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Riders Almanac - Metro Transit's Blog
Bus Good Question Light Rail Shelters Winter Weather

Good Question: Why do shelter heaters need to be replaced so frequently ? 

Posted by Marisa Helms | Thursday, November 16, 2017 10:26:00 AM

When the cold weather hits the metro area, customers who wait at hundreds of bus shelters and rail platforms have access to on-demand heaters that allow push-button activation when the temperature drops to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.

The heaters improve the customer's waiting experience, but they are fragile, subject to vandalism, and require constant care and replacement from maintenance staff.

Manager of Facilities Mike Maddio said every winter the 1,500 heat lamps throughout the system must be replaced again and again. This winter is no different, and Maddio estimates replacing the vandalized heaters has cost the agency tens of thousands of dollars over the past few years.

The heaters are made from one or more 12-inch glass tubes, and are targets for vandals, especially in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, Maddio said. Since early October, he said a staff of four electricians have replaced more than 400 heat lamps and are scheduled to replace another 800 in the coming weeks.

"It's daunting," Maddio said. "We fix one heater at 7 a.m. and by 2 p.m. it's destroyed again."

Catching vandals in the act isn't always possible, but, Transit Police Lt. Troy Schmitz said police will pursue criminal charges if they're are able to obtain video of the vandalism and identify suspects.

Awards Bus Transit Improvements Transit Planning

TransitMaster upgrade improves the customer experience 

Posted by Marisa Helms | Thursday, November 09, 2017 3:15:00 PM

Most customers are unaware of all the behind-the-scenes technology that goes into catching a bus.

In fact, at the core of every rider experience, and the decisions we make to improve operational efficiency, is a computer system called TransitMaster.

Bus Operations has been using TransitMaster since 2002 to provide the entire agency with data that can be used to share real-time bus departures with customers, deploy extra buses when operators need support due to extreme weather, events or traffic, and write more accurate schedules.

And soon, an enhanced version of TransitMaster will enable buses to communicate location data more accurately and faster than ever before, adding up to significant gains for customers and staff.

Manager of Technology Systems Gary Nyberg and Transit Control Center (TCC) staff are systematically rolling out the TransitMaster upgrade over the next couple of months to all 950 buses. Each bus, which is equipped with an onboard cellular router, will communicate location data to TCC and NexTrip. NexTrip is the customer-facing system that feeds the mobile app, the website and the electronic schedule displays located at various bus stops and shelters.

Nyberg said when the upgrade is fully implemented by the end of 2017, buses will be able to send their location message every five to 10 seconds.

“That’s a huge improvement from the current 30 to 60 seconds,” Nyberg said. “It enhances a customer’s experience by improving NexTrip prediction accuracy and reliability, and therefore, their trust in Metro Transit.”

The latest TransitMaster improvements also provide the foundation for another key technology called Transit Signal Priority (TSP). TSP improves on-time performance because it allows a bus to request a longer green light or request that a red light be turned to green.

The TransitMaster upgrade also uses an embedded gyroscope sensor to improve accuracy when a bus is at the Mall of America, at Transit Centers, or whenever a bus is otherwise not receiving a valid GPS signal. A gyroscope is a small device that always maintains its direction and orientation to the earth, so whenever a bus’s GPS device loses its GPS signal, the gyroscope kicks in and continues to send accurate location data to TCC and NexTrip.

“Now we’ll know even more precisely where every bus is, everywhere, at all times,” Nyberg said. “That’s key, and it further improves the way we can manage our system and the accuracy of the data it provides to operations, planners, and to our customers.”

Other teams also rely on TransitMaster data and will benefit from the system upgrade.

Street Operations uses TransitMaster’s real-time information to better understand operators’ experience with delays. Service Development analyzes TransitMaster data to adjust schedules and routes. And Customer Relations staff use TransitMaster to respond to a customer who calls because their bus didn’t show up. With TransitMaster, Customer Relations staff can look at a live screen to see where the bus is in that moment and give the customer an answer in about 30 seconds.

“TransitMaster’s improvements are invisible to the customer, but they make us better able to deliver on the promise of service," Nyberg said.

Editor's Note: Nyberg’s leadership with TransitMaster and other important technology projects led to his TCC colleagues secretly nominating him for an Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Minnesota award. In October, Nyberg was presented with a 2017 ITS Minnesota Public Sector Achievement Award in recognition for his outstanding contributions to the ITS community and for improving the efficiency of public transportation operations in Minnesota.

Transit Police

New class of MTPD officers reflect diversity of transit community 

Posted by Marisa Helms | Friday, October 27, 2017 4:32:00 PM

The Metro Transit Police Department welcomed 13 new full-time officers during a swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 26. The event included remarks from Chief John Harrington, General Manager Brian Lamb and Metropolitan Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff.

More than half of the new officers are women and people of color and half speak more than one language, including Hmong, Laotian, Spanish, Somali, Arabic and Turkish.

Harrington has been a strong advocate for diversifying the department since he joined Metro Transit in 2012. He said the current group of new officers expands the department's force strength to 121 full-time officers and boosts the department's diversity, with nearly half of the force made up of women and people of color.

During the ceremony, Harrington pinned badges on the recruits to mark their graduation from MTPD’s 10-week police academy into their new roles as sworn officers.

