Metro Transit ridership rebounds in 2010by Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Metro Transit numbers show bus and train ridership was up across the system in 2010, with one exception -- the Northstar commuter rail line.
Spokesman Bob Gibbons says the number of riders went up 2.3 percent last year, compared to 2009 -- only the fourth time in 30 years that the number reached 78 million riders. Gibbons says it's most likely an indicator of better economic times as more people return to work.
Inner city bus service accounts for about two-thirds of Metro Transit ridership and showed a gain of nearly 1 percent. Suburban express bus service, a smaller component of Metro Transit's operations, was up 2.5 percent.
Ridership on the Hiawatha light rail line was the highest in its six-year history.
By contrast, ridership on the Northstar light rail line from Minneapolis to Big Lake was disappointing -- more than 20 percent below projections. Gibbons attributes that low rate to the weak economy.
Metropolitan Council statistics show personal vehicles account for the vast majority of daily commuter trips, with transit supplying less than 10 percent.
Metro Transit employes 2,700 people, operates a fleet of 725 buses and supplies most of the region's public transit service. Several southwestern Twin Cities suburbs operate their own independent public bus systems.
The contract covering Metro Transit employees who are members of Amalgated Transit Union local 1005 expired last year. Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons says talks continue and there's been no strike vote.