Daily commuter ridership up on Northstar; overall ridership drops slightly

Click here, northstar online, to see a graph of Northstar commuter rail ridership by station.

by Joni Astrup
Associate editor
Ridership among daily commuters on the Northstar commuter rail was up 7 percent in 2011. Overall ridership declined 1 percent, however, primarily due to a freight train derailment near Fridley in mid-July which halted all rail service on the BNSF track for several days, according to Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb.

The Northstar commuter train.

There were also fewer special event riders.
“Despite some new challenges in 2011, Northstar performed very well in its second full year of service,” Lamb said. “The primary market of daily commuters continued to increase and the line again ended the year under budget. Even during the toughest weather conditions, Northstar proved its reliability with near-perfect on-time performance at more than 96 percent.”
Total Northstar ridership for 2011 was 703,427, compared to 710,426 in 2010.
Northstar provides commuter train service between Big Lake and Minneapolis. 2010 was its first full year of operation.
Northstar train stations are located at Elk River, Big Lake, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Fridley. In Minneapolis the train stops at  Target Field Station.
The Big Lake station had the greatest ridership compared to Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Fridley, with a total 2011 ridership of 106,720. Elk River was second in ridership at 100,017. Elk River had edged Big Lake in ridership in 2010.
“Generally, the further the station is from Minneapolis, the higher the ridership,” said John Siqveland of Metro Transit. He said it’s also worth noting that St. Cloud has commuter bus service that connects to the Northstar line at Big Lake.
Overall across the Metro Transit bus and train system, 2011 ridership topped 80 million for only the second time in a generation.
Customers boarded Metro Transit buses and trains nearly 81 million times in 2011, an increase of 2.7 million rides or 3.5 percent over 2010.
With total ridership of 80,886,892, the year rivaled 2008’s historic 81.8 million rides.