The higher numbers this year follow a 7 percent boost in combined bus and light-rail ridership in 2005, despite a 25 cent bus fare increase and some bus service reductions at that time. [link]
The state has been underfunding the transit system for along time, and it's been especially bad during the GOP years (post-1998). Add the cut that the bus system sustained a huge cut two years ago to the MetroTransit strike, and you should (and do) have one of the least-supported transit systems in the country.
But, despite all that, people are still riding buses in record numbers. And with the MVEST amendment passing last week, and a DLF (and Minneapolis) dominated legislature set to take over at the state, we might see some huge improvements in TC people-moving in the next few years. Not to mention the Northstar and Central Corridor systems in the works...
Yes, it's a good time to have a bus pass.
To make the city more inviting to drive and walk through, Rybak recommended concentrating commuter express buses on Marquette and 2nd Avenues and building attractive, high quality shelters to serve riders.
To make Nicollet Mall more pleasant for pedestrians and patrons at outdoor cafes, the mayor called on Metro Transit to drastically reduce the buses using the mall, keeping only the routes that use clean, quiet hybrid buses.
He also recommended returning Hennepin Avenue to two-way traffic to better serve businesses on both sides of the street and make it a "Main Street" for people who want to see the city from their cars.
The mayor has included $2.8 million in his budget for 2007 to get started on downtown street changes and continue studying prospects for streetcar construction in Minneapolis.
Streetcars, which are designed for short distance travel, can operate in mixed traffic and make frequent stops, would help make the city more walkable, Rybak said. Because the city does not have ready funds to build streetcar lines, which cost about $30 million per mile, he suggested paying for them by capturing the tax revenue from increased property values sparked by the streetcar lines.
Too bad Rybak is going to run for Senate in '08 (and lose?), and that none of this will come to pass...