Harrington said the academy curriculum emphasized the recruits' roles as guardians of the community, training them in communication skills, ethics, mindfulness, and sensitivity to disabled people and immigration status.

“Everything you went through was designed to get you to one purpose: To get you ready for what I promise will be the most exciting, but also the most challenging, job you'll ever have," he said.

Among the newly-minted officers are Liban Ibrahim and Tong Xiong, who served as Community Service Officers before attending the academy. They are the first CSOs to participate in a pilot program for CSOs who want to become officers. Before the academy started, they received mentoring and additional field experience to help them succeed in the academy.

Ibrahim and Xiong both said they were inspired to move forward in their policing careers because of their long-held desires to help others.

“I like how officers do the beat, how they connect with people," Xiong said. "I want to become a beat officer to help prevent problems, but also help people solve their problems when they come up."

Tchourumoff thanked the graduates for their commitment to public service and praised them for their high level of professionalism as they serve Metro Transit's diverse communities.

Lamb remarked on the growth, maturity and respect of the diverse department. He said the transit police play a special role in its service to Metro Transit's thousands of daily customers.

“More and more, this department reflects who we are and where we’re going," he said. “You as new officers have the opportunity to represent diversity, but also to respect the diversity we have. We're excited you're here to assure people that when they take transit, they can do so with confidence and a sense of security.”

Also during the swearing-in ceremony, 12-year officer Bret Fraser received a new badge to mark his recent promotion to Sergeant.

METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line

Light rail construction continues in Minneapolis 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, October 25, 2017 1:00:00 PM

Light rail service will be suspended on portions of the Green and Blue lines this weekend as construction related to improvements in downtown Minneapolis continues.

Buses will replace trains from 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, through 3:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 30, between Target Field Station and the Franklin Avenue and Raymond Avenue stations. Replacement buses will operate on a similar schedule as trains but can take more time.  

While light rail service is suspended, crews will install overhead power lines that transfer energy to trains, underground cabling that will better manage electrical current and signals that guide train movements.

The Washington Avenue Bridge will also be cleaned and painted, and the City of Minneapolis will be repainting crosswalks in several locations.

Construction work will be occurring around the clock until light rail service can be restored.

This summer, light rail service was suspended downtown for nearly two weeks as crews replaced sections of worn rail and installed two new crossovers sections that allow trains to move from one track to another downtown.

The overhead power lines and signals being installed this weekend will allow the trains to use the new crossover sections. For safety reasons, the wiring and signals work couldn’t occur during this summer’s shutdown.

The crossovers and signals will improve reliability by allowing trains to switch between tracks when there is increased train traffic or if a section of track is unexpectedly blocked. The new rail has also created a smoother ride, and will be more durable over time.

Light rail service will be suspended in downtown Minneapolis overnight several times in November and December to allow for signal testing. Test trains will move through downtown but replacement bus service is being provided because the test runs are expected to take longer than scheduled trips.

Pre-planned light rail shutdowns are scheduled during weekends and overnight to limit the impact on customers. In September, combined average weekday ridership on the Blue and Green lines was about 17 percent higher than on Saturdays and 71 percent higher than on Sundays.

The window for construction is also constrained by weather.

Some additional weekend closures are planned for 2018, but no extended light rail shutdowns are expected for at least several years.

Sign up for Rider Alerts to stay up-to-date about upcoming rail maintenance this fall!

Awards

Metro Transit operator, mobile fare app, win awards from MPTA 

Posted by Marisa Helms | Tuesday, October 17, 2017 9:42:00 AM

Recently-retired Operator Renee Stafford was celebrated as the state’s Bus Operator of the Year by the Minnesota Public Transit Association this week.

The MPTA also recognized Metro Transit with a Management Innovation award for its new mobile fare app.

Both awards were presented at MPTA’s annual conference in St. Cloud on October 16.

Stafford, #603, retired in June, exactly 41 years after her career at Metro Transit began. When she retired, Stafford was Metro Transit’s longest-serving female operator.

Stafford said she was honored by the award, even though she never sought recognition or felt she’d done anything out of the ordinary.

“I just treated people nicely and tried to do my best at my job,” she said. “It feels amazing that my service and the things that I did people noticed. It’s wonderful to be recognized.”

Stafford took interest in becoming an operator while riding the bus to and from classes at the University of Minnesota. She quickly grew to enjoy the work, joking with friends that it was like driving her living room around the city.

Stafford spent the last seven years of her career on Route 9, becoming friends with many of her longtime customers. She was also well-liked by her peers at Nicollet Garage, where she spent her career.

This is the third time a Metro Transit operator has been named MPTA’s Bus Operator of the Year. Retirees Jerry Olson and Tony Taylor were honored in 2014 and 2013, respectively.

Also on Monday, the MPTA presented Metro Transit with a Management Innovation award recognizing the benefits its mobile fare app has brought to customers.

Customers who download the app can buy and use a variety of fare products on their mobile devices, providing instant and cash-free access to transit. Customers show operators or transit police a dynamic display to prove they’ve paid their fare.

Since being introduced last November, app usage has grown 30 percent a month. More than $400,000 in fares have been purchased through the fare since the beginning of 2017, including $100,000 in sales in August alone.

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