Monday, August 31, 2009
NORTHSTAR COMMUTER RAIL NEARLY READY FOR CUSTOMERS
Contact: Steven Dornfeld(651) 602-1518
ST. PAUL – Aug. 31, 2009 – The Metropolitan Council today announced that the Northstar commuter rail line will begin passenger service on Monday, Nov. 16.
Northstar, the state’s first commuter rail service, will offer five morning trips from Big Lake, Minn., to downtown Minneapolis and five return trips in the afternoon along a 40-mile corridor, with stops at Fridley, Coon Rapids, Anoka, Elk River and Big Lake. One reverse commute roundtrip also will be offered on weekdays, and three weekend roundtrips are planned on Saturdays and Sundays.
Metropolitan Council Chair Peter Bell announced the launch date during a news conference today at Downtown Minneapolis Ballpark Station, where he introduced the marketing theme for the new service: “Meet Minnesota’s New Star.”
Bell was joined by Dan Erhart, chair of the Northstar Corridor Development Authority; Peter McLaughlin, chair of the Counties Transit Improvement Board; Khani Sahebjam, MnDOT’s deputy commissioner and chief engineer, and Brian Lamb general manager of Metro Transit.
The $317 million project was designed and constructed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. It is owned by the Met Council and managed by Metro Transit, an operating division of the Council.
"Northstar is an important element in the Met Council’s plan for developing a network of bus and rail transitways to serve heavily traveled corridors,” Bell said. “This year we also will complete the first phase of bus rapid transit improvements in the I-35W and Cedar Avenue corridors. And next year, we hope to start construction of our second light-rail line in the Central Corridor. By 2014, we will have completed six transitways totaling 115 miles in length, as we build a transit system for today – and for tomorrow.”
"Today’s announcement is huge news in the Northstar corridor,” said Erhart, an Anoka County commissioner. "For more than a dozen years, local elected officials, business people and residents stayed focused on one thing – building Northstar commuter rail. Now, thanks to their commitment and the hard work of our partners, we’re only 11 weeks away from service launch.”
"Building on the success of Hiawatha, Northstar is the second step in the creation of a transit system for the 21st century. The Downtown Minneapolis Ballpark Station is the beginning of the new Minneapolis Transit Hub that will connect light rail, commuter rail and high speed rail serving the region and the State of Minnesota,” said McLaughlin, a Hennepin County commissioner.
Sahebjam said, “Northstar, I hope, is the first of many passenger rail services within the state and crossing state lines to connect Minnesotans with the rest of the nation. In fact, we are in the midst of a comprehensive study of passenger rail opportunities, including the potential expansion of Northstar to St. Cloud.”
To mark the launch of commuter rail service, communities will host local celebrations on Saturday, Nov. 14, at rail stations in Big Lake, Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Fridley. A single five-car train will serve each station that day, giving citizens a free ride to Minneapolis to experience the Northstar Line before revenue operations begin two days later. Train tickets for these grand opening events will be distributed in a lottery system. Details will be released soon.
The exact train schedule is still being set with test trains operating in the corridor now.
Trains will arrive in downtown Minneapolis in time for commuters to reach their offices for work shifts that begin at 6:30 a.m., 7 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 8 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. Afternoon trips are expected to operate at half-hour intervals beginning at about 3:45 p.m.
Each train will consist of a locomotive and four passenger cars, with each car seating about 140 customers. Passenger cars have three seating levels, work tables, electrical outlets and an on-board restroom. Each car can accommodate two bicycles and is fully accessible for persons with disabilities.
Each suburban station has adjacent park-and-ride facilities, and platforms are equipped with cameras, emergency telephones, enclosed shelters, heating and other amenities. Connecting bus service will be available at four suburban stations, including Northstar Link coach buses, which will bring commuters from St. Cloud to Big Lake for their Northstar trips to Minneapolis.
When Northstar trains arrive in downtown Minneapolis, customers will be able to make quick connections to the Hiawatha light-rail line, which has been extended north to the new Ballpark Station adjacent to the Twins’ Target Field. Access to regional bus routes and to the Minneapolis skyway system is a short walk away.
