U-Pass increases bus ridership, Metro Transit reports

by Maggie Hessel-Mial

Bus ridership at the University has increased more than 40 percent since the inception of the U-Pass, according to Lori Ann Vicich, Parking and Transportation Services spokeswoman.

The pass offers students unlimited bus rides anywhere in the Twin Cities for $50 per semester.

In its 2000-01 debut, the U-Pass increased Metro Transit ridership on campus by 25 percent, Vicich said.

“Our goal was for that number to be 40 percent by the end of the 2001-02 school year,” Vicich said. “We hit 40 percent last weekend already.”

But Twin Cities ridership in general is down 3.8 percent since a 25-cent July 1 fare increase, said Bob Gibbons, Metro Transit spokesman.

“The decrease was on target with our expectations,” Gibbons said. “We will have a better sense of the effects by October.”

While Metro Transit will lose money on the dip in ridership, Gibbons is confident extra revenue drawn from the increase will cover that difference.

“The extra revenue will help us sustain service on the street for the next two years,” he said.

Also, Metro Transit opened three new routes at the end of June aimed at improving travel to and from the University.

The new routes include route 3, which goes from downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul via Como Avenue. Route 87 runs north-south through the St. Paul campus following Cleveland Avenue, and terminates at Rosedale shopping center. Route 61 runs east-west on Larpenteur Avenue on the north side of the St. Paul campus.

“When Ted Mondale became chairman of the Metropolitan Council he suggested we do a comprehensive look at transit in the region,” Gibbons said. “It was something that hadn’t been done since the system was born – about 25 years ago.”

Metro Transit began to study the area around the University – dubbed sector two – a few years ago, Gibbons said. It held public meetings and encouraged citizen feedback on existing and possible routes.

“We wanted to reallocate the same amount of service but make it more effective,” Gibbons said. “The bottom line is that the new routes open more transit opportunities for more of the people in the region with the same resources.”

Students on both the Minneapolis and the St. Paul campus seem to be pleased with the changes.

“I work at University office buildings at 27th and Como,” said Jerry Busse, a senior studying electrical engineering. “(Route 3) is very beneficial for me.”

Busse, along with many other students on campus, takes the bus because of the parking shortage they see on campus.

“There’s no place to park by my apartment,” Busse said. “It’s not an option to have a car.”

Gibbons said the comments he’s heard from riders about the new routes have been mostly positive.

“We wanted to look at the entire transit system,” he said. “We wanted a fresh look on how to serve best.”


Maggie Hessel-Mial welcomes comments at [email protected]