Metro Transit to offer free busing on St. Patrick’s Day

Miller Brewing company is sponsoring the Twin Cities promotion in an effort to discourage drunk driving.

On Monday, students will be able to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and get home safely – without shelling out cab fare.

All Metro Transit buses and trains will be free on St. Patrick’s Day starting at 6 p.m. For the 11th year in a row Miller Brewing Company is sponsoring free rides across the Twin Cities as part of a drunk driving prevention program.

The Miller Free Rides program is also sponsoring free transportation in Milwaukee. St. Patrick’s Day is the only day of the year that free rides are corporately sponsored on Metro Transit buses.

Although more than 86,000 free rides were given last year, Metro Transit’s director of customer service Bob Gibbons said the number may be far less this year.

Because St. Patrick’s Day falls on a weekday, he said the free rides will begin later than 3 p.m., as they did last St. Patrick’s Day, which was a Saturday.

Sgt. Therese Hoffman of the Minneapolis Police Department’s traffic enforcement unit said officers will keep a close eye on drivers on St. Patrick’s Day – a day designated ahead of time as one with amped-up traffic enforcement.

“We’re stepping up enforcement on that day due to all the partying and stuff that’s going on,” she said. “We put on extra traffic officers and they work citywide.”

According to the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety, 1,263 drivers were arrested for DWIs statewide on St. Patrick’s Days in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Mike Mulrooney, owner of Blarney’s Pub & Grill in Dinkytown, said he supports the promotion and, although he’s expecting a large turnout on Monday, he doesn’t think holiday bar-goers will drink more than usual.

“The fallacy on St. Patrick’s Day is that everybody just goes out and drinks more,” Mulroony said. “That’s the theme behind it. It doesn’t necessarily mean people are going out and getting worse than any other times.”

The Miller Free Rides program also sponsors free rides in other cities on New Year’s Eve.

The goal of the promotion is to provide an alternative to driving for people celebrating, Miller spokesman Julian Green said, but there are no plans to expand to other days.

“St. Patrick’s and New Years are huge celebration days in this country,” he said.