Thursday, May 25, 2006

Similar and Different - Commuter Rail

DuluthNewsTribune.com reports in this May 9, 2006, article that an agreement to build and operate commuter rail called Northstar between the cities of St. Cloud and Minneapolis and Rochester is now in place.

The similarities to our own RailRunner abound. First, they've picked a name that will forever be confused with a corporate trademark when somebody is trying to find them on the web. Next, they are running it on BNSF Railway track, although (technically) the track on which RailRunner is going to run is now in the hands of the State of New Mexico. Do you suppose that BNSF didn't think they could put one over on the City Slickers in the Twin Cities, as they did over on the sombrero-wearing populace of New Mexico? Time will tell.

Furthermore, the distance traveled from end to end will be comparable to the full route distance from Belen to Santa Fe, once in operation.

There end the similarities. Northstar is expecting to carry 5600 passengers per day by 2020. That seems a little low for such a heavily populated metro area. Under the current draft schedule for RailRunner, the trains (9 one way and 7 the other) each day couldn't carry that many passengers in their two Bombardier bilevel coaches per train if they sold every seat on every train at least once a day. That kind of thing doesn't even happen in large metro areas.

The establishment of projects similar to RailRunner gives a little more weight and credibility to New Mexico's fledgling. We have been critical of RailRunner and the approach to commuter rail taken by New Mexico, but we applaud any projects that will promote and encourage more Passenger Rail.

We were going to take a look at some other recently reported and promising developments, but time doesn't permit with this post. So we will take that up another time.

© 2006 - C. A. Turek - mistertrains@gmail.com
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