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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Carleton hosts meeting on Northfield Transit Initiative to create corridor to cities

<st Tuesday at Carleton College, Northfield’s Grass Roots Transit Initiative held a town hall meeting for community leaders and activists about restoring Northfield’s mass transit options. The meeting started with an address by Carleton’s president, Steven Poskanzer. He declared that, “We should think wisely and well to connect our community to the rest of the world” in regards to expanding Northfield’s transportation system.

Suzie Nakasian, the Grass Roots Transit Initiative director, then prefaced the town hall discussion with a presentation about the Initiative. She talked about the history behind the train system, about the Dan Patch line that used to bring visitors into Northfield from all around. Before 1968, when the rail service closed, there were 12 trains per day from the Twin Cities into Northfield via Dan Patch. Later, a moratorium was put on the train transit system. The Initiative hopes to lift this freeze and start discussion for a renewed and better transit system.

“We’re not talking about creating connections,” Nakasian said, “We’re talking about restoring them.”

The town hall discussion consisted of groups at each table talking about how the transit corridor might positively or negatively affect Northfield, what the potential usefulness might be, how it would affect families, students, and small businesses in Northfield, and what factors needed to be considered as the plans for the transit corridor moved forward. There was virtually no disagreement between the tables.

For the first question regarding the transit corridor’s positive and negative impacts on the Northfield community, it was agreed upon that the positive factors of a train would help tourism in Northfield,  economic development, easier access to Faribault, and would eliminate the need for cars for families and college students alike. The negative factors discussed were the possibility that Northfield could turn into a “bedroom community” if tourism increased, the train line would be very busy and therefore make more noise than it does now, and it was questioned whether or not the cost of installing a transit corridor is fiscally possible at the moment.

The second question about the potential usefulness of the transit corridor was met with similar thoughts. It was agreed upon that Northfield is in need of a convenient and reliable transit system. Not only would it help get families out of their cars, it would help people get into the cities more easily, especially on the weekends when traffic can be slow. College students from both St. Olaf and Carleton would benefit from a train going directly into the cities instead of having to take several buses. The general consensus was that the transit corridor would be, without a doubt, extremely useful for the Northfield community.

As far as the factors that need to be considered as planning moves forward, the town hall participants voiced, “being strategic” as their primary point. Participants agreed that transit participation rates needed to increase enough to justify having more frequent train and bus stops. Also, the system would have to be worked out so the whole Northfield community is comfortable with the changes made. With this plan, the committee will have to tread forward cautiously to ensure a reliable and participant friendly transit corridor.

The meeting concluded with the agreement to keep the conversation going, both virtually and through more town hall meetings. In addition, it was agreed upon that Northfield should engage other communities in the surrounding area in the transit discussion since it will affect them too. With this decision, the meeting was adjourned and the promise of further dialogue hung in the air as the community leaders filed out of the room.

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