The opening of the Metro Blue Line in 2004 marked the beginning of Metro Transit's expansion into rail transit, 50 years after the last Twin Cities Rapid Transit streetcars were taken out of service. Several new rail transit projects are either under construction or in planning stages and more are expected to be explored in the near future. Metro Transit will likely be acquiring a significant amount of rolling stock as these new projects move forward.

Light rail

The Twin Cities region has two active light rail lines, the Blue Line, and the Green Line, and an extension to the Green Line, the Southwest Corridor, is currently under construction. As of 2020, 64 light rail cars are in service and delivery of 27 additional cars is underway.

Type I LRVs

A two-car train of 100-series Bombardier Flexity Swift cars in Downtown Minneapolis
A two-car train of 100-series Bombardier Flexity Swift cars in Downtown Minneapolis

Metro Transit placed its order for light rail vehicles (LRVs) for the Blue Line with Bombardier in January 2001, originally for 18 cars,[1] but increased in stages to 24 cars by early 2003.[2] Bombardier constructed a full-scale, half-car mock-up of the Minneapolis version of its Flexity Swift design[3] and this was placed on temporary display on a section of completed track on 5th Street, starting on October 30, 2002,[1] to enable Metro Transit to give the city's residents a hands-on preview of the low-floor design several months before completion of the first actual rail cars. The articulated vehicles use a 70% low-floor design, are 94 ft (29 m) long and can carry 66 seated passengers and 180 standees.[4]

The first light rail vehicle for the Blue Line arrived in Minneapolis in March 2003,[5] and testing of it along the first completed section of the line was underway by June 2003.[6] The line opened on June 26, 2004, with 14 of the 24 Bombardier Flexity Swift LRVs accepted and available for service by then,[7] and all 24 had entered service by the end of the year. In January 2007, the Metropolitan Council announced that three additional vehicles would be purchased, for a total of 27 LRVs on the line.[8]

The Blue Line's Type I LRVs are numbered sequentially from 101 through 127. The Flexity Swift vehicle is an articulated design with three car-body sections, referred to as the A, B and C sections. The markings on the ends of LRVs indicate the vehicle number and section. For example, car 114 is marked 114A on one end and 114B on the other end. Vehicle numbers are also displayed (excluding the section letter) on the sides of the C section, on the doors of the operator cabs and on the roof of the vehicle. Both ends of the vehicle have operator cabs, allowing trains of any length to be operated normally in either direction without the need to turn the train around. The pantograph is located on the B section of the vehicle. Auxiliary power unit, traction inverter, traction motor are supplied by Toshiba.[9]

Type II LRVs

The first Siemens S70 LRV arrives at a media event on October 10, 2012, displaying "Green Line" on the destination board.
The first Siemens S70 LRV arrives at a media event on October 10, 2012, displaying "Green Line" on the destination board.

In 2010, the Metropolitan Council negotiated a contract with Siemens to build up to 109 S70/Avanto light rail vehicles, with the first vehicle arriving in September 2012. Most are intended for the Green Line (initially the Central Corridor route from Minneapolis to Saint Paul) which opened in 2014 and is to be expanded from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie along the Southwest Corridor beginning in 2023, though the initial vehicles were used on the Blue Line as part of that route's three-car expansion project. The initial order was for 41 vehicles: 31 for the Green Line[10] and 10 to expand the fleet of the Blue Line, allowing that route to operate three-car trains more consistently. Options for additional vehicles were exercised about a year later as contingency funding from the Central Corridor project opened up. As of 2012, 59 vehicles were on order: 47 for the Green Line and 12 for the Blue.[11]

The initial order had a per-LRV cost of $3,297,714 and a total contract value of $153,211,516.[12] Following the option order, the contract grew to $213 million. The vehicles are being built at Siemens’ facility in Florin, California, near Sacramento.[13] The first vehicle, numbered 201, arrived in September 2012 and underwent some initial testing before being officially unveiled at an event at Target Field on October 10. The first two vehicles had an extended testing period, entering revenue service around the start of 2013.[11]

