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Riders Almanac - Metro Transit's Blog
Bicycle Bus How We Roll

How we Roll: Jared Fette 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, December 20, 2017 9:12:00 AM

Jared Fette, Transit Information Center Representative, with his bike at the Heywood Office building in Minneapolis.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!

Jared Fette, Transit Information Center Representative

How do you get to work? 

I bike daily year-round from the Audubon Park neighborhood in northeast Minneapolis to Heywood. It’s about four miles each way. I take various bike routes on side streets and the Plymouth Avenue Bridge, which has awesome, wide bike lanes. The city of Minneapolis does a great job during the winter of plowing the Plymouth Avenue bike lanes. I love it because I don’t have to bike through downtown anymore to get to work. I usually take turns riding my regular road bike or my cargo bike, depending on if I need to pick up groceries on the way home. 

Why do you choose to bike to work? 

It helps me to stay healthy and happy. In college, I didn’t bike as much and thought about getting a high-mileage car. And then one day I realized that I’m already getting the best mileage and it’s so much cheaper! The sustainability part of cycling is a bonus. 

How do you use sustainable modes in your personal life? 

I like to take my dog to the dog park on my bike trailer, although she’s still getting used to it. I play drums at different venues around Minneapolis (and sometimes St. Paul), so I try to haul my drums on my cargo bike or bike trailer when possible. It’s really nice to be able to park right in front of the venue and not have to carry my drums from a block away. Lately, I’ve been getting into “bike packing” in the summer, which is biking long or short distances with camping gear and staying at campgrounds. 

For longer trips around town I usually take my bike on the train or bus. I like routes that take me across barriers, such as freeways or railroad yards. For example, Route 30 from the Quarry to Westgate Station, the A Line on Snelling, the Green Line to St. Paul, the Blue Line to Bloomington, and routes 4 or 10 to Uptown or downtown Minneapolis.

Self care: Take the bus! 

| Wednesday, December 13, 2017 9:06:00 AM

Kayla Fahey-Ahrndt, a Blood Bank Supervisor at the University of Minnesota, has been taking public transportation off and on for the past nine years for school, work and fun. As a student at the U of M from 2008 through 2012, she mostly took routes 16, 3 and 2, before the Green Line opened. Now, as a professional, she has recently started commuting from Maple Grove on the 781 Express Route, and then transfers to the Green Line to get to work. 

She's come to notice that commuting via Metro Transit has led to some major benefits, including improved mental health and reducing her ecological footprint. We're excited to feature Kayla as a guest blogger on Rider's Almanac. The blog has been edited for content and space.

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Self care: Take the bus!

By guest blogger Kayla Fahey-Ahrndt

Some of you have probably read or heard about self care. The idea is that we need to be the best version of ourselves to do well at work, to take care of our families, to think clearly, etc. I am a firm believer in taking time for yourself, but it’s not always been easy for me.  I recently found an unconventional way of taking care of myself that I wanted to share with you – taking public transportation to work. Yup, I am in love with Metro Transit!

Some of you know I’m in a Master’s of Public Health program through George Washington University. I recently took an Environmental Health Class, and the topic of public transportation came up. We were required to calculate our ecological foot print – includes our carbon footprint and more. The Global Footprint Network describes the ecological footprint this way, “It shows how carbon emissions compare and interact with other human demands on our planet, such as food, fibers, timber, and land for dwellings and roads.” I highly recommend taking the ecological footprint calculator. It only takes a few minutes.

I will say I was SHOCKED at my ecological footprint, but then when I started to think about it, I realized my footprint has gotten bigger over the last few years. I used to take the bus to school and work about three years ago, and I rented a small apartment in a neighborhood where I could walk to the store and to eat, etc. This year, my husband and I just bought a large home on the outside edge of the greater Minneapolis metro. Transportation really affects my footprint. My commute is only 18 miles, but I’m driving my car at least a half hour on the way to work and sometimes up to an hour on the way home from work each day. I really need to think about taking the commuter bus!

I realized that not only was my drive contributing to my ecological footprint, but it really is a part of my day I dread. I also can’t stand the stress of trying to get somewhere quickly or having to park or paying for so much gas all the time. The drive simply stresses me out!

I had seen transit buses in our town before, so I decided I was going to look up the bus services in my area and see if I could realistically use Metro Transit to get to work and to work on time!

