After $317 million, political struggles, and a 13-year wait, the 40-mile North Star Commuter line embarked on its maiden voyage on Monday morning, November 16, 2009. And people were certainly checking it out. After the last train of its first operation day finished its run, Metro Transit reported that more than 2,400 paying customers rode Northstar trains. On a typical day, the line is projected to have 1,700 passengers each way.
Trains were on time -- the first one arrived three minutes early -- but the first day was not entirely free of glitches. At Target Field, the doors of the 7:10 a.m. train didn't open for a few minutes, so its more than 300 passengers were stuck inside. Once they made their way upstairs to the Hiawatha station, light rail wasn't there to greet them because of a mechanical problem. A replacement Hiawatha train left the station at 7:25.
During the afternoon rush, there were some frantic dashes for closing doors, some doorway stumbles and even a few people who missed trains and had to wait for the next one. Only one person missed the final train, arriving at Target Field two minutes late on a connecting light-rail transit train.
It is Minnesota's first long-distance commuter rail line. It currently has stops in Big Lake
, Elk River
, Coon Rapids
, and Minneapolis
. It is eventually expected to reach all the way out to St. Cloud.
You can read more first-hand experiences from the light rain in this Star Tribune article, Finally, All Aboard for Northstar. Yes, finally!