New $13 million transit station for … 100 riders
posted at 11:12 am on November 9, 2012 by Ed Morrissey
Yesterday, I flew home to the Twin Cities. Today, I know I’m back. Transit officials here cut the ribbon on a new $13 million station for the Northstar Commuter light-rail line that may serve as the precursor to a lengthy and costly extension to St. Cloud. So how many riders will it add? Only 100, a figure that even prompts the Star Tribune to raise an eyebrow:
A new rail station that opens next Wednesday in Ramsey could give the Northstar Commuter line the ridership boost it needs for an eventual extension to St. Cloud, an Anoka County official says.
But even as a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday heralded the arrival of the seventh station along the line, others have questioned the cost: about $13 million, or an average of roughly $130,000 for each of the 100 new daily round-trip riders the station is expected to attract. Some also wonder whether the new station will merely siphon riders from the two stations on either side of it.
“I thought that the Ramsey station was not needed and pretty costly,” Sherburne County Commissioner Felix Schmiesing, a longtime Northstar advocate, said earlier this fall. “The 200 rides per day. … I hope they’re there.”
Anoka County Commissioner Matt Look, a former Ramsey council member, predicted the new station will exceed the 100 daily round trips that Northstar officials hope it will generate. With a bus line being discontinued because of the station’s arrival, and a 230-unit apartment complex going up near the site, Look said the station could increase Northstar’s overall ridership by 25 percent. Based on current figures, that would be a rise of about 600 rides per day.
Still, detractors question the outlay for a station that is 4 miles from the stop in Anoka and six miles from the stop in Elk River. They say the time and money would have been better spent on plans to extend the 41-mile line beyond Big Lake, its western endpoint.
Hey, it’s the price of progress. And let’s face it — at $130,000 per rider, it’s still less expensive than the per-job cost of Obama’s stimulus.