Northstar Commuter Rail

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DanPatchToget
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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby DanPatchToget » December 28th, 2020, 11:20 am

The Northstar St. Cloud Extension Study, which you can see if you scroll a little bit up on this thread, seems to assume the Amtrak station would be used. However I only quickly scanned the study, but I only saw mentions of the Amtrak station, not the East St. Cloud Park & Ride.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby mckilanowski » December 31st, 2020, 11:28 am

Just because I was curious (and looking at St. Cloud train stations for something else)...

The Amtrak station in St. Cloud is, from a transit user's perspective, ideal because it places you in town but it lacks available parking. The NorthStar Link lot fits with the other NorthStar stations, which are all parking lots at the edge of town.

However... Why not build a new station at the Post Office? I've heard that all mail sorting has moved out of that location and down to the Twin Cities, so the larger facility might not be needed anyway. Or there is the parking lot next to the Post Office. Or it looks like there are parking lots on 2nd street north, mere blocks from the Convention Center. Surely a downtown location would be ideal.
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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby MNdible » January 4th, 2021, 12:40 pm

While I understand the desire to cross the river to get closer to downtown, it doesn't make sense to have two stations (one Amtrak, one Northstar). And the Empire Builder needs to through-route to NoDak, so it wants to stay where it is.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby DanPatchToget » January 4th, 2021, 2:30 pm

Probably easiest, cheapest, and best to make the St. Cloud Amtrak depot a transit hub with local buses connecting to all inbound and outbound Northstar trips.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby DanPatchToget » March 24th, 2021, 6:43 pm

Oh Koznick, you'll find any reason to hate rail, won't you?

https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/Membe ... 5436/44246

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby Trademark » March 24th, 2021, 10:30 pm

Oh Koznick, you'll find any reason to hate rail, won't you?

https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/Membe ... 5436/44246
This got me thinking which would I rather have. Current northstar or cancel northstar and run more intercity trains between fargo and minneapolis thru st cloud.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby StandishGuy » March 27th, 2021, 11:00 am

Looks like there's an effort at the Legislature to "mothball" Northstar Commuter Rail... https://www.startribune.com/talks-surfa ... 600039131/

I have mixed feelings because I strongly support passenger rail, but the ridership was poor (pre-pandemic) and abysmal now. It's just not clear whether the extension to St. Cloud would turn things around enough. I fear the existing route to Big Lake is unsustainable. It seems that serving unwalkable, car-oriented sprawl with somewhat unreliable and infrequent rail service isn't working well.

IMO the Met Council should require land use changes surrounding transit stations on commuter and LRT lines promoting higher density and pedestrian-friendly development. It seems like they've strongly encouraged it along the SW LRT corridor, but Northstar station areas are still pretty lame all these years later.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby Trademark » March 27th, 2021, 11:44 am

Looks like there's an effort at the Legislature to "mothball" Northstar Commuter Rail... https://www.startribune.com/talks-surfa ... 600039131/

I have mixed feelings because I strongly support passenger rail, but the ridership was poor (pre-pandemic) and abysmal now. It's just not clear whether the extension to St. Cloud would turn things around enough. I fear the existing route to Big Lake is unsustainable. It seems that serving unwalkable, car-oriented sprawl with somewhat unreliable and infrequent rail service isn't working well.

IMO the Met Council should require land use changes surrounding transit stations on commuter and LRT lines promoting higher density and pedestrian-friendly development. It seems like they've strongly encouraged it along the SW LRT corridor, but Northstar station areas are still pretty lame all these years later.
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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby DanPatchToget » March 27th, 2021, 11:50 am

It doesn't help that Northstar only operates during rush hour with 5 peak direction and 1 reverse-commute trip, and that was pre-COVID. Unless you work in downtown or very close to there with a 8-4 or 9-5 job it's difficult for Northstar to work with people's commutes.

There has been decent development at stations, most recently Fridley, and I think something is being proposed near the Anoka station. However as I said, even with the pre-pandemic schedule the number of potential riders is severely limited, so even with development I think only a very tiny percentage of those new residents could work with Northstar's schedule.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby Trademark » March 27th, 2021, 1:08 pm

It doesn't help that Northstar only operates during rush hour with 5 peak direction and 1 reverse-commute trip, and that was pre-COVID. Unless you work in downtown or very close to there with a 8-4 or 9-5 job it's difficult for Northstar to work with people's commutes.

