During its first year, the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority had 14 routes carrying 1,100 passengers on 88 daily trips. Today, there are more than twice as many routes, three times as many passengers and nearly 10 times as many trips.

The MVTA, which operates bus routes across the south metro, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The celebration kicked off Jan. 2 with face-lifts for the MVTA's website and logo, as well as the start of operations in Shakopee and Prior Lake. The coming year is set to include extensive planning for the future, including a non-rider survey throughout the south metro area and a study of transit needs in northern Scott County.

Over the past 25 years, the MVTA has not only increased its coverage and ridership, but has also boosted the number of riders per route.

"It's almost as if there's been an epiphany that transit service is a good ride, and it's a good option for people," said Executive Director Beverley Miller. Not only are riders who start riding MVTA buses sticking with it, she said, but there's also substantial interest from young people.

The MVTA started in 1990 and began operations the following year, spurred by state legislation allowing suburban communities to opt out of centralized transportation services. It now serves seven cities in Scott and Dakota counties with express, local and flex routes, in addition to Minnesota's first Bus Rapid Transit line. Its 2015 budget is more than $27 million, compared with less than $3 million in 1991.

Optimism prevails about what the next 25 years will bring, Miller said. There's interest from parts of the south metro area that aren't currently served —from cities like Farmington, Lakeville and Elko New Market to institutions such as Mystic Lake, Canterbury Park, schools and even correctional facilities.

"What we've done is we've built a really good foundation," Miller said. "It's really nice after 25 years to say you've got a proven track record."

Emma Nelson • 952-746-3287