St. Cloud looks hopefully for Northstar

Courtesy of Metro Transit
Ridership of Northstar has been going up even after factoring in weather-related woes last year.

Advocates of extending the Northstar commuter rail line from Big Lake to St. Cloud are finding new reasons for hope. Kirsti Marohn of the St. Cloud Daily Times lists a few of the reasons: Ridership has been going up even after factoring in weather-related woes last year; BNSF added a second track between Big Lake and Becker, which would be necessary to accommodate the commuter train; the slowdown in oil production in North Dakota has reduced the number of trains using the track, which could make it easier to negotiate a lease with BNSF — all of which could bring down the cost of extending the line. Met Transit already owns the cars, the Amtrak station in St. Cloud could be used as a terminal rather than building a new structure, and of course there’s a budget surplus.

While Cirrus’ 2 percent drop in deliveries is not a positive thing, it’s better than the 6.5 percent drop in single-engine piston plane shipments worldwide, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. Candace Renalls of the Duluth News-Tribune reports that the Duluth-based aircraft manufacturer delivered 301 planes in 2015, down from 308 in 2014. The industry is taking a hit by dropping energy sector revenue, economic uncertainty and currency fluctuations in markets such as Brazil, Europe, Russia and China. But sales of Cirrus’ piston-engine planes remains strong and the company is investing heavily in a jet-engine product, and total revenues are up from $217 million in 2014 to $221 million in 2015 — the result of higher prices and customers opting for more loaded planes.

A report released last week shows that sexual assault victims in Greater Minnesota are less likely to receive adequate care. Don Davis of the Forum News Service writes that the report, from the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, showed a “vast amount of inconsistency across the state when it comes to providing the sexual assault examination,” said Kari Ogrodowski, coordinator of the Medical Forensic Exam Access Project. Treatment is good in the Twin Cities, Duluth, Willmar, Rochester and some other Minnesota cities, coalition Executive Director Jeanne Ronayne said. But in most of rural Minnesota, medical professionals lack training to administer physical sexual assault tests and help victims obtain a variety of types of help. Kasey Baker of Willmar-based Safe Avenues said some rural hospitals may send victims to other hospitals, adding large ambulance bills, and most people never go. “The reality is that the current way in which exams are conducted in Minnesota can and have retraumatized victims,” Baker said.

A Becker man and his 10-year-old daughter died after an accident caused by a teen who was texting while driving. The St. Cloud Times reports that Carlee Rose Bollig, 17, pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal vehicular homicide. She was the driver of a vehicle that ran a red light on U.S. Highway 10 at Sherburne County Road 11 in Becker on July 21 and collided with Charles Maurer, 54, of Becker, and his 10-year-old daughter, Cassy. Maurer died that evening, while Cassy died of complications related to the collision 10 days later. Court records showed Bollig sending and receiving social media messages right before the crash. Sherburne County District Court Judge Thomas Hayes ruled that the case would proceed as an “extended jurisdiction juvenile proceeding,” meaning Bollig will get a juvenile sentence as well as an adult sentence that could be imposed if she fails to comply with the juvenile sentence.

The Brainerd School Board has narrowed the choices for a new superintendent to three candidates. Spenser Bickett of the Brainerd Dispatch writes that the board interviewed six candidates and cut the list to these people: Laine Larson, superintendent for Thief River Falls Public Schools in Thief River Falls; Deb Olson, superintendent for Clinton Community School District in Clinton, Iowa; and Tim Mitchell, superintendent for Rapid City Area School District, in Rapid City, S.D. They will be interviewed again next week and sit in focus groups with staff and students.

A Rochester police officer lost a tooth on Valentine’s Day after responding to a dispute between two female roommates. Brett Boese of the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports that police received a 911 call just after 10 a.m. Sunday because a woman wasn’t allowing her roommate into the apartment. Rochester Police Capt. John Sherwin said a 19-year-old woman became “upset” and elbowed the officer in the face. “He will probably need some dental work,” Sherwin said.

The director of Schoolcraft Learning Community is facing allegations he made unwanted sexual advances toward an employee. Kyle Farris of the Bemidji Pioneer reports that Scott Anderson will begin a three-day suspension after an independent investigation found he exhibited “inappropriate conduct” and “did not adhere to professional boundaries.” A former paraprofessional and nurse at the school alleges Anderson tried repeatedly during conversations and text correspondences to turn their relationship into a sexual one. School board chair Mark Morrissey said an initial investigation in November proved inconclusive but a second investigation in December established inappropriate conduct, and led to the suspension.

