Eden Prairie looks to be the big winner in ridership on the future Southwest Corridor light-rail line. An average of 12,007 people per weekday are expected to use the suburb’s five stations, more than any other community and more than a third of the total ridership along the nearly 16-mile line.
The predictions by the Metropolitan Council, the agency overseeing the project, reflect Eden Prairie’s stature as a major source of jobs. Job prospects there helped shape decisions on the location of the Southwest route and its stations.
“We do expect that light rail will bring people into Eden Prairie and serve all those businesses,” said Eden Prairie City Council Member Sherry Butcher Wickstrom.
They include the worldwide power management company Eaton, the technology firm MTS and the headquarters of Supervalu. UnitedHealth Group is next door in Minnetonka.
Those businesses recently employed 6,834 people, said TwinWest Chamber of Commerce President Brad Meier, a supporter of the Southwest project.
The Met Council predicts a 28 percent growth in employment in the Southwest Corridor by 2030 — another 60,000 jobs.
The most recent figures show that stations in St. Louis Park are expected to draw the second-highest number of passengers — 7,672 per weekday. Hopkins stations are expected to see 6,770 passengers, Minneapolis 6,111 and the single Minnetonka station 2,305.
The Minneapolis estimate includes 2013 figures for a station at 21st Street in the Kenilworth corridor that will likely change. The agency is refining its ridership estimates and says it will release new numbers in the coming weeks.
Butcher Wickstrom said that she often spends two hours a day driving to and from her job as dean of academic affairs at Anoka Technical College — twice that in bad weather — and that a combination of Southwest light rail and Northstar commuter rail might be more appealing.
“This light rail, it’s not a silver bullet,” she said. “But it will help.”