A majority of commuters who take the bus to their downtown Minneapolis jobs have yet to return to their desks, but when they do, Ben Rajkowski has a promise.
"You will be coming back to a better system that is stronger and more reliable," said Rajkowski, Metro Transit's manager of transit information.
He points to 36 new real-time double-sided digital signs that Metro Transit has put up over the past two months at bus stops along S. Marquette and 2nd avenues. The stops are served by express and limited-stop routes and starting this fall by the Orange Line, the new rapid bus line from downtown to Burnsville.
The sleek new displays are connected to fiber optic lines, which will allow information to flow from buses to Metro Transit's information systems and onto signs more quickly and with fewer interruptions. That will allow riders to see trip times that are more accurate, Rajkowski said.
The old digital signs, which were some of the first that Metro Transit deployed in the Twin Cities, were 10 years old and suffered because they relied on cellular connections to pass on information. When signals were disrupted, riders saw error messages or notices like "Times temporarily unavailable. Please see schedule."
That was happening way too often, Rajkowski said, and it frustrated riders. Unreliable signs were one of passengers' top complaints, he added.
To keep the new displays in working order and fix them swiftly when issues occur, Metro Transit this summer hired two technicians to maintain them.
The new digital LED displays will also tell riders when a stop is closed. But the signs can't show canceled trips. Trips not operating, however, will be removed from the listing of arrivals. Riders can subscribe to Metro Transit's alerts to get those notifications.
Riders at bus stops where schedules are flashed on a TV screen, such as along the A Line, C Line and on Nicollet Mall, will now be able to see when a trip is scrubbed. The screen will show which buses are not coming, Rajkowski said.
The new displays come as Metro Transit has worked to increase accuracy with its arrival and departure predictions. Earlier this year, Metro Transit upgraded its NexTrip system to become more reliable by making it smart enough to predict travel times by accounting for factors such as traffic or weather. The agency also launched a Twitter account dedicated to informing riders about trips that are canceled, delayed or rerouted. It's also begun sharing its data with third-party providers such as Google Maps and the Metro Transit app.
"With transit information, we try to find out what the pain points are and introduce new channels or improve the experience," Rajkowski said. "Lots of efforts have gone in to improve those tools."
Filling the Hwy. 212 gap
MnDOT didn't get to celebrate the completion of this year's work on Hwy. 212 in Norwood Young America in person, so it's marking the feat with a video.
Crews resurfaced the road between Hwy. 25 and Tacoma Avenue, put in a new roundabout at the Hwy. 5/25 and County Road 36 interchange, added biking and walking trails and upgraded traffic signals.
More is coming. MnDOT and Carver County plan to expand 5 miles of the road through Dahlgren Township from two lanes to a four-lane divided highway. Construction could start in the fall.
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