Light rail ridership up after stops offered at Mall of America, international airport

Jason Juno

Riding rates on the Hiawatha light rail increased by approximately 45,000 after the line opened to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America, according to first-week numbers from Metro Transit. The line opened the second installation Dec. 4.

Some University students said they are finding a use for the Hiawatha line, while others said they still do not need it.

People rode the trains approximately 135,100 times from Dec. 6 to Sunday, the first week of the second portion of the line’s operation, according to a Metro Transit press release. The average ridership per week was approximately 90,600 in November, when the line was only partially running.

Fourth-year biology student Walter James said he lives in Richfield, Minn., and started using light rail last week to get to the University nearly every day.

He said he has to drive approximately two minutes to the 28th Avenue Station in Bloomington, Minn., where he parks and then gets on a train. The 28th Avenue Station is one of the stations that opened Dec. 4.

It is better than driving to Southdale Center and taking a bus, as buses make fewer trips to the University, he said. The train is packed each morning, he said.

“It’s extremely, extremely quick. It drops you right by the Metrodome, and there’s always a 16 (route) or a 50 (route) bus to take you right across the Washington Avenue Bridge to the University,” James said.

Transferring to a bus can be a deterrent to riding for some, said David Levinson, a professor in the department of civil engineering.

Time differences might be minimal, but it is all about perception. Many studies show that waiting feels longer “in time and motion,” he said.

“For instance, a minute of waiting time (for a bus) may feel like two to three minutes of time (compared) to when you’re on a bus actually going somewhere,” Levinson said.

It is also not comfortable to wait, and the time the bus will come is never a sure thing, he said.

“It’s kind of inconsequential in my opinion,” James said.

He said he thinks a light rail line through campus would cause more harm than good with a full campus present already.

Graduate student Michael Corbett has not yet used the light rail line but said he plans to.

Corbett said he will drive to a park-and-ride lot at the southern portion of the line from St. Louis Park, Minn., where he lives, so he can attend special events in downtown Minneapolis. He will thereby avoid the cost to park downtown.

Corbett said using light rail to get to the University is not possible because he’s located west of the line – where light rail does not run.

Some students said they still like their cars.

First-year biology student Joni Coleman said she prefers to go to the Mall of America with her friends in a car.

“It’s just easier,” Coleman said. “We don’t have to wait, besides the traffic, obviously.”

Rachel Lemke, a third-year art student, said she takes her car when she goes to the Mall of America or the airport.

“I don’t even know how (light rail) works,” she said.

Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said in a press release that ridership is high for those commuting to Minneapolis and heading to the Mall of America.