Transit providers in the seven-county metro area provided 97.7 million rides on buses and trains last year, an increase of 3.5 percent over 2013, according to new data released Wednesday by the Metropolitan Council.

Metro Transit, the area’s largest transit provider, provided 84.5 million rides last year. That was an increase of 3.1 million rides from 2013 and the most the most since 1981, the Met Council said.

Much of the increase was attributed to the June opening of the Green Line, the light-rail line that runs between Target Field in Minneapolis and Union Depot in downtown St. Paul. Transit users took more than 6.5 million rides on the $957 million line which runs primarily along University Avenue. Buses provided another 3.4 million rides along the University Avenue corridor.

The University of Minnesota bus service saw a 10 percent increase in ridership in 2014 and Metro Mobility, the door-to-door service for persons with disabilities, saw an 8.2 percent growth and provided  more than 2 million rides.

“Investment in public transit pays off in ridership,” said Council Chair Adam Duininck. “The more we invest in transit, the more convenient and reliable the service becomes and the more people use it. Governor Dayton’s proposed half-cent metro sales tax would expedite the build-out of this region’s 21st century transit system and would be a smart investment in area residents, the economy, our workforce, and the environment.”

Metro Transit provided 67.8 million bus rides in 2014. That number includes 788,097 rides taken on Maple Grove Transit routes contracted by Metro Transit. In total, passengers rode Maple Grove Transit buses 830,980 times.

More than 720,000 passengers took a ride on the Northstar Commuter line while 9.5 million used the Blue Line, the light-rail line that runs from downtown Minneapolis to the Mall of America in Bloomington. In total, light-rail ridership on the Green and Blue lines was just shy of 16 million for the year.

Last week, the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA) said 2014 was a record-breaking year. The agency, which provides service in several Twin Cities suburbs south of the Minnesota River, provided 2,812,265 rides, up from 2.7 million in 2013. That was an increase of 3.9 percent. The boost was partially fueled by 265,479 rides taken on the Metro Red Line, the bus rapid transit service which runs along Cedar Avenue between the Mall of America and Apple Valley.

Ridership on Plymouth Metrolink buses totaled 509,396 while SouthWest Transit recorded 1.107 million. Shakopee, Prior Lake and BlueXpress, which all merged with the MVTA on Jan. 1, provided just over 217,000 rides.

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