Students boost Green Line ridership

The light rail station on the East Bank averaged about 5,100 daily riders in one week in September, and some say that number could still increase.

Ethan Nelson

Stops near the University of Minnesota are among the busiest on the Green Line light rail, and students may be contributing to a boost in daily rides.

Students say they’re using the train to get to class and navigate Minneapolis. Transportation and government officials say the surge of riders doesn’t surprise them, and they expect the growth to continue.

The recently installed trains boasted a total weekday average ridership of 37,835 from Sept. 12-19 — more than 10,000 riders above the projections for next year, according to data from Metro Transit.

Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon said he hopes people begin to rely more heavily on the trains rather than use cars.

Using public transportation helps the environment by lowering emissions, he said, and eases congestion on roadways.

The Green Line’s East Bank station reported nearly 5,100 average weekday riders over the first two weeks in September, the highest number of any Twin Cities light rail station.

“Being at the heart of campus, I think we always knew this was going to be a busy station,” said Drew Kerr, a Metro Transit spokesman.

As of mid-September, nearly 5,100 University students had one of the new Campus Zone Passes, which allow students free light rail rides between the Green Line’s three campus stops. Another 1,665 of the passes belong to faculty and staff members.

But Kerr said officials didn’t hand out a large number of passes, given the roughly 48,000 students enrolled at the Twin Cities campus.

Although Green Line ridership is far outpacing expectations, Metro Transit’s projected numbers were conservative, Kerr said, so the rates aren’t that surprising.

Some students echoed Metro Transit, saying the number of people using the light rail isn’t shocking.

“I take the Green Line for every class every day,” biology freshman Taylor Seberson said.

Campus stops also saw increased use on football game days. About one-quarter of fans who attended the Minnesota Vikings’ Sept. 28 game at TCF Bank Stadium took the Green Line light rail to the Stadium Village stop, Kerr said.

Mechanical engineering sophomore Dan Oster said the trains make getting to campus easier, especially because he lives off campus.

It makes the area more accessible to people who don’t live nearby, he said.

Kerr said it’s too early to tell how colder weather will impact the number of riders, though Metro Transit is hopeful ridership will continue to increase.

“Obviously an advantage to taking transit in the wintertime is that you don’t have to battle the elements,” he said.

Green Line riders also don’t have to deal with wintertime traffic, Kerr said, which may make people want to take the train more often.

Some students say they think ridership will only increase as winter nears.

“Once biking season is over, people will probably start taking the Green Line more,” said freshman Madeleine Hermans.

The Green Line isn’t only affecting the University area, some experts say.

A study released mid-September showed that, during rush hour, more pedestrians filled the sidewalks near the Green Line’s tracks along
Nicollet Mall than before the train opened.

Foot traffic in that area averaged about 2,600 people during rush hour before the Green Line’s opening day, said Peter Bruce, who owns the firm Pedestrian Studies and conducted the research.

After the train began running, that number rose to 3,200, he said.

Bruce said this shows more people are using the Green Line to get to work.

“It shows what more development to a major pedestrian area can do,” he said.