The Taxpayers’ Missing Link?

Northstar Commuter Rail has been running from Big Lake to Downtown Minneapolis since November 2009. While ridership has been on par with projections by Metro Transit, taxpayers are still subsidizing $80 for every $15 round-trip ticket, according to a Freedom Foundation of Minnesota analysis. Yet Northstar officials and policymakers continue to push an extension of the line to St. Cloud, which would have a major impact on taxpayers.

The latest in FFM’s series of Government Accountability videos looks into both the proposed Phase II extension as well as the current system in place and shows why proponents of the extension may want to hold off on an extension for now.

Our video The Taxpayers’ Missing Link? can be viewed below, and be sure to read our previous analysis of the substantial taxpayer subsidies attached to the Northstar line.

Facts on Northstar Link:

• Service for Northstar Commuter Rail from Big Lake to Downtown Minneapolis and Northstar Link bus service began on November 16, 2009.

• The Northstar Link is administered and operated by St. Cloud Metro Bus, while the Northstar Commuter Rail is operated by Metro Transit.

• Northstar Link is projected to provide 45,000 rides in its first year of service.

• Northstar Commuter Rail officials have projected 897,000 rides in its first year.

• This year’s budgeted cost for the Northstar Link is $466,000.

• The Northstar Corridor Development Authority (NCDA) will spend $356,000 on the first year’s operating cost of the Northstar Link.

• Northstar Commuter Rail’s 2010 operating cost is $16.8 million.

• The East St. Cloud Park & Ride lot’s construction cost was $365,000 and included contributions from the NCDA, Sherburne County, and Stearns County.

• Capital costs of extending the Phase II portion of the line are estimated at $150 million, according to Northstar officials and a 2007 feasibility study.

• Operating costs of the Northstar extension range between $1.4 million to $3.8 million, according to the same feasibility study.


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