Metro Transit says ridership up 3.2 percent

Customers boarded Metro Transit buses and trains 39.6 million times in the first six months of 2011, the agency reported on Wednesday.

That’s a 3.2 percent increase over the same period last year, which equals 1.2 million more rides.

Buses and the Northstar commuter rail accounted for much of the increase. Urban local service is up 4.1 percent. Express service is up nearly 3.3 percent. And suburban local service increased by 3.4 percent.

Northstar commuter rail reported a 4.4 percent increase.

But ridership on the Hiawatha light-rail line is down 2.3 percent. However, Metro Transit said ridership on the line in June 2011 was up 5 percent compared to June 2010.

Here’s what Metro Transit general manager Brian Lamb said about the numbers, in a statement released Wednesday:

Transit ridership has continued to grow through the second quarter as more commuters choose to avoid high gas prices and congested freeways. If this pace continues, it appears that 2011 could rival the record ridership of 2008.

In 2008, regional transit ridership was the highest in half a century.

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