NORTHSTAR: A failed experiment meets the entitlement generation

A group of St. Cloud area activists are headed to the Capitol to lobby for additional taxpayer dollars to build an extension of the failed Northstar commuter rail line. Northstar currently operates five weekday trips (and three on weekends) from Big Lake to downtown Minneapolis on 40 miles of leased railway. ISAIAH activists from the St. Cloud area are lobbying for additional taxpayer funds to build an extension of the commuter rail line from Big Lake to St. Cloud. The chair of ISAIAH, the Revered James Alberts, “called the current requirement that St. Cloud residents first take a bus in order to get on the train ‘antiquated.’”

Another ISAIAH member and student at St. Cloud State University, Richard Gordon, told the St. Cloud Times that “[W]e feel we deserve the option to not own a car. I’ve never owned a car and I don’t plan to, so I need this train.”

The line opened for service in 2010 and cost taxpayers $320 million to build, of which 50 percent of the construction costs were provided by federal transportation funds.

Facts often get in the way of mass transit activists seeking more public subsidies to prop up antiquated transportation options. Even so, we thought it would be timely to share the most recent data on the Northstar Commuter Rail operations (provided by Metro Transit) before any additional taxpayer funds are wasted on what remains a failed commuter rail experiment:

A quick glance at these numbers proves that Northstar is an expensive experiment that lacks ridership and public support. After five years, ridership has barely increased and much of that is due to baseball and football fans using Northstar on weekends as an inexpensive way to get downtown. An extension of this rail project would be doubling-down on a proven failure in mass transit but more importantly, would divert existing public transportation funds into a project that has proven to have very little public support and does not provide a practical method of efficient mass transit.

Students like Mr. Gordon at St. Cloud State are certainly entitled to believe they should have the “option to not own a car”. I might remind him however, that Minnesota taxpayers aren’t required to pay for his lifestyle choices regardless of what he might have heard at a Bernie Sanders rally.

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