Forty options remained available, for potential use once the Green Line's southwest extension received funding. Five additional Siemens S70 cars were ordered in October 2015.[14] The first car of this small order arrived in September 2017[15] and the last later in the fall of 2017, bringing the total number of type II LRVs to 64.[16]

The Blue Line's original first-generation fleet of 27 Bombardier Flexity Swift LRVs and the Siemens "type II" LRVs are mechanically, but not electronically, compatible, so while the two generations are able to run on the tracks at the same time and either type would be able to push a malfunctioning unit of the other type, multiple-unit consists may only be assembled of one type.[17]

The type II LRVs weigh 50 tons (100,000 lb or 45.4 t), which is about 6,000 lb (2,700 kg) lighter than the earlier Bombardier units. The cars have improved heating systems and better sound insulation to provide a quieter ride. They also feature LED lighting rather than the previous vehicles' fluorescent tubes. Rear-facing cameras connected to video screens in the operator cab replaced rear-view mirrors in the newer design.[18]


In 2016, Metro Transit placed an order for 27 more Siemens S70[a] LRVs for its planned Southwest Corridor expansion.[20] These used a modified center-truck design that allowed sideways-facing seating in the center section,[21] for better passenger flow.[19] In 2018, Siemens adopted a new model number, S700, for S70 LRVs that used the new center-section design, and in 2020 it retroactively applied the new designation to all previous S70 LRVs built to the new design; as a result, all of Metro Transit's type III LRVs (301–327) are now Siemens model S700.[19][22] The first two S700 vehicles arrived in May 2020.[23]


Model Type I LRVs
LF-70 (Flexity Swift)
Type II LRVs
S700[a] (on order)
Fleet numbers 101–127 201–264 301–327
Manufacturer Bombardier Siemens
Build location Thunder Bay, Ontario Sacramento, California
Length per car 28.65 m (93 ft 11+1516 in) 28,742 mm (94 ft 3+916 in)
Width 2.65 m (8 ft 8+516 in)
Empty weight 48.5 t 46.7 t 46.5 t
Body shell material Aluminum alloy Steel
Line voltage 750 V DC from overhead catenary
Traction Toshiba 2-level IGBTVVVF
140 kW (190 hp) 3-phase AC induction motor
(totally enclosed/outer-fan cooling)
Siemens 2-level IGBT–VVVF
130 kW (170 hp) 3-phase AC induction motor
(totally enclosed/self-ventilating)
Maximum speed 55 mph (89 km/h) 59 mph (95 km/h)


  1. ^ a b The cars in this order were considered to be model S70 at the time the order was placed, but in 2019/20 were retroactively rebranded as model S700 by Siemens.[19]


Since the completion of three-car station extensions in winter 2010, Metro Transit operates one-, two- and three- car trains on the Blue Line, depending on the time of day and ridership needs. Many stations on the line were initially built to be capable of serving only one- or two-car trains, as a cost-saving measure; all of the shorter platforms were designed and built with future extension in mind, and currently all stations are capable of serving three-car trains. The Green Line was built with three-car platforms at all stations.

The number of LRVs in the first-generation fleet limited three-car operations during peak rush hours, as 27 cars did not allow operation of high frequencies with longer trains. In spring and summer 2010, three-car trains were only used for special event service, such as Twins games, when lower off-peak frequencies allow operation of longer trains to meet demand. Metro Transit continued operating two-car trains during the morning and evening rush hours until September 2010, when they began operating some 3-car trains during rush hour. However, this required a reduction in frequency so trains would arrive every 10 minutes rather than every 7–8 minutes (though some 2-car service remains at the old frequency).[24] The arrival of Type II LRVs began to allow 3-car trains at high frequencies in 2013.

Maintenance facilities

The Blue Line's Operations and Maintenance Facility (OMF) is located between the Cedar-Riverside and Franklin Avenue stations. The facility was expanded in 2011–2012 to make room for the 12 additional type II LRVs and a Light Rail Support Facility to allow some maintenance not requiring direct access to vehicle chassis to be moved out of the OMF building. The Green Line's Operations and Maintenance Facility is located on the site of the former Diamond Products building in Saint Paul's Lowertown neighborhood, just east of the Union Depot station.

