Ridership on Metro Transit’s C Line surpassed the 1 million mark over the weekend, hitting the milestone just five months after the rapid bus service began.
The rapid bus line operating between downtown Minneapolis and the Brooklyn Center Transit Station has been one of Metro Transit’s bright spots in a year that has seen overall bus ridership drop 6% compared with 2018.
Rapid buses operate like light-rail trains in that they stop only at stations a quarter- to a half-mile apart. Passengers pay fares on platforms before boarding, and can get on or off the bus through any of the three doors, which speeds up the process and keeps buses moving.
The C Line, which runs primarily along Olson Highway and Penn Avenue, largely replaced Route 19. With fewer stops, trips on the C Line are roughly 25% faster than on the local Route 19 that now runs less frequently.
In October, the two routes provided an average 8,300 daily weekday rides, with the vast majority of those taken on the C Line, said spokesman John Komarek. Before the C Line’s arrival, Route 19 provided about 7,000 rides each weekday. Ridership on the two lines combined is expected to grow to 9,000 rides per day in the next 10 years, Metro Transit said.
Ridership growth on the C Line is even faster than what happened three years ago when Metro Transit opened its first rapid bus line, the A Line. It took six months for the ridership on A Line, which runs between Rosedale Center and the 46th Street Station in south Minneapolis, to reach the 1 million mark, Komarek said. Last year, the A Line ridership hit a record 1.6 million. The 4,860 daily weekday rides taken in 2018 were up 2% from the previous year.
But not everything has been rosy for the $37 million C Line, which counts eight 60-foot electric buses among its 14-vehicle fleet. Last month, problems with chargers forced Metro Transit to pull the electric buses off the route. The chargers have since been fixed and are operating, and electric buses are back on the street, Komarek said.
Chargers at the Brooklyn Center Transit Station designed to charge buses during layovers and extend their range are being tested this month and could be online soon, he added.
Three more rapid bus lines are in the works. The D Line would run along Chicago and Fremont and Emerson avenues through north and south Minneapolis, largely replacing Route 5. The line still needs an additional $20 million to build stations along the busiest bus route in the state. Construction is set to begin in 2021.
The E Line would run along Hennepin Avenue and largely replace Route 6; construction could begin as soon as 2023. Metro Transit also is planning for the B Line, serving the Route 21 corridor on Lake Street and Marshall Avenue. That line is currently in the planning phase and scheduled for construction in 2022.
Total systemwide ridership on Metro Transit buses, light-rail and Northstar trains totaled 66 million through October, down 3% compared with the first 10 months of 2018.