Light rail has a record year, but Twin Cities bus use continues to fall

Overall user numbers also fell for Metro Transit.
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Both of Metro Transit's light rail lines enjoyed a record year in 2018, but passenger numbers on buses continue to trend down.

Metro Transit released its passenger figures for 2018 on Monday and while it heralded some record figures for the Blue and Green light rail and its Rapid Transit bus lines, it also reveals some worrying trends.

Overall passenger numbers hit 80.7 million in 2018, a 1.47 percent drop from the 81.9 million in 2017, which itself was down on the 82.6 million passengers carried in 2016.

Within that, there was a 4 percent drop in the number of bus passengers in 2018, with the 53.3 million carried by Metro Transit buses down from the 55.7 million in 2017 and 58.1 million in 2016.

Metro Transit says some of this ridership loss was "expected" after fares increased in October 2017, and also lower-than-usual gas prices played a role.

That said, bus user numbers have been falling in the Twin Cities since 2013, albeit some of that decline will be the result of the Green Line's introduction in 2014.

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On the brighter side, there were 13.8 million rides taken on the Green Line between St. Paul and Minneapolis, the best performance yet since it opened in 2014, and up from the 13.1 million trips taken in 2017.

The Blue Line between MSP Airport and downtown Minneapolis carried 11.1 million passengers throughout the year, also a record. In 2017, it carried just under 10.67 million.

Metro Transit says the ongoing reconstruction work at I-35W is behind the increased use of the Blue Line.

Meanwhile, 1.6 million rides were taken on the A-line rapid transit between Rosedale Center and 46th Street in Minneapolis, a 2 percent rise on the year before, while Northstar train numbers were down, but only very slightly.

"Continued growth in light rail and Bus Rapid Transit ridership affirms what we’ve always believed – that people value fast, frequent and reliable service," said new Metro Transit GM Wes Kooistra.

"We are encouraged by the response and look forward to offering more of this service in the years to come."

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