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From the GM METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line

Decade later, Blue Line is booming

| Thursday, June 26, 2014 5:00:00 AM

From General Manager Brian Lamb

When the METRO Blue Line opened a decade ago, residents hadn’t moved around the Twin Cities on rail since buses replaced streetcars five decades earlier. People weren’t sure what to make of the new light-rail service and expectations were modest. In fact, critics called it the “train to nowhere.”

What’s happened in the years since is nothing short of extraordinary.

More than 90.5 million rides have been taken since Blue Line trains began operating between the Warehouse District and Fort Snelling on June 26, 2004. Average weekday ridership continues to exceed 2020 projections by more than 25 percent – a response so strong that we extended platforms and ordered additional light-rail vehicles to begin running longer trains last year. Turns out a lot of people were interested in going “nowhere.”

As the Blue Line reaches its 10th anniversary there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about its future, too.

The opening of the Green Line earlier this month provides a host of new opportunities for passengers on both light-rail lines. With a simple, seamless transfer in downtown Minneapolis, Green Line customers can board a Blue Line train and continue south to the VA, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport or Mall of America. Blue Line customers can continue their trips on the Green Line to the University of Minnesota, University Avenue and downtown St. Paul.

Improved bus service and the additions of the Northstar Commuter Rail Line and METRO Red Line at the north and south ends of the Blue Line have similarly given more people to access light rail, a trend that will only continue as our transit network grows in the years ahead.

As the Blue Line changed the way people get around, development followed suit. More housing, commercial and office space has been built or is under construction at several points along the 12-mile corridor.

Apartments that opened late last year across from the 38th Street Station filled almost as soon as they were made available. In the heart of downtown Minneapolis, apartments are rising immediately adjacent to Nicollet Mall Station. And the North Loop neighborhood around Target Field Station has been transformed from a collection of empty warehouses to a vibrant neighborhood where people live, work and play.

Downtwon East Station on the opening day of the METRO Blue Line.All of this activity bodes well for Twin Cities residents who, now more than ever, want to get around without relying on a vehicle. But the Blue Line isn't just serving those who have made it a part of their daily lives.

Light-rail has also become a strong selling point for groups working to attract more businesses and travelers to our region.

In Bloomington, the Mall of America is expanding, new hotel spaces have been built and the city is pursuing an ambitious plan to create more opportunities for transit-oriented development around Bloomington Central Station. Next month, visitors from around the world will use the Blue and Green lines to travel to and from Target Field for the MLB All-Star Game. In 2018 an even larger group will arrive in the Twin Cities to enjoy the 2018 Super Bowl, an event that would be virtually impossible without transit.

Success breeds success, which is why we can be confident the Green Line will enjoy a similar record of success in its first 10 years of service – and in every decade thereafter. In fact, even before opening day it was clear the Blue Line had put the Green Line in a strong position to succeed.

As our regional transit network continues to grow let us remember that it was the Blue Line that set the table as well as the standard for transit in our region and be thankful for all those who have helped to make it a success.

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