Northstar Commuter Rail

Roads - Rails - Sidewalks - Bikeways
Tcmetro
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Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby Tcmetro » June 4th, 2012, 7:46 am

Looks like the new station at Ramsey might open sooner than expected:
Early work on the new Ramsey station for the Northstar commuter rail line is ahead of schedule, raising hopes that it can be in service by the end of October.

Ground was broken in March for the $13 million station, which transit officials hope will boost the number of riders. It will be the seventh along the line that runs from Minneapolis to Big Lake. The structure, virtually identical to the steel-and-glass Coon Rapids station, will be connected to a parking ramp and apartment complex, said Matt Look, chair of the Anoka County Regional Rail Authority.
Continue reading: http://www.startribune.com/local/north/156808355.html

seanrichardryan
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Re: Northstar

Postby seanrichardryan » June 4th, 2012, 12:37 pm

I drove past last weekend and it looks like all the platforms were poured.
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theroose
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Re: Northstar

Postby theroose » June 4th, 2012, 1:39 pm

Yeah they are working away at this. I live in Elk River and was planning on stopping by there today on my way to school and snapping some photos. Ill post some of them later on...

theroose
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Re: Northstar

Postby theroose » June 4th, 2012, 3:55 pm

Here's some pics...
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Tcmetro
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Re: Northstar

Postby Tcmetro » June 8th, 2012, 1:17 pm

The Transportation Committee of the Metropolitan Council will review a proposal to lower weekday adult fare levels for Northstar on Monday. The proposed fares are:

Big Lake - $6 (currently $7)
Elk River - $4.50 (currently $5.50)
Ramsey - S3.50
Anoka - $3 (currently $4)
Riverdale - $3 (currently $4)
Fridley - $3 (currently $3.25)
Non downtown Station-to-Station - $3 (currently $3.25)

It looks like the $1 value of a bus/light rail transfer towards a Northstar fare will no longer apply, requiring GoTo cards to be used for discounted transfers.

Also, tokens will now cost $1.75 and will be valid for a $2.25 fare, no longer requiring the use of two tokens on rush hour local buses.

The temporary fare change will be in effect until April 30, 2013.

YTD ridership on Northstar is down 7.25%, sparking the fare reduction idea. If ridership doesn't increase, lost revenues will be funded through savings in Professional and Technical Services and reserve fund balances.

http://councilmeetings.metc.state.mn.us ... 12_186.pdf

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Nick
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Re: Northstar

Postby Nick » June 8th, 2012, 4:15 pm

Tcmetro wrote:YTD ridership on Northstar is down 7.25%, sparking the fare reduction idea. If ridership doesn't increase, lost revenues will be funded through savings in Professional and Technical Services and reserve fund balances.
Booooooooondoggle.

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Re: Northstar

Postby NickP » June 8th, 2012, 4:32 pm

I still hold out hope. lol I think the big stat is to look at weekday commuter ridership because that is essentially what this line if for. I think this stat has been holding steady.

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Re: Northstar

Postby PhilmerPhil » June 9th, 2012, 12:54 am

I've never been a fan of Northstar, and am not at all surprised by its weak ridership numbers. The money should really go to strengthening transit in the core or, *gasp*, reducing fares for regular service.

Just because something is labeled as transit, doesn't mean it promotes good urbanism. If anything, commuter rail promotes sprawl by making easier to live way out in the exurbs.

writruth
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Re: Northstar

Postby writruth » June 9th, 2012, 1:18 am

For all of the knee-jerk folks out there who instinctively holler boondoggle when they read these falling ridership stories, need to understand demand for the system would be much greater if trains ran every hour until 10 or 11pm. Currently, they run in the morning and then sit idle for a large chunk of the day, before resuming service for a few hours later in the day. The first time you miss the last train home or need to get home in the middle of the day when the trains are not running, is likely the last time you are willing to ride the train.

The second thing critics need to realize is the system is only half finished. It was designed to link Minneapolis with the population center in St. Cloud. Going only half way to Big Lake is inadequate but was a compromise to get the line started.

Finally, with crude oil prices down to $83 a barrel today, the relatively lower cost of gasoline makes it cheaper to drive than ride the line. But relatively cheap gas will not last and we need the system in place for now and the future.

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Le Sueur
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Re: Northstar

Postby Le Sueur » June 9th, 2012, 5:25 am

writruth wrote:For all of the knee-jerk folks out there who instinctively holler boondoggle when they read these falling ridership stories, need to understand demand for the system would be much greater if trains ran every hour until 10 or 11pm. Currently, they run in the morning and then sit idle for a large chunk of the day, before resuming service for a few hours later in the day. The first time you miss the last train home or need to get home in the middle of the day when the trains are not running, is likely the last time you are willing to ride the train.

