Bring the Northstar to St. Cloud

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.

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2 thoughts on “Bring the Northstar to St. Cloud

  1. I agree with Shaun S., that we should extend the Northstar to St. Cloud. It would expand job searching significantly, and make our state more interconnected. Knowing a little already about it, and that there is currently 6 stops being at: Big Lake-> Elk River-> Ramsey-> Coon Rapids-> Fridley-> Downtown Minneapolis. Currently the most convenient way to travel from St. Cloud to Minneapolis with public transportation, is by bus, and takes usually over 2 hrs. to get there. So most people either just end up driving themselves, which takes usually a little over an hour, or take the bus, usually having extremely long days, and poor hours during the weekends. Its hard to say its worth the money, being $350 million, but it is split between 4 counties, 87.5 million per county, which is still an expensive project. I do think it would be worth it, because there is so many ways that this proposal could change St. Cloud and Minneapolis’s relationship. The first way is how it will save money and time for the average person who commutes from St. Cloud to any of the destinations on the line. Comparing to Minneapolis it would cut public transit time from a little over 2 hours too just 1 hour, not to mention public transportation can save almost $10,000 annually for the avg. Minneapolis citizen. That could be a new car after 2 years… It will also decrease the fossil fuels we are pumping into the atmosphere, by using public transportation. Another thing it would greatly affect is the traffic in Minneapolis. It would also improve connections of all kinds between St. Cloud, Minneapolis, and all the cities on the line. We need to start promoting more public transportation in MN. We are doing a great job in the metro area, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and suburbs. But, I think it needs to be updated in other decent sized cities like St. Cloud. And introducing that Northstar rail line could do a lot to increase that in our city.

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  2. Public transportation. The solution to so many problems. First of all it just makes life so much more convenient. As Shaun stated, it’s “a nice smooth ride where you have nothing to worry about except the perfect song to listen to and enjoy.” Even in the middle of winter I might add. Imagine the possible reduction of accidents and of course the associated reduction of costs caused by emergency services.
    This is just one of the ways long-term costs could be saved. Railroad tracks (http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/tcrp/tcrp_webdoc_43.pdf) are far easier and cheaper to maintain than paved roads (http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_688.pdf). Having a medium for mass transit from St. Cloud to the metro area is a no brainer to me. Home to one of the main colleges in the state of Minnesota with approx. 15,000 Students plus around 66,000 further inhabitants, St. Cloud has enough prospects to make a Northstar line sensible. Furthermore, being nearly central in Minnesota, St. Cloud could become a major transit hub if implemented correctly.
    It may very well be that the investment of expanding the Northstar line won’t break even within the next five years or maybe even 20 years. However, I think it would significantly increase the standard of living in St. Cloud and the surrounding areas. Particularly after breaking even (it will eventually [http://www.bayerischeoberlandbahn.de/strecken-fahrplaene/linie/3-munchen-hbf-holzkirchen-bayrischzell]) the line will even generate profits for the city of St. Cloud.
    In Germany I lived in a town with a population (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holzkirchen,_Upper_Bavaria) of approx. 15,000. This town had a train station with six platforms and was a major transportation hub for the surrounding area. Having such an opportunity practically made owning a car obsolete. I was able to travel to the center of Munich in less than 20 minutes by taking an express train and it was possible for me to travel to the popular bar and nightclub district by taking a train very similar to the Metro Northstar (http://www.s-bahn-muenchen.de/s_muenchen/view/index.shtml) (I probably don’t even have to mention the near-extermination of problems such as drunk driving).
    Effectively, I agree with Shaun about all of the advantages an extension of the Northstar line would bring along. Let alone the positive impact a train connection to the cities would have on the environment by negating the need for massive amounts of gasoline. I just don’t understand how a country as advanced as the United States of America can be so far behind when it comes to public transportation. And I’m not talking about public transportation in major cities (that should be a given by now [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/21st_century]), I’m talking about public transportation in areas where people actually have a legitimate need for it.

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