Fares for Northstar service range from $3.25 to $7 each way depending on the distance traveled. Fares are lower on weekends. Customers using Metro Transit Go-To cards get a 10 percent bonus with their purchases. (For example, $11 if fare value for $10.)
"We have just 11 weeks left for practice trips and training and then it will be time to introduce Minnesota’s new star to its customers,” said Brian Lamb, Metro Transit general manager. “Metro Transit is looking forward to Nov. 16 when we can say: ‘All Aboard.’”
The Metropolitan Council is the regional planning organization for the seven-county Twin Cities area. It runs the regional bus and light rail system, collects and treats wastewater, manages regional water resources, plans regional parks and administers funds that provide housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income individuals and families. The Council is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the governor.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Metro Transit: 2003 New Flyer Articulated Bus, Bus #3128 doing the Route 860, 2000 Gillig Phantom Bus # 722 on Route 265, New Flyer D60LFR Bus # unknown on the Route 294, Gillig Phantom on Route 70
Metro Transit 2008 Gillig Low Floor Bus # 1102 on Route 63K, Metro Transit 2002 Gillig Phantom Bus # 952 on Route 64N, Metro Transit 2002 Gillig Phantom Bus # 966 on Route 54, Metro Transit 2008 Gillig Low Floor Bus # 1129 on Route 65
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Transit Related Items:
- 2009-263 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Transit Security Grant (Ed Petrie 612-349-7624)
- 2009-264 Request Change to Transit Fare Policy and Procedure (Adam Harrington 612-349-7797, Ed Petrie 612-349-7624)
- 2009-265 35W BRT Lakeville Express Service (Gerri Sutton 651-602-1672)
Report of Transportation Committee:
- 2009-285 Forest Lake/Columbus Route 288 Fare Surcharge (Arlene McCarthy 651-602-1754)
- 2009-178 Northstar Commuter Rail Fare Approval (Adam Harrington 612-349-7797)
- 2009-284 Central Corridor Light Rail Transit Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) Adequacy Determination (Mark Fuhrmann 651-602-1942)
- 2009-286 Central Corridor Light Rail Transit 4th Street Utility Construction Contract (Mark Fuhrmann 651-602-1942)
- 2009-287 Central Corridor Light Rail Transit Project Scope and Project Budget Adjustments (Mark Fuhrmann 651-602-1942)
- 2009-294 2009-2012 TIP Amendment to add a rail crossing safety project in Cottage Grove (TAB action 2009-44) (Arlene McCarthy 651-602-1754, Amy Vennewitz 651-602-1058, Kevin Roggenbuck 651-602-1728)
- 2009-297 Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA) Kenrick Avenue Park & Ride – Construction of Transit-Only Access Ramps, Change Order Allowance (Brian Lamb 612-349-7510, Tom Thorsenton 612-349-7689)
On Aug. 26, 2009, Project Director Mark Fuhrmann updated members of the Metropolitan Council on the 11-mile Central Corridor light rail transit (LRT) project and responded to their questions.
Fuhrmann reported on issues resolved during preliminary engineering, adjustments to the project scope and budget, and issues that remain to be resolved in final design. The project remains on track to start construction in mid-2010 and begin passenger service in 2014.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
MINNEAPOLIS – (Aug. 25) – Metro Transit will hold three public meetings to familiarize customers with bus route changes that will be made in conjunction with the opening of the Northstar commuter rail line later this year.
The 40-mile Northstar Line will operate between Big Lake and downtown Minneapolis, also serving stations in Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Fridley. There will be six morning and six afternoon trips each weekday serving major work start and end times, along with several trips on Saturdays and Sundays. Exact schedule times and fares will be finalized in late August.
