The novelty of the new Green Line plus free rides on buses and other trains system wide were enough to give Metro Transit a big bump in ridership last weekend when Green Line trains made their debut.
New numbers released Friday by the Met Council showed that 107,000 rides were taken on the Green Line during the opening weekend for the new light-rail line that runs between Union Depot in downtown St. Paul and Target Field in downtown Minneapolis. When rides taken on buses, the Blue Line and the Northstar Commuter line were added in, Metro Transit provided 392,733 rides over the June 14-15 weekend.
"We were pleased with the response this weekend and had people from all walks of life," said transit spokesman John Siqveland. "Operationally it was a success and it gave us a chance to introduce service to new riders and say hello to our longtime customers."
Numbers might have been higher had it not been for stormy weather that rolled through the metro area June 14 and forced some festivities celebrating the opening of the $957 million line to be scrapped. More than 61,000 rides were taken the Green Line on June 14 with the remainder June 15.
Ridership on the Green Line is projected to be 27,500 daily by 2015 and 40,000 by 2030.
About 250,000 people use Metro Transit's buses and trains on a normal weekend when customers pay fares. The free rides gave the transit agency a 12 percent boost, Siqveland said.
Numbers from the Met Council show that 211,962 rides were taken on regular Metro Transit routes and 60,562 taken on the Blue Line, the light-rail line which runs from the Mall of America to downtown Minneapolis. More than 2,230 rides were taken on the Northstar Commuter line, and 1,319 on the Metro Red Line, the bus rapid transit line that runs from the Mall of America to Lakeville and Apple Valley.
Supplemental service and those operated by the Met Council accounted for a little over 8,000 rides while Minnesota Valley Transit Authority provided 1,904 rides
Free rides allowed Metro Transit to debut 17 new and reconfigured routes, many of which feed into the Green Line, and allow riders to try them out. Among the changes in the biggest makeover of bus routes since the Blue Line opened in 2004: New route (No. 83) on Lexington Avenue in St. Paul. Increased frequency on routes 62, 63, 67 and 84 with stops at Green Line transit stations along University Avenue. Others such as Route 3 have new downtown St. Paul pickup points and run on different streets while the 16 and 94 express buses run less often. Route 50 with service to the University of Minnesota is gone.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to launch a service like this, and by giving free rides it allows people to try out those connections and see how they work," Siqveland said. "
Monday marked the first day riders had to pay fares to ride the Green Line. Siqveland said Metro Transit will release opening week ridership totals soon.