Northstar commuter ridership falling below forecast

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2010-December-04-004
Steve Glischinski
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota’s Northstar commuter rail line, which celebrated its first anniversary on Nov. 16, is expected to have 20 percent fewer riders than forecast for 2010. That has officials with the line’s operating agency, Metro Transit, “very concerned,” the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

Metro Transit officials said the line has suffered setbacks because of Minnesota’s 7 percent unemployment rate, reduced parking fees in downtown Minneapolis, moderate gas prices, and improvements to paralleling U.S. 10. Metro Transit had projected that Northstar would provide 897,000 rides in 2010, but the figure is expected to be only 715,000. Trains operate on a 41-mile route over BNSF Railway between downtown Minneapolis and Big Lake, Minn.

A bright spot has been trains for Minnesota Twins baseball games. The Twins Stadium is adjacent to Northstar’s Minneapolis station, and special event trains were packed during the season. Now the agency is facing a winter without the extra riders and revenue from the specials. Northstar ridership was 5 percent below forecast through August, and by October, when the baseball season ended, ridership was nearly 11 percent below 2010 projections. The numbers for November and early December, which have not yet been calculated, are expected to be well below forecast.

Plans to extend the line 26 miles from Big Lake to St. Cloud have temporarily been put on hold.
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota’s Northstar commuter rail line, which celebrated its first anniversary on Nov. 16, is expected to have 20 percent fewer riders than forecast for 2010. That has officials with the line’s operating agency, Metro Transit, “very concerned,” the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

Metro Transit officials said the line has suffered setbacks because of Minnesota’s 7 percent unemployment rate, reduced parking fees in downtown Minneapolis, moderate gas prices, and improvements to paralleling U.S. 10. Metro Transit had projected that Northstar would provide 897,000 rides in 2010, but the figure is expected to be only 715,000. Trains operate on a 41-mile route over BNSF Railway between downtown Minneapolis and Big Lake, Minn.

A bright spot has been trains for Minnesota Twins baseball games. The Twins Stadium is adjacent to Northstar’s Minneapolis station, and special event trains were packed during the season. Now the agency is facing a winter without the extra riders and revenue from the specials. Northstar ridership was 5 percent below forecast through August, and by October, when the baseball season ended, ridership was nearly 11 percent below 2010 projections. The numbers for November and early December, which have not yet been calculated, are expected to be well below forecast.

Plans to extend the line 26 miles from Big Lake to St. Cloud have temporarily been put on hold.
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