It was a record setting year for the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority as the agency provided more than 2.965 million rides during 2015.
That was a 5.5 percent increase over the 2.812 million rides provided last year and up from up from 2.7 million in 2013. The agency is poised to see more growth with a number of new routes and services coming on line in 2016.
"The MVTA continues to provide a valued service to our residents and that has played out with increasing ridership," said Executive Director Beverley Miller, who retired Friday after 25 years at the helm of agency that provides bus service in eight suburbs south of the Minnesota River in Scott and Dakota counties. "There is significant potential for increased ridership during the next few years."
On January 19, MVTA along with three other suburban transit agencies will launch Route 494. The route will provide express bus service between Shakopee, Eden Prairie, Plymouth and Maple Grove. The first-of-its-kind collaborative providing suburb to suburb service includes SouthWest Transit, Maple Grove Transit and Plymouth Metrolink.
In February, MVTA will expand express service between the Marschall Road Transit Station in Shakopee and downtown Minneapolis. The agency procured federal funding to buy three new buses that will be used to add trips on Route 493. There are currently four northbound morning runs and four southbound evening runs.
For riders looking to get to St. Paul, MVTA will expand service on Route 480 from Apple Valley and Eagan. And it will launch service from the Rosemount Transit Station to the Capitol City starting in February.
In terms of 2015, express Route 460 to and from Burnsville to downtown Minneapolis had the most ride with 434,181 followed by Route 477 to and from Apple Valley and downtown Minneapolis with 354,060.
The Route with the biggest gain was Route 478 from Rosemount to downtown Minneapolis, up 61.6 percent. Additional trips accounted for the big increase, transit officials said.
Two local routes - 420 from Rosemount to Apple Valley and 440 from Apple Valley to the Cedar Grove Transit Station to the VA Medical Center - saw 7.2 percent and 2.3 percent growth respectively.
MVTA also set a weekday average ridership record of 11,467 in October.
The 2015 number were helped by a merger between the MVTA and the former Shakopee and Prior Lake bus systems. But there were other factors, too, said Clint Hooppaw, MVTA Board Chair and an Apple Valley City Council member.
"Our anecdotal data also indicates that amenities as Wi-Fi on our buses, additional service to the University of Minnesota, and operation of the Metro Red Line BRT have all contributed to our growth."