Some existing transit service will be altered to coordinate with the opening of the rail line. Route 851 and 888 will be replaced by Northstar commuter rail and connecting shuttle service. Providers of transit service in the area include Metro Transit (routes 10, 824, 850, 851, 852, 854 and 860); Anoka County (Route 805 and dial-a-ride), the City of Ramsey (Route 856), Northstar Community Development Authority (Route 888), Metro Mobility (service for people with disabilities), River Rider (dial-a-ride), and the new Northstar Link, with connecting service between St. Cloud and Big Lake.
In downtown Minneapolis, the Hiawatha light-rail line is being extended to connect with the Northstar station adjacent to Target Field. Local bus routes, operating at least every 15 minutes during most of the day, offer regular connecting service along 4th and 6th streets from Ramp B/5th Street Garage.
The public is invited to learn about and provide comments on bus route changes and Northstar service at these meetings:
Wednesday, Sept. 1611:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.Minneapolis Central Library, Doty Board Room
Wednesday, Sept. 167 to 8:30 p.m.Coon Rapids City Hall, Council Chambers
Thursday, Sept. 176:30 to 8 p.m.Fridley City Hall, Council Chambers
Details about the Northstar Line and proposed bus-route changes are available here. Those who are unable to attend the public meetings can submit questions or comments here or call Customer Relations at 612-373-3333.
Read the Northstar Commuter Rail bus service plan HERE
The Metropolitan Council set fares for the 40-mile Northstar Line Wedbesday, based on distance between each station and downtown Minneapolis.
Northstar is the region’s first commuter-rail line and is expected to carry 3,400 riders each weekday during its first year of operation.
The weekday fares, one way, between downtown Minneapolis and the five suburban stations are:
Big Lake – $7.00 (introductory fare); $8.00 (at or within 12 months)
Elk River – $5.50 (introductory fare); $6.00 (at or within 12 months)
Anoka – $4.00
Coon Rapids –$4.00
Fridley – $3.25
For customers not traveling downtown, the one-way fare between stations is $3.25.
The Northstar Line will be the region’s first commuter rail line set to begin operation late this year. Click here to see tables with details on all these fares.
By KEVIN DUCHSCHERE, Star Tribune
Last update: August 26, 2009 - 11:21 AM
Construction to equip all of the Hiawatha light-rail stations to handle longer trains -- as well as build another station in Bloomington -- is ahead of schedule and should be finished by the end of the year, Hennepin County Board members learned Tuesday.
That means that trains with three articulated cars, rather than just two, will be on the tracks and pulling into the new ballpark station by the time the Twins inaugurate Target Field in April, Metro Transit engineer MarySue Abel told the board.
Why the need for longer trains? Because the five-year-old light-rail line, which connects downtown Minneapolis with the airport and the Mall of America, has become a hugely popular transit option.
Last year the line topped 10 million rides, 12 percent more than in 2007. An average of 37,000 commuters rode the trains daily during weekday rush hours.
"The success of the line has really proven that we need to accommodate more ridership," Abel said.
So Metro Transit, using funding from federal and local sources, is lengthening the platforms at nine stations, adapting two downtown stations for the longer trains and replacing scores of bumpy yellow warning strips dislodged by the annual freeze-thaw cycle.
Signals at track crossings are being upgraded to permit trains to run more efficiently in reverse when needed.
The agency also is building a new station that had been planned years ago but was dropped because of cost overruns. The new stop, at American Boulevard and 34th Avenue, will be the fourth station on the line in Bloomington.
The total cost of the expansion projects is about $13.5 million. Extending the platforms costs $9.3 million, while the new American Boulevard station is $2.2 million, Abel said.
Most of that money comes from federal coffers, with additional funding from the Metropolitan Council, Hennepin County and Bloomington.
Questions from board members centered on the artwork for the expanded stations. Abel said that it will mostly extend and duplicate what's already in place, but some commissioners were disappointed to learn that the original artists were from outside the area.
With all the local art communities, Mike Opat said, it seems "ridiculous" to look outside the Twin Cities for people to decorate the stations. Mark Stenglein suggested that the county seek local artists for the proposed southwest light-rail line, and Peter McLaughlin said that most of the artists selected for the Central Corridor line are local.