Lo and behold, the bus comes about one block from my house, I take it to downtown Minneapolis, and then I take the light rail two or three stops and it drops me off a block from the hospital where I work. It’s amazing! 

So far I’ve taken public transit on and off for about a week and a half. Below is a list of all the benefits I’ve noticed from not driving myself to work.

  1. Improved mental health: No more stressing with road rage, the pain of parking, or the anxiety of driving in bad weather 
  2. Smoother morning: No more last minute gas light issues or warming up the vehicle.
  3. Time for reading or listening to podcasts: I am finally reading for pleasure again.
  4. Time for writing: Hence ceruleanonline.com; my blogging time has been given back!
  5. Time to prep for work, catch up on email or other tasks.
  6. Time for meditation: It’s a good time to unwind.
  7. Idea brainstorming: The ride and walk to the Metro clears the mind, making space for awesome idea generation.
  8. Feelings of being part of something bigger than you! Global, responsible citizen! You’re there for your fellow bus mate!  Your lives touch other lives every day.

Overall, my commute takes about 50 minutes to and from work. It’s slightly longer than driving sometimes, but by the time I park or sit in traffic, the time is similar. For me, the benefits are totally worth it!

If you’re sick of hearing the same self care tricks like get a massage, etc (even though massages are amazing!), try this trick and take the bus or train instead if there’s one near you. You may even think about driving to a Park and Ride and taking the bus or train the rest of the way.

Follow Kayla's blog posts at ceruleanonline.com

Want to be featured as a guest blogger on Rider's Almanac? Contact us at ridersalmanac@metrotransit.org

Bus Know Your Operator

Know Your Operator: Barbara Mestas 

Posted by Marisa Helms | Thursday, December 07, 2017 10:32:00 AM

When Operator Barbara Mestas walks into the Drivers Room at Heywood Garage, her big laugh and booming voice are a signal to her colleagues that their friend “B,” or “Barb” has arrived. Fellow operators are sure to say "hi." Some will ask Mestas for advice. Everyone knows she's fun to hang out with.

Indeed, during the nine years Mestas has worked as a Metro Transit operator, she's earned a solid reputation as somebody who brings people together. As she puts it, she’s pretty much a “people magnet.”

"I'm very approachable, very friendly, and I’m happy," Mestas said. “Everybody knows they can come and ask me about a route, or anything. Even the new people feel comfortable with me."

On her days off, Mestas and her coworkers get together for dinner or a movie, or to go bowling. "We call it our ‘Heywood family.’ Whoever wants to come, can join," Mestas said. "We try to make everyone comfortable who comes to our garage."

Mestas focuses her infectious optimism and magnetism on all her coworkers, not just her friends at work. She has started a few fundraisers for operators in need, and she regularly takes up collections as part of the Heywood Garage hospitality program to buy gift cards for coworkers who are going through hard times.

When she’s out driving, Mestas brings her friendly, broad smile and positive attitude to every route. She says she likes the challenge of the Extra Board schedule, and she says the routes are great because she gets to do something different every day.

"I love my job," Mestas said. "I'm a people person, so I enjoy talking and laughing with people. Whenever somebody gets on the bus I greet them, ‘Good morning,’ or ‘Have a good night,’ ‘How was your day?’ ‘How have you been doing?’ And people like that. They like to know that somebody cares about how their day was.”

Even with all the different routes Mestas covers, customers recognize her. And they’re about to start recognizing her even more. Mestas is enjoying some notoriety these days as the new face of Metro Transit's operator recruitment campaign. Mestas said Heywood Garage Manager Jay Kluge recommended her for the campaign because she's "always smiling, always happy and always friendly."

Images of Mestas behind the wheel have just started rolling out on buses and in advertisements on the web, on billboards and on social media.

"My kids totally think it's cool," Mestas said. "I think it's fun and I'm glad they picked me."

Operator at a glance
Hired: October 2008
Number: 68299
Routes: P.M. Extra Board driver, some express routes, but mostly all the local routes out of Heywood Garage, including routes 5, 19, 22, 10, 18
Hobbies: Bingo, hanging out with friends and family

To help you better get to know those getting you around, Metro Transit offers these 'Know Your Operator' profiles of train and bus operators. To suggest an operator for a future profile, please email ridersalmanac@metrotransit.org.