Commuter rail

The Twin Cities region currently has one heavy-rail commuter line, the Northstar Line. Though others are planned, none has advanced beyond alternatives analysis at this time.


Motive Power MP36PH-3C #501 leading a Northstar train past BNSF's Northtown Yard
Motive Power MP36PH-3C #501 leading a Northstar train past BNSF's Northtown Yard

The Northstar commuter rail line's first five locomotives are the MP36PH-3C, manufactured by MotivePower in Boise, Idaho at a total cost of $13,823,000. The first of the locomotives, #501, was delivered October 3, 2008.[25] The other four arrived around New Years Day of 2009.[26] The locomotives are numbered sequentially 501 through 505.

Around the time the line began service in November 2009, it was announced that a negotiations were underway with the Utah Transit Authority to acquire a sixth locomotive from their FrontRunner service.[27] This locomotive arrived in December 2009. By June, Metro Transit decided to purchase the UTA locomotive due to high leasing costs and the need to have an extra locomotive for when others are being repaired or inspected. $2.85 million for buying the locomotive and repainting it in Northstar livery came from a $10.1 million contingency fund built into the original cost of the service.[28]

# Model Delivery Notes
501–505, 512 MP36PH-3C 2008–2009 503 and 504 seen in the 200th episode of Dirty Jobs, "Locomotive Builder"; 504 was briefly operated by Mike Rowe.;[29] 512 was built as Utah Transit Authority #12 for their FrontRunner service, though it never ran in revenue service there. Leased to Metro Transit starting in December 2009,[30] it was intended to be purchased the following summer,[28] though that deal initially fell through. The Metropolitan Council successfully tried again in 2011,[31] appearing in Northstar colors and renumbered 512 in October 2012.[32]

Passenger coaches

Bombardier Bi-Level cab car #604 leading a Northstar train south through Elk River, Minnesota.
Bombardier Bi-Level cab car #604 leading a Northstar train south through Elk River, Minnesota.

Northstar uses the Bombardier Bi-Level Coach, a number of which are configured as cab cars. With no straightforward way to turn the trains or locomotives around at the ends of the line, the train is simply run in reverse from Big Lake to Minneapolis. The engineer remotely controls the locomotive from the cab car in the last coach of the train.

Official documents state that the line uses seventeen[33] Bombardier BiLevel Coach passenger vehicles,[34][35] although an 18th coach (#712) has apparently been photographed.[36]

# Model Delivery Notes
601–606 Bi-Level VII coach (cab car) 2008-2009
701–712 Bi-Level VII coach Despite official word that Northstar has 17 coaches, there appears to be a #712, bringing the total to 18.[36]


Five trains are used during a typical day's operations, each consisting of a single locomotive, two or three regular coaches and a cab car coach. The extra locomotive and coach are available for backup if needed. Northstar platforms were built long enough to accommodate trains of five coaches, which were used for some weekend trains in the early weeks of service.


The maintenance facility for the Northstar Line is located just east of the station in Big Lake, Minnesota.