The reason why artists for the LRT lines aren’t all Minnesotans is that the projects receive federal funding, said Laura Baenen, a spokeswoman for the Central Corridor line. Such projects must meet federal guidelines that open the hiring process to people outside the state, she said.
When the Hiawatha line opened in 2004, seven of the then-17 stations were built long enough to handle three-car trains. With all stations now being readied to accommodate them, new trains will be purchased for use by 2012, Abel said.
Work on the stations began in April. Light-rail service has been interrupted periodically since then because of construction, and there may be one more such shutdown before the job is finished, she said.
The station at Cedar-Riverside will be closed over the weekend for platform work.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
Shannon Fiecke of the Shakopee Valley News reports:
On her drive down Como Avenue one day, St. Paul legislator Alice Hausman noticed a slew of coach buses from Southwest Transit.The DFL state representative called to find out what was going on — and was told the suburban transit provider, which offers express bus service to Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota, had decided to park its buses at the State Fair lot during the day to save money.
What Southwest Transit viewed as a tremendous savings (more than $30,000 per month), Hausman saw as a sign of system inefficiency, given that Southwest — like other suburban “opt-out” bus services, such as BlueXpress in Shakopee and Prior Lake — isn’t part of the same system as the larger Metro Transit.
“All those big beautiful coaches sit unused all day because they’re not part of a coordinated transit system,” she said.
Hausman is pushing legislation that would eliminate suburban control of bus services (as well as Metro Transit’s) by folding all transit providers into one statewide entity. Hearings on her proposal are expected this fall, before the Legislature convenes, and the topic has also been selected for study by the state legislative auditor.
Scott County Commissioner John Ulrich of Savage — who has his hand in transportation-related issues — told fellow commissioners recently that Hausman is on a mission to eliminate transit opt-outs like BlueXpress — and they need to be on guard.
“We provide very efficient, excellent service,” he said.
Hausman says she doesn’t want to take bus service away from the suburbs, but make it equitable — so those living in one part of the Twin Cities aren’t paying toward a higher level of service elsewhere.
“Huge inequities” have built up across the metro, she said, pointing out higher subsidy figures for suburban riders, their nice coach buses and Southwest Transit’s “Cadillac” station in Eden Prairie, which is heated and cooled and has a TV. Meanwhile, Metro Transit passengers who stand at Cleveland and Grand avenues don’t even have a bus shelter, she said.
But others view her proposal as a power grab to take away what suburban providers have worked so hard to build.
“The transit system here gets pretty darn high marks,” said Carver County Commissioner Tom Workman, a former Republican legislator. “They [others] want this common denominator stuff.”
Communities in the southwest metro were allowed to “opt-out” of the metro bus system originally, Ulrich and others say, because even though they were paying property taxes into the system, they weren’t being served adequately. (Since then, the major funding mechanism has switched from property taxes to the motor vehicle sales tax, although a special metro taxing district levies for capital projects, including park-and-rides and buses.)
“They robbed the suburban area for years and decades shamelessly,” Workman said, “and now that suburbs are standing up on their hind legs, they want more of our money to help with their ‘abyss.’”
Southwest Transit CEO Len Simich said he implemented a plan that turned Southwest Transit from an agency with negative customer feedback into one of the fastest-growing systems in the country that is recognized nationally. Until recently, its ridership was climbing by double digits every year.
Southwest Transit worked hard for its success, Simich said, and aggressively went after grant funds by showing the federal government exactly how certain steps would increase ridership.
“We didn’t get there with the help of Alice Hausman,” Workman said. “We got there on our own.”
Money for buses and light rail comes from a variety of sources, including the motor vehicle sales tax, fares and state and federal funds distributed by the Metropolitan Council.
According to the state legislative auditor, there are 24 transit systems in the Twin Cities area, including Metro Transit, the largest provider, which is operated by the Met Council. While express bus services like BlueXpress and Southwest Transit — which serves Chanhassen, Chaska and Eden Prairie — get part of their funding through the Met Council, they are independently run.
