Northstar Commuter Rail

Roads - Rails - Sidewalks - Bikeways
Suburban Outcast
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Re: Northstar

Postby Suburban Outcast » July 23rd, 2013, 10:23 pm

At least St. Cloud is a city with decently-sized bus transit system and is in a small urban area of about 100,000, whom have many ties to the Twin Cities such as relatives and whatnot. As hilarious at that original plan for a station in Rice was, if they did built it I would have used it for visiting my cousin who lives within biking distance of the town.

But realistically a Rice station would have been pointless given how small the town is. To minimize expansion costs, the Amtrak station in St. Cloud could be remodeled to commuter rail standards and be the only station added to Northstar's roster and would help out ridership levels.

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Mdcastle
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Re: Northstar

Postby Mdcastle » July 24th, 2013, 6:52 am

Why were they talking about a station in Rice anyway? Do a lot of people live in the area that commute to St. Cloud?

Reminds me, I have to get up there sometime to see the interchange they're building.

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mister.shoes
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Re: Northstar

Postby mister.shoes » July 24th, 2013, 8:06 am

I've wondered about the Rice station, myself. It's much farther past StC than one might imagine. Heck, if they were considering going as far as Rice, might as well continue on to Little Falls (only half-sarcastic).

As for the new interchange up there, they had only started clearing trees a few weeks ago. You'll want to wait a little while to see actual construction. That said, the diverging diamond being added to MN15 in Sartell is well underway.
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Re: Northstar

Postby mattaudio » July 24th, 2013, 8:36 am

I'd rather see Northstar terminate in Downtown St. Cloud on the west side of the Mississippi. There's already tracks, a bridge and a depot on that side (the old GN mainline from Duluth to Willmar/Marshall). Let's learn from the mistake of making this a commuter service, and place stations where they can serve a regional connectivity function.

St. Cloud is a big enough city where I think a Northstar extension could stop at the existing P&R along the tracks at Lincoln Ave SE and Hwy 10, and then also downtown.

This would also bypass the existing Amtrak station that's in the middle of the wye with the spur downtown, but that's not a big deal. First, it's not realistic that these services would connect to the Interchange. Also, any additional Chicago service would likely terminate at Minneapolis or Coon Rapids, and the current Empire Builder times are not suitable for connectivity to MSP anyways. Eastbound leaves St. Cloud at 5:15 AM which would be a good early commuter time, but eastbound trains are notoriously unpredictable and not reliable for commuter schedules. Westbound trains leave after 11 PM and are more reliable (since they're only coming from Chicago) and would provide a good late night option. Yet they still would be departing from SPUD and not the Interchange. And it would be skipping all intermediate stops. Not even worth the hassle of a shared ticketing agreement like Amtrak has with the Sounder for some trains in the Seattle region.

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Re: Northstar

Postby Suburban Outcast » July 24th, 2013, 10:03 am

I think realistically though they would cut corners and do the Amtrak station remodel (new platforms and a park and ride) and then have local buses connect to it. That current park and ride probably would be a station for a university link and for a few SE St. Cloud residents.

If did they have that downtown station near their government center, there could be a station near Downtown Sauk Rapids as well if there was enough commuters from there working in downtown St. Cloud willing to take a train (but they do love driving given how they keep expanding on farmland). Or even if they were ambitious, they could build a short spur from where the current railroad is when it goes under Highway 15 to Crossroads Center. Too bad the city isn't dense enough otherwise they could have had a streetcar link from the Amtrak station to Downtown and then have it branch off to places like down Division St., the hospital, and then SCSU from their downtown station.

And Mdcastle, there are commuters to St. Cloud from Rice, but about 10-20% of the entire city would have to ride the train daily to make a station worthwhile there.

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Re: Northstar

Postby NickP » September 10th, 2013, 1:24 pm

Update on construction on the Northstar line. The article also states that ridership for August 2013 was a monthly record at 82,500 riders. In addition, year-to-date ridership on the whole line is up 16% over the same period in 2012. I think this is brilliant!
http://finance-commerce.com/2013/09/pro ... rail-line/

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Re: Northstar

Postby jennifat » September 11th, 2013, 1:19 pm

The extreme gridlock on Highway 10 from Ramsey to Coon Rapids (due to the closure of Bunker Lake Blvd, closure of Highway 47, and reduced traffic to one lane on 10 for resurfacing) has definitely had a lot to do with the increased ridership for August.

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Re: Northstar

Postby NickP » September 11th, 2013, 3:05 pm

Got it. I will admit central-city blinders and say I had no idea that was going on. haha Jennifat, do you think the ridership will remain up?

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Re: Northstar

Postby Chauncey87 » September 14th, 2013, 5:58 pm

Northstar commuter rail hit ridership high in August

"The Northstar commuter rail line had its highest monthly ridership in August, with nearly 3,300 rides a day — a 24 percent increase over August 2012.

