Metro Transit is hoping that a $1 decrease in fares will tempt more riders to use Northstar Commuter Rail, which runs from Big Lake to downtown Minneapolis.
Metro Transit is dropping most Northstar fares by $1 starting Wednesday. The fare from the Fridley station will decrease by only a quarter. That puts the line's fares at $3 to $6.
Metro Transit general manager Brian Lamb said surveys conducted by Metro Transit show that people in communities served by the line thought the fares were too high.
"This is our effort to try to gain a long-term focus and appeal for people who travel up and down that corridor," Lamb said, "but also to remind them that really by payment to that fare, it really represents a passport to the rest of the system, both light rail and bus."
Since it opened in late 2009, the Northstar line has fallen short of its yearly ridership goals and had some decline in actual ridership. In 2011, almost 7,000 fewer people took the train than the year before.
The line is also on pace to miss its projected goal of 765,000 riders this year. The first half of 2012 saw a 4 percent drop in riders from the same time in 2011.
Lamb said most of that decline in riders is because of lower demand during special events like Minnesota Twins games.
"We were a little bit disappointed at the slow growth in Northstar ridership," Lamb said. "While some of that slow growth is attributed to special events, we all know the Twins haven't been performing as well as they have in past years; we haven't seen the type of growth in the regular weekday service that we'd like to as well."
While Northstar has struggled with ridership, the line's revenue from fares increased last year, and it earned a net income in 2010 and 2011. That income gives the line the ability to absorb the $1 fare reduction, Lamb said.
The discount is slated to last until at least through April 2013.
Metro Transit also hopes to lure more riders to the Northstar line by adding a new station in Ramsey by the end of the year.