Suburban providers feel under attack from Hausman, a legislator who is perceived to have considerable clout when it comes to transit. They also believe they are getting the short end of the stick from the Met Council when it comes to funding.
The Met Council will be withholding operating dollars from Southwest Transit and Minnesota Valley Transit Authority to help plug holes in the regional transit system, primarily to cover Metro Transit’s deficit.
Forecasting tough times ahead, Southwest Transit reduced services and its staff size the last couple years to put its operation in a healthy position, Simich said. While he is OK with using a portion of its reserves to help shoulder the economic downturn, Simich believes his agency is being asked to carry too much of the burden and is being penalized for doing the “right thing,” when others weren’t planning ahead.
BlueExpress has had difficulty getting the buses it was supposed to get from the Met Council, and recently rejected two of three used buses it was finally offered because they were too old, Shakopee Community Development Director Michael Leek said.
Local officials have also complained about a push by the Met Council to standardize regional services and make buses look similar.
In one spat — noted by Hausman — Minnesota Valley Transit Authority wanted the Met Council to reupholster seats with the MVTA logo. Metro Transit wouldn’t budge, so MVTA (which serves Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan, Rosemount and Savage) did it themselves, she said.
“Though you and I pay for it, they get to make the decision and reupholster it anyway,” she said.
To build ridership, Simich said Southwest Transit must tailor its service to “choice riders,” who have other options for getting downtown.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
MINNEAPOLIS - A man died Thursday in Minneapolis after he stepped on a light rail track and was struck by a moving train.
The accident happened just after 1:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon at the intersection of Hiawatha Avenue and East 26th Street.
Metro Transit Spokesman Bob Gibbons says the man was waiting behind the gate arm, when he suddenly stepped in front of the train. He reportedly made eye contact with the train operator just before he started walking across the tracks.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities have not released his identity.
Gibbons says there were about 150 people on the train at the time of the accident. Buses were called in to transport the passengers to the next light rail station.
Light rail was briefly shut down in both direction for a short time; but service has since resumed. This is the seventh fatality involving a light rail train since the service began five years ago and the second in the past 10 days.
The driver of a car that crashed with a Hiawatha light-rail train has died, the sixth fatality in the line's five-plus years.
Abdirahman Hirsi, 22, died Sunday at Hennepin County Medical Center, the county medical examiner's office said Wednesday. The Minneapolis man's death is considered an accident, and the cause was listed as "multiple blunt force cranial cerebral injuries" from the collision.
On Aug. 3, Hirsi was driving a Honda south on Hiawatha Avenue when he turned west onto E. 35th Street and crashed with a train going south. Witnesses told police that Hirsi went around a crossing arm.
Metro Transit police are continuing to investigate and reconstruct the accident, said Bob Gibbons, a spokesman for Metro Transit. But preliminary results of the investigation include:
•The gate arms were down and working properly.
•The train was approaching at the proper speed, 45 miles per hour.
•The driver passed drug and alcohol tests, as expected.
The driver returned to work on Friday after counseling, Gibbons said.
It is the first light-rail death since November 2007 and the second from a car-train crash.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
The Northstar commuter rail to connect downtown Minneapolis and Big Lake appears on track to open later this year.
U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar says the federal Department of Transportation has awarded $70 million for the $317 million project.
Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, calls that "excellent news" and says it means "we are right on schedule to complete the Northstar Corridor."
The 40-mile line is expected to open in November.
The federal share of the project is 50 percent. Another $71 million is scheduled to be awarded by the federal government next year.
A Minneapolis woman was charged Friday in an assault of a Metro Transit bus driver in St. Louis Park.
Brittany Taneal Simpson, 18, was charged with a felony count of interference with a transit operator as well as fifth-degree assault, a misdemeanor. She was being held in the Hennepin County jail Friday night in lieu of $5,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in Hennepin County District Court on Monday afternoon, according to jail records.
