Metro Transit saw its ridership slide continue with a 7% drop in the number of passengers on its buses and trains during the first quarter of 2019.
From January through March, the transportation agency provided just over 19 million rides. That compares with 20.5 million rides provided during the first three months of 2018, according to the agency’s report to the Met Council’s Transportation Committee on Tuesday.
Local bus ridership took the biggest hit, with ridership falling from 11.4 million in the first quarter of last year to 10.4 million this year. Commuter and express bus routes and the Northstar commuter rail line saw an 8% decline. The agency’s bus rapid transit A-line saw a 5% decline and light-rail ridership fell by 4%.
Metro Mobility, the door-to-door service for people with disabilities, was the only mode of transportation to see an increase in ridership, jumping from 586,000 in the first quarter 2018 to 598,000 in 2019.
“Metro Mobility has been growing 6% a year over the past five to six years, so to see that growth was not a surprise,” said John Harper, Metro Transit’s manager of contracted services.
Harper attributed much of the ridership drop to the winter’s snow and a polar vortex that gripped the state in late January.
“I know it was 90 degrees last week, but it was not 90 degrees in January,” Harper said. “We had a few more bad weather days during the first quarter of this year than we did last year.”
Harper pointed out that schools and businesses were closed several days, and that caused weekday ridership to fall to near weekend and holiday levels.
“If you take a half-dozen days over a three-month period, that can suppress ridership,” Harper said.
Harper also attributed some of the ridership drop to lower gas prices and the effects of a 25-cent fare increase on buses and trains that went into effect in October 2017.
The fare on Transit Link, the Met Council’s dial-a-ride service, also went up to $4.50 during peak hours and $3.50 at other times to match those charged on Metro Mobility service. Transit Link ridership was down 9% from 65,800 rides in 2018 to 59,700 in 2019.