Fridley Remains Least Active Station on Northstar Line
Depending on the month, Fridley has accounted for 5 to 10 percent of overall ridership on Northstar Commuter Rail.
The first anniversary of Northstar Commuter Rail service last month arrived with news of ridership falling short of projected levels.
Fridley, site of the line's closest stop to its endpoint in downtown Minneapolis, wasn't a big help. Monthly ridership figures show that Fridley Station continues to lag as the least-busy among Northstar's half-dozen stations, which also include Coon Rapids, Anoka, Elk River and Big Lake.
Fridley's fits a pattern of lesser ridership at stations closer to downtown, where commuters have other transit choices and face shorter drives by car. For example, in October (the most recent month for which data is available), Elk River saw a daily average of 500 people traveling to and from Minneapolis, while Fridley averaged only 136.
At R.L. Stevenson Elementary School, located directly across East River Road from the Fridley Station, Principal Daryl Vossler said just one of the 40 people on staff commutes to work via Northstar.
Still, Fridley's share of overall Northstar's overall ridership jumped from the 5 to 6 percent range in cold-weather months to 10 percent from April through October—a period that coincides with the Minnesota Twins season (see graph).
Indeed, the Northstar park-and-ride lots in Fridley filled up for trains to Twins and Vikings games, observed City Manager William Burns. The line added trains especially to carry fans on game days.
But Burns said Northstar's impact on Fridley strikes him as "underwhelming" so far. He said locals who hoped that Northstar would spark redevelopment nearby, such as at the 25-acre JLT site near I-694, are still waiting.
Fridley's station required a pedestrian tunnel beneath active adjacent freight tracks to allow riders to reach the Northstar platform. Northstar's regular schedule has six trains in the morning and six in the late afternoon, with one trip during each period running counter to the rush-hour traffic.
But a new Northstar terminus further north could boost ridership. Plans to apply for federal funds to extend the line to its originally intended destination at St. Cloud are stalled for now, said Anoka County spokesperson Jill Brown.
However, Brown said the Northstar Corridor Development Authority remained committed to the extension and may consider a list of "triggers" for seeking Federal Transportation Administration aid later this month.
"It's a question of when will the attempt be made," Brown said.