Regional Transit Facts
Moving people, spurring economic development
Transit—which includes 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 ridership in the seven-county Twin Cities area has grown significantly since 2000. Ridership on all types of service—express and local buses, light rail, dial-a-ride service, and transportation for people with disabilities—totaled 96.3 million in 2016. Eighty percent 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 $6.8 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 82.6 million bus* and rail rides in 2016. Its service area includes Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and dozens of suburban communities.
In addition to scores of bus routes, Metro Transit 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 23.7 million rides in 2016.
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 5.2 million riders in 2016.
Contracted regular-route service consists primarily of commuter routes from the suburbs into the central cities, provided by private companies under contract with the Council. In 2016, these routes carried 2.6 million passengers. The University of Minnesota operates bus service between its two campuses in Saint Paul and Minneapolis; in 2016 that service provided nearly 3.9 million rides.
Transit Link is a region-wide dial-a-ride program that serves people outside areas served by fixed-route transit. Ridership totaled 302,667 in 2016. 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 2016, Metro Mobility and the other agencies provided more than 2.23 million rides, an increase of nearly 6% from the previous year.
Metro Vanpool is the Council-sponsored vanpool program. It carried 166,700 rides in 2016.
Expanding the transitway network
The Metropolitan Council—in partnership with the county regional railroad authorities, other transit providers, and the Counties Transit Improvement Board—is planning and building a network of bus and rail “transitways” in heavily traveled corridors. In operation are the three rail lines, the new A Line rapid bus service, METRO Red Line bus rapid transit in Dakota and Hennepin counties, and the high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in the I-394 and I-35W corridors. The region is also planning:
* Metro Transit's ridership numbers include Maple Grove Transit routes operated by Metro Transit. (Maple Grove Transit is one of the Suburban Transit Providers.)