By Freedom Foundation of Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS — Reclining seats, reading lights, plug-ins for laptops and other amenities. No wonder a survey of Northstar passengers yielded a 94 percent satisfaction rating.
However, those glowing responses came not from Northstar Commuter Rail passengers, but from riders on an earlier Northstar transit line — the far more efficient and cost effective Northstar Commuter Coach express buses that paved the way for today’s trains in Minnesota.
The current train line’s latest ridership statistics through May reveal that Northstar Commuter Rail continues to go in reverse, down 3 percent, or 7,600 riders, since May 2011. The once ballyhooed line has come up short from the start, debuting with 183,000 fewer passengers than projected in 2010 and dropping 2.5 percent of ridership in 2011. At the same time, reliance on public transit in the Twin Cities continues to grow, largely on the strength of additional bus riders.
As transit officials strive to find ways to attract more riders through newly announced fare reductions, the Northstar express bus service looks better than ever in hindsight, especially in comparison to its failing successor.