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The Return on Investment of the Regional Transit System

A recent report by the Minneapolis Regional Chamber and East Metro Strong, updating and expanding on a 2012 report from the Itasca Project, found a return on investment of $9.05 billion in total direct positive impacts from a $3.1 billion investment in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region's transit system. The equates to earning nearly $3 for every $1 invested.

East Metro Strong and the Minneapolis Regional Chamber worked with national experts Cambridge Systematics to assess the expected return from building out the region's proposed transit system. The Itasca Project was consulted in the development of this new analysis.

To analyze and understand the impacts of building out the region's transit system, the report began with existing forecasts of regional trip-making choices with and without new transit investments (vehicle trips, vehicle hours traveled, transit trips, transit trip times, etc.). Cambridge Systematics used those forecasts to generate impacts in six categories. Generally accepted monetary values of those impacts were applied so they could be compared to total costs.


Interestingly, the report found that the vast majority of the benefits from building a comprehensive transit system would accrue to people using the region's street and highway system:

  • 81% ($7.3 billion) of the benefits would be enjoyed by people and businesses using the region's street and highway system.
  • 19% ($1.7 billion) of the benefits would be enjoyed by people using the transit system.

The analysis considered six types of direct impacts:

  • Travel times and reliability
  • Vehicle operating costs
  • Shippers and logistics costs
  • Emissions
  • Safety costs
  • Road pavement conditions

Savings in "vehicle operating costs" alone ($3.9 billion) exceed the cost of building and operating the additional transit lines ($3.1 billion).


In addition to looking forward, the report looked back and re-examined the 2012 transit ROI study by the Itasca Project. The review found that

  • Transit system ridership is running 5.6% ahead of the amounts forecast in 2012
  • As a result, the 2012 forecast of substantial benefits from regional transit investments was conservative; Minnesota is enjoying even more benefits than forecast from transit investments

Since that 2012 report the region:

  • Built the Green Line and A Line, both of which have shown substantially higher-than-projected ridership;
  • Saw $8.4 billion in new development along transitways.

Finally, the report also described the substantial benefits that transit investments provide across the state, including access to jobs, education, medicine, and all kids of other family and community connections. Minnesotans in Greater Minnesota took more than 12 million trips on transit in 2018. Transit gets people to work, to education, and to family.