APTA | Passenger Transport
November 23, 2009

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Metro Transit Celebrates the Arrival of Northstar

Metro Transit introduced commuter rail to the Twin Cities metropolitan area Nov. 16—opening 10 weeks ahead of schedule—and $10 million under budget. It began revenue service that morning on the 40-mile line between Big Lake and downtown Minneapolis by providing 1,207 rides.

“Today was a good beginning to a service that has been nearly 13 years in the making,” said Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb. “With speeds up to 79 mph, Northstar offers a fast trip and, more importantly, a consistent trip—51 minutes end-to-end regardless of weather and nearby road congestion. Northstar provides a viable alternative to driving alone in a car.”

The transit agency posted staff members at each of the six Northstar stations—Big Lake, Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids/Riverdale, Fridley and Target Field in Minneapolis—to help customers become acquainted with the new service.

Each train consists of a locomotive and four passenger cars, with seating for about 140 per car. The passenger cars have three seating levels, work tables, electrical outlets, and an on-board restroom. Further, every car can accommodate two bicycles and is fully accessible for persons with disabilities.

Northstar schedules five morning rush-hour trips to Minneapolis and five trips home in the afternoon, as well as one reverse-commute trip. The line operates three round trips on Saturdays and Sundays.

Upon their arrival at Target Field Station, passengers can make easy connections to Metro Transit’s Hiawatha Light Rail Line (which has been extended four blocks to ease transfers between the two systems) and to regional bus routes for rides to their final destinations.

In conjunction with the launch of Northstar service, St. Cloud Metro Bus in St. Cloud, MN, at the north end of the commuter rail line, inaugurated NorthstarLink commuter bus service between St. Cloud and the Big Lake Station.

Minnesota DOT designed and built the $317 million Northstar project, which is owned by the Metropolitan Council and managed by Metro Transit, an operating division of the council.

Weekend Celebrations
Prior to the introduction of regular service, the six Northstar stations opened their doors Nov. 14 for public events organized by the local communities, featuring speeches, entertainment, displays, and information on how to take public transportation. Approximately 3,500 people at the five suburban stations then boarded non-stop trains to Target Field Station.

On Nov. 13, the Northstar Corridor Development Authority (NCDA) brought together public officials including Federal Transit Administrator Peter M. Rogoff; Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; and Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Al Franken (D-MN) for the inaugural ride on the line. Guests also observed the historic connection of Northstar and Hiawatha lines at the Minneapolis Transportation Interchange, adjacent to Target Field.

In his remarks, Oberstar jokingly termed the new line “a moral issue” because it will decrease the number of times frustrated drivers swear at the traffic congestion.

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