By: Shaun Stachowski
Imagine hopping on a train in St. Cloud and being in Minneapolis in an hour, with stops. A nice smooth ride where you have nothing to worry about except the perfect song to listen to and enjoy. Conveniently, the train stops in Minneapolis where you have access to bus routes that will take you anywhere your heart may please.
That’s how nice life could be for any college student attending St. Cloud State University (SCSU) that lives in the greater Minneapolis area. Not only would it save one time from all the traffic on the road, but it would save time for your family because they wouldn’t have to drive up to St. Cloud to get you, instead they could pick you up from one of the stops or even pick you up from a bus stop near your house.
The original idea was to make the Northstar in two different parts; the first part was to get the main strip down and see how that faired, then later on expand it to attract more of an audience.
The train was made to help eliminate traffic and to decrease comminuting time for nine to five workers. Hopping on the train and being to the cities in less than an hour is very convenient, not just to people that work but to the general public. I know of many people that take the train down to Target Field to watch a ball game on a nice summer night. So expanding the train may help bring in revenue to the professional teams that way because the fans wouldn’t have the hassle of getting down there.
For students that attend St. Cloud State University, they have to take a shuttle to the Big Lake station that runs once a day, if one student has class until 5 they wont get to go home until the following day because there is only one chance to get to the Big Lake station. Expanding the Northstar to St. Cloud would take care of that problem and students, like myself, would benefit tremendously from it and take full advantage of it.
Expanding the train would do more than just help the students get back to their families sooner, it would also connect more of Minnesota. William Hume from St. Cloud Times writes about BSNF possibly making a whole new track just for the Northstar to ride on (Hume 7). Proceeding with that plan would make it much quicker for one to get across Minnesota.
Not only would it make it faster to get across the state, but that would also open up many jobs because it would make it quicker to commute and one could live farther away from where they work. Workers could hop on the train and be to work in the cities in ten to twenty minutes aside from the hour and a half it would take them to reach by car.
On the other side, it could potentially be exporting employees to the Twin Cities. Now with the cities more in reach, workers that were held back by the commute can now work their dream job in the cities.
Another major function holding back the expansion of the Northstar light rail is the budget. The way that the budget stands, the counties would be paying approximately $350 million between the four of them. There is no guaranteed fund from the federal budget, and many believe that without any federal funding there is no expansion.
Although many would like to see the expansion happen, most sides are not willing to put up the big bucks with out some sort of evidence that this expansion will produce some kind of revenue in the near future. They don’t want to throw their money into something that will have a tough time paying back its debts.
Coming from a student that attends SCSU, my fellow classmates and I would like to see the expansion happen. It doesn’t directly affect us with how much we pay for college but it would be nice to have a more reliable and safer ride to our homes. Having a safe ride home, especially in the Minnesota winters, when the icy roads are a big factor in how safe and quickly one gets to their destination, is a big concern. But with the expansion, we don’t have to catch a shuttle to get to the Big Lake station but instead make the walk or drive to the station where you get on a train and don’t have to worry about the weather outside.
Having the Northstar in Big Lake at our convenience is nice but once again I think the benefits of expanding it to St. Cloud outweigh the drawbacks by a far.