Rising gas prices appear to be contributing to higher use of Twin Cities public transportation systems.
Metro Transit spokesman John Siqveland said ridership on Metro Transit buses and trains for the first quarter of 2011 is up 2 percent over the same period last year.
"Gas prices certainly have played a role in that," he said. "As gas prices rise people start to look at us and then it takes a few weeks for them to go ahead and start converting some of those drive-alone trips to transit trips."
He said warmer weather also helps ridership.
"That walk to the bus stop is nice or the train station is pleasant," he said.
Siqveland said the Northstar Commuter Rail line between Minneapolis and Big Lake has the highest year-over-year gain with a 6 percent increase over the first quarter of 2010.
Ridership for suburban express and inner-city bus ridership also increased.
Hiawatha light rail use was down 1.8 percent compared with the first quarter of last year, but has been trending upward in February and March.
In each of the past four years, ridership on Metro Transit vehicles has exceeded 76 million — a number that had not previously been surpassed since 1982.