Transit use up in 2012

More than 81 million rides logged in third straight year of growth for Metro Transit

Bus ridership remained flat on local routes, but rose on express and suburban routes in 2012. Credit: File photo

More than 81 million individual trips were logged on Metro Transit’s buses and trains in 2012, a high point not hit in roughly 30 years.

Metro Transit use was up 165,044 rides in 2012, a 0.2-percent increase over 2011. It was the third straight year of increased ridership numbers for the transit system, said Metro Transit spokesman John Siqveland.

“Early ’80s is the last time we exceeded 81 million,” Siqveland said.

Light rail transit use also hit a record high of nearly 10.5 million rides in 2012, the most since the Hiawatha Light Rail line opened in 2004.

That was despite a weeklong interruption in service in February when two cables snapped on the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge over Highway 55. Light rail service was halted while crews installed temporary bridge supports.

Higher use of Metro Transit’s suburban and express routes drove a small increase in bus ridership, which in 2012 was up just 0.1 percent over the previous year. There was little change in ridership on local routes in the St. Paul and Minneapolis urban core but suburban routes logged 6.4 percent more rides and express routes 0.9 percent more rides than 2011.

In total, Metro Transit recorded nearly 69.9 million individual bus rides, including about 58.7 million on urban routes, 1.7 million on suburban routes and 9.5 million on express routes.

Northstart Commuter Rail carried fewer passengers in 2012, with ridership dropping 0.45 percent to just over 700,000 trips. While weekday ridership was up, use of the commuter rail for trips to special events in Minneapolis dropped last year, Metro Transit reported.

Siqveland said two factors were driving increased transit use in the metro area.

One was light rail, which Metro Transit officials credit for bringing new riders into the system. The other was improved technology, like the ability to get real-time bus arrival information on smart phones.