Now thank we all our God
With hearts and hands and voices
For cars and cars and cars
A plethora of choices.
Suggest your own hymn text in praise of the icon of American material abundance....
So this morning, just as we roll past the Metrodome and I'm about to disembark, the conductor makes the following announcement on the intercom.
"Sorry we were a bit late this morning folks, but it wasn't our fault. It seems a drunk driver decided to drive down our tracks, and it delayed all trains for several minutes."
Apparently, there was no collision, or we would have been delayed much longer.
I assume this excellent adventure took place somewhere downtown, where the tracks are embedded into the middle of 5th St., rather than, say. on the Hiawatha Ave. overpass, or in the tunnel under the airport....
A fellow passenger voiced a different question: "Drunk at 7 am?" I stepped off the train before I could hear all the responses.
We keep our relationship fresh and interesting by frequently shopping for cars as a couple.
Suggest your own caption.
In American culture, cars have become linked, seemingly inextricably, to work via the institution of the daily commute. Within the powerful ideology of American self-reliance, independence, and even the Lone Ranger, that solo drive has come to represent the epitome of the American Way. Just ask the Taxpayers' League, who attempted to discredit the Hiawatha Light Rail line even during its construction by erecting a billboard proclaiming it to be "Social Engineering"--this right at the intersection of the line with that marvel of bad highway engineering, the Crosstown. I don't think they intended that irony, but of course, adding more lanes and more roads is also "social engineering"--although at greater cost to the environment, oil reserves, and energy independence.
I haven't driven to a job on a regular basis since 1987, when I drove from Marine on St. Croix to a nursing home job on the West Side of St. Paul. Nine months of that 45-minute commute was enough to convince me that I didn't want to do it much longer.
I've been fortunate since then either to live in cities with good transit options to my work/school (Iowa City, Minneapolis) or to live within walking distance of my work (2 years in Westchestere County, New York--I'm eternally grateful that I didn't have to drive in the NYC metro area).
My wife and (and our two kids) have managed to be a one-car family for the past dozen years, although in the past year we've borrowed my in-laws' second car for a couple of extended periods: first during last spring's bus strike (I and a bus-riding friend used the borrowed car to carpool), and then again for the past month while i've needed to be able to quickly get to Iowa and Illinois for family crises.
Cars have certainly proven useful in these cases. I can't imagine any way other than a car for getting to points hundreds of miles south quickly, leaving once on short notice at 3:30 am, and several times chauffeuring my father between Moline, IL, Cedar Rapids, IA, and Minneapolis.
I truly could have biked or even walked to work (50 minutes) during the bus strike, and probably would have, but the car-pooling arrangement using my in-laws' car did help out my friend, for whom biking or walking weren't legitimate options. I admit I enjoyed the convenience of a warm car (although walking from commuter parking at the U means that driving is not much faster for me than biking or taking transit--and the costs of parking and gas were higher than my transit costs). But ordinarlly, it makes no sense for me, in terms of either time or money, to drive to work. Increased transit options, like the Northstar Commuter Rail Line, can make that the case for more and more Twin Cities residents. That won't be a threat to American culture--it will be a positive development for people and the environment.
TransitTales has a new category: CARtoons (see the previous three entries: Please suugest alternative ways to conclude the captions for the clip art below--as well as CARtoons entries to follow).
...give our relationship the meaning it has always lacked.
Suggest a different conclusion to the caption.
...if I give you this hot set of wheels?
Suggest a different caption.
Some quick lists:
Sticker price, interest on the loan, insurance, gas, maintenance, car washes, garages and garage space, driveways and their upkeep, speeding tickets, parking tickets, parking meters...
Air pollution, urban sprawl, road rage, highway deaths, drunk driving, isolation/alienation, oil wars, skewed foreign policy, oil spills, NASCAR, auto dealerships wrapped in dozens of American flags, auto dealerships, Dodge commercials, all car commercials, drive-through fast food, drive through banking...
What others come to mind?
(Image from the MPCA Haze Cam, downtown St. Paul )
Come on everybody: walk, bike, or take transit instead of driving.
It's starting to feel like I'm living in LA.