But the empty seats are what have drawn the attention of Leigh Lenzmeier, executive director of the Northstar Corridor Development Authority.

“An empty seat is a blown marketing opportunity,” said Lenzmeier, a Stearns County commissioner who hopes to extend the 41-mile line to St. Cloud. It now runs between downtown Minneapolis and Big Lake."

http://www.startribune.com/local/223763161.html

Good news! I wonder how many new passengers will continue to ride during the winter? Once all the road construction is finished.

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FISHMANPET
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Re: Northstar

Postby FISHMANPET » September 14th, 2013, 7:39 pm

My hope is that people will see how nice it is to relax on your commute home instead of being stressed in traffic, and just stick to the train.

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Re: Northstar

Postby jennifat » September 22nd, 2013, 2:37 pm

NickP wrote:Got it. I will admit central-city blinders and say I had no idea that was going on. haha Jennifat, do you think the ridership will remain up?
That's hard to say, but if congestion continues to get increasingly worse (as it undoubtedly will), I think a lot more people in the area are going to see no alternative but ride the train. As someone who works downtown and used to drive this route every morning before I moved closer to work, I'm pretty bummed Northstar wasn't around for me to take advantage.

However, as someone mentioned above, most of the people who live in this part of the metro don't work downtown. Most commute to Coon Rapids, or Maple Grove, or even work in the same suburb. Northstar will never be wildly successful until a larger percentage of the metro's jobs are located downtown (or at least along interconnected transit lines). I unfortunately don't see that happening any time soon.

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Re: Northstar

Postby Tcmetro » September 24th, 2013, 11:42 am

Looks like Northstar offers WiFi now.

http://metrotransit.org/northstar-now-o ... oard-wi-fi

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Re: Northstar

Postby Silophant » September 24th, 2013, 11:52 am

Cool! Hopefully that'll eventually expand to the whole train, then to the Blue/Green Lines, then to buses. If Copenhagen can do it, so can we.

Tcmetro
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Re: Northstar

Postby Tcmetro » September 24th, 2013, 11:57 am

With the increasing availability of 4G LTE (and faster connections being developed now), I honestly think investing in WiFi on public transit is a waste of money.

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mister.shoes
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Re: Northstar

Postby mister.shoes » September 24th, 2013, 12:22 pm

I would tend to agree. However, until the cell carriers stop charging an additional $30/mo to turn one's phone into a wireless hotspot and raise the monthly download caps, WiFi is still exceptionally useful for getting laptops online.
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Suburban Outcast
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Re: Northstar

Postby Suburban Outcast » September 24th, 2013, 3:04 pm

I assume it's geared toward commuters who want to be distracted by Netflix or work stuff/e-mails on the way to work. I can see why it's on commuter rail, but if you are on the bus/light rail you are probably better off just using your phone especially if you are on a busy train/bus.

As for the increased ridership, they really should look into at least having more 9-5 businesses being within walking distance of the suburban stations so at least there's somewhat of the possibility of suburb-suburb travel via the train. They really should add Foley Blvd to the lineup though for a boost in ridership. I know they didn't really see too many added benefits, but that lot is right next to the tracks and at least could bring better connectivity with buses.

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Re: Northstar

Postby ECtransplant » September 24th, 2013, 4:17 pm

The biggest thing holding back the line (other then being half the line intended) is the extremely limited schedule of trains

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Re: Northstar

Postby MNdible » September 25th, 2013, 9:45 am

Disagree.

What's "holding the line back" is that this area hasn't sprawled quite as quickly as predicted, and as noted previously, it turns out that there aren't that many people living in the NW suburbs who are actually commuting into downtown Minneapolis.

This is a commuter rail line model. We didn't invent it. There are commuter rail lines all over the country that run on limited schedules and don't have a mid-sized city 75 miles away as its outbound terminus.

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Re: Northstar

Postby FISHMANPET » September 25th, 2013, 9:55 am

Are there areas where commuter rail is actually successful in this country? Metra in Chicago and all the lines in NYC are often a lot more like regional rail, with all day schedules, than commuter rail. There's a lot of services in other places on the east coast, but I think most of them operate all day rather than purely commuter, since they've been running that way since the 19th century.

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Re: Northstar

Postby David Greene » September 25th, 2013, 10:00 am

FISHMANPET wrote:Are there areas where commuter rail is actually successful in this country? Metra in Chicago and all the lines in NYC are often a lot more like regional rail, with all day schedules, than commuter rail. There's a lot of services in other places on the east coast, but I think most of them operate all day rather than purely commuter, since they've been running that way since the 19th century.
What about the Sounder in Seattle?


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