Declining ridership brings changes to Metro Transit bus routes

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Declining ridership brings changes to Metro Transit bus routes

Ninth grader Olivia Szaj sits on her bus ride home.

Ninth grader Olivia Szaj sits on her bus ride home.

Addie Morrisette

Ninth grader Olivia Szaj sits on her bus ride home.

Addie Morrisette

Addie Morrisette

Ninth grader Olivia Szaj sits on her bus ride home.

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Students who take the bus to and from school rely on the fact that buses provide a timely, environmentally friendly, and dependable commute. Due to a declining number of public transit riders, Metro Transit changed its routes and schedules on Dec. 1. The ridership report released in September highlighted the two percent decrease in rides since the same time last year. The ridership decline is prompting changes in routes and schedules that no longer serve a large audience.

In October of last year, Metro Transit increased fares for the first time in a decade. This 25 percent increase combined with the decrease of public transportation use nationwide compounded to cause the drop in riders.

Express bus rides were down eight percent this year, so early morning express bus trips from suburbs were eliminated. Lightly used local bus routes were also cut back, as local bus ridership fell four percent from last year. In all, 60 Metro Transit routes were altered.

Many of the modifications include schedule changes, meaning some buses come at a lower frequency. This could be an inconvenience for student riders who rely on the consistency of buses to get to and from school on time.

“If you need to go somewhere and your bus comes a little early, you have to wait 20 minutes for the next one and you’re late to where you want to go,” 9th grader Olivia Szaj, who takes the bus to and from school, said.

For students who can’t drive or for those who do not own a vehicle, the bus can provide freedom and a way to get around. A poll sent to 409 students (9-12) with 29% responding showed that 50% take the public bus as a form of transportation. Most take the bus to get around the city, but it is also used to get to and from school and to travel to sporting events.

Sophomore Gabriel Ramirez sees the benefits of public transportation.

“It’s better for the environment than driving, and I like getting outside and walking a little bit,” he said.

Recently, a bus driver shortage has affected Metro Transit, causing trip cancellations. Ninety bus driver vacancies made it hard to keep up with the old schedule. The scarcity of drivers caused the suspension of 67 trips in August to avoid sporadic trip cancellations. By cutting excess stops and routes and actively recruiting new drivers, Metro Transit hopes to lower the number of canceled trips.

On Nov. 30, a groundbreaking ceremony celebrated the construction of the new Southwest Light Rail Transit project. The new train will, by 2023, serve Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka, and Eden Prairie. As bus trips are being pruned, the light rail system is expanding, which may allow students from the suburbs more access to the transit system.

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