Metro Transit set records for the number of rides taken on its three rail lines in 2017, but overall ridership across the system declined slightly when compared to the previous year, transit officials said Thursday.

The area's largest transit agency provided 81.9 million rides on buses and trains last year. Still, that was lower than the 82.6 million rides provided in 2016.

Ridership on the three-year-old Green Line, the light-rail line that runs between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, soared to a record 13.1 million in 2017. That was a 3.5 percent increase from the 12.7 million rides taken in 2016.

The line had its highest single-day ridership on Aug. 31 when 68,071 rides were taken on a day when the Twins, Vikings, Gophers and Saints all had home games and the State Fair was going on. The old record had been 66,018 rides set on Oct. 3, 2016.

Nearly 10.7 million rides were taken on the Blue Line, breaking the previous record of 10,620,284 set in 2015 and up 4 percent compared to 2016.

The Northstar commuter line continued its resurgence. Nearly 794,000 rides were provided on the 41-mile rail line from Big Lake to downtown Minneapolis. That represented a nearly 12 percent increase over 2016 and broke the previous high water mark set with 787,239 rides in 2013.

"This is another piece of strong evidence that rail investment is good for the Twin Cities," said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin.

As strong as rail ridership was, it was not enough to offset a drop in bus passengers. The agency provided 55.7 million rides in 2017, nearly 3 million fewer bus rides compared to 2016.

Officials said the 2 percent drop mirrors a national trend attributed in part to low gas prices. Metro Transit’s ridership losses were greatest during off-peak hours and on routes that were detoured off Nicollet Mall during construction.

Tim Harlow - 612-673-7768

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