April 28, 2005

Wasted Time, Wasted Gas

A factoid from Public Transportation.org:

"The Texas Transportation Institute estimates that each American traveling in peak periods wastes an average of 62 hours a year-nearly eight full working days-stuck in traffic delays."

And then there's the wasted gas. Eight full working days idling at over $2.00 a gallon.

American productivity indeed.

Posted by tgus at 3:47 PM

April 27, 2005

Memo to Metro Transit

Safety over speed, please. That, and driver training. And careful maintenance.

Posted by tgus at 3:26 PM

April 26, 2005

April is for Transit Riders

Given that this week feels more and more like March, I'm feeling pleased that I haven't turned in my Metropass yet. Unlike some people, I haven't learned to thrive on self-propulsion in inclement weather.

Perhaps by the end of the week.

Posted by tgus at 8:43 AM

April 21, 2005

Immigration Assimilation

The East African woman in traditional dress, stepping off the 21, sports a LeBron James backpack, 23.

Accessories really do make the statement.

Posted by tgus at 7:45 AM

Watershed

Fat drops hit
my ear and forehead
as the bus arrives,
they spill, they spread
on the dusty pavement,
they pool.

Earthworms will dry in the sun
on this sidewalk soon.

Sprlng raln scourlng
the gritty air,
me,
the street sand and salt,
the oily detritus
of wlnter, pushlng it all
in gutter tributaries
to the Big Muddy.

Posted by tgus at 7:33 AM

April 20, 2005

Music Theory 101 on the 53

The blind man with the cane was noodling around on a harmonica as I walked up to my bus stop earlier than usual this morning. I've chatted with him in the past, and so know that he's something of a folk musician--once he told me about playing his electric dulcimer (no kidding) at the Poodle Club (again).

The bus arrived before I could say hello--he immediately struck up a conversation with the driver before I even sat down. Turns out he's been playing the harp for just a couple of weeks. (I've been playing off and on 20+ years since my senior-year roommate in college taught me the basics). He and this driver had clearly talked music before.

Electric Dulcimer Guy: I'm working on some tunes with a bluegrass band. Trying to play the fiddle part on a harp.

Driver: What kind of harp?

Electric Dulcimer Guy: A Melody Maker. It's great for playing in minor keys because the Dorian mode is really easy on it.

Driver: Yeah, that 'll work, but what you really want is the Aeolian mode.

Electric Dulcimer Guy: I suppose, but Dorian works great for the songs we're doing.

Driver: You got a bunch of harps? Make sure you grab the right one. Otherwise you've got polytonal bluegrass.

Electric Dulcimer Guy: (laughing) Close enough for bluegrass.

Driver: Clsoe enough for rock-n-roll. Close enough for the girls I go out with.

Me: (walking past, having just pulled the cord for my stop). Just call it jazz.

Posted by tgus at 8:42 AM

April 19, 2005

Messing With the Blog's Look

I've been experimenting with the Moveable Type stylesheet in fits and starts over the past month, customizing one of the off-the shelf templates provided by U-Think.

I'm not much of a web-design kind of guy, so any feedback on the reader-friendliness of the current look is welcome.

Posted by tgus at 8:59 AM

April 18, 2005

Chicken and Egg: Transit and Development Density

Like LA, much of Minneapolis developed along streetcar lines (my neighborhood of modest bungalows originated as a working-class, ride-the-trolley place to live). In that "LA Rails" post, Atrios references the necessity of significant population density in order to have a viable urban transit system. But developing the system can help develop the density.

When the Twin Cities' streetcar system was dismantled in the interest of cars, the Twin Cities were stuck in car-mode.

It has taken the Twin Cities 50-some years to start to recover. The new Hiawatha light rail line and impending Northstar commuter rail line are the start of re-building a lost rail transit infrastructure that is already starting to encourage more dense re-development. Early predictions called for "7,150 new housing units" and millions of feet of new retail space along the Hiawatha LRT coridor. I haven't seen any figures, but I have already seen new condo/apartment developments near the 46th St. and 38th St. stations. Also new small-scale retail developments nearby.

If you build it, they will come--if you can get government to make a long-term investment.

Posted by tgus at 11:43 AM

April 12, 2005

What Did I Just Say?

On the 53, the express version of the 21 that has been running on Lake St. for 10 months now, the drivers still frequently remind riders that stops are less frequent.

Yesterday, approaching the Minnehaha stop, the driver announced: "Next stop, 36th Ave. No stops until 36th Ave." He said this slowly and loudly, with a practiced cadence.

Not ten second later, at about 29th Ave., a woman at the front of the bus asks: "Can you stop at the next corner? It's an emergency."

Driver: "They tell me only to stop at designated stops." Something in his tone says that he saw this coming, and has had this conversation, with the same woman, before.

Woman At The Front Of The Bus: "I need to see my mother this is an emergency why don't you tell people when they get on what the stops are? I need to see my mother and you're going to make me walk back and if I fall and break my leg it's your fault why don't you tell people when they get on what the stops are?

