Railroaded

For a company eating its young to honor the bottom line The Tribune’s editorial board seems curiously immune to financial logic, especially if it stands in the way of some development worthy of a little civic boosterism.

Yesterday the Trib had a story about two conflicting estimates by different consultants of train ridership for the proposed Northstar train to Duluth. One of them projected 274,000 train riders to Duluth by 2030. The other projected 100,000. The Trib’s editorial explains all this and then after wagging its fingers at the people who are supposed to act on these numbers betrays its civic prejudices.

“If rail officials expend the same amount of energy seriously considering studies or other feedback that don’t necessarily support their endeavor as they did debunking a new ridership estimate that debunked their own, there’s little doubt Northern Lights Express can be a complete success.”

In other words, “if you build it they will come.” That’s right up there with lets save money and spend $300 million building all new schools.” These are obviously folks who believe their own advertising circulars which encourage shoppers to save money by spending it.

So, no matter how many people will come to Duluth on the train go out there and build new tracks. It will be good for Duluth.

Let’s think about this. The most optimistic estimate says that in twenty years 150,000 people will come to Duluth annually on a train. Presumably, these will be people who would not have driven here but would only show up if train service was provided.

I put a call in to MNDOT this morning to ask them for their estimate of how many people travel on the highway between Duluth and Minneapolis. I’ll bet its a lot more than 150,000. I seem to pass that many cars going north on some summer days when I head to the Cities.

Meantime the Trib is pleased to report building of the new airport which as my wife notes a new train will give locals a good reason to ignore if they can simply take the train to the Minneapolis airport. Meanwhile, on an Iowa transportation study its I-35 could be an 8-lane road between Duluth and the Twin Cities by 2025. Let’s see, New airport, eight new lanes of highway, a new railroad. Think of all the folks who will come up to Duluth to attend all our new schools. Let’s just hope its all one-way traffic north. We can’t afford to lose any more students.