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Reality Check: The Cost Of Subsidized Transit

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The Minnesota Legislature is preparing deep budget cuts to Twin Cities transit systems, especially light rail.

Critics say taxpayers pay millions of dollars a year to subsidize every passenger.

While it's true that taxpayers subsidize every passenger on the light rail, it's less than you think and less than other common transit systems, like suburban buses.

The Met Council crunched the numbers at the request of the House Transportation Policy Committee. It figured in the operating expenses, passenger fares, the number of passengers, and the hours of service. The results might stop you in your tracks.

Suburban express service cost the most per passenger to operate. Those buses pick up riders at suburban park-and-rides, taking them to and from downtown.

Service from Prior Lake cost the most: $7.47 per passenger. Shakopee and Southwest Transit are close behind, at $7.19 and $6.75, respectively. Then come Minnesota Valley ($4.62) and Plymouth ($4.11). Maple Grove is the cheapest, at $2.25 subsidy per passenger.

Those numbers are roughly comparable to Metro Transit buses in Minneapolis and St. Paul, which cost $3.16 per passenger to operate.

Metro Mobility is among the most expensive. The service is for people with disabilities, and is federally mandated. Metro Mobility costs $23.94 per passenger to operate.

The Northstar Rail line in the northern suburbs has high ridership, but costs $18.31 per passenger.

What's the best bang for the buck? Metro Transit Light Rail. Taxpayers pay only $1.84 subsidy per passenger on light rail, the least of any transit system in the state.

That's reality check.

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