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Will Northstar Ticket-price Reduction Raise Ridership?

25 cent fare drop for Fridley riders is lowest on commuter-rail line.

An on the Northstar Commuter Rail line got front-page treatment in the Star Tribune Friday. The main question the article asked: Will lower ticket prices attract more riders? An excerpt:

Transit officials say surveys show that fares and the lack of off-peak service are cited as reasons for not riding the Northstar.

"We've had many surveys coming back that the fares are just too high," [Metro Transit Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Commuter and Light Rail Ed] Byers said.

Passengers pay $7 to ride the 40 miles from Big Lake to downtown Minneapolis.

That fare will drop to $6 under the new pricing formula. Fares from Anoka or Coon Rapids-Riverdale to downtown will be cut from $4 to $3.

[University of Minnesota professor David] Levinson is skeptical it will pay off.

"They're hoping to use this to give people a taste who might otherwise not have tried it," he said. "I just don't think there's a large market out there of people who would ride the Northstar line ... for a $1 fare drop."

The gamble Northstar's operators are taking in Fridley is less than that dollar bet: Fares here will drop by 25 cents under the plan for rush-hour rides.

Metro Transit spokesperson John Siqveland said by email Friday that the Met Council approved the rate changes unananimously last week. They go into effect Aug. 1.

John July 06, 2012 at 07:28 PM
People need incentives to use Northstar. Right now, gas is not expensive enough and traffic is not bad enough to encourage people to use it. Plus, the Northstar doesn't run often enough during non commuter hours. If you want to provide incentives for Northstar, turn Hwy. 10 and I-94 into tollways. Otherwise, people will not use it until gas gets back over $4.50 a gallon.
Pam Reynolds July 08, 2012 at 03:33 PM
No. The fare reduction only increases taxpayer subsidy!
Mark July 08, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Maybe, maybe not Pam. If more people ride the train with the reduced fares, we might see a reduction in the taxpayer subsidy. It's the old price versus volume argument. If you drop the price and have more volume, you can make more money depending on the amount of volume. That is why places like Costco do so well, they have lower margins but rely on volume. It's the same reason hotels will lower their prices if they haven't met a certain volume.

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