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Twin Cities Region Sees Dramatic Increase in Transit Ridership



By Barb Thoman, Executive Director


Credit: Transit for Livable Communities


Transit ridership in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region rose dramatically in 2014, up 3.5 percent over 2013. Metro Transit, our region’s largest transit provider, saw an increase of nearly 4 percent, as did the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority in the south metro. While transit ridership has been rising steadily for years, this more dramatic jump was due in large measure to the success of the METRO Green Line light rail, which opened in June, in combination with improved connecting bus service.


In our region overall, riders took 97.7 million trips on buses and trains in 2014, an increase of 3.4 million trips over 2013!  In addition to Metro Transit and Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, the regional system includes suburban providers Maple Grove Transit, Plymouth Metrolink, and SouthWest Transit. The University of Minnesota also operates the Campus Connector bus service between their Minneapolis and Saint Paul campuses. Ridership totals also include Metro Mobility and Metropolitan Council contracted service.


Credit: Minnesota Valley Transit Authority


Bus ridership continues to account for the majority of transit trips throughout the region—about four of every five trips in 2014.  Bus service in Saint Paul and Minneapolis was restructured significantly last year to improve connections to the Green Line. Metro Transit also undertook a major planning and public outreach effect to identify expanded service that could be implemented if investment in transit is increased. Approval of the final Service Improvement Plan is expected in March.


Light rail carried nearly 19 percent of Metro Transit’s customers last year. End-to-end travel times on the Green Line continue to improve and real-time arrival signage is now operating—a welcome feature for riders who now can see when the next train is due. The transformative power of the Green Line is made evident by robust ridership numbers as well as the continued pace of redevelopment along the line’s 11-mile route.



Credit: Transit for Livable Communities


The ten-year-old METRO Blue Line provided 9.5 million trips in 2014. Earlier this month, it also received a glowing endorsement from Jeff Hamiel, Executive Director/CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC).  Speaking before the Metropolitan Council, Hamiel highlighted the importance of the Blue Line to the 2,000 daily riders who work at the airport, many of whom are recent immigrants and take the early trains to their jobs. Hamiel also noted the advantages of Blue Line service to travelers. He said that the Twin Cities is one of the nation’s few regions where a transit trip to downtown is faster (and a lot cheaper), than a taxi ride—a reason you see many people in business attire with roller bags on the train. In addition, he said the MAC is seeing more people booking longer layovers so they can hop the train to the Mall of America for a little shopping between flights.


As new Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck affirmed in a recent statement, “Investment in public transit pays off in ridership. . . . The more we invest in transit, the more convenient and reliable the service becomes and the more people use it.” Duininck also emphasized that a metro-area sales tax increase would “expedite the build-out of this region’s 21st century transit system and would be a smart investment in area residents, the economy, our workforce, and the environment.”


Fixing Transportation: The Latest Proposals



By Dave Van Hattum, Advocacy Director


TLC's Dave Van Hattum, co-chair of the Move MN campaign, with others at a January 8 press conference announcing Move MN's transportation proposal.


The legislative session got off to an exciting start this month for Minnesotans who want a better transportation system. All three leading voices at the State Capitol—Governor Dayton, Majority Leader Bakk, and Speaker Daudt—have identified transportation as a 2015 legislative priority. And now, three weeks in, there are a range of funding proposals on the table.

On Monday, Governor Dayton announced a comprehensive, ten-year plan to fix Minnesota’s transportation problem. In the lead-up to the announcement, TLC members and other Minnesotans called on the Governor to propose a long-term solution with dedicated, statewide funding for transit, bicycling, and walking (along with anticipated funding for roads and bridges). Thanks to all who took action! Your multimodal messages ensured Governor Dayton's transportation proposal does invest in all modes across the state! While Transit for Livable Communities thinks more funding is needed for transit and safe streets, we applaud Governor Dayton’s leadership and agree: it's time for the state legislature to pass a comprehensive transportation bill.

Already this session, Senator Dibble (Senate Transportation Committee Chair) has introduced an excellent bill that would fund all modes statewide, and provide the critical new investments in transit, bicycling, and walking that TLC has been fighting for. This Senate bill (SF 87) very closely aligns with Move MN’s proposal. The bill includes the ¾-cent metro sales tax needed to grow the metro-area bus and rail system as well as dedicated funding for Greater Minnesota transit and for pedestrian and bicycling improvements statewide. It also includes a 6.5 percent wholesale gas tax dedicated to road and bridge needs across the state.

Meanwhile, leadership in the Minnesota House has put forth a short-term plan focused exclusively on road and bridge needs. The House bill (HF 4) recently introduced by Representative Kelly (House Transportation Committee Chair) relies on funding from the one-time budget surplus, unspecified efficiencies, and GO bonding. It unfortunately includes zero additional funding for transit or for safe walking and bicycling routes. House leaders, however, have signaled a willingness to look closely at the transportation funding deficit and to discuss solutions as the session progresses.

TLC and Move MN supporters recognize that a statewide transportation solution will require new revenue from modest tax increases. Per the Governor’s numbers, the average cost to residents in the Twin Cities would be about $6 per week. Residents in Greater Minnesota would be about $2 less per week, as the metro sales tax increase for transit is proposed for only the seven-county metropolitan region. To put it in context, these costs add up to considerably less than a monthly cell phone bill. And we know that this smart investment in Minnesota’s future will pay for itself many times over via a stronger economy, healthier communities, and better access to jobs, opportunity, and affordable transportation options.

With your help, we have worked successfully to make this the “Transportation Session.”  Now we need to keep up momentum to convince the legislature to pass a strong bill that meets urgent needs in the metro region and in Greater Minnesota.

Get involved! On Thursday, February 12, join Transit for Livable Communities and Move MN for Transportation Day at the State Capitol! We will meet at the Minnesota Armory in Saint Paul from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. to hear from state and coalition leaders before delivering 10,000 postcards to lawmakers—reminding them that Minnesotans from across the state support a multimodal transportation solution in 2015. Let us help you schedule a February 12 meeting with your legislators so you can personally share your story about why transportation matters and why action is needed.

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send them our way.



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