There has been decent development at stations, most recently Fridley, and I think something is being proposed near the Anoka station. However as I said, even with the pre-pandemic schedule the number of potential riders is severely limited, so even with development I think only a very tiny percentage of those new residents could work with Northstar's schedule.
Not too mention even if Northstar helps you get to work. Which is the best case scenerio. It does absolutely nothing in trips to get groceries and stuff from other stores, transport kids too and from events and the other spur of the moment things that come up. It's safe to say that Northstar inspired zero people to live a car free lifestyle. And that's before even discussing how auto oriented the area is. Honestly Red Rock would have made more sense as a commuter rail line then Northstar.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby DanPatchToget » March 27th, 2021, 1:30 pm

I'm kind of biased but in my opinion they should've bit the bullet and started with Dan Patch to Northfield. Even though it would require rebuilding the entire corridor there's a lot less freight traffic to deal with so a much better chance to add trips that aren't just for 9-5 suburban commuters.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby Trademark » March 27th, 2021, 5:44 pm

I'm kind of biased but in my opinion they should've bit the bullet and started with Dan Patch to Northfield. Even though it would require rebuilding the entire corridor there's a lot less freight traffic to deal with so a much better chance to add trips that aren't just for 9-5 suburban commuters.
Ya if they were able to run it at regular frequency then yes. But if we're talking jus plan commuter rail with the same level of frequency I'd still say red rock.

Off topic but jus curious. You know more bout the corridor then me. Is there any room for double tracking on Dan Patch and if so where?

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby DanPatchToget » March 27th, 2021, 7:01 pm

I'm kind of biased but in my opinion they should've bit the bullet and started with Dan Patch to Northfield. Even though it would require rebuilding the entire corridor there's a lot less freight traffic to deal with so a much better chance to add trips that aren't just for 9-5 suburban commuters.
Ya if they were able to run it at regular frequency then yes. But if we're talking jus plan commuter rail with the same level of frequency I'd still say red rock.

Off topic but jus curious. You know more bout the corridor then me. Is there any room for double tracking on Dan Patch and if so where?
As long as it actually served Downtown Hastings instead of a random spot miles away from the downtown just to have a giant park & ride lot (I'm looking at you Elk River and Big Lake).

In theory you could double-track the entire Dan Patch Line, but of course that comes with property acquisitions and the need to enlarge embankments and trenches that were only built for a single track. In terms of easiest places to build double-track segments, there are several places where there used to be sidings (one still exists just north of Old Shakopee Road). If I remember correctly the corridor was built for two tracks all the way between Bloomington and Northfield as that was part of the original route built when Marion Savage (owner of the Dan Patch Line) had grand plans for that corridor including electrification, which of course didn't happen.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby commissioner » March 28th, 2021, 11:54 pm

This has been kicked around pretty much since the line opened with nothing being done, granted COVID isn't helping. Besides, judging by some of their articles about either Northstar or LRT, the Star Trib has a bias against commuter rail or LRT.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby mulad » March 29th, 2021, 7:35 am

One idea I'd like to see pursued is the possibility of running the train somewhat slower so it can fit between freight trains more easily rather than needing to overtake them, which would ideally make BNSF more amenable to letting it run more often or over longer distances. And ideally, it would be a temporary thing to start up all-day service or extend to St. Cloud, while pursuing money to invest in upgrades like adding sidings or a full third track in certain locations.

Northstar has to obey the passenger speed limit of 79 mph, while the freight trains are maxing out at 60 mph (though I think some of the trains are limited to 50 mph or slower, depending on their cargo and equipment type). However, Northstar only averages 45 mph over the whole route, partly since it has to make station stops (though the average speed is also dragged down a lot by 25-40 mph running through parts of Minneapolis and Northtown Yard).

What if the average dropped to 40 mph? That would add 6 or 7 minutes to the route to Big Lake (taking 58 or 59 minutes), and about 11 minutes to a trip to St. Cloud (from a hypothetical 1h28 to 1h39). Note that today's Northstar + Northstar Link bus+train combination takes 1h55, so that would still be a substantial improvement for those riders, and I believe Jefferson Lines is scheduled at 1h30 between the downtowns of St. Cloud and Minneapolis, though it looks like they only make one real intermediate stop in Maple Grove.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby Trademark » March 29th, 2021, 4:39 pm

I hate to say it but I'm ready to say goodbye to the Northstar Commuter Rail. As a city and a transit community we must be able to admit our failings honestly. The limitations of the corridor and the lack of development doomed this line from the start. Don't tear down the stations just require greater investment for it too continue.

Or a light rail could be built. With 4 track for express trips. But until something like that is proposed and supported by the land use. We must use our money the best way we can. What if we could operate midtown Greenway train with Northstar's operating cost + rent.

Northstar is dead. In fact it never really lived.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby Trademark » March 29th, 2021, 5:42 pm

Or why not just a BRT line from Northtown to Anoka even If it came only every 30 minutes. That would be a huge improvement there.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby tmart » March 29th, 2021, 5:48 pm

I hate to say it but I'm ready to say goodbye to the Northstar Commuter Rail. As a city and a transit community we must be able to admit our failings honestly. The limitations of the corridor and the lack of development doomed this line from the start. Don't tear down the stations just require greater investment for it too continue.

