Regional Transit Facts
Moving people, spurring economic development
Transit—buses, light rail, vanpools and other modes—plays an essential role in the regional economy. Transit gets workers to their jobs, eases traffic congestion, improves air quality, saves commuters money and reduces carbon emissions. Transit fosters community prosperity.
Transit ridership in the seven-county Twin Cities area continues to grow. Ridership on all types of service—express and local buses, light rail, dial-a-ride service, and transportation for people with disabilities—totaled 94.2 million in 2018. Two-thirds of weekday transit trips are to work or school.
A robust transit system yields an impressive return on investment in travel time savings for people and goods. In addition, dedicated transit lines are major magnets for economic development. At least $8.2 billion in redevelopment and new construction have been tallied within a half-mile of the two existing METRO light rail lines and the two proposed extensions of those lines, not including any stadium construction.
Region has many transit options
The Metropolitan Council operates the largest transit system in the state—Metro Transit. The agency provided 79.9 million bus and rail rides in 2018. Its service area includes Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and dozens of suburban communities.
In addition to scores of regular bus routes, Metro Transit operates the METRO A Line rapid bus service from Roseville through Saint Paul to Minneapolis. In 2018, riders boarded the A Line a record 1.6 million times, up 2% from 2017. Ridership throughout the corridor has grown by about one-third since the A Line opened.
Metro Transit also operates three interconnected rail lines. The METRO Blue Line carries passengers between downtown Minneapolis, Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport and the Mall of America. The METRO Green Line runs from the Union Depot in downtown Saint Paul to the Capitol, Midway business district, University of Minnesota and downtown Minneapolis. Northstar Commuter Rail is a 40-mile line carrying passengers from Big Lake in Sherburne County to downtown Minneapolis. Combined, all three rail services provided more than 25.7 million rides in 2018.
The region has several other transit services. About a dozen cities within the Council’s transit taxing district operate their own regular-route bus services. These Suburban Transit Providers carried 5.1 million riders in 2018.
Contracted regular-route service consists primarily of commuter routes from the suburbs into the central cities, provided by private companies or suburban transit providers under contract with the Council. In 2018, these routes carried nearly 2.4 million passengers. The University of Minnesota operates bus service between its two campuses in Saint Paul and Minneapolis; in 2018 that service provided nearly 4.1 million rides.
Transit Link is a region-wide dial-a-ride program that serves people outside areas served by fixed-route transit. Ridership totaled 254,742 in 2018. Transit Link ensures equitable, consistent service throughout the region, coordinated with fixed-route transit.
Metro Mobility is a special dial-a-ride service for people certified under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Council-administered service is provided through contracts with private companies. Four counties or nonprofit agencies also provide transit for people with disabilities outside the transit taxing district. In 2018, Metro Mobility and the other agencies provided nearly 2.4 million rides.
is the Council-sponsored vanpool program. It provided almost 115,000 rides in 2018.
In addition, transit and carpool riders enjoy a time advantage on the high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in the I-394, I-35W and I-35E corridors.
Expanding the transit network
Under Gov. Tim Walz's proposal for a generational and transformational investment in the regional transit system, the Council and our transit partners are planning a major expansion of bus rapid transit. In addition to METRO A Line rapid bus service from Roseville through Saint Paul to Minneapolis, and METRO Red Line BRT in Dakota and Hennepin counties, the Council is constructing or planning for:
- METRO Orange Line, highway BRT along I-35W south to Burnsville, opening in 2021.
- METRO C Line, rapid bus service from Brooklyn Center to downtown Minneapolis, largely along Penn Ave. N., opened in June 2019.
- METRO Gold Line, highway BRT in the I-94 corridor from downtown Saint Paul east to Woodbury, opening in 2024.
- Additional arterial BRT lines on heavily traveled urban routes and additional highway BRT.
Construction is also under way on an extension of the Green Line from downtown Minneapolis southwest to Eden Prairie, and planning is complete for an extension of the Metro Blue Line northwest to Brooklyn Park.