Residents got their first opportunity to ride the METRO Green Line on Saturday. And ride they did. Despite rain and high winds, around 45,000 eager residents turned out to take their first rides on the Green Line during its first 8 hours of service. Another 30,000 rides were recorded between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Before trains departed Union Depot Station and other stops on Saturday morning, ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held at the east and west ends of the light rail line. At the Union Depot in St. Paul, Metropolitan Council Chair Sue Haigh marveled at the transformation that is occurring along University Avenue.
In addition to the light rail line, the Green Line corridor has benefited from a host of infrastructure improvements and a wave of new transit-oriented development.
“I don’t know that University Avenue has ever looked so great,” Haigh said. “It looks prosperous, it looks lively and we are so excited about for this means for our community. It’s really a new beginning for our region.”
> Photo Gallery: METRO Green Line Grand Opening
The Green Line's opening comes 60 years after the last streetcars carried passengers between the Twin Cities. Plans to reconnect the cities by rail date back as far as 1981. After years of planning and construction, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said cutting the ribbon and watching the first trains begin carrying passengers was “a little hard to believe.”
“Often history is defined in terms of great moments of transportation and this is no exception,” he said.
Customers who turned out to take their first Green Line trips on Saturday commented on the smooth ride and said they are looking forward to making light rail a regular part of their daily travels. Business owners along the route also celebrated and said they were optimistic the new service would bring them more exposure and customers.
"We like to call it the 'money train,'" Mike Hatzistamoulos told the Star Tribune from Best Steak House, his restaurant near the Victoria Street Station.
A number of bus service improvements that will make it easier to connect to the Green Line also went into effect on Saturday. Free rides were provided on all buses and trains on Saturday and Sunday.
Below is a collection of photos and stories that appeared in the days leading up to the Green Line's grand opening and during the first days of service.
Photo by Jeff Syme: Officials from Minneapolis, St. Paul, Hennepin County, Ramsey County and the Metropolitan Council were joined by U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar for the ribbon-cutting at Union Depot.
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> Star Tribune: Green Line trains get the green light with ribbon-cutting, free rides
> Star Tribune: Opening day on the Green Line (photos)
> Star Tribune: Green Line changes face of transit system
> Pioneer Press: Green Line Debut: 45,000 rides and just as many memories
> Pioneer Press: Green Line Grand Opening (photos)
> KARE 11: Green Line opens for business
> KSTP: Thousands catch ride on Green Line for opening day
> MPR: Dispatches from Day One on the Green Line
> MPR: Green Line opening draws Cities to the rail (photos)
> MinnPost: Making Green Line history: ‘This is really smooth, really user-friendly’
> Finance & Commerce: Green Line attracts 75,000 riders for opening weekend
> Downtown Journal: A green light for the Green Line
> Siemens: Helping the Twin Cities celebrate an historic milestone
> U.S. DOT: Light-rail links Twin Cities to each other, and to opportunity
> TPT: A Gray Day for the Green Line
> Minnesota Daily: After years of work, light rail connects the Twin Cities
> Met Council: METRO Green Line is open!
> Pioneer Press: Green Line stations: their art and architecture
> Star Tribune: Get on board the Green Line
> MinnPost: Hockey, hip-hop, and other Green Line highlights
> Vita.mn: Green Line Guide
> Pioneer Press: Lunch along the Green Line: 12 ethnic favorites
> MinnPost: Along the Green Line: A guide to Central Corridor’s arts and culture hot spots
> MinnPost: Green Line treasures from Lexington to Lowertown
> Mpls. St. Paul: A guide to the Green Line
> Star Tribune: Green Line passes sports fan's test
> New York Times: Linking Cities and Cultures
> Star Tribune: St. Paul makes a bet on revival with Green Line light-rail train
> Finance & Commerce: Four Green Line stations to watch
> The Line: Beyond the rails: Mapping the development, cultural and community impact of the new Green Line
> Pioneer Press: Green Line opens soon, and St. Paul has a lot riding on this train
> MinnPost: Green Line means go for local colleges and medical centers
> Pioneer Press: Nuts and bolts: How Green Line trains work
> MinnPost: Who lives along the Green Line?
> Minnesota Public Radio: After rocky start, Green Line overcomes community objections
> MPR: Metro Transit touts new Green Line (interview with General Manager Brian Lamb)
> Rider’s Almanac: Station Spotlights
> Star Tribune: Green Line debut a reason to celebrate
> Pioneer Press: Green light for the Green Line