“But you know it’s been kind of the candle under the bushel basket, we really haven’t taken advantage and promoted that to our consumers. So what we did was identify several routes that we had a minimum of 15-minute frequency over the span of the service day as well as frequency 15 minutes or better on Saturdays as well. And then said, you know what we want to do is just start marketing that network so the people can know that if I’m on this particular line, I don’t need to know the schedule. I know that soon enough there will be a bus going by.”
Metro Transit has started promoting its “Hi-Frequency” network with clearly defined signs at the stops on its “Hi-Fi” routes, and it looks to be working as the system’s largest ridership growth in 2007 is on its urban local bus routes.
Lamb says Metro Transit is looking at expanding the network, it’s all part of the long-range plan, but it hinges on resources and dedicated funding. Lamb also notes that the Hi-Fi routes aren’t bus rapid transit (BRT) routes, just fixed-routes with high frequencies. Metro Transit currently has no BRT routes, but as it moves forward, any BRT routes added to the system would be integrated into the Hi-Fi network.
One of the leading initiatives for Metro Transit is its Go Greener initiative combining hybrid buses, biodiesel fuel and other steps to improve Metro’s sustainability efforts.
“I think it’s important for us to be on the leading edge both from an environmental sense but also from a cost containment sense,” says Lamb.
Lamb says the hybrids they are using in the fleet now can obtain up to 25 percent fuel efficiency in start-and-stop urban traffic.
“One of the things that we wanted to do is to make sure that from a global perspective, that people understood that transit really is an environmentally friendly option,” says Lamb, “but also that we need to be thinking because of the volatility of fuel prices that we continue to look at ways that we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
Besides hybrids, one other way Metro Transit is looking at reducing dependence on foreign oil is through the use of biodiesel fuel. In Minnesota, the state mandated mix for biodiesel is 2 percent. Metro Transit is charging far ahead of that by changing its entire fleet over to a biodiesel mix five to 10 times greater!
“Our whole fleet is operating on B10, which is a major step forward,” says Lamb.
“No one else in the state who [uses biodiesel has] a B10 mix. And next spring we are going to go to B20. Our plan in the next few years is to operate between B10 and B20 depending on the season. You know, when you think about that, [it] will save us about 1.2 million gallons worth of diesel fuel we know [come] mostly from foreign sources.”
Metro Transit isn’t limiting its Go Greener effort to its bus fleet. This past Earth Day, the system powered its light rail line exclusively with wind power.
“When you think about that and what that says, it says not only can you potentially have a form of transportation with zero emissions, but it can be totally regenerative and that wind power came from the state of Minnesota. I mean that to me is the kind of thing that has a real future for us,” says Lamb.
Lamb says that while Metro could run its light rail line full-time with wind power, there currently is some additional costs associated with making sure the power is coming exclusively from wind resources that is preventing them from switching just yet. He will point out, though, that southwestern Minnesota has a great capacity for growing in that area.
“It’s one of the windiest parts of the country. And being able to make that a critical part of our energy infrastructure on the state level, that’s what they’re looking at. The prospect of having our own energy source there is really very appealing to us.
“So it’s kind of what you do back at home, but it’s also what you want to be able to convey to your potential customers,” says Lamb.
Metro Transit launched its AdWheel Award winning “Fix It” ad as part of its Go Greener initiative.
“[It] is really kind of saying there are lots of things that you attend to and fix all the time, but one thing that we should all be concerned about keeping in good repair is our own planet Earth,” says Lamb.
“So that’s kind of the start, Step 1 of a multiyear commitment we have to this region that we are going to be on the leading edge of environmentally conscious transportation. And that is really the only place I think we can be if we really want to grow, because more and more people are becoming aware, sensitive and want to become part of that process and this is an easy way for them to be.”