More people in the southern suburbs are riding the bus. The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA) on Friday released numbers that show ridership is up 6 percent for the first six months of 2015 when compared with the same period last year.

The agency serving suburbs south of the Minnesota River in Scott and Dakota counties provided 1.5 million rides between January and June, said spokeswoman Robin Selvig.

Much of the growth has come from new and expanded express service from Rosemount to downtown Minneapolis, which saw a 56 percent jump to 15,470 rides. Express service from the new Marschall Road Station in Shakopee to downtown also fueled the surge, said MVTA Board Chairman Clint Hooppaw.

"We are proud that we are trying to grow service in Rosemount and people are responding," Selvig said. "Same in Shakope. We added trips and people are taking advantage of it."

The routes with the highest ridership are the 460 express between Burnsville and downtown Minneapolis with an average of 1,693 daily riders followed by the 477 express from Apple Valley to Minneapolis with 1,423 daily riders.

The Metro Red Line also saw a 6 percent jump in rides (123,717), which includes a 75 percent increase in Sunday boardings and 14 percent on Saturdays.

Local runs within the MVTA service area of Rosemount, Burnsville, Savage, Apple Valley, Shakopee, Eagan and Prior Lake had a strong showing, Selvig said. The 444 between Burnsville, Savage and the Mall of America averaged 1,005 rides a day.

"We are seeing explosive growth on local routes," she said. "The 444 is becoming our bread and butter route, and that is exciting to see."

MVTA's growth is on par with Metro Transit, which this week also said it has seen a 6 percent increase in ridership this year. The area's largest transit agency provided slightly more than 42.2 million rides on trains and buses during the first six months of 2015, an increase of 2.4 million rides over the same time period last year.

Increased ridership does not necessarily translate into more revenue, Selvig said. Each time a passenger boards a bus or train it is counted as a ride. Passengers who take multiple buses or trains to reach their destinations pay a fare only upon boarding their original bus or train. Transfers within the allotted time period of 2.5 hours are free, but counted as a ride for statistical purposes.

"We don't collect a second fare when the get on a different bus," Selvig said.

Fares cover about 25 to 28 percent of rides, and Selvig said the agency will look at those figures closer to the end of the year.

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