MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — By the end of the year, Northstar’s ridership is expected to be 15 to 20 percent behind expectations and Metro Transit says it is partly to blame on high unemployment.
“The fact that fewer people are going to work is magnified by the Northstar line,” said company spokesman Bob Gibbons.
He also cites lower gas prices than when the line began service in 2009 and road improvements on U.S. Highway 10.
The 40-mile line between Big Lake and downtown Minneapolis finished the month of September only 5 percent behind ridership projections because of special events like Twins games, but now the true ridership picture is being revealed.
“When we built the budget for Northstar, we expected ridership would grow, but we haven’t seen that,” said Gibbons.
Gibbons said they’ll finish the year at 715,000 rides, far short of the 890,000 rides projected.
Because of lagging ridership, Metro Transit has decided against applying for federal money to extend the line from Big Lake to St. Cloud.
The Northstar commuter rail line marks its one-year anniversary on Nov. 16. To celebrate, Metro Transit will offer free rides next Tuesday and Wednesday.