Metro Transit Ridership Up 3.2% in 2011, 6% in June

Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said that if the pace keeps up, 2011 could surpass 2008 for record ridership.

The first half of 2011 brought good news for Metro Transit as ridership increased 3.2 percent compared to the first half of 2010 and is on track to surpass the record ridership in 2008.

Customers boarded Metro Transit buses and trains 39.6 million times in the first half of the year, an increase of 1.2 million rides, or 3.2 percent, from the first half of 2010.

Ridership in the month of June also jumped 6 percent from June 2010.

“Transit ridership has continued to grow through the second quarter as more commuters choose to avoid high gas prices and congested freeways,” Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said in a statement. “If this pace continues, it appears that 2011 could rival the record ridership of 2008.”

In 2008, regional transit ridership was the highest in half a century, according to Metro Transit.

Lamb added that bus maintenance reliability is at an all-time high and bus on-time performance is approaching 90 percent despite many road construction projects in the metro area.

During the first six months of this year, urban local service was up 4.1 percent, express service was up nearly 3.3 percent, and suburban local service increased 3.4 percent over the same period last year.

The Northstar Commuter Rail, which provides service from downtown Minneapolis to Big Lake, saw a 4.4 percent ridership increase over the first half of 2010. However, ridership on the Hiawatha light-rail line-which provides service between downtown Minneapolis and the Mall of America-was down 2.3 percent compared with the first half of last year.

But in the month of June, ridership on the Hiawatha line was up nearly 5 percent from June 2010. According to Metro Transit, customers rode the Hiawatha line a record 10.5 million times in 2010.

Metro Transit is a service of the Metropolitan Council, a regional planning agency that serves the Twin Cities seven-county metropolitan area and provides essential services to the region.

The latest transit project, which is currently under construction, is the 11-mile Central Corridor light-rail line. It will connect downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul along University and Washington avenues. The line is scheduled to begin operating in 2014.