I support mass transit options that can be teased into some kind of economic sense.

Which means I oppose almost all of them.  In almost all cases, mass transit is like big box schools; they serve their main purpose badly, but they are superb monuments to the governments that built them.
Now, the Metro’s two big “commuter rail” projects, the Northstar and the Red Rocks lines, could be exceptions.  They are very, very different from the Ventura Trolley and the proposed Central Corridor lines in that

  1. they use existing tracks (to say nothing of right-of-way), the same ones that all the freight trains use today.  Other than stations, a few extra switches and sidings, they can be very cheap to build.
  2. The rolling stock – the cars and engines – can be relatively cheap.  Indeed, it’s possible to buy used engines and cars from other commuter rail systems, refurbish them, and get them on the road for a fraction of the cost of buying new.

Via those factors – and given decent ridership – it’s actually possible, in theory, to make a commuter rail line self-supporting.

Now, the Taxpayers’ League once made a case against the Northstar; the lynchpin of which being that the line’s ridership was going to be much lower than estimated.  The study took place, of course, back when gas was still below $2 a gallon; suburbanization and exurbanization shows no signs of slowing.  I don’t know any updated numbers, but I’d suspect they’d be worth a second look.

But it’s the other part – the tendence to “monumantalism” – that will continue to cause problems.  And the Strib feeds the monkey without killing it:

Moments after Thomas Barrett, the U.S. deputy secretary of transportation, signed an agreement Tuesday committing $156.8 million in federal funding toward the $320 million Northstar line, Sen. Amy Klobuchar said what others have hoped for a decade:

“I want it to go to St. Cloud,” she said from Washington in a taped message that was played to an audience that included Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Congressman Keith Ellison, state legislators, and officials from the three counties involved, Anoka, Hennepin and Sherburne.

Getting a “Klobuchar Wing” tacked onto a monument is good “Free” campaign publicity.

Watch for more pols to find way$ to tack their name$ onto this project, jacking the co$t$ waaay higher than they need to be.

44 thoughts on “Northsoak

  1. With the approval of the North Star I actually hopped on MLS last night and looked for homes in Elk River and Big Lake. Down Side, of course, it is crazy Bachmann land. But nice homes and a better price than burbia with a commute that would be very doable on the Rail


  2. Why stop at St. Cloud? Let push on to Alexandria! Hackensack! Fargo! Hell, let’s get the Canadians in on the act. Let’s shoot for Moosejaw.

  3. 320 million for 40 miles of track seems like a lot. Considering Anoka County (and north) is heartland of Conservativeville in the TC area (along with Afton) – I’m shocked, SHOCKED that there would be a pork-barrel program going on..stunned and amazed.

    It’s like there was a war or something, and we decided to pay private contractors $1800/day/person to fight it.

    Stunning – really. Good thing half the money is Federal, and even better we have Mr. Business President running things, to prevent this kind of pork. It sure is a good thing this kind of thing never happened during the 6 year reign of conservatives in Congress and the Presidency.. man, phew, glad we dodged that bullet.

  4. Flash, I’ve had the exact same thoughts (and I already live in first-ring-land). But the Northstar will stop right in front of my current place of employment (we’ll be moving in a year, but might stay in the same neighborhood) so I have to think that it would be convenient in a lot of ways. And some days I desperately need to get away from the city.

    All those anti-urban-sprawl planners are going to go beserk when they realize how many people will think like this. And Big Lake’s realty is going to inflate like crazy.

  5. On the news last night they mentioned $100 million of state money with an expected 5000 riders. Thats $20K per person counting only state money.

    Why in the hell is this thing even being considered? I thought every last penny of our transportation money had to immediately go into bridge maintenance/repair/replacement.

  6. The TPL’s old estimate was 6,000 riders. But I sincerely doubt that that survey accounted for either the growth in the area or current gas prices.

    As to the “pork”-iness of the project – for those for whom my point was too subtle – I AGREE! I saw estimates ten years ago that ran about half of that – building plain-jane stations and using used rolling stock.

    My entire point is that there was no fiscal reason to gold-plate any part of this project; it coulda been meat’n potatoes, just-the-needs transit building, it coulda been done by now for half the cost (by some estimates), and it coulda worked.

    As to the “Bachmann” references – so what? That’s where the people who actually work are.

