60 million Metro Transit Bus riders can't be wrong

This is the familiar scene as you try not to get groped and/or grope other passengers.
This is the familiar scene as you try not to get groped and/or grope other passengers.

There's no better way to travel than the metro bus. Everyone's jammed in next to each other, with some preppy architecture student's sketch bag poking the ribs of a lawyer who is shouting into his cellphone -- and the ear of a bearded man who is, at that very moment, urinating.

Those kinds of experiences are what keep Twin Cities residents piling on the bus again and again. Apparently, we can't get enough of the bus these days.

The Metropolitan Council announced this morning that it's registered more than 60 million bus transfers and card-swipes this year, an increase of more than 2 million rides from the same time last year. By year's end, the Met Council says we might reach the 80 million mark.

This kind of public transit surge could really lead to an increased sense of community and civic engagement, if any of us ever decided to take out our iPod earbuds and/or make eye contact.

The numbers announcement from the Met Council explains that the 80 million mark, which now seems well within reach, has been hit only once in the last 30 years. Met Transit General Manager Brian Lamb -- who also, we are pretty sure, hosts a chat show on C-SPAN -- credits online ridership tools like NextTrip for the increased fare count.

"Easy access to tools that allow customers to instantly plan trips, pay fares with just the touch of a card and see departures in real-time provides a new level of convenience," said Lamb.

Well, yes, Mr. Lamb, that might all be true. But what's also true is that gas prices are outrageous, downtown parking is horrendous, and it's pretty fun to sit in the little accordion piece of the bus that swings when the bus makes each turn.

As makes sense, those generally car-less bums at the University of Minnesota make up a big chunk of the Met's figures. More than 20,000 U of M students own prepaid U-Passes, and they've used those for 2.8 million rides this year.

Because a U-Pass is prepaid on a set amount, the additional rides those students took don't actually benefit the city much, other than giving the older bus passengers something to gawk at.

Maybe this is where all of our missing bike commuters went. You know guys, they have that thing at the front of the bus where you can hook your bike in. You could let the bus take you almost the whole way, then just hop off and ride in the last 200 yards, so you seem 1) environmentally friendly and 2) like some super-cool freak who doesn't sweat when they bike in August.

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