Bus Bus Maintenance Equity

Prospective technicians welcomed, challenged to show ‘grit’ 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, December 06, 2017 5:41:00 AM

Participants in the Metro Transit Technician Training program at the Overhaul Base on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.Wearing an oil-stained florescent jacket, Ravie Sawh stood before a group of 50 job seekers and their supporters at Metro Transit's Overhaul Base last week.

The group was assembled to hear what their futures could look like as the newest participants in the Metro Transit Technician Training program and, eventually, as full-time mechanic-technicians at the agency. 

“You’re going to have to start motivating yourself every day,” Sawh told the group. “But if you’re looking for a job where you’re never going to be bored, this is the place for you.”

Sawh was among the first individuals to participate in the MTT training program, which combines personal development, on-the-job training and support toward earning a two-year associates degree.

Two years after starting, he and a dozen others from that first group are working as full-time Bus Maintenance interns and looking forward to graduating from Hennepin Technical College next spring.

A second group of MTT participants being guided toward careers in Rail Maintenance are also working as full-time interns after starting classes at Hennepin Technical College this fall.

Now at Heywood Garage, Sawh has already cast his gaze well past graduation: He wants to retire from Metro Transit after 30 or more years of service.

The new MTT participants welcomed last week were encouraged to start envisioning a similar future for themselves, despite the difficult road ahead. Many of the participants have little or no mechanical experience and will have to juggle classes, second- and third-shift work, tutoring and other responsibilities to reach the finish line.

“We need people with grit, people who are going to stay with it,” said Wanda Kirkpatrick, the director of the Met Council's Office of Equal Opportunity. “But why are you going to do it? Because at the end of the day this is going to feed you, feed your family and make sure the place you live is the place you want to live.”

The Office of Equal Opportunity is leading the program with support from Bus Maintenance and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005. Several technicians will be tapped to serve as mentors.

Minneapolis-based non-profit Twin Cities R!SE is also a key partner. The participants’ first step is to finish 12 personal empowerment classes offered by the organization.

A group of 20 participants who finish those classes and meet other criteria will be invited to move forward to the program’s next phases, including custom training, a full-time paid internship and support toward earning an associates degree.

Successful participants starting this month will be eligible to apply for full-time technician roles in late 2020. Full-time technicians now start at around $27 an hour, a wage many at the Overhaul Base last week said would be life-changing.

Thomas Scott, who is overseeing the program on behalf of the Office of Equal Opportunity, said the prospect of a good-paying career should be just a part of the motivation. More than 250 people applied for the program.

“Remember how many people wanted this opportunity,” Scott told the group.

Brian Funk, Deputy Chief of Operations-Bus, said the program comes at an opportune time for the agency. Retirements and system expansion are creating more openings while fewer young people are pursuing skilled trades careers.

The program also supports the agency’s equity and diversity goals: Nearly 90 percent of the participants in the new group are people of color. There are nine women. 

“We know we need to do something different than drawing from traditional methods,” Funk said. “Thankfully, that’s why you’re here.”

   > Technicians in training celebrate early milestone

   > Technician training program gets national recognition

   > Aspiring Mechanic-Technicians build skills, confidence

   > Employment at the Council

Bus Light Rail Winter Weather

Riders reminded of importance of Metro Transit during first big blast of winter 

Posted by Kathy Graul | Tuesday, December 05, 2017 1:29:00 PM

Snow and ice-covered roads led to a tricky and long commute this morning after winter’s first big blast hit the Twin Cities overnight.

Light rail and Northstar commuter rail service are not typically impacted by winter weather thanks to trains’ built-in snow clearing capabilities and the special ice-cutting equipment that's also mounted on most light rail vehicles. But, like all other drivers on the road during winter weather events, bus operators continue to put safety first and are face the same heavy traffic we all face when icy and snowy weather conditions strike.  

Despite delays across the bus system, a positive attitude among riders was apparent as the shout-outs rolled in for Metro Transit bus drivers and train operators on Twitter throughout the day. Here, we gather a few of our favorites. Only in Minnesota could there be so much camaraderie and good spirit during such a winter weather mess.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To stay up to date with service information during winter weather events, follow Metro Transit on Facebook or Twitter. “Show my bus” is also a handy feature to track the GPS location of your bus through Metro Transit’s NexTrip service.

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