The second thing critics need to realize is the system is only half finished. It was designed to link Minneapolis with the population center in St. Cloud. Going only half way to Big Lake is inadequate but was a compromise to get the line started.

Finally, with crude oil prices down to $83 a barrel today, the relatively lower cost of gasoline makes it cheaper to drive than ride the line. But relatively cheap gas will not last and we need the system in place for now and the future.
I'm on the fence on this one. I recently was out visiting NYC and stayed in Ramsey, NJ for part of my time there. The rail system there is fantastic, expensive, but fantastic. However, my instinctive decision to sacrifice the personal freedom of renting a car seemed to be somewhat based around the assumption that it was going to be easier for me to get around via trains and subways than trying to fight traffic and parking. The economics was less about dollars and cents and more about the hassle factor.

For me personally there is nowhere near the same hassle factor here in 2012 in the twin cities that would just cause me to instinctively give up the keys to my car even if the public transit system were perfect.

Unfortunately, it will not be 2012 forever. Historically, both NYC and Chicago had major public systems operating or in the works by the time their metros reached 3 million (1890's and 1920's respectively). Conversely, Los Angeles didn't even have organized public planning or a public transit authority until 1951 when it's metro population was already 4.5 million.

Granted NYC, Chi-City, L.A., and Mlps are all very different metro areas, and the growth rates of the 2010's are not that of the 50's or 20's, but my point still stands. Today it is easy to say the Northstar is Cr@p because right now it kinda is... There is no connection to St. Cloud, the Mlps. terminus has no real transfer station, there is only one connecting line, and traffic is not really that bad... but if we don't continue to plan ahead a little I can't see any of our metro rush hour parking lots getting any better in the coming decades.

One a lighter note, as I was mulling the idea of Northstar over I did some other reading and came across a table of historic U.S. metro populations that was pretty interesting. Assuming its accurate the Minneapolis area jumped to 9th largest U.S. metro when it shot up to 300,000 in 1890.

http://www.peakbagger.com/pbgeog/histmetropop.aspx

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Le Sueur
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Re: Northstar

Postby Le Sueur » June 9th, 2012, 5:29 am

Nick wrote:
Tcmetro wrote:YTD ridership on Northstar is down 7.25%, sparking the fare reduction idea. If ridership doesn't increase, lost revenues will be funded through savings in Professional and Technical Services and reserve fund balances.
Booooooooondoggle.
Either way you come down on the project, I feel like the use of Boondoggle deserves recognition. Well played.

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Nick
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Re: Northstar

Postby Nick » June 9th, 2012, 9:21 am

writruth wrote:For all of the knee-jerk folks out there who instinctively holler boondoggle when they read these falling ridership stories, need to understand demand for the system would be much greater if trains ran every hour until 10 or 11pm. Currently, they run in the morning and then sit idle for a large chunk of the day, before resuming service for a few hours later in the day. The first time you miss the last train home or need to get home in the middle of the day when the trains are not running, is likely the last time you are willing to ride the train.

The second thing critics need to realize is the system is only half finished. It was designed to link Minneapolis with the population center in St. Cloud. Going only half way to Big Lake is inadequate but was a compromise to get the line started.

Finally, with crude oil prices down to $83 a barrel today, the relatively lower cost of gasoline makes it cheaper to drive than ride the line. But relatively cheap gas will not last and we need the system in place for now and the future.
How is it not a boondoggle? It's running at (at best) a 16 dollar per ride subsidy, and ridership continues to fall. If they had built it correctly it would have been a good investment, but they didn't, and they blew 350 million dollars on it. And worse, we built Mike Beard and Co. the perfect whipping boy for constituents who don't know the difference between commuter rail in Anoka County and LRT in the city.

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Re: Northstar

Postby PhilmerPhil » June 9th, 2012, 11:31 am

The solution to transportation problems of the exurbs should not and cannot be solved by building commuter rail to the vast expanses of cul de sacs and big box stores. It doesn't matter if ridership is high, it's still an ineffecient way to be spending transportation dollars. Sure it's better than road building, but is it better than enhanced bus service, streetcars, LRT, high quality separated bike facilities? I think not. These are investments that promote high quality urbanism and provide real choices in transportation. How much do you wanna bet that 99% of Northstar commuters own a car and use it for all of their trips other than getting to and from work?