  7. Master, they expect 2 Million per year, so that’s about $50 per ride, and that’s if it only survives a year, which obviously, it will survive much longer. Assume it’s 20, and then you’re talking $2.5 per ride.. a LOT less, generally, than driving a car. I’m wondering whether you heard the DAILY ride figure.. 5000×250=1.25M.. so it would seem the ride figure isn’t quite right, but maybe with weekends and such it gets to to 2M. It’s not 20k per person, unless you’re only talking for the first year. Amortized over twenty years, its 1k, and that won’t buy the gas to drive, let alone a car. But the cost is $320M total, not $100, so it’s more like 3.2k per rider over 20 years. That’s not quite 2 days of pay THIS YEAR for a security contractor in Iraq… but heck.. who’s counting, the debt is over 8 Trillion, is going over 11Trillion, but those good fiscal conservatives (the Republicans) sure are good at controlling budgets.

    I have an idea – we need to build high speed rail to Churchill, Manitoba, and we pave over the entire planet, plant theskew and rye and bluegrass, and each of us can have our own Camelot, and what we should also do is build 55 lane freeways, not mass transit.

    Somewhere there is a solution between those two idiotic solutions. Too often you wingnuts propose ‘just build more lanes’ and don’t appear to give a damn about urban sprawl, while the radicals in the Democratic Party want to build 2 Billion dollar boon-doggles to move 40 people 5 feet. Neither is a workable solution. So Mitch, outside taking shots at Klobuchar, who didn’t have a major role in this project, what solution to urban sprawl, high congestion, and air pollution do you have? Anything other than just more lanes?

  8. The $100 million state was just to build it. What’s the annual cost to operate?

    “crazy Bachmann land.” — Flash, Why are you such a hater?

  9. MoN; truth = hate, check.

    To be clear, I wasn’t referring to the constituency, but to the Representative herself. *grin* I still can’t believe they bought into her.

    And if enough people like me consider the move, her days are numbered anyway *smile*


  10. “To be clear, I wasn’t referring to the constituency,” — right, good thing you cleared that up.

    So the people who support and voted for Bachmann are what? Crazy? Stupid? What’s your call? You sure you could stand to live amongst the pro-life Fundies?

  11. Good thing half the money is Federal

    Right. Because that means it comes from somewhere else. It is OPM – Other People’s Money. Right…errr…

    And if enough people like me consider the move, her days are numbered anyway *smile*

    The vast majority of people like you detest “urban sprawl” and freely choose to live in town smushed up against their neighbors. You would always be a minority in that area.

  12. And if enough people like me consider the move…

    …then you’re smart enough to ditch the DFL.

  13. “You sure you could stand to live amongst the pro-life Fundies?”

    I would accept the challenge, maybe even consider it my ‘calling’

    “”The vast majority of people like you detest “urban sprawl” and freely choose to live in town smushed up against their neighbors.””

    Like Mitch?!? I am here is St. Paul more due to circumstance than choice. Life’s success have put me in a position to make new decisions, and circumstances have created new opportunities. Careful who you lump me with.


  14. Oh, Christ… is someone going to start singing that Springsteen tune?

    Which one?

    Oh, “My Hometown”, I bet?

    Hang on…

    I was six years old, runnin’ with
    a dime in my hand,
    to the bus stop to pick up a paper
    for my old man
    I’d sit on his lap in a big old Buick, he’d let me
    steer as we drove through town.
    Tousled my hair, said “son, take a good look around,
    This is your hometown.
    Your hometown…”

    Damn, I always loved loved loved that song – although I always think Jamestown when I hear it.

  15. No, I know what Flash is saying. I mean, he’s wrong about Bachmann, but let’s ignore that for the moment.

    Fact is, if it weren’t for the fact that the likes of Keith Ellison and Wes Skoglund and Dennis Kucinich are the mainstream of the Democrat party, and have been for almost forty years, I might still be a Democrat myself.

