Green Line turns 1: A look back at the light rail line's first year in service

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Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of Metro Transit's Green Line – and to celebrate, dozens of businesses along the light rail line are handing out discounts and free offers.

The week of celebrations kicks off Monday morning, when Metro Transit staff will be handing out special commemorative buttons at stations along the Green Line, Metro Transit's website says.

Those buttons can be used for 50 percent off your first beer at Surly Brewing Company, 25 percent off at University Furniture, a free five-day pass from the St. Paul Midway YMCA, among dozens of other offers. (Click here for the complete list of offers.)

The Ramsey County Historical Society will also be presenting "Green Line Revisited" – a series of creative works dedicated to the light rail line at Landmark Center in St. Paul. The event runs June 18 through Dec. 27.

A look back at year 1

Since opening for business on June 14, 2014, the $1 billion Green Line has seen a run of mostly positive press, with only a bump or two along the way.

The only ongoing blemishes for most of the first year was the line's speed and its safety.

When the Green Line began service, it took some passengers more than an hour to get from downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul, but now most rides from end-to-end average between 45 and 50 minutes.

There have been concerns about safety, as the line has been involved in two pedestrian fatalities and 41 collisions, many of which were minor, since it began service, MPR News says. Many of the accidents come from motorists turning left illegally in front of a train that's coming up behind them.

The Green Line has been testing some different safety measures and Metro Transit officials expect safety to improve as the light rail line enters its second year, MPR notes.

Ridership continues to grow

Despite that, the Green Line quickly saw ridership exceed initial projections and near Metro Transit's ridership goal for 2030, with the line averaging 34,548 weekday rides in 2014, Metro Transit notes, and also helped propel Metro Transit to its highest ridership in decades.

More than 9.1 million total rides have been taken on the Green Line since service began, Metro Transit reported in April. And of the Green Line's 23 stations, the East Bank Station is the most popular – in March, it became the first station on the Green Line to top 1 million boardings.

The line has also been credited with helping spur building activity along the corridor, with investments topping $2.5 billion before the line even opened. Although there are critics who say the building boom may have happened even if the line wasn't built, the Pioneer Press notes, because some of the projects include public subsidies.

But MPR News reports that even critics say the light rail line has been a boon to the local economy.

"I feel a little two-faced on the whole thing, but yes, I had to argue against it and call out all the negatives during the process of design and construction," landlord Jack McCann, who rallied against the Green Line, told MPR. "And now I have to be a cheerleader for the Green Line as an amenity."

For people in St. Paul, workers who use public transportation can on average reach more than 2,000 more jobs within 30 minutes than they could before the Green Line was built – a 5.3 percent increase, a study by the University of Minnesota's Accessibility Observatory found, and in some locations, accessibility often increased by more than 50 percent.

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