Kenny Chesney's "No Shoes Nation Tour" not only set a record for the largest crowd ever at Target Field, it also helped Metro Transit set a record for pre-sale tickets on the Northstar Commuter line.
The transit agency said it sold 530 advanced tickets for the two Northstar runs from Big Lake to the Minneapolis ballpark for the concert on Friday, July 12. That eclipsed the previous pre-sale record set just two weeks ago when 466 advanced tickets were sold ahead of the Twins-Kansas City Royals game on June 30.
In total, more than 2,000 people took the Northstar Line to the big show. An estimated 10,000 people arrived at Target Field by way of the Metro Blue Line, the light-rail line that runs along Hiawatha Avenue from the Mall of America in Bloomington to downtown Minneapolis.
Spokesman John Siqveland said Metro Transit employees counted people getting on and off light-rail trains at Target Field and the Warehouse District stations to arrive at the 10,000 number.
Siqveland attributed the record pre-sale on the Northstar Line to publicity and heavy promotion in the St. Cloud area, where many fans drove to Big Lake to catch the train.
"People are finding that it's an easy and fast way to get in and out of Target Field with no hassles," Siqveland said. Ridership is "building as people become aware that we do this."
In addition to its regular weekday rush hour service, Metro Tranist offers special Northstar runs for Twins and Vikings games and special events. Last year the agency did not run a train for the Chesney and Tim McGraw concert at Target Field.
"We got many inquiries as to why we didn't," Siqveland said. "There clearly is a demand for it."
Metro Transit plans to run special Northstar Commuter trains for the Skyline Music Festival on July 26. The concert, also at Target Field, features Soul Asylum, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Matthew Sweet and the Gear Daddies.
Riders can buy tickets to take the Northstar to the show or for other special events such as Twins and Vikings games at www.metrotransit.org/northstar. Round trip tickets from Big Lake begin at $12. Prices drop for rides from stations in Elk River, Ramsey, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Fridley.
Family passes, which allow two adults and up to three children ages 6 to 17 to ride, are $20 from Big Lake and less from stations closer to Minneapolis.
It looks like a decent weekend for Father's Day with some sun, a chance of rain and lots of things to get out and do.
The Minnesota Twins are home this weekend for games against the division leading Detroit Tigers. In Minneapolis a couple of big events will likely generate some traffic, the Rock the Garden at the Walker Art Center and the Stone Arch Bridge Festival along the Mississippi River near St. Anthony Main.
On a happy note, the Xerxes Avenue bridge over 494 opened today.
Now for some closurers:
On Hwy. 169, the southbound lanes from 77th Avenue in Brooklyn Park to Hwy. 55 in Golden Valley will be closed from 9 p.m. tonight to 5 a.m. Monday.
I-35E goes down to a single lane from Cedar Avenue to the 35E/35W split in Burnsville.
In Spring Lake Park, Hwy. 65 will be closed from Osborne Road to 81st Avenue for bridge work. That begins at 10 p.m. tonight.
A few Minneapolis Parkways will be closed for special events:
Lake Calhoun Parkway around Lake Calhoun from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday for the Kids Against Hunger 5K/10K.
Lake Nokomis Parkway around Lake Nokomis from 7:30 a.m. to noon Sunday for Greenway’s Vikings Gridiron Gallop .
Look for extra traffic and pedestrians around Hennepin and Lyndale Avenues Saturday. Rock the Garden is THE backyard music event this summer at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Gates open for the summer outdoor concert at 3 p.m.
If you’re going to the event, leave your car at home and take a Metro Transit bus or the METRO Blue Line free that day. Just download and print your transit pass and get a free ride from 1 p.m. until midnight. The free-ride pass is not valid on Northstar. Get concert details at walkerart.org.
A head's up, Hwy. 36 closes on Monday for 75 days from Hwy. 61 to White Bear Avenue for work on the English Street intersection. That is in both directions.
On 694, lane restrictions go into effect for four months from Hwy. 252 over to 35W. It's going to be a long summer for commuters. See my Sunday story for more information.
Passenger traffic on the Hiawatha Light Rail line hit an eight-year high in 2012 and helped push total ridership on Metro Transit buses and trains to more than 81 million for the year.
The 10.5 million rides on the light rail, accounted for 13 percent of the 81,053,506 rides provided by Metro Transit in 2012. That was an increase of 97,372 rides over 2011 and the most since the 12-mile line from downtown Minneapolis to the Mall of America in Bloomington opened in 2004.
The number of rides on freeway-oriented express routes was up by 88,000 rides in 2012 to 9.5 million while the number of rides on crosstown suburban routes grew by 1.7 percent to 1.6 million.
Rides taken on urban local routes declined by 117,000 last year to 58,734,867. That was a drop of .2 percent. Metro Transit also reported that the 700,726 rides on the Northstar Commuter Rail fell by more than 3,000 rides from the 703,400 taken in 2011.
But the gains on the light rail and express bus service offset those loses and resulted in a net increase of 165,044 rides in 2012 compared with numbers from 2011. It marked the sixth straight year total ridership exceeded 76 million, something that had not occurred since 1983.
"This represent the third straight year of ridership growth," said Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb. "For only the second time in a generation, Metro Transit ridership exceeded 81 million."
That incluced the 3 billionth customer that the agency has served since it began operating 40 years ago
The numbers include customers who paid fares and riders who boarded trains and buses as part of free promotions such as New Year's Eve, St. Patrick's Day and Timberwolves and Lynx games.
Lamb attributed the drop off in rides on the Northstar line to high prices and a 13 percent drop in customers traveling downtown for special events and Vikings and Twins games. After fares were reduced in August, the ridership decline slowed and the number of weekday riders increased, he said.