With Stenglein leaving board, where's Northstar headed?

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 4, 2012 - 12:32 PM

Northstar expansion, line to Duluth await his replacement.

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jbpaperMar. 3, 1210:22 PM

"It currently has fewer than 2,000 daily rides." --- Since most people ride it twice per day, that comes out to about 1,000 people. Can we please shut this thing down. It was a nice experiment but we can't continue wasting millions of dollars on train that is used by a thousand people.

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buddyjakeMar. 3, 1211:16 PM

The extension to St Cloud has a better chance of going ahead then the NLX to the Ports. The NLX route takes you into Superior, WI, before it goes to Duluth, no direct link from Minneapolis to Duluth exists anymore, so that is a huge downside. For Phase II to come into play, track from Big Lake to Becker will need to be double tracked, currently a single main from Becker to Big Lake. My guess is that the BNSF is hoping Metro Transit/MN will pay for the double tracking vs them doing it on their own

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sixhertzMar. 3, 1211:43 PM

Gas tax dollars go to fund these negative return investments while roads and bridges crumble. And for what? To have a new toy? Another thing to subsidize. Great.

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travelistoMar. 4, 12 7:19 AM

I am a supporter of public transportation and I am shocked at the low ridership on the Northstar line. It would seem to have been the perfect corridor for commuter rail. I want to believe that not going all the way to St.Cloud is what is holding back the line's success but that would be hard to prove without spending millions of dollars to prove it. I will say the "hi-speed" line to Duluth seems completely unnecessary, even to this fan of buses, LRT and commuter rail... Let's make Northstar work first before we dump significant amounts of money on something else that may or may not work.

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chance123Mar. 4, 12 8:07 AM

It seems that the criteria the government uses to make large investments these days is whether short term construction (union) jobs will be created and financed with a long-term obligation for the tax-payer......Vikings stadium, LRT, Stillwater bridge, etc. Why stop now? Lets build it to the BWCA, so 100 people a week in the summer dont have to pay for gas to go camping. Minnesota is absolutely pathetic and run by self-dealing liberals and union leaches!!!!

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nohopeobamaMar. 4, 12 8:40 AM

Where is it heading? It's heading in the same direction that it's always been heading.....toward a giant deficit funded by tax dollars justified by out of touch liberals.

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mn2niceMar. 4, 12 9:18 AM

Northstar ridership is low for two reasons. First, ridership is low because of the economy. People who would have otherwise been riders on Northstar lost their jobs around the same time the line came into service. As the economy begins to recover we "should" see a steady increase in ridership on Northstar, but it may take time to recover. Secondly, ridership is low because of the project being broken up into two phases in order to be able to get federal funding. So, we traded having a good commuter line that should have been built initially to St. Cloud for one that was attractive in terms of viability of funding, hoping that ridership would increase quickly to justify building the second phase from Big Lake to St. Cloud. Unfortunately, the economy got in the way. I can see why ridership is low, and I understand the reasoning behind why they did it the way they did. I do not, however, agree with the decision to do it that way. We seem to have a tendency to build projects piecemeal to get funding rather than build an entire project and show in meticulously conducted studies the merit of doing so and get each one fully funded from the start. I consider the public policy of settling for less in order to get "something" to be flawed. Now, no one wants to make the first move to complete Northstar to St. Cloud because in their mind the ridership numbers do not justify doing so, and the ultimate success or failure of the line depends upon the completion of the line to St. Cloud to build ridership. This does not serve us well. If the project is worth doing it is worth doing it well. If not, don't do it at all. If we continue doing projects in this manner the cost of these projects will be much higher than if they had been done correctly to begin with.

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exrepublicanMar. 4, 1210:06 AM

mn2nice: You are correct in your two points. But there is a third, and just as significant. Before Northstar began service, the Republicans at the Capitol demanded that fares be raised, again with the goofy argument that any rail project needed to be "profitable," although other forms of transportation are not. The gas tax only covers about 60% of the cost of roads, and airports certainly do not turn a profit. I firmly believe that the GOP politicians knew that, by setting the fares so high, they were setting Northstar up for failure. Compare METRA in Chicago, which is the premier commuter rail line in the country: fares are cheaper during the week, and on the weekends, you can ride andywhere, unlimited, for $7 for the whole weekend. The trains are packed, and METRA's farebox recovery rate is far better than Northstar's. Any business owner knows that, if he can sell 10 widgets at .50 cents profit each but can sell 40 at .30 cents profit each, he will make more by selling for less, he would be a fool to charge the higher price. And don't think that the politicians who get financed by Big Oil--and try to kill every non-road transportation project they see--don't understand this too.

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exrepublicanMar. 4, 1210:13 AM

Gotta love all the old, sorry tea party goofs on here, ranting about "out of touch liberals" nad "union leaches," when in fact, they are the ones trying to drag the country back to the 60s--and against the will of the majority.

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garagewineMar. 4, 1210:15 AM

Does anyone really believe that Stenglein won't be lobbying for these projects now that he works for the Downtown Council?

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