Dover-Eyota Elementary School on Monday officially opened its $7.4 million addition and renovation. Andrew Setterholm of the Post-Bulletin lists the school’s new features: an added cafeteria and large kitchen that will free up gym space that had been used as a cafeteria and added equipment that will improve food offerings; preschool programs moved to D-E Elementary so preschool students and teachers can collaborate with K-5 teachers and alleviate student anxiety at changing buildings between preschool and kindergarten; a new main office, nurse’s office, conference room and staff workroom; renovated office space turned into two kindergarten classrooms and renovated classrooms turned into an art room, a music room and a third computer lab; and a resurfaced gym floor. The elementary school serves 525 K-5 students and another 100 preschool children.

A scam across the region involves a text message that has the appearance of coming from Fulda Area Credit Union. Robin Baumgarn of the Worthington Daily Globe writes that the phishing text scam occurs when you receive an SMS message that is supposedly sent from a reputable source, such as a bank, asking for personal information. The links can take you to false sites that closely resemble the actual website of the financial institution. Laura Honken, vice president of operations for Fulda Area Credit Union, said both customers and noncustomers received the text message, indicating the numbers were obtained from means other than stealing identities from FACU. 

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 02/16/2016 - 02:20 pm.

    Northstar is a good ride

    I would certainly use it to get to and from St. Cloud.

    • Submitted by Dan Berg on 02/16/2016 - 03:13 pm.

      Would you…

      Would that be true if you needed to pay for the entire cost accosiated witth the trip? If you aren’t from there how would you get around once you arrived?

      Northstar is basically the subsidization of sprawl and primarily benefits developers in the exurbs.

      • Submitted by Brian Simon on 02/17/2016 - 08:26 am.

        Wouldn’t it be nice

        I wish everyone paid the full cost of the amenities they used. There’d be far fewer cars, I’d bet.

        • Submitted by Dan Berg on 02/17/2016 - 12:43 pm.

          Maybe

          That is quite possibly true. I don’t care one way or the other what modes end up being used. In general we would have less use of transportation of all types since it is all subsidized. It seems most likely that if all had to pay their true costs the modes with the highest subsidies would see the largest reduction. Light rail would for instance have zero riders.

  2. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 02/16/2016 - 05:39 pm.

    Far better idea

    Than expanding I 94 to three lanes to St. Cloud.

  3. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/17/2016 - 06:05 am.

    I Fully Expect

    That the St. Cloud legislators, members of the small government let’s rein in government spending crowd, will work feverishly to to the expansion of the North Star Line.

    or is it small government for thee but not for me?

  4. Submitted by Matthew Steele on 02/17/2016 - 04:26 pm.

    Not necessarily

    According to the Tax Foundation (a conservative group, no less), the combination of gas taxes, tolls, and all other user fees combined only cover 41.9% of road costs in Minnesota. Motorists are being subsidized for nearly 60% of their driving habits – and that’s not even counting negative externalities or opportunity costs. The Green Line LRT had a 36% farebox recovery ratio for its first six months of operations, and ridership has increased even further since that figure was released by the APTA 9 months ago. So, in reality, motorists are subsidized roughly equal to transit users.

    • Submitted by Dan Berg on 02/17/2016 - 06:35 pm.

      Bad math

      You need to include not just the operating costs of light rail but the original cost of the build and costs of the work to rebuild the tracks every 20 for so years as required or replace the rolling stock. That will likely change your numbers quite a bit. Also consider that a majority of the costs of using an automobile are born completely by the user; fuel, insurance, cost of the vehicle itself. This means that even if the costs of the roads were completely paid for by the traffic on them it would represent a much smaller increase in the total cost of using that roads relative to the entire price already being paid. So the idea that motorists are being subsidized nearly 60% for their “habit” is a complete and obvious fabrication. Of course it sounds good if your point is to manipulate the conversation to your predetermined conclusion rather than discuss the facts at hand.

      If you were to use a true all in number for both modes you are going to get very different results than the ones you cherry picked. What you compared is basically the on going vehicle costs for one mode and the infrastructure costs for the other. Not a meaningful comparison.

    • Submitted by Dan Berg on 02/18/2016 - 06:11 am.

      p.s.

      Here is the correct way to think of it.

      Light Rail: Infrastructure Subsidies 100%, Operating Cost Subsidies 64%
      Auto Traffic: Infrastructure Subsidies 58.1%, Operating Cost Subsidies 0%

      Also, streets and roads were around before cars and are needed even if cars were relegated to a much smaller role in overall transportation so claiming that they should be the only source of revenue for roads is a bit disingenuous. Transportation of goods (like the food in the grocery stores) and emergency services (police, fire and EMT response) can’t be supported by rail either. On top of that the vast majority of public mass transit is via buses which use the roads and cause much more damage to them (along with heavy trucks) than an infinite number of passenger cars.

      So again, I would live to make everybody pay the real costs of the transportation they consume and see where we end up. I would bet just about anything light rail would grind to a halt. One thing is for sure, it will be more efficient and we will consume less of it. Subsidizing any mode simply increases use, reduce density and walkable neighborhoods all while consuming more fuel.

Leave a Reply