Metro Transit ridership tops 80 million in 2016

A drop from 2015 peak, but third highest total since 1981

Metro Transit experienced its busiest day ever last September, but overall ridership in 2016 fell from a record set the previous year, the agency reported Jan. 13.

Annual ridership on Metro Transit buses and trains dropped about 3.7 percent to 82.6 million rides in 2016 — which the agency noted was still the third-highest ridership total since 1981. Metro Transit cited Nicollet Mall construction and low gas prices as two factors behind the dip, but noted annual ridership has increased in nine of the past 11 years.

The ridership news comes as the Metropolitan Council is considering service cutbacks and fare hikes to counter a deficit in its transportation budget. The council is projecting a shortfall in revenues from the motor vehicle sales tax, which it uses to fund Metro Transit operations.

The agency set a single-day ridership record during the 2016 Minnesota State Fair.Metro Transit provided nearly 370,000 rides Sept. 1, a day that also saw unprecedented use of express and regular bus routes to reach the Great Minnesota Get-together.

Metro Transit’s bus service accounted for about 70 percent of rides in 2016, while Green Line and Blue Line light rail combined carried about 28 percent of the total.

The system also includes the A Line rapid bus service connecting south Minneapolis to St. Paul, which reached an average weekday ridership of over 4,500 during its first six months of operation. Metro Transit reported ridership was up by about one-third on that corridor since the A Line and Route 84 bus began rapid service on that corridor in June.

On an average weekday, just over 2,500 riders boarded the Northstar Commuter Rail Line between downtown Minneapolis and Big Lake, a slight decrease from 2015.