Northstar Commuter Rail

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seanrichardryan
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Re: Northstar

Postby seanrichardryan » October 25th, 2012, 11:21 am

Q. What, what? A. In da butt.

Tcmetro
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Re: Northstar

Postby Tcmetro » October 25th, 2012, 11:31 am

Interesting... Talk of replacing the weekend runs with midday runs. Not necessarily a bad idea, but it would eliminate Sunday transit service to Anoka.

Hopefully that would mean bi-hourly service during the midday periods, but I bet it will just be one trip.

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Re: Northstar

Postby seanrichardryan » October 25th, 2012, 11:36 am

Now if they only got electric train sets on dedicated ROW....
Q. What, what? A. In da butt.

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Re: Northstar

Postby mulad » October 25th, 2012, 2:35 pm

Yeah, there some interesting stuff in that article including new data, which I always appreciate. Good to see that the reduced fares have apparently had a positive effect, though I think there was an advertising blitz in the mix as well (I haven't seen any of that, but I don't live in the corridor). Considering you can take an express bus from Anoka, Coon Rapids, or Fridley for $3.00, it only makes sense to have the train cost the same. I hope they continue to offer reduced fares because of that. It'll probably have a negative effect on the finances for a little while, but it wouldn't really change the overall budget much. They said 2011 fares brought in $2.67 million while the operational cost was $15.5 million, for a farebox recovery ratio of 17.2%. That's bad for our region, where bus services tend to have ratios around 30%, but we have better ratios than most places. It's probably still low for commuter railroads, though.

The article points out that the FTA grant that paid for half the line would have to be paid back (They say $161 million, though some money went into the LRT extension to Target Field, which isn't going away), so it still makes sense to run the experiment for a few years longer. I think this report is the clearest indication I've seen which indicates that Metro Transit may drop weekend runs in favor of adding midday service, which should have a significant impact on ridership, and hopefully farebox recovery as well.

I always hate to see weekend service disappear, since I think a lot of people like to try out transit services on weekends. I'm sure this line has also been used by students at SCTC a fair bit, and by students who have family in the St. Cloud area but go to school in the Twin Cities. I suppose I wouldn't mind if they retain one round-trip on Sunday, so people who do the Friday-Sunday combo can still manage it, though perhaps those riders would be better served by a single-seat trip on Northstar Link (along U.S. 10) or Jefferson Lines (along I-94) buses anyway.

I suspect the current weekend runs are relatively cost-efficient, though -- a single trainset making 6 trips (3 round-trips), as opposed to weekday service where 4 trains average 3 trips (1.5 round-trips) each. I'm guessing at the moment that there will only be a single midday round-trip, which would bump up the weekday average to 3.5 trips (1.75 round-trips) each.

They only quoted a ridership of 2,033 daily (weekdays), year-to-date. That's up a bit, but of course the reduced fares have only been in place since August 1st. The line was projected to start out at 2,460 on weekdays, so it's short by 17.4% Add in at least 200 daily rides from/to Ramsey, and we're less than 10% short. Add in a standard 30% rail bias for Ramsey folks plus a bit more for new passengers attracted by the reduced fares, and it'd be very close to the original target. I'm not sure how quickly the ridership was projected to ramp up, though.

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Re: Northstar

Postby mattaudio » October 25th, 2012, 2:55 pm

I have to believe it would increase NS farebox recovery if the train stopped at Foley Blvd and most of the current 850 riders could hop on a train.

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Re: Northstar

Postby spearson » October 25th, 2012, 3:33 pm

I wonder if eliminating weekends also means twins and vikings special events? Those trains are pretty full the few times I've ridden them.

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Re: Northstar

Postby LRV Op Dude » October 25th, 2012, 3:35 pm

by mattaudio » October 25th, 2012, 3:55 pm

I have to believe it would increase NS farebox recovery if the train stopped at Foley Blvd and most of the current 850 riders could hop on a train.
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Nick
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Re: Northstar

Postby Nick » October 25th, 2012, 4:06 pm

spearson wrote:I wonder if eliminating weekends also means twins and vikings special events? Those trains are pretty full the few times I've ridden them.
I'd imagine those special events probably make up a pretty significant portion of their overall ridership considering how crummy it is otherwise. I've taken the train for other reasons on days where it happened to fall on Twins or Vikings games and it was completely full, way different than your average workday.

I'd also add, as someone who took the Northstar and Northstar Link frequently last year, there's very little student traffic on the line, at least from what I could tell. St. Cloud is a lot closer to Tulsa than Minneapolis in a lot of ways, and not many people get dropped off by their parents at the St. Cloud bus station to take a bus to a train to a bus to their house at the U. St. Cloud is basically a big strip mall and unless you build the train straight into the city, you lose quite a bit of ridership on the transfer.

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Re: Northstar

Postby mulad » October 25th, 2012, 4:45 pm

I was a little surprised that the article used a number that they said did not include the Twins or Vikings ridership, though I'm not quite sure if that just refers to special trains or what. Vikings traffic wouldn't be included in the 2,033 daily trips simply since their games are usually on Sunday. A special event train can have 2,000 people crammed in on a single one-way trip.

