Metro Transit suspends Northstar service to Twins games

Metro Transit says its Northstar Line won’t provide service to Minnesota Twins games this year because part of its funding has been withheld.

According to Metro Transit, Anoka County, the largest county funding partner for Northstar, is withholding its share of operating funds.

Metro Transit said it can’t take on the extra costs and, therefore, its Northstar service to Target Field for Twins games is suspended.

Anoka County disputed that, however, noting it’s just one of five funding sources for Northstar and Metro Transit has sole authority in deciding which trips it will provide.

The county also said it doesn’t have any signed funding agreement with Metro Transit for 2021 or 2022 and highlighted Metro Transit’s “drastic” pandemic-related drop in ridership. Additionally, the county said that drop in ridership led it to ask Metro Transit for adjusted costs in the fall of 2020 and says it just received those adjusted shares for subsidizing Northstar last week. Officials are still reviewing those adjusted figures.

The transportation operator also noted its ridership on commuter express routes dropped significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Northstar was no exception, dropping over 95% compared to pre-pandemic ridership at one point. As a result, Metro Transit reduced Northstar service early in the pandemic.

However, it said Anoka County’s funding is needed to provide Northstar service to Twins games.

“At this point, Metro Transit would like to be able to provide more Northstar service including to Twins games, but cannot prudently take on additional costs of doing so without receipt of operating funds expected from Anoka County, the largest county funding partner for Northstar. The Metropolitan Council continues to work with Anoka County regarding Northstar service levels and the county’s funding commitment,” a Metro Transit spokesperson told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

Despite the suspension of service to Twins games, daily commuter rides on Northstar — which offers service between Big Lake and downtown Minneapolis with stops in Elk River, Ramsey, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Fridley — won’t be affected, Metro Transit said.

Northstar started its service to Twins games in 2010. In 2019, its last pre-pandemic season, Northstar gave 81,561 rides to 64 Twins games, according to Metro Transit.

Anoka County added that “In the 2022 operating agreement Metro Transit provided to Anoka County, which we received in October of 2021, eight weekday trips were budgeted, with no weekend or special event trips planned.”