Northstar eyes Twins in ridership drop

In this file photo, conductor Vincent Roberts calls for passengers to board the Northstar commuter rail line before departing from Big Lake.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Metro Transit officials say there's been a slight decline in ridership on its Northstar Commuter Rail over last year and it's attributing the drop in part to a bad season for the Minnesota Twins.

"Northstar is now three years old, and attendance to games has been very high with the opening of Target Field, so this particular year there's been a noticeable decline, but ridership to special events is always variable season over season," said Metro Transit spokesman John Siqveland.

Northstar ridership was 589,686 through October - 13,215 rides or 2.2 percent below the same period last year, he said. And overall, ridership to Twins games on Metro Transit buses and trains was about 16 percent lower than 2011.

Even so, ridership is more than what Metro Transit officials had forecast, and they expect the opening of a new station in Ramsey and lowered fares through April to help boost ridership. It's the seventh station on the three-year old line. Officials hope that as ridership increases, they'll eventually extend the rail line to St. Cloud.

Developers and banks have already expressed interest in investing near the new rail station, according to Anoka County Commissioner Matt Look. But others have questioned the $13 million cost of the station.

There have been more than 1,700 rides to and from the Ramsey station since it opened on Nov. 14. Officials say they'll have a better sense of the new station's impact on weekday ridership in a few weeks.

The Northstar line is offering special trips for each Saturday night Target Holidazzle parade, parade, and for the last two home Vikings games of the season vs. rivals Chicago and Green Bay:

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