Or a light rail could be built. With 4 track for express trips. But until something like that is proposed and supported by the land use. We must use our money the best way we can. What if we could operate midtown Greenway train with Northstar's operating cost + rent.

Northstar is dead. In fact it never really lived.
Considering how our...other attempts...at putting LRT in/near BNSF rights-of-way have gone, I think it's probably not even worth considering putting one through a much more active freight corridor. :lol: And in any case I think if we're spending the money for Light Rail it would make much more sense to serve Central Ave rather than the freight yard.

Now, I do agree that Northstar can't continue in its present shape--it's in the infamous Ridership Death Spiral, where ridership drops lead to service cuts lead to more ridership drops, and so on. Is there an appetite in St. Paul to hear the truth--that Northstar needs more investment to succeed? Maybe not. But I think if we can't make Northstar succeed, it probably means we won't consider any regional rail projects (except maybe Duluth since it's shovel-ready) for a very long time. Fair or not, the specter of Northstar will loom over any other projects. And that would be a real shame, because there's so much potential in lines to St. Cloud, Rochester, Mankato, Northfield/Faribault/Owatonna, Hastings/Red Wing/La Crosse, and Stillwater/Eau Claire, and we haven't even begun to tap it.
This has been kicked around pretty much since the line opened with nothing being done, granted COVID isn't helping. Besides, judging by some of their articles about either Northstar or LRT, the Star Trib has a bias against commuter rail or LRT.
I think the Strib loves to triangulate out centrist positions so they can push for bipartisanship or compromise, so as to appear neutral themselves; complaining about expensive transit projects but supporting cheap ones fits the bill. (I think they do this to a fault, a.k.a. the Golden Mean Fallacy. It's not uncommon for one of the two positions on offer really has no merit and shouldn't factor in to the discussion, but if your default behavior is to try and try to find some value in each side of an issue, you'll end up critiquing a lot of legitimately good points and lending your editorial credibility to a lot of bad ones.)

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby DanPatchToget » March 29th, 2021, 6:10 pm

I hate to say it but I'm ready to say goodbye to the Northstar Commuter Rail. As a city and a transit community we must be able to admit our failings honestly. The limitations of the corridor and the lack of development doomed this line from the start. Don't tear down the stations just require greater investment for it too continue.

Or a light rail could be built. With 4 track for express trips. But until something like that is proposed and supported by the land use. We must use our money the best way we can. What if we could operate midtown Greenway train with Northstar's operating cost + rent.

Northstar is dead. In fact it never really lived.
Northstar is indeed a failure in its current form, but that doesn't mean we have to mothball it and wait for a time that will probably never come when this route has the density for both light rail and regional express trips.

-extend it to St. Cloud
-stop relying entirely on suburban commuters who work in Downtown Minneapolis 8-4 or 9-5
-build infill stations (Downtown Elk River, Broadway & Central, and Lowry come to mind)
-build the third mainline track
-run the trains all day in both directions, and it doesn't need to be high frequency, even just a few midday and a couple evening roundtrips would do wonders

Obviously these steps aren't easy and cheap, but it's the only way to turn Northstar around post-COVID.

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Re: Northstar Commuter Rail

Postby Trademark » March 29th, 2021, 10:13 pm

I hate to say it but I'm ready to say goodbye to the Northstar Commuter Rail. As a city and a transit community we must be able to admit our failings honestly. The limitations of the corridor and the lack of development doomed this line from the start. Don't tear down the stations just require greater investment for it too continue.

Or a light rail could be built. With 4 track for express trips. But until something like that is proposed and supported by the land use. We must use our money the best way we can. What if we could operate midtown Greenway train with Northstar's operating cost + rent.

Northstar is dead. In fact it never really lived.
Northstar is indeed a failure in its current form, but that doesn't mean we have to mothball it and wait for a time that will probably never come when this route has the density for both light rail and regional express trips.

-extend it to St. Cloud
-stop relying entirely on suburban commuters who work in Downtown Minneapolis 8-4 or 9-5
-build infill stations (Downtown Elk River, Broadway & Central, and Lowry come to mind)
-build the third mainline track
-run the trains all day in both directions, and it doesn't need to be high frequency, even just a few midday and a couple evening roundtrips would do wonders

Obviously these steps aren't easy and cheap, but it's the only way to turn Northstar around post-COVID.
If a third track is built then the conversation is changed. But at it's current track capacity there is such a limitation on frequency that no real transit can be constructed there. I almost think putting something on East River Rd might make more sense at this point connecting it to Northtown. If it was BRT it could feed in very well to 610 to 252 to 94 to downtown.

As long as there is no appetite for midday service and no land use supporting Transit. This line will never improve more than marginaly. We need to stop subsidizing far flung suburbs. Or we focus the investment on proving once or twice daily roundtrip intercity rail to St. cloud and Fargo. It would probably be similar operating costs then the current scenerio.


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