Anoka County Watchdog‘s Harold Hamilton and the Freedom Foundation have both recently covered the disappointing numbers for Northstar commuter rail in the northern metro last year and the pattern remains the same. Northstar continues to be defined by low ridership that falls drastically short of original ridership estimates when the line was approved in 2005 and usage that has done very little to reduce commuter traffic in and out of Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Coverage of the adjusted estimates and shortfalls has been minimal by Minnesota’s media sources.
The Freedom Foundation reports:
When the highly touted Northstar commuter rail line debuted with 20 percent fewer riders than supporters promised in its first year of service, transit officials promptly lowered expectations for year two. Metro Transit reduced the projected number of passengers from 897,000 in 2010 to 750,000 in 2011, anticipating about 16 percent fewer riders than predicted for the inaugural year. Based on ridership results obtained by the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota for year two of Northstar service ending in November, 2011, it appears Metro Transit officials did not lower expectations enough. When it comes to overall ridership numbers, the $318 million commuter rail line continues to head in the wrong direction.
The number of passengers taking the commuter rail line through November, 2011 declined by some 18,000 customers over Northstar’s first year in business. (The first full month of Northstar service began in December, 2009.) The final tally came in at 696,790 passengers compared to 714,915 the year before, down about 2.5 percent. The shortfall was more dramatic when compared to ridership goals for the year, falling 53,000 riders and seven percent short of projections for 2011.
and Hamilton writes:
And let’s not forget that tens of thousands of riders on Northstar aren’t rush hour commuters who are freeing up highway lane space by taking the train. No, they’re Twins fans taking a heavily subsidized train ride down to Target Field to watch the Twinkies put in another inept performance despite the fact that the Pohlads told the legislature a sweet new taxpayer-subsidized stadium would mean a competitive team on the field.
On top of all that, Northstar ridership is down at a time when bus usage is UP.
So much for the argument that Northstar is a commuter travel option that will open lane space and mean a better commute.
In the car versus train battle, cars are winning big time. The expansion of Highway 10 between Egret and Hanson did more for commuters in the area than Northstar ever will, and at a fraction of the cost.
Cross-posted and comments welcome at MN Democrats Exposed.