Metro Transit ridership up, funding down

Briana Bierschbach

The Twin Cities’ Metro Transit carried 82 million passengers on its light-rail and bus systems in 2008, up 6.1 percent compared with 2007’s total, according to Progressive Railroading.

Hiawatha light-rail surpased 10 million trips last year, for the first time in its four-year history, with ridership increasing 12 percent. Weekday peak-period ridership averaged 37,000 passengers.


But even as public transit ridership grows, the financial picture is increasingly grim because of economic recession, Peter Bell, the chairman of the Metropolitan Council said in his annual State of the Region speech this week.


With less people buying cars, there was a huge decline in the revenue created from Minnesota’s motor vehicle sales tax. A shortfall could lead to a fare increase, the second since the 25 cent increase in October.


"The council is not eager to raise bus fares or reduce service," Bell told the Star Tribune. However, the projected shortfall is $45 million through this year.


Bell said that "given the profile of our riders" he hoped to avoid another fare increase. About a third of all passengers don’t own a car and are low income.


"I want to build our system," he said. "We’ve got a lot of momentum going, both on the ridership front and building out our transitways."