  16. Born to Run! Yeah!

    In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway american dream
    At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines
    Sprung from cages out on highway 9,
    Chrome wheeled, fuel injected and steppin out over the line
    Baby this town rips the bones from your back
    Its a death trap, its a suicide rap
    We gotta get out while were young
    `cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run

    Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend
    I want to guard your dreams and visions
    Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims
    And strap your hands across my engines
    Together we could break this trap
    Well run till we drop, baby well never go back
    Will you walk with me out on the wire
    `cause baby Im just a scared and lonely rider
    But I gotta find out how it feels
    I want to know if love is wild, girl I want to know if love is real

    Beyond the palace hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard
    The girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors
    And the boys try to look so hard
    The amusement park rises bold and stark
    Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist
    I wanna die with you wendy on the streets tonight
    In an everlasting kiss

    The highways jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive
    Everybodys out on the run tonight but theres no place left to hide
    Together wendy well live with the sadness
    Ill love you with all the madness in my soul
    Someday girl I dont know when were gonna get to that place
    Where we really want to go and well walk in the sun
    But till then tramps like us baby we were born to run

    I sang as I typed. And I do feel better already.

  17. I was thinking Jungle Land for flash’s willingness to live as a liberal missionary amidst the ignorant savages of “crazy Bachmann land”.

    Born to Run — damn, I wish I wasn’t behind this music/video blocking firewall.

  18. crazy Bachmann land

    Yeah, as I commute back and forth, I often pass escapees from bombed out mental hospitals wandering in the trees.

    (There’s your gratuitous A Bridge Too Far reference for the day.)

    And if enough people like me consider the move, her days are numbered anyway *smile*

    Bachmann beat Wetterling by 23,657 votes. And Binkowski had 23,517 votes. Who knows how those would’ve split between Bachmann and Wetterling if he hadn’t run.

    I’d love to see 23K people move out of the inner cities for the warm, embracing bosom of the suburbs, if anything, just to see the resulting social experiment. Would the urban jungle turn into something too extreme for even Kossacks? Or, would political leaders be forced to moderate a bit?

  19. Well the Maximum Lawmen run down Flamingo
    Chasing the Rat and the barefoot girl
    And the kids round here look just like shadows
    Always quiet, holding hands
    From the churches to the jails
    Tonight all is silence in the world
    As we take our stand
    Down in Bachmann Land

  20. damn, I wish I wasn’t behind this music/video blocking firewall
    Yeah, you could treat us all to Badlands. Or Nebraska. Or Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.
    Cue the little bells.

  21. “”Keith Ellison and Wes Skoglund and Dennis Kucinich are the mainstream of the Democrat party,””

    Nice try partner. Kind of hard to label the likes of a Kucinich, asterisk boy in the polls, as mainstream. Ellison is in deep dark blue urban land and I only hear Skoglunds name when you mention it.

    Bachmann, on the other hand, is embraced by the party, unlike any of the three you mentioned. At least two of which are tolerated at best. You get to pick the two.


  22. “”Bachmann beat Wetterling by 23,657 votes. And Binkowski had 23,517 votes. Who knows how those would’ve split between Bachmann and Wetterling if he hadn’t run.””

    And I am convinced a Pro Life common sense candidate like Tinklenberg could have one that race outright. And after two years of Rep Bachmann, the voters may be looking for someone else.


  23. So Keith Ellison, Wes Skoglund, and Dennis Kucinich are freakish aberrations in the Democratic Party? But Bachmann is a mainstream Republican?

    Sounds too convenient. And the reverse does too.

    While I don’t buy the “your freaks lead your party” line, when the freaks start stacking up like cord wood, you do start to wonder… 🙂

  24. “”are freakish aberrations””

    I didn’t say that, Bachmann is embraced by the mainstream, Ellison and Kucinich certainly are not. Skoglund, again, I only know of from here so I wouldn’t know.

    It is not the behavior of the candidates that I question in this context, but the behavior of the members of the party that are in question.

  25. “It is not the behavior of the candidates that I question in this context, but the behavior of the members of the party that are in question.”

    but earlier you said

    “I wasn’t referring to the constituency, but to the Representative herself. *grin* I still can’t believe they bought into her.”

    Can you figure out who you hate and get back to us?

  26. The January, 2008 issue of _Trains_ magazine has an article on how much things in a railroad cost. I just scanned the article last night, will have to read it for comprehension tonite. But from that scan, the following stuck:

    Rail runs about $900/ton with 115 to 131/lbs/ft rail being common. Ties run $35/ea for wood with concrete ties being more than twice that. Ballast, the rock which supports the track, and holds it in place, was a couple hundred a ton, IIRC. I can’t remember what passenger/commuter locomotives were, new freight locomotives were $1.7 million and up. Seems like commuter cars were 1.3 million each, but that is fuzzy recollection.

