Metro Transit said Friday that it provided 82.6 million rides to passengers on trains and buses in 2016, a slight decline in numbers for the previous year.
The transit agency said the 4 percent dip was due to low gas prices and the “prolonged closure” of Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, a typically busy transit thoroughfare that has been closed for a $50 million renovation.
About 266,916 rides, on average, were provided each weekday in 2016.
Ridership on the Green Line LRT, which links the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul, increased 2.5 percent to 12.7 million rides. Average weekday ridership on the line, which began service in 2014, was 39,386 — close to projections for 2030 of 41,000 weekday rides.
However, Metro Transit said ridership on the Blue Line LRT, which connects Target Field in downtown Minneapolis to the Mall of America in Bloomington, slipped from about 10.6 million rides in 2015 to nearly 10.3 million last year.
Metro Transit officials said their research indicates that a $1 drop in gas prices leads to the loss of 300,000 rides each month. Last year’s gas prices were about half what they were in 2013, the agency said.
In addition, work along Nicollet Mall has contributed to the loss of up to 114,000 monthly rides, according to agency estimates. The Nicollet Mall renovation is expected to be largely completed by the end of this year.
“Our ridership has grown in nine of the last 11 years, a period of sustained growth we haven’t seen in this region for nearly a generation,” said Brian Lamb, Metro Transit’s general manager, in a statement.
The A-line rapid bus, which connects the Rosedale Shopping Center with the 46th Street Blue Line LRT station in Minneapolis, provided about 830,000 rides during its first six months of service. Service along the Snelling Avenue route by the A-line and the local Route 84 bus increased by about a third since June to nearly 5,400 average weekday rides.
Ridership on the Northstar commuter rail, which connects downtown Minneapolis to Big Lake, increased by about 1 percent to 2,369 average weekday rides.