In Weber addresses critics with added comments, a letter to the editors of the Worthington Daily Globe, the honorable Republican state senator from Luverne hopes to clear up what he perceives are misrepresentations in this letter and this one of his "comments to the governor during his recent visit to Worthington."
We'll have to take Weber's word for what he was trying to communicate to the governor, but there's at least one part of the letter that didn't ring true to us. Weber writes:
I urged the governor to call for careful evaluation of existing light rail operations. They are not meeting original projections of ridership, etc. If people do not use it, we do not solve problems of traffic congestion.
That seemed peculiar. Hadn't we read otherwise? Apparently so. In a January 22, 2016 press release, Metro Transit ridership tops 85.8 million in 2015, there's this:
The METRO Blue Line set a new annual ridership record and system ridership increased for the 11th time in 12 years as customers took more than 85.8 million rides on buses and trains operated by Metro Transit in 2015. . . .
Ridership on both the Blue and Green light-rail lines continued to grow as customers used the all-day, frequent service to travel to work, school, special events and other destinations. The ability to transfer between light-rail lines in downtown Minneapolis also boosted ridership.
In all, more than 10.6 million rides were taken on the Blue Line, the highest annual ridership since it opened in mid-2004. The previous record of nearly 10.5 million rides was set in 2010. Average weekday ridership topped 30,000 for eight consecutive months.
Nearly 12.4 million rides were taken on the Green Line during its first full year of operation. Average weekday ridership was 37,400 – just under the 2030 forecast of 41,000 rides. Ridership in the Central Corridor, including the Green Line and bus routes 16 and 94, increased by about 30 percent from 2014 to 2015 and has nearly doubled since 2013, when service was provided by buses alone.
Oh. The Green Line's ridership trajectory appears to be following a similar path to that of the Blue Line, formerly known as the Hiawatha Line. In 2009, Minnesota Public Radio's Dan Olson reported in Hiawatha light rail marks five years; what's next?:
Today marks five years of operation for the Hiawatha line, Minnesota's first light rail service.
Ridership is much greater than projected, and that success has helped spark a debate over how te expand transit in the Twin Cities metro area, and how to pay for it. . . .
Five years and 43 million passenger rides later, the Hiawatha line is coping with success.
Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons says ridership for the line, which connects downtown Minneapolis with the Mall of America, is already 20 percent ahead of what ridership was expected to be 11 years from now. . . .
Perhaps if Senator Weber actually served on the senate transportation committee (he doesn't) he might be less confused about these facts (perhaps he's relying on transportation data guru Joe Soucheray's personal impressions about ridership figures from a 2015 column). Weber hopes to draw on ethos, his credibility. He concludes the letter:
While I regret that some may be embarrassed by an honest and respectful discussion of issues and differences, I will continue to handle the responsibilities as state senator in such a way that truly seeks to resolve problems rather than give blind deference to the governor or anyone else.
We're not sure who's supposed to be embarrassed about the millions of passenger rides on light rail in the metro, but we suspect it's not Governor Dayton. The Globe covered the meeting and Weber's initial remarks in A water warrior: Dayton touts Lewis & Clark as he urges legislative compromise.
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