November 16, 2009

1,207 customers board Minn. Northstar on first day

On Monday, Metro Transit reported that 1,207 paying passengers rode Northstar commuter rail for first time as the 40-mile service launched this weekend between Big Lake and downtown Minneapolis.

Assuming morning riders return home this afternoon, first-day totals will reach 2,414 rides, 70 percent of average weekday ridership expected during the first year.

Northstar offers five morning rush-hour trips to Minneapolis and five trips home in the afternoon as well as one reverse-commute trip. Three roundtrips are available on Saturdays and Sundays.

"Today was a good beginning to a service that has been nearly 13 years in the making," said Metro Transit GM 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 for those who live along the Highway 10 corridor."

Metro Transit posted staff members at each of Northstar's six stations - Big Lake, Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids, Fridley and Target Field in Minneapolis - to help customers get acquainted with Northstar service. Those staff members will be on hand through Wednesday and again over the weekend. Then, as intended, Northstar will become a self-service operation.

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

Each suburban station has adjacent park-and-ride facilities, and platforms are equipped with cameras, emergency telephones, enclosed shelters, heating and other amenities.

The $317 million Northstar rail project was designed and constructed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. It is owned by the Met Council and managed by Metro Transit, an operating division of the Council.

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