I can't say I give the matter this kind of thought, but any thought I do give it is pragmatic rather than interpersonal: If I'm boarding the 50 heading over to the Metrodome LRT platform, I generally like to position myself for a quick exit out the back door, since that bus gets jammed with students in the late afternoon, and trying to navigate from the middle through the standing-room crowd to the door can take longer than some drivers want to stay at the stop.
I mean, other than a political climate hostile to spending money on even a relatively inexpensive, old-fashioned commuter line? --even though investing in such a line is the right thing to do.
Fast and convenient transportation between the Twin Cities airport and the Mayo Clinic makes sense--as does a way to get people up to the North Shore (and down to the Cities) with less congestion and pollution along I-35. Both would make Minnesota a true transportation innovator--they would be a genuine "Clear Skies Initiative," as well as sprawl prevention along those corridors.
Soon after running to board the train at the Metrodome platform yesterday afternoon, the conductor made an announcement explaining why I needn't have exerted myself:
"Once again folks, there's a train broke down at the Cedar Riverside station, and they hope to have it cleared soon."
I looked at the clock on the old City Hall: 4:25. I considered disembarking as several others were doing, catching a bus back to the West Bank, and then 2 different buses home. That would take 45 minutes for sure, and while the length of this delay was unknown, it couldn't be too long. Cedar-Riverside is the closest stop to the LRT yards and garage. Besides, I wanted to see how the LRT folks responded, as well as the passengers.
After five minutes, the conductor came back on the PA: ""Sounds like they've got another train about ready to couple and pull the stalled one to the yard."
As a group of people ran up to the train doors from a 50 bus (as I had done 10 minutes before), rushing to catch a train that they thought was about to pull out, someone cheered ironically "Hey, you made it!"
Ten more minutes went by.
...then a train whistle blew, and another southbound train pulled up beside us, on what's ordinarily the northbound track. It was completely packed, as people had clearly been piling into it at the Goverenment Center or Nicollet Mall stop while it was held up behind us.
I exchanged jokes with the guy next to me about having a Light Rail drag race, adding that if I was on that train, I'd sure be hoping the LRT folks get their switching right.
A few minutes later, the other train started up, headed south. There were some good-natured sighs of disappointment from people on our train. But in less than a minute, we lurched forward and quickly caught up, although we can't have been going more than 10 mph. We had ourselves a drag race after all, in slow motion. It was a race we all wanted to win, not for winning's sake, but just because we were later than we should have been. So when the other train stopped and we "surged" into the lead, some cheers broke out.
Soon after we arrived at the Cedar-Riverside station, the other train pulled up across the platform. There was an announcement telling folks on the platform that both trains were southbound, and that a northbound train would arrive soon. Apparently the southbound train on the northbound track was going to switch over to our track at the switch-point between Cedar-Riverside and Franklin.
I soon found myself hoping, very seriously this time, that whoever was in charge of this juggling act got the switching right, because soon after we pulled away from the Franklin Station, a northbound train zipped past us.
Clearly, everything went fine, and by sending two trains south in parallel for a ways (maybe this happened further downtown as well, though I doubt it, given the traffic signal complications there), the system administrator minimized the delay and disruption. 25 minutes, total, according to people who were aboard for the whole episode.
Yesterday, as I waited at the Metrodome East stop, a voice came over the loudspeaker, something to the effect of "There is no smoking on Metro Transit buses, trains, or at stops. Please extinguish cigarettes." That's great as far as I'm concerned, but how do they enforce that last one? With recorded messages, I guess.
Then as I boarded the train, another voice said "Welcome aboard the most popular form of transportation in town" (or something similar). Given the number of cars on 35W and 94, the claim proved to be a bit of self-promoting hyperbole. But given the number of riders jammed onto the train, it would be impossible to argue that the train is not popular.
But add a Central Corridor line between Minneapolis and St. Paul. And the North Star commuter line. When a line becomes a system, rail popularity will really take off, and further ease car congestion and might start to limit those bad air quality days we endured last week. That, and the smoking ban at stops.
Thursday afternoon, the southbound 2 bus:
After he sat down about four seats behind me, I realized that the young man's headphones were not just loud--they were LOUD. Lots of snare and hi-hat. I found myself thinking that if my friends Bob or Tom are ever unable to drum at one of my gigs, I could have this guy stand next to me as a human drum machine. The volume would be about perfect with my acoustic guitar.