  1. ^ a b Tramways & Urban Transit (UK), December 2002 issue, p. 467–468. Ian Allan Publishing/Light Rail Transit Association. ISSN 1460-8324.
  2. ^ Tramways & Urban Transit, March 2003 issue, p. 108.
  3. ^ Tramways & Urban Transit, May 2002 issue, p. 185.
  4. ^ "FLEXITY Swift – Minneapolis, USA". Bombardier. Archived from the original on 2008-11-22. Retrieved 2009-02-10.
  5. ^ Tramways & Urban Transit, June 2003 issue, p. 227.
  6. ^ "Minneapolis: First Car Runs on Hiawatha Light Rail Starter Line". Light Rail Now. June 29, 2003. Retrieved 2009-12-16.
  7. ^ Tramways & Urban Transit, August 2004 issue, p. 308.
  8. ^ "Passenger capacity to grow on Hiawatha line". Metropolitan Council. January 2007. Archived from the original on 2009-01-07. Retrieved 2009-02-10.
  9. ^ "Passenger capacity to grow on Hiawatha line" (PDF). Toshiba. August 2014. Retrieved 2018-02-18.
  10. ^ "FTA Signs Agreement to Fund Central Corridor". Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  11. ^ a b Rich Rovaag, Mark Fuhrmann (August 13, 2012). "Light Rail Vehicle Type 2 Procurement" (PDF). Metropolitan Council Transportation Committee. Retrieved 2012-10-12.
  12. ^ "Transportation Committee Business Item 2010-275" (PDF). Metropolitan Council. 2010-07-30. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
  13. ^ Kevin Giles (August 25, 2010). "Central Corridor contracts awarded". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on August 29, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-28.
  14. ^ Vantuono, William C. (October 12, 2015). "Denver, Twin Cities adding to Siemens LRV fleets". Railway Age. Archived from the original on 2018-08-18. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  15. ^ "Minutes of the regular meeting of the Transportation Committee". Minneapolis–St. Paul: Metropolitan Council. October 9, 2017. p. 2. Archived from the original on 2020-11-16. Retrieved 2020-11-16.
  16. ^ "Minutes of the regular meeting of the Transportation Committee". Minneapolis–St. Paul: Metropolitan Council. January 8, 2018. p. 2. Archived from the original on 2020-11-16. Retrieved 2020-11-16.
  17. ^ "Transportation Committee Meeting July 26, 2010". Metropolitan Council. 2010-07-26. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
  18. ^ "Fast Facts about Central Corridor LRT vehicles" (PDF). Metropolitan Council. October 11, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-12.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ a b c "Siemens rebadges North American low-floor cars". Tramways & Urban Transit. No. 993. UK: Mainspring Enterprises Ltd. September 2020. p. 336. ISSN 1460-8324.
  20. ^ "Twin Cities' Metropolitan Council Chooses Siemens to Provide New Light Rail Vehicles". Mass Transit. October 28, 2016. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  21. ^ "Southwest LRT Project Update". Metropolitan Council. May 13, 2020. p. 6. Retrieved 2020-11-14.
  22. ^ "Worldwide Review [regular news section]". Tramways & Urban Transit. No. 994. UK: Mainspring Enterprises Ltd. October 2020. p. 402. ISSN 1460-8324.
  23. ^ McKinney, Kevin (2020). "Rush Hour [transit news section]". Passenger Train Journal. Vol. 44, no. 3 – Third quarter 2020. White River Productions, Inc. p. 52. ISSN 0160-6913.
  24. ^ "These routes changed Sept. 11". Metro Transit. 2010. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-06-13. Retrieved 2009-11-20.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ " • View topic – Northstar MP36 deliveries".
  27. ^ "Ready to roll, train officials say". Star Tribune. 2009-11-15. Retrieved 2009-11-16.
  28. ^ a b Peter Bodley (June 2, 2010). "Sixth locomotive to be purchased for Northstar". Coon Rapids Herald. ABC Newspapers. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
  29. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2009-11-20.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  30. ^ "Northstar ridership below Metro Transit goals". Star Tribune. December 10, 2009. Archived from the original on December 14, 2009. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
  31. ^ "Amendment of Business Item 2010-201, Northstar" (PDF). Metropolitan Council Transportation Committee. August 18, 2011. Retrieved 2012-10-12.
  32. ^ Matt Petersen (October 7, 2012). "MNRX 512". RRPictureArchives.NET. Retrieved 2012-10-12.
  33. ^ "Northstar Commuter Rail Update – Winter 2008" (PDF). Northstar Corridor Development Authority. December 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2009-02-10.
  34. ^ "Anoka Station Rendering". Northstar Corridor Development Authority. 2008-08-05. Retrieved 2009-02-10.
  35. ^ "Northstar Rail". February 11, 2009 – via Flickr.
  36. ^ a b "Pictures of MNRX 712".