Friday, April 27, 2012

A quick look around Winona, MN

Winona, MN is situated on the Minnesota border along the Mississippi River. Population is 27,572 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Winona has an interesting position geographically, with the Mississippi on one side, Lake Winona on another, and some inlets and wetland filling the ends.

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 Winona has a very nice looking downtown district, with some shops and quiet streets that give it a small town feel. 
Winona National Bank  Winona County Government Center Central United Methodist Church Winona Street

On the outskirts of Winona, there are the usual small city retail outlets including Hy-Vee, ShopKo, Kmart (pictured below), Mills Fleet Farm, and a shopping center. A Walmart Supercenter is located to the southeast.
Kmart (Winona, MN)

Winona is home to Winona State University, and does have a bit of college town vibe with lots of students walking around, a fair amount of rental housing, and a lot of cars. One thing that was interesting however, was how calm traffic was around the campus and the city in general. When people were waiting to cross a street, drivers actually stopped to let them cross, instead of speeding up as they do in some places.

Winona also has a transit system, called Winona Transit Service, which operates four bus routes. While the system isn't very large, and only operates small buses, it covers the majority of the Winona area.
Winona Transit Service Transfer Point Shelter Winona Transit Service 0930

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Minnesota Transit System Costs Per Ride, a Comparison and Thoughts

Each year, the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation releases a report detailing accomplishments, costs, and ridership for all Minnesota public transit service providers. Looking at the 2011 Transit Report I thought it would be interesting to break down the operating cost and ridership numbers a bit for the major systems. I should note that while the annual operating costs and the ridership numbers are likely a consistent type of data for each system, I am not certain whether the operating costs represent the entire operating cost or just the cost not covered by passenger fares. Nonetheless here are the 2010 numbers, taking operating costs divided by ridership:

Operator Year Operating Exp Ridership Cost per Ride
U of M Transit 2010 $4,894,272 4,044,192 $1.21
St. Cloud MTC 2010 $5,358,104 2,192,736 $2.44
Metro Transit - Light Rail Train 2010 $25,736,121 10,455,860 $2.46
Rochester Public Transit 2010 $4,933,635 1,520,526 $3.24
Duluth Transit System 2010 $10,787,556 3,023,352 $3.57
Metro Transit - Bus 2010 $236,841,961 66,040,533 $3.59
Moorhead MAT 2010 $1,340,216 358,646 $3.74
Mankato Transit System 2010 $1,418,057 354,445 $4.00
Metropolitan Transportation Services - Contracted 2010 $12,513,375 2,915,286 $4.29
Maple Grove Transit 2010 $3,714,999 752,608 $4.94
Ramsey Star Express 2010 $373,781 55,487 $6.74
Minnesota Valley Transit 2010 $16,359,426 2,386,117 $6.86
Southwest Transit 2010 $7,483,460 1,002,382 $7.47
Plymouth Metrolink 2010 $3,649,014 464,142 $7.86
Shakopee Transit 2010 $1,112,474 116,599 $9.54
Prior Lake Laker Lines 2010 $707,647 50,392 $14.04
Metro Transit - Northstar 2010 $15,591,217 710,426 $21.95
Metropolitan Transportation Services - Transit Link 2010 $7,419,325 286,294 $25.92

 It's somewhat interesting how Saint Cloud Metro Bus has one of the lowest costs per ride, as the Saint Cloud metropolitan area is not necessarily a dense urban place. Metro Bus also charges less fare than other systems, with base fare at $1.00 currently instead of the $1.25-$3.00 others charge. Additionally fare may have been lower in 2010. Also noteworthy, light-rail is cheaper than bus to operate on a per ride basis, when there is enough ridership demand. What many anti-light rail supporters fail to mention is that one train set of 2-3 120 person capacity cars can be operated by one operator, versus 3-5 articulated or coach buses for the same capacity, but with 3-5 operators.

University of Minnesota's campus shuttle service however, comes in first. Fare is free on the shuttles, with all operating expenses paid out of student tuition fees. While the shuttles are well suited to capture heavy ridership in a very dense area with lots of demand, I can't help but wonder, what if a regular system stopped charging fares? Would it actually be cheaper in some cases to have free rides and collect fixed fees from property, business, lodging, and rental taxes? Of course many would object to higher taxes, with the usual phrases of socialism scheme, subsidy, spending "hard" earned dollars, so it would be unlikely to succeed. Still there might be enough savings from not maintaining fare collection equipment, dealing with cash, enforcing fares, etc. that it could be worthwhile.

Monday, April 23, 2012


A recent article in the Rockford Register Star (Rockford, IL) stated 13,700 residents of the Rockford area commute to and from Chicago everyday. Given that the population of Rockford is 152,871 according to the 2010 census data that is a pretty substantial number. This data was obtained by the Star from a February 2012 report by the New York University Wagner School of Public Service, titled The Emergence of the “Super-Commuter”

The "Super-Commuter" is defined by the report as someone who works in a central county in one metropolitan area, but lives outside the boundaries of that metropolitan area. These commuters travel via car, bus, air, or train to reach their workplace as many as five days per week.

Looking at the Twin Cities region, it appears the seven county metro area is also attracting supercommuters. The Northstar commuter rail service, and the Northstar Link service offer a public transit option from the Saint Cloud metro area. A proposed bridge in the Oak Park Heights area would provide more roadway capacity between Twin Cities metro highways and Wisconsin. On the other side, Rochester, MN has some workforce pull from the Twin Cities, with Rochester City Lines offering daily service between the two metropolitan regions.

As the workplace continues to evolve and change in the coming years, vehicles become more reliable, and transit systems offer more choices and flexibility, the amount of workers willing to commute great distances will probably continue to grow. Supercommuters have arrived.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Look at the Cedarvale Mall site in Eagan, MN

The Cedarvale Mall at one point was a downtown of sorts for the city of Eagan, MN. However the opening of the Mall of America, just up Highway 77 in Bloomington, and additional shopping oriented development in other parts of Eagan proved to be too much competition. The Cedarvale Mall closed around 2007, and was torn down in 2008.

The site of the former mall sits adjacent to Highway 13, and close to Highway 77.

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The site is currently vacant, and features numerous NO TRESPASSING signs posted by the city. Barriers are situated at all entrances to keep cars and trucks from entering. Piles of dirt and rubble, decaying asphalt parking lots, and weeds also adorn the site.
Former Cedarvale Mall Site Former Cedarvale Mall Site Former Cedarvale Mall Site Former Cedarvale Mall Site

Some type of future development has been planned for the site since the mall building was torn down. In anticipation of this some roadwork is being completed on Cedarvale Blvd.
Former Cedarvale Mall Site Cedarvale Blvd.

The latest plans for the site are to build an upscale outlet shopping centerParagon Outlet Partners LLC. plans to build a 400,000 square foot center, complete with 90-100 retail spaces.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Photos and Videos

For my collection of photos of transit systems as well as other topics of interest, please visit:

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