Ailene Croup writes “ Passenger rail between the Twin Cities and Duluth: How a monster was born and raised” in the StarTribune, and mentions my name …
David Levinson spoke to community members at that time, informing them that passenger rail does not make enough money to pay for itself. It is subsidized by tax dollars.
Levinson held the Richard P. Braun/CTS Chair in Transportation Engineering at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies from 2006 to 2016. He served as faculty in the school’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geo-Engineering and was noted as a prolific transportation researcher. He specialized in rail transportation.
He said the environmental impact of putting a train on the tracks was significant, such as the proposed multibillion-dollar rail line in California, which would leave a carbon footprint for 150 years.
The NLX project was finally turned over to MnDOT in 2016, but the alliance continues as a lobbying group supported by tax dollars from participating counties and cities. The alliance consists of and is now funded by the Hennepin County Rail Authority; the cities of Duluth, Minneapolis, Cambridge, Sandstone and Superior, Wis.; and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
Through the years, private partnership with NLX was under discussion, but it never came to fruition.
The model for NLX has gone from high-speed rail to a less stressful ride from Duluth to Minneapolis where riders can tally “billable hours.” Or, a ride to college for students.
Levinson said it would take many hundreds of riders each day and many, many trips daily for NLX to even pay for itself.
The poor counties of central Minnesota do not need another transportation tax to take riders to Target Field. The rest of the state should not be responsible for subsidizing this luxury, either. Northstar Rail is the lesson, with taxpayers subsidizing $18 to $22 per rider since it was put on the tracks.
NLX has nothing to offer east-central and greater Minnesota other than the promise of higher taxes for subsidized transportation that does not serve them.