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Transit use in Twin Cities climbs for 4th straight year

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Use of public transit in the Twin Cities area increased in 2013, making it the fourth year in a row that ridership has climbed.

The Pioneer Press reports the 81.4 million rides were not an all-time high, but only twice in the last 32 years have there been more riders.

The Star Tribune notes that traffic on the light rail line that runs from downtown Minneapolis to the Twin Cities airport dropped by more than three percent last year. But that decline was more than offset by an increase in bus rides and a hefty 12 percent hike in use of the North Star commuter rail line.

Buses are still the backbone of the Twin Cities transit system, providing more than 70 million of 2013's rides, Metro Transit said in announcing the numbers. The agency says better fuel conservation generated savings during the year. That money was used to extend nighttime and weekend service in the eastern Twin Cities.

This year trains will become a bigger part of the transit system when a second light rail line – the Green Line – begins service between the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Metro Transit said this week that June 14 will be opening day for that line, which will run between Target Field and Union Depot.

St. Paul's Union Depot was devoid of any trains or transit for decades, but that's changing quickly. In addition to the light rail line, Amtrak plans to move its Twin Cities railroad station there. And now Megabus, which offers discount bus rides between U.S. cities, says it will start using the Depot beginning next weekend, Finance & Commerce reports. The Megabus that runs between the Twin Cities and Chicago has been using a shopping center parking lot to board its St. Paul riders.

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