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Northstar ridership misses 2010 goal by 21 percent

Northstar has loyal riders, but not enough of them.
Northstar has loyal riders, but not enough of them.

Metro Transit had a another good year, generally.

But when it comes to the Northstar commuter rail service, it looks like the bloom is off the rose. The line missed its 2010 ridership projections by 21 percent.

The numbers -- 710,400 riders in total -- aren't unexpected. Metro Transit forecast the missed goal back in December.

But it's another bump in the tracks for the rush-hour service that appears to have over-promised on projected use since it opened in November 2009. Plans for expansion to St. Cloud were recently put on hold when it became clear that ridership projections wouldn't meet the baseline necessary for federal funding.

Metro Transit blamed the flagging Northstar numbers on the recession, and unemployment statistics that suggest fewer people needed to commute downtown this past year. And it put the best face it could on the news by pointing out that Northstar is running within budget.

Other Metro Transit programs fared better for the year. The Hiawatha light rail posted a 6 percent boost in traffic. Express bus ridership tallied a 2.5 percent jump in users, and urban bus route use went up 0.7 percent.


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