Metro Transit Ridership Climbs to 81 Million in 2011

Overall ridership on Metro Transit services climbed 3.5 percent in 2011, driven primarily by increased bus rides; rail transportation, meanwhile, fell just short of year-prior levels.

Metro Transit on Tuesday reported that roughly 80.9 million rides were taken on its buses and rail services last year.

That's up 3.5 percent, or 2.7 million rides, from 2010-and it marks only the second time in three decades that ridership has topped 80 million. The total also represents the fifth consecutive year that ridership topped 76 million.

Eighty-six percent of Metro Transit rides were provided via bus, while 14 percent took place on the city's two rail lines. Overall, bus rides totaled 69.8 million, up 4.1 percent from 2010.

Ridership on Metro Transit's light-rail lines, meanwhile, fell just short of year-prior levels. The Hiawatha light-rail line saw 10.4 million rides, down half a percentage point from 2010. The Northstar line finished 2011 with about 703,000 rides, or 1 percent fewer than the year before. Metro Transit noted, however, that the Northstar line experienced a freight derailment that discontinued service for several days.

Metro Transit reported earlier this year that ridership was up over 2010 and was expected to rival the record set in 2008. Full year data shows that 2011 ridership came in just shy of that record, which according to a report by the Star Tribune, totaled 81.8 million.