July 17--The Red Line, the metro area's first freeway-based fast busway, is falling short of its targets.
The service, which has operated for about 12 months, has not yet reached the number of riders that planners had predicted it would carry in the first year.
Constantly circulating between Apple Valley and the Mall of America on Cedar Avenue, the line is Dakota County's version of light-rail transit.
It opened with a price tag of $112 million. As the first demonstration of the service in this metro area, the key question has been how its ridership would stack up.
Metro Transit plans to include July rides in the tally of the line's first year, because it opened in late June.
That being the case, the Red Line may yet meet the ridership target that planners had in mind when they predicted that it would carry an average of 976 riders each weekday by the end of its first year of operation.
But as of June it was behind the target.
June service hit 839 average daily weekday rides. That was up from March, April and May when ridership hovered in the 700s.
The final first year tally will be announced in mid-August.
Dakota County lacks the population density and ridership that has led to the building of rail lines in the central cities and western suburbs.
It has found itself with less expensive bus lines on Cedar.
Ridership on Cedar meanwhile is being hampered by the lack of a key wished-for improvement: a $14.6 million stop that planners want in the freeway median to eliminate a slow trip off the freeway to the Eagan station and back.
On Interstate 35W, planning is underway to begin bus rapid transit by 2019, meaning all-day, evening and weekend bus service between Burnsville and downtown Minneapolis.
Meanwhile, Metro Transit is considering wrapping some of the Red Line buses with advertising.
The agency made $3 million in 2013 from allowing buses to drive around covered with ads.
Dakota County is also pressing to get Wi-Fi added to Red Line buses.
Copyright 2014 - Star Tribune (Minneapolis)