Green digest // Metro Transit may hit 80 million rides this year

Metro Transit may hit 80 million rides in 2011

Increased bus ridership through the first nine months of the year put Metro Transit on track to top 80 million rides in 2011, the public transportation provider reported in October.

Only once in the past three decades has Metro Transit exceeded the 80-million-ride mark in a year. In 2008, regional transit ridership exceeded 82 million rides, the most since the Eisenhower administration.

“It’s not as if this is an anomaly,” said Metro Transit spokesman John Siqveland, who noted ridership exceeded 76 million in each of the past four years. “This is a trend that is now occurring in the region.”

Siqveland said annual ride counts began an upward trend “about four or five years ago.”

Rides on buses, commuter trains and light-rail trains had reached 60.6 million for the year by the end of September, Metro Transit reported. That was an increase of 2.1 million rides over the first nine months of 2010.

Bus ridership was up 4.5 percent this year compared to the same period in 2010. The 52.3 million bus rides between January and September were driving Metro Transit’s near-record pace.

Ridership increases were greater on express (5.1 percent) and suburban (5.9 percent) routes than urban routes (4.3 percent).

Both Metro Transit’s rail services saw slight ridership decreases during that same period.

There were 7.8 million trips made on the Hiawatha light-rail line between January and September, a 1.6-percent decrease from 2010. Northstar commuter rail ridership was down 1.9 percent from 2010, to just 552,000 rides.

Metro Transit reported weekday ridership increased on both rail lines. But fewer rides on weekends brought down total ride counts.

Metro Transit blamed the rail ridership decrease on fewer rides to special events. The Metrodome collapse earlier this year was one cause Siqveland cited; the Twins’ failure to make the post-season also meant fewer rail rides.

Metro Transit also noted Northstar’s total ridership was brought down by a freight train derailment in July that halted commuter rail service for about four days.

It still has been a busy year so far on the Hiawatha light-rail line, which set its annual ridership record in 2010 with 10.5 million rides. Hiawatha is on pace this year for its second-highest total ridership since beginning service in 2004.

Metro Transit’s third-quarter report also highlighted increases in pre-paid transit card use among University of Minnesota and local high school students. About 221,000 people used Metro Transit’s pre-paid Go-To Cards to pay their fares in the January to September period, more than in all of 2010.

Go-To Card users don’t have to fumble with change or wait for transfers, so their increasing use speeds up the entire transit system, Siqveland noted.

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Fruit tree pruning classes offered

WINDOM — A fruit tree pruning class at Bachman’s flagship Lyndale Avenue store Nov. 12 is one of two offered by Fruits of the City this month.

Fruits of the City organizes volunteers to glean excess fruit from urban trees each fall, donating tons — literally — of fruit each year to area fruit shelves. The program is run by The Minnesota Project, a St. Paul-based nonprofit organization whose initiatives focus on renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and local foods.

University of Minnesota horticulturalist Jeffrey Johnson was scheduled to teach both tree pruning classes. Each class runs five hours, including a two-hour classroom session covering the latest pruning techniques followed by a one-hour lunch break and then a two-hour demonstration and practice session during which students will work directly on fruit trees.

Students will learn best practices to keep their fruit trees alive and healthy as long as possible, as well as techniques to minimize tree maintenance and make harvests easier.

The class at Bachman’s, 6010 Lyndale Ave. S., runs 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Nov. 12. Fruits of the City will offer another class 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Nov. 5 at Mississippi Market, 1500 W. 7th St., St. Paul.

Both classes cost $30. Register in advance for the Nov. 12 class at Bachman’s by signing up online at goo.gl/fxqu7 or by contacting Fruits of the City at fruits@mnproject.org or 651-789-3321.

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Midtown Greenway Coalition hosts open house

The Midtown Greenway Coalition planned to host an open house and free breakfast at its Greenway-level office 10 a.m.–noon Nov. 5.

Visitors to coalition headquarters, located just across the transportation corridor from the Midtown Exchange Building, between Chicago and 10th avenues, can learn about various volunteer opportunities, including the Trail Watch safety patrol, Greenspace Committee, Clean Team and Event Corps. A volunteer training will run noon–1 p.m.

The non-profit coalition is a lead advocate for the 5.5-mile-long non-motorized transit corridor. Read more about volunteer opportunities with the coalition on its website at midtowngreenway.org/volunteer.html.

Reach Dylan Thomas at dthomas@mnpubs.com.