Yeah, my observations about students are colored by the fact I went up to St. Cloud on Good Friday in 2010, which boosted the student travel considerably -- it might have corresponded with their spring break. I took the reverse trip in the morning (which was pretty quiet), hung around town for the day, then took the reverse trip back in the evening. The evening Link bus was almost full after picking up a bunch of students at the SCTC stop. There wasn't any Northstar train service on Easter Sunday for anyone to make it back, but both Jefferson Lines and Amtrak were/are there as potential fallbacks if someone was only doing a weekend trip.

Students are known for being cheap, but I think any student would find the Northstar Link+train affordable -- my round-trip was under $16.

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Re: Northstar

Postby mulad » October 26th, 2012, 8:03 am

A Northstar train developed a bad oil leak yesterday and got stuck in Northtown Yard long enough for a second Northstar to come up behind. They decided to join them together and run the train with the engine in the middle. I wonder how things worked for disembarking in Big Lake...

Someone (not me) took some photos:

https://picasaweb.google.com/1031584439 ... edCommuter

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Re: Northstar

Postby Tcmetro » October 26th, 2012, 11:20 am

Page 58 of this presentation claims 2405 weekday riders and 1436 weekend riders per day. I don't know if these are 2013 projections though.

A little further on in the presentation, there is some information about a parking ramp for Anoka Stn. starting construction next year.

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Re: Northstar

Postby stp1980 » October 26th, 2012, 12:29 pm

This may have been covered at some point in this thread, but have they considered putting the Saint Cloud Airport as a stop if the line is extended to Saint Cloud? Seems like it would make Saint Cloud Regional a more accessible reliever airport for MSP if people in Anoka and Sherberne counties were to use it for domestic flights and access it via the train. Seems like that would improve ridership and give the airport a boost too. Although, that would depend on getting air service to Saint Cloud and then having it go to more than one place (I think they are starting with Chicago, but Denver would be a good hub too) The tracks seem like they could be reasonably extended to get to the terminal and then proceed into Saint Cloud.

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Re: Northstar

Postby mattaudio » October 26th, 2012, 12:48 pm

They could do some sort of cutoff from the Staples Sub following CR 7...
http://goo.gl/maps/IF4Gw
I wonder why they built the Northstar P&R at Lincoln Ave and US-10.... Yes, it's on 10 so it is easier for people arriving by car from the north, and yes it's on the RR so it would allow for a future stop. But it would have been better if they built a P&R near the Amtrak station at St. Germain. It seems like there are four logical locations for St. Cloud, but I think it could only support two stations. (Downtown, St Germain Amtrak/Wye, Northstar P&R at Lincoln/US10, and STC Airport).

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Re: Northstar

Postby mulad » October 27th, 2012, 9:54 pm

ABC Newspapers says there will be a ribbon-cutting on November 8th with a train stopping specially for invited guests to take them to Elk River, and the station will officially open on Wednesday the 14th. twincitizen said earlier that it'd be Friday the 16th, so I guess we'll see. I'm surprised it's not starting on a Monday, but what do I know...

http://abcnewspapers.com/2012/10/27/ram ... ce-nov-14/

It also said that bus route "B-52" (presumably actually 852) will be extended to Ramsey to supplement the rail service. The Ramsey Star Express (route 856) will continue until December 14th.

Oh, and before I forget -- that presentation included a bullet point saying that improvements will be made to reduce travel time between Fridley and Target Field by 3 minutes. Anyone know what might be involved in that?

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Re: Northstar

Postby mattaudio » November 7th, 2012, 2:01 pm

Any chance a DFL house/senate/gov combo can make a push to connect this to St. Cloud?

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Re: Northstar

Postby talindsay » November 7th, 2012, 2:07 pm

I'd be really surprised, frankly. I think they'd rather not talk about it, and at this point it would be politically very risky to suggest spending a couple hundred mil more on a project that's so incredibly underperformed expectations. We all understand here why that's not fair and why it might be a really good idea to extend it to St. Cloud but if I was a centrist DFLer in a center-right district there's no way I'd stick my neck out to vote for that funding bill.

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Re: Northstar

Postby MNdible » November 7th, 2012, 2:32 pm

More than anything, this project needs the economy to turn around. That would fairly quickly drive up demand and cost for downtown parking and add more congestion to the roads. Short of that, you have to cross your fingers and hope for some more exurban sprawl.

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Re: Northstar

Postby reeckman » November 9th, 2012, 1:00 pm

Roughly 100 new daily round-trip riders are expected to use the Northstar Commuter Line when rail service at the new $13 million Ramsey Station starts next Wednesday, Nov. 14, the Star Tribune reports.

http://www.startribune.com/blogs/177905741.html

http://www.startribune.com/local/north/ ... ml?refer=y

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Re: Northstar

Postby mulad » November 18th, 2012, 4:05 pm

A shot of the Ramsey station from today. Light poles are annoying.

Image
Northstar Line Ramsey station by Mulad, on Flickr

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Re: Northstar

Postby Wedgeguy » November 18th, 2012, 4:39 pm

reeckman wrote:Roughly 100 new daily round-trip riders are expected to use the Northstar Commuter Line when rail service at the new $13 million Ramsey Station starts next Wednesday, Nov. 14, the Star Tribune reports.

http://www.startribune.com/blogs/177905741.html

http://www.startribune.com/local/north/ ... ml?refer=y
I wonder how many will be truely new patrons and how many will already be riders that find this station more convenient. I wish them luck, Will see if they can get some housing that people can afford to rent and also take the train in on. Don't think the $1100 a month will fly that far out!


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