  27. Sheesh MoN, you need to go back to rudimentary English

    When I said Crazy Bachmann land, I was referring to Bachmann herself. She is kind of nutty.

    Later, Mitch tried to drag outlier asterisk Democratic candidates and I stated that the difference is the Right embraces Bachmann, where as Mitch’s examples are not embraced or identified as ‘main stream.

    Two different conversations, not inconsistent, and I suspect you knew that.

    I do not Hate, that is reserved for the Right, and shown clearly by their actions, not their words. it is why regardless of how for Right my ideology shifts, I would struggle identifying myself with them.


  28. “regardless of how for Right my ideology shifts,” don’t you think that shtick is getting a bit old?

  29. MoN; Ya know what the definition of a moderate is, one who thinks for themselves and manages to piss off both sides cause he isn’t a purist.

    See, when I line up the key principles of each parties platform, I find that my views of them tend to actually edge more Right than Left. Like the WoT, 2nd amendment, death penalty, and public funding of private education to name a few.

    So believe what you want, but it is the likes of you and the rest of the purists on the Right that prevent me from making the complete transition. I just can’t do it. Hell, you guys are dumping on ultra conservatives like Norm and Gov Tim cause they aren’t pure enough Sheesh.

    If you guys would just suck it up and embrace those that don’t toe the line you would have a grand majority and control for some time. But your selfishness into purism is what costs you. Folks like me who just can’t make the leap, and moderate Righties who keep getting snubbed out of the party.

    Your worst enemy isn’t the Left, there isn’t enough of them to cost you anything. You’ll need to look within you own party and stop the hate, true literal hate, that permeates the party right now to get back on track. But you don’t see that, and neither does your leadership. So sit back and watch the Democratic nominee get elected President cause without an heir apparent, you will be too busy fighting amongst yourselves.


  30. “stop the hate, true literal hate, that permeates the party right now to get back on track. ”

    Oh, and that shtick is getting tired too.

  31. Ramstad would be a true Moderate Republican, Arne to the Right of Rammer even. Both Gov TPaw and Sen Norm are significantly to their Right and only ‘triangulate/moderate’ for electoral purposes,. But when rubber hits the Road, they are there with the President on the far Right. I’ll admit, Sen Norm moreso than Gov TPaw, but still much further Right than a true moderate. But, my point from earlier, even they aren;t pure enough for you, so where in the heck would I fit in.

    MoN: You really have an issue with reality, you should see a Doctor about that. My prescription would be a little less MDE and a little more thinking on your own. I could provide a reading list if you’d like.


  32. You call Pawlenty an “ultra conservative” and I’m the one with reality issues?

    I’d make that appointment for yourself, but I don’t know what a doctor can do about stupidity.

  33. Stupidity, I present a reasoned explanation, you come back with name calling.

    Just out of curiosity, where would you place Hillary Clinton on the ideology scale?

  34. You insinuated that I needed to see a doctor, and you’re somehow upset that I came back with the word “stupidity”? Maybe you shouldn’t make judgments of my mental state, and I’ll not make assumptions of yours.

    Hillary is a moderate Democrat at times, but she’s as much of a political chameleon as her hubby so it’s hard to tell. She’s dishonest enough to move anywhere on the political spectrum she needs to get elected.

  35. The President is on the “far Right”?

    No, on Tim, Norm, and George I have to disagree with you flash. All three say and do things that no conservative would even think of doing, and do so when there is no political advantage to be gained.

    Please notice I am not saying their stances are wrong on all those issues (though for some I will definitely say so), but I can tell those stances are not conservative ones.

  36. Back to the topic: New locomotives for passenger service are running 2.3 million a copy, bi-level commuter cars run about 1.8 million each.

    I was wrong on the weight of rail in my previous post, mainline rail runs about 135 lbs a foot for straight track and 141 lbs/ft for track on curves. Railroads are also hardening the railhead on the curve track which adds about $10/ton to the cost of the rail.

    Afa the topic drift, Norm Coleman as “far right” is laughable. If so, he never would have been mayor in St. Paul. Bush has never been “far right” on a host of issues. He was always a moderate.

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