With the opening of the new Cedar Avenue Bus Rapid Transit line and a slight uptick in the number of people using its express bus service, the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority set a new ridership record in 2013.

The agency, which provides bus service in several communities south of the Minnesota River, reported this week that more than 2.7 million people boarded its buses topping the previous high water mark set in 2008 by 67,500.

Much of that jump was attributed to the Red Line, the bus rapid transit line which opened in June. The line which runs in bus-only lanes along Cedar Avenue between the Mall of America and the Apple Valley Transit Station accounted for 130,733 rides.

"The addition of the Metro Red line has been a shot in the arm for both MVTA and the Twin Cities region," said MVTA Executive Director Beverley Miller.

MVTA contracts with the Metropolitan Council to operate the Red Line.

Ridership on MVTA's express service to Minneapolis also saw gains in 2013, rising by 35,963 passengers from 2012 levels while service to St. Paul was up by 6,600 rides. Overall express routes saw a 2.5 percent increase in ridership, said spokeswoman Robin Selvig.

Selvig attributed the gains to high gas prices and new service that was added in 2013. Officials also cited weather as a factor boosting ridership.

Overall weekday ridership was up 3 percent from 2008 levels and use of local routes was up 2 percent from the same time period.

Route 475 from Apple Valley and the Cedar Grove Transit Station to the University of Minnesota saw ridership jump 79 percent over 2012 levels. Route 446, which runs from the 46th Street Station in Minneapolis to Eagan, saw a 14 percent increase over 2012 levels and is up 50 percent since 2008, MVTA officials said.

MVTA also added extra trips on Route 465 to and from Burnsville to the University of Minnesota and that helped ridership jump 5 percent, Selvig said.

Express route 460 to and from Burnsville to downtown Minneapolis had the most riders in 2013 with 458,416 with express Route 477 from Apple Valley to downtown Minneapolis was second with 370,527 and Route 444 providing daily local service to Burnsville, Savage,the Mall of America and the Cedar Grove Station was third at 264,811.

This year, MVTA plans to begin express service from Rosemount to downtown Minneapolis by using a federal grant to pay for the service. MVTA also hopes to attain local dollars to match a federal grant to offer express service to and from Rosemount to downtown St. Paul in 2015, Selvig said.

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