Friday, March 11, 2016

Northstar gets a GRIP

"If you live in Minneapolis and take the train to St. Cloud, what do you do when you get there? Bus? Taxi? Hoof it?"

Really? Is our famous Northstar Train back in the news again? Our train from the northwest burbs to the ever shrinking downtown? First a bit of disclosure. I have ridden on this train. More than once - but not much more than that. I was also invited to take the inaugural run to Target Field just before it started carrying paying passengers. It was actually kind of fun. It has nice colors, had that new car smell, and it was kind of trendy.

Now down to facts. This train was sold as a panacea for the growing traffic problems on Highway 10. It is now 2016 and this train has been up and running for years. Traffic is still there. And it is bad. And it is getting worse. So first off, it has not helped ease traffic congestion. How about money? It is a loser. Never has made money, never will (unless the price of a ticket goes up to around $25).

Now a "social justice" group called GRIP/ISAIAH is involved in trying to get the state to extend the Northstar line up to St. Cloud. BTW, GRIP stands for Great River Interfaith Partnership). ISAIAH is an organization which encompasses GRIP as well as other minor faith based social justice groups. So yesterday about 20 or so folks from this group hopped on a Northstar Train to venture down to St. Paul. Since the legislature is in session, they thought they might have a captive audience to plead their case.

I will be the first to admit I am not the sharpest blade in the drawer. By the same token, I also try not to be the slowest turtle in the race. For the life of me, I can't figure out what GRIP/ISAIAH is trying to accomplish. Do all 20 of these folks live in St. Cloud and work in Minneapolis? Do we really want to spend another $100M or so to extend a train which is already bleeding red ink? Plus, if you live in Minneapolis and then take the train to St. Cloud, what do you do when you get there? Bus? Taxi? Hoof it?

I suppose there are some hidden advantages. For example, the "metropolis" of Rice, Minnesota is on the list for a stop and a station. For those who travel up Highway 10 on vacation, Rice is a familiar location. You just can't blink when you are going through or you will miss it. As the farmers used to say about small towns, "it has a population 36 with one old grouch". 

But groups like GRIP/ISAIAH don't give a rip about costs. They also believe in the money trees that grow in St. Paul and Washington. And if very few people end up riding this boondoggle train, so what? As they say about white elephant Christmas gifts, "it is the thought that counts." 

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