Simpson was part of a group disrupting a Route 17 bus on Wednesday, according to the criminal complaint. The driver warned the group before she stopped the bus and asked the group to stop shouting.
As the group was leaving, Simpson asked the driver whether she was calling the police, the complaint said. A companion told Simpson to leave, as did the driver, which is when Simpson hit the driver in the head with her hand, the complaint said.
The driver described the woman who hit her, and police found someone who matched near Rhode Island Avenue and 35th Street, the complaint said. The driver went there, the complaint said, and identified Simpson, who denied being on the bus. Video footage from the bus verifies the driver's account, the complaint said.
Friday, August 7, 2009
This will be able to provide enough power to power 1,000 homes, assuming the solar generator operates at its peak capacity.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Route 55 buses will replace trains between Warehouse District/Hennepin Avenue Station and Fort Snelling Station from 11 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 7, through 3:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 10, due to construction.
Buses will operate more frequently than trains, but bus trips will take longer than train rides. Customers should plan accordingly. Metro Transit staff will be on hand at key train stations to direct customers to replacement bus service. Signs also will give instructions on where to catch Route 55 buses.
In addition, Franklin Avenue Station and 46th Street Station will be closed beginning at 9 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 7. Trains will pass through stations during this time, but customers will be unable to board or leave trains at those stations.
This service interruption will allow workers to perform maintenance on the edges of the platforms at Franklin Avenue and 46th Street stations.
Customers headed to or from Franklin Avenue Station should use Route 55 buses that will travel between Franklin Avenue and Cedar-Riverside stations. Customers headed to or from 46th Street Station should use Route 55 buses that will travel between 46th Street and 50th Street stations.
In addition to the paver maintenance project, construction crews are lengthening rail platforms at stations to accommodate three-car trains. Crews are also continuing to work at rail/roadway intersections to upgrade the signaling system.
To learn of any last-minute changes, call the rail maintenance hotline at 612-373-3333, option 6.
Get more details here about Hiawatha Line construction projects.
Thank you for your patience.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Light Rail Train, Car Collide in Mpls
Witnesses say car drove around downedgate arm
Published : Monday, 03 Aug 2009, 4:03 PM CDT
MINNEAPOLIS - One person was critically injured when a light rail train collided with a car Monday afternoon in Minneapolis.
The accident happened around 3:40 p.m. at 35th Street E.
According to authorities Abdirahman Hirsi, 22, is in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center after his car was hit by the southbound light rail train.
Witnesses told Metro Transit officials the vehicle was traveling southbound on Hiawatha and attempted a right-hand turn on 35th, driving around a downed gate arm, causing the collision with the southbound train.
Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons said the car was pushed approximately 150 yards down the line before coming to a stop. The man inside was extricated and transported with what appeared to be serious injuries.
Gibbons said light rail service has been disrupted as a result of the accident between the Franklin and Fort Snelling stops.
Metro Transit buses will take passengers along that stretch of the route until service is restored, which Gibbosn said will be “some time."
There were about 100 people on board the train. Many of the passengers were unaware the train had hit a vehicle. No injuries were reported on the light rail train.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Flags are flying at half staff across the state on Saturday to remember the 35W Bridge collapse, which happened on August 1, 2007.
At 6:05 p.m., the exact time the bridge went down, Governor Tim Pawlenty asked people in Minnesota to pause for a moment of silence.
Two years after the collapse that killed 13 people and injured 145, survivors and their families are taking time to reflect on the disaster.
"It is something we are all going to remember. We will remember where we were when that bridge fell. The amazing thing is that we only lost the number of people we did lose," said Kay Roseland of Minneapolis.
While some survivors are happy to just be alive, others and their families are taking action. Nearly 100 survivors and their families are now seeking legal action against the consultant that analyzed the bridge and the contractors that resurfaced it when it collapsed.
The State of Minnesota has already issued $37 million to bridge collapse survivors and their families.
Metro Transit observed the anniversary by having all buses stop for 30 seconds for a moment of silence.