The Metro bus service reached a record 1.8 million riders last year, a 15 percent increase from 2015.

“We’re seeing first hand that people of all ages, incomes and backgrounds are looking for easier ways to live and travel in southern Maine,” said Metro Director Greg Jordan, in a written statement Wednesday.

There were 1,810,825 riders on Metro in 2016, shattering the 1,568,136 riders in 2015. That year marked the highest ridership in 30 years, according to Metro.

Surging ridership was assisted by the launch of the Metro Breez commuter service between Portland, Falmouth, Yarmouth and Freeport and contracts with Portland Public Schools and Baxter Academy. Since 2013, the service has been upgrading its infrastructure and improving weekday frequency and Sunday and holiday schedules.

“This is an exciting time for public transit in the region. I’ve been a member of the Metro board since 2007, but I have seen the most growth in the system during the last three years,” said Metro Board President John Thompson in a statement.

Metro plans a new route to connect Portland to Westbrook and Gorham with a limited-stop express service in conjunction with a transit pass program for University of Southern Maine Students. Depending on grant funding, that service could be launched in 2018.

Metro also plans to extend the Breez service to Brunswick. The Brunswick Town Council is expected to vote on the extension at a meeting next month.

The service also plans to install 15 lighted bus stops across the region this year and start an electronic fare collection system in 2018.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]