Carrying fewer passengers this year, Northstar commuter rail is slashing fares by as much as 25 percent in an attempt to attract new riders.
The fare reduction underscores the ongoing challenge the line -- now nearly three years old -- faces in persuading northwest suburban commuters to ride.
C'mon, Maple Grove! You need to do better! And step it up, Big Lake!
The report from the Star Tribune mentions another factor:
Ridership declined 2.8 percent through May of this year and is lagging even further behind expectations for 2012. Metro Transit officials blame it on a variety of factors, including the Twins' drawing fewer riders to Target Field, and say adjusting fares is part of the line's growing pains.So part of the problem is the vagaries of a baseball team? Perhaps a few ads featuring current Twins sensation Darin Mastroianni could sway the fickle masses.
Actually, a better explanation is available:
"You're not looking at a market that was suited to this," said David Levinson, a professor at the University of Minnesota.Yep. The same argument I've been making for a long time now. I know this is well-plowed ground, but let's go back to it for a moment. What's the problem? Well,
- The issue in the Twin Cities is that we have people coming from all directions to multiple destinations. We have two official downtowns and a de facto one on the 494 strip. We also have major corporations located throughout the suburbs. Many of the big medical device companies are located along 694 in the North Metro, while General Mills is on 169. United Health Group has facilities all over the west side of town. My office is in Burnsville. 3M is in Maplewood. A train that runs from Big Lake to downtown Minneapolis isn't especially useful to a lot of people.
- We have no geographical restrictions, either. Chicago sits on Lake Michigan. New York touches the ocean, as does San Francisco. We have rivers here and plenty of bridges, too. If you want to work in downtown Minneapolis, you might choose to live to the northwest. But you don't have any restrictions on where you live. You can't live on the northeast side of Chicago, because it doesn't exist. You can easily live northeast of downtown Minneapolis.
There will always be people who prefer to ride trains. There just aren't that many of them.