to talk to us,” Ruberto said. “They know we’re there to help.”

Learn more

To learn more about the Council’s housing vouchers call 651-602-1880. Additional housing resources are available at housinglink.org.

KSTP: New Metro Transit police unit helps homeless riders find resources

Shelters, improved signage creating better bus stops 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Thursday, November 29, 2018 1:46:00 PM

Bus shelters in Minneapolis and St. Paul have been improved through the Better Bus Stops program.Several boarding locations were improved with new or existing shelters this year including, clockwise from left, a stop outside the Franklin Library on Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis; 7th Street East and Johnson Parkway, St. Paul, and Arcade Street and York Avenue, St. Paul.

Until earlier this year, customers who boarded Route 63 buses at the corner of Third Street East and Maria Avenue, on St. Paul’s East Side, waited without protection from wind or rain. 

Now, they have a blue roof over their heads. 

The stop was one of around two-dozen locations where new waiting shelters were installed this year in an ongoing effort to create more inviting and comfortable bus stops. 

The Better Bus Stops program began in 2014 with a goal of bringing 150 new shelters to low-income neighborhoods where most residents are people of color. The program also sought to add heat, light, or both at 75 existing shelters. 

With the progress made this year, those goals are due to be achieved in 2019. 

Around 10 percent of the region’s 12,000 bus stops have a shelter. Nearly two-thirds of boardings occur at bus stops with shelters. 

“With help from our facilities team and many others, we’ve really made tremendous progress in just a few years,” said Berry Farrington, a senior planner who has helped lead the Better Bus Stops program. 

Adding and improving shelters has been just one of the benefits of the Better Bus Stops program. 

Feedback collected by community partners led Metro Transit to take another look at how shelter installations are prioritized. Along with the busiest bus stops, the guidelines say shelters should be considered at other key locations, including major transfer points, near hospitals and in areas where people are unlikely to own a vehicle. 

The updated shelter guidelines and the outreach work that informed them was celebrated earlier this year by Transit Center, a New York-based transit advocacy group. 

“Metro Transit proves that when a transit agency supports its bus stop program with a vision, a long-term plan, funding, and a committed and cooperative staff, it can quickly improve bus stops across the region,” the group said in a report on bus stop improvements

Metro Transit continues to find ways of installing shelters at challenging locations, too. 

To meet federal guidelines for historic areas, a shelter with a bronze frame was installed outside the library on Franklin Avenue. At Hennepin Avenue and Fifth Street, clear panes were used to provide better visibility – a safety feature. Shelters with less depth were installed at several sites with space constraints. 

In addition to this work, more than 30 advertising shelters were replaced this year in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Until Metro Transit took them over, the shelters had been privately owned and maintained.  

Concrete pads that make it easier for customers to get on and off the bus were also installed at many locations.​

Redesign makes shelter schedules easier to read

Customers who use schedules posted in waiting shelters will soon have an easier time telling when the next bus should arrive. Instead of using timepoints, shelter schedules printed for the December 1 service adjustments show the actual departure times. Timepoints are major stops or intersections along a route and are used to simplify printed schedules. 

Shelter schedules could confuse customers who thought the schedule referred to the time a bus was due to arrive at their stop, instead of the nearby timepoint it was referring to. Providing more accurate data will make an already-powerful tool even more useful, Transit Information Project Manager Laura Matson said. 

“Shelter schedules are a tool that most of our customers can use and understand, even if there’s a language barrier or they’re new to transit,” she said. 

The displays were also redesigned to include route maps and have a more professional look. 

View the new shelter schedule displays

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