From Brian Lamb, Metro Transit General Manager
The Northstar Commuter Rail Line marks its fourth anniversary tomorrow, and the milestone comes with plenty of reasons to celebrate.
Ridership has been higher than 2012 each month this year, including a record 24 percent increase in August. Average weekday rides topped 3,000 for the first time in June. At Coon Rapids/Riverdale Station, ridership is up 20 percent. Big Lake, Elk River and the new Ramsey Station are also seeing strong demand.
Combined, customers have boarded Northstar trains some 2.9 million times since its opening.
In addition to the positive trends on Northstar, St. Cloud Metro Bus reports ridership on its Northstar Link coach bus service connecting St. Cloud and Becker with Big Lake Station is up more than 8 percent this year.
Customers are benefiting from several recent changes. A $1 fare reduction was made permanent in April and free Wi-Fi was added to a car on every train in September, allowing customers to be more productive while they travel to and from work (passengers can also relax by enjoying the newly-updated Sound Point® Northstar corridor audio tour).
As part $95 million in investment to improve its railways throughout Minnesota, BNSF recently completed upgrades to track and signals in the Northstar corridor that will improve long-term reliability for Northstar customers. In Anoka, work continues on a new 344-space parking ramp and pedestrian overpass that will serve as a regional transportation hub. When it opens in December, this new facility will provide better access for customers and act as a catalyst for adjacent development.
In addition to this activity, development along the Northstar corridor is underway. A new 230-unit apartment complex connected to the Ramsey Station, The Residence at the COR, opened earlier this year and more nearby residences are now under construction. In Fridley, there are plans to build hundreds of new apartments, single-family homes and office space within walking distance of the train station.
Coinciding with this activity, we’ve been expanding our promotion of Northstar service to potential customers. For the first time this summer, a direct connection to State Fair express bus service was introduced at Fridley Station. Extra trains were also added for more large downtown events such as the Kenny Chesney concert at Target Field in July, which set a record for pre-sale Northstar tickets.
How to Ride presentations have meanwhile been offered to new audiences through newly-offered community education courses along the line led by Metro Transit Customer Advocates. St. Cloud State University students have also developed materials for class projects and have promoted Northstar and Link service to fellow students.
As we head into winter, we expect Northstar to again become an even more attractive option for commuters who prefer not battling delays on Highway 10 and I-94. The line’s sterling safety record and near-perfect on-time performance record is particularly attractive during snowy and icy commutes. Beyond rush hour, customers can also take Northstar to the Target Holidazzle Parade every Saturday this holiday season.
Looking further into the future, we believe the line named after a star known for faithfully guiding travelers to their destinations is very bright. In mid-2014, Northstar customers will join the rest of the region in celebrating the opening of the METRO Green Line and the new Target Field Station – additions that will make it more convenient for commuters to use Northstar as a part of their daily commute.
For this reason and others, there will be even more to celebrate when Northstar reaches its fifth anniversary.
> From the GM
> Northstar Commuter Rail Line
> Northstar Link
> Northstar line yields dividends
> Let history be your guide on the Northstar Commuter Rail Line
> METRO Blue Line marks ninth anniversary
> Isanti County News: Ridership, development rolling ahead for Northstar rail line
Photo: Construction continues on a new parking ramp and overpass at Northstar's Anoka Station. The facility is scheduled to be finished in December.