Interest in rail line is incredibly high

I can appreciate the frustration experienced by some who were not able to use the Link commuter bus or the Northstar train Dec. 10 for the free Holidazzle Parade event. Compared with previous Northstar promotions, the enormous response was surprising — particularly among those from central Minnesota.

Did thousands of people come out for the free ride, the rare evening train, nice weather, or all of the above? We won’t know for everyone, but the turnout indicates terrific interest in transit.

For the second, and final, free Saturday on Dec. 17, things ran very smoothly. Metro Bus in St. Cloud and Metro Transit coordinated to add extra Link buses and Northstar service. On Dec. 17, four Link buses ran from St. Cloud to Big Lake. A third train was added to serve the parade, and each train used the maximum number of five cars. Metro Transit also used bus backup at some of the train stations.

Still, there were probably a few people who missed out on this first-come, first-served opportunity. I, and others with the Northstar Corridor Development Authority, wish every last person could’ve been accommodated.

Nearly 5,000 people got a chance to experience the train on Dec. 17. I hope they’ll be back, now that they’ve seen firsthand how easy, fast, safe and reliable transit can be.

There’s a financial incentive, too. The Associated Press just reported that it has been 30 years since gasoline took such a big bite out of the family budget — $4,155 at the gas pump in 2011. That is 8.4 percent of the median American family income, the highest since 1981. I know using public transit for some trips can stretch transportation dollars.

To everyone who came out Dec. 10 or 17 to ride the Link and the Northstar train, thanks for your support and patience. Come back and try it for your next trip or work commute. You, and your wallet, won’t be disappointed. — Larry Farber, Sherburne County commissioner (Editor’s note: Farber is an Alternate member, Northstar Corridor Development Authority.)