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Re: Northstar

Postby PhilmerPhil » June 9th, 2012, 11:36 am

Oh, I forgot. I asked the following people what they thought of the Northstar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxgbH023dEk

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Re: Northstar

Postby FISHMANPET » June 9th, 2012, 6:23 pm

Lowering fares isn't going to do it, according to a study I just read. Either make it more expensive to drive, or expand the rail system.
http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commut ... tion/2218/
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min-chi-cbus
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Re: Northstar

Postby min-chi-cbus » June 9th, 2012, 7:40 pm

How about taxing gasoline so that it can cover the TRUE cost of road maintenance and expansion? Currently, road revenues come nowhere close to what it takes to maintain the current system, let alone any expansion plans! If gas taxes were priced to "break even", people would naturally flock to rail, live more sustainably, or a combination of the two. Then $16 per rider break-even fares and $12/gallon gasoline would compete against eachother naturally, with no outside subsidy.

But that tricky little $1 trillion+ U.S. Auto Industry, and all of the industries they support (incl. multi-trillion dollar oil companies), would falter.

Tcmetro
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Re: Northstar

Postby Tcmetro » June 11th, 2012, 8:19 am

I have to agree that it has been a boondoggle. Hourly all-day service won't happen for a long time at this rate, but a connection to St. Cloud should be seriously considered. All that is needed is a station and lot in Becker and a station in St. Cloud. The easiest way to get riders would be adding a stop at Foley Bl., and catch those 1000+ daily park and ride users.

Unfortuately, commuter rail agencies in the US don't understand the benefits of making commuter rail into a fast, metro-esque system. Philly tried, but didn't agressively promote bus-rail lines, NY could do a lot better, as could Boston and Chicago. Those are the low-hanging fruit, too. Seattle, LA, DC will likely never even try to reach that stage. It's frustrating that only Montreal and Toronto are interested in high-frequency, all day commuter rail that will provide fast regional connections that cannot be done with light rail or subways.

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Re: Northstar

Postby kirby96 » June 11th, 2012, 11:03 am

Thank God that Hiawatha came on line before Northstar.

Given the difficulty in driving ridership on this line, why not flip the whole thing on it's head: start off with FREE rides (or token fares of $1 or something) for an extended period of time (6 months or so) and then slowly ratchet them up.

Obviously that would cost money, but it appears the dollar price reduction creates a hole of only ~$300K. Dropping it to zero would only be ~$2.1MM and that's if it was done for a year. Seems like a number that could easily be made up if long-term ridership were to increase significantly. As it is, the proposed incremental approach seems likely to fail, and then we'll be looking at a situation where the viability of the line at all is called into question. Might as well go bold now.

Thinking out loud...

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Re: Northstar

Postby mplser » June 11th, 2012, 9:45 pm

if it were free, I think we would see people who would otherwise take a bus getting in their cars and driving there to take advantage of the free service. Free service would work great if people had to pay to park at the station. also, I think a very large TOD at the Fridley station would do wonders for ridership numbers. All the developers are scrambling to build along the green line, so why not at Northstar stations?

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Re: Northstar

Postby mulad » July 7th, 2012, 10:22 am

The prices are going to be lowered by $1 starting August 1st, and the reduction will run until April, according to the Strib article from the other day.

http://www.startribune.com/local/north/161518155.html

Anyway, with Northstar on my mind, I began wondering about the planned layout of the Foley Boulevard station, if it ever happens. I haven't found that yet, but I did come across plans for the associated grade separation of Foley Boulevard itself -- and I'm really not liking it...

Here's an image of the layout from the TKDA project page (you'll probably have to scroll the image down to really see it...)
foley-boulevard-grade-separation.jpg
Perhaps the most annoying thing I've noticed is that the layout puts the rail station under the MN-610 bridge rather than this brand-new one, thereby making it necessary to rebuild that bridge as well. If we have to build extra bridges here, how about we just build one rather than two? I think there are some creative solutions possible in this area which could really bring the cost down. A combined project to build a third main track from Fridley station to just north of here plus do the grade separation and rebuild the MN-610 bridge and build the station came in at around $115 or $120 million a few years back, which always struck me as pretty insane (at least until I figured out what the major components were). And how Mn/DOT ever got away with building such a tiny bridge for MN-610 over the BNSF tracks years ago I'll probably never know. That looks like it's a standard 150-foot right-of-way for the train tracks on either side of the highway, which could have easily fit 3 tracks and some station platforms...
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