ST. CLOUD/ST. PAUL -- An optimistic start for Northstar in 2011.

Ridership numbers in January are up 8% for the commuter rail line overall compared to January 2010, but are up 19% for weekday riders.

Metro Transit spokesman Jon Siqveland says the numbers may have risen because of specials they ran back in November which was designed to attract new riders.  He also says Northstar is reliable and easy to use.

St. Cloud Metropolitan Transit Commission spokesman Tom Cruikshank says their Northstar Link bus service saw a 54% increase in ridership year over year.  He says a cold and snowy January could be the big reason why more people took the bus.  He says many commuters likely didn't want to battle the snow and traffic.

The ridership numbers are a good sign for Northstar supporters because 2010 ridership levels fell short of projections. It was part of the reason Northstar advocates decided not to push for phase two of the project right now which would extend the train service to St. Cloud.