Me: (Pull the cord for the 36th st. stop, exit via back door).

Woman At The Front Of The Bus: (exits via front door) Now I have to walk back why don't you tell people when they get on what the stops are? (incoherent shouting).

Posted by tgus at 9:24 AM

April 10, 2005

A Free Market of Trash

(Lake and Hiawatha Shelter)

Cigarette butts
crayons sand
candy wrappers
pistacchlo shells
leaves newspaper scraps
pbj crust ln a baggle
straw corrugated cardboard
chewed gum bottle cap
torn bus transfers
used kleenex paper towel
the wealth of nations

Posted by tgus at 10:44 PM

April 8, 2005

Doughnuts and Stadiums

Since I get off the LRT right at the Metrodome, and since I'm a baseball fan (although with a greater and greater sense of guilt, given the obscene salaries and steroid-enhanced play) I thought I'd grab Breakfast at the Plaza--the occasional Twins give-away--today in honor of the home opener.

But the line for a doughnut and coffee was stupidly long. It didn't give me hope that they'll have their act together for the free rides home from the game tomorrow night.

Speaking of the Metrodome, Shane at Greet Machine is expressing some optimism about a possible Twins stadium. I'm one of those baseball fans who doesn't think a public dime should be spent on a pro stadium. But my heart does go all pitter-pat when I think of taking my kids to a Twins game at an outdoor park actually designed for baseball. Less so for a St. Paul site, in part because Minneapolis will soon have the Northstar commuter line as well as the Hiawatha LRT for fans to ride--just like they do in Boston and New York.

As for the Vikings: I'm just not much of a footbal fan, and will say again that the franchise deserves its plastic and teflon home as purgatory for all of those lost Super Bowls.

Posted by tgus at 9:30 AM

The Sound of Spring

Through the open windows of the 16, I heard The Accordion Guy busking outside the Village Wok.

Rock and roll.

Posted by tgus at 9:16 AM

Living Green: 10 Transportation Ideas

This Top Ten List doesn't save the best for last:

Item #1 on the list of how to reduce air pollution: Get out of your car and onto your feet/bike/bus/train.

This year's Living Green Expo will happen:
Saturday & Sunday, April 30 & May 1, 2005.
10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Minnesota State Fair Grounds, Grandstand Building

Admission is free.

More from their Press Release:

The 2005 Living Green Expo will feature over 200 businesses, food organizations, state and local agencies, and environmental groups showcasing environmentally sound products, technologies, information, and practices. You'll find many ideas for how Minnesotans can reduce their environmental impact.

The Expo will also include workshops on everything from how to compost and reduce toxicity in your home to using the latest energy-saving technology and cooking with organic, locally grown food. This family-friendly event features art displays, children's activities, food, and musical entertainment.

Parking is free, secure bike storage is available, and the Expo is accessible by bus.

Posted by tgus at 9:03 AM

April 7, 2005

Cognitive Hummer Dissonance

Seen from a bus on Washington Ave.:

A Hummer with Minnesota's special "Critical Habitat" license plate.

Sigh.

Posted by tgus at 3:45 PM

Twins and Trains--Free Rides

Metro Transit is offering free rides home from the April 10th Twins game

Last summer, when the LRT started up, there would be huge crowds on the Metrodome East platform, waiting for trains after the games.

By the end of the season, they seemd to be doing a better job of having extra trains queued up for the end of the games. Will they have extra buses ready as well?

You'd hope they're planning well for this event.

Posted by tgus at 10:53 AM

Fun and Games on the Train

A group of three teens were playing an exuberant little game on the LRT a couple of days ago. As the Cedar-Riverside stop approached, one of them said "Yeah, let's go back to the other train." They ran out the door. I assumed by "other train," they meant the northbound.

But they meant the other car on this train, because at the Frankilin Station, they bustled back into our car, laughing and shouting.

As I exited at Lake Street, they again raced out and headed up to the front car.

It was the old stop light fire drill adapted to the train.

Posted by tgus at 10:37 AM

April 6, 2005

Looking North

Time for another Midwest hazecam view from Grand Portage on Superior's North Shore, out in the direction of Isle Royale.

GRAND-2.jpg

Just because, for me, Lake Superior is the center of the universe.

Posted by tgus at 11:45 AM

Duluth-Twin Cities Bus Running

Jefferson Lines has started a daily bus run between Coffman Union and UMD.

This is a good thing. The Minnesota Daily's article about it yesterday suggests a large potential student ridership.

Now imagine a high speed rail line between the two campuses/metro areas.

Posted by tgus at 10:48 AM

April 5, 2005

Color-ful People Bother Her

So the other day, I (a white guy) and a woman (a white woman) dashed up to the bus stop after getting off the train at Lake St.--only to have the driver of the 53--the Lake St. express--pull off without us.

But not to worry--a 21 was pulling in right behind it. We boarded the fairly crowded 21.

Apparently, since we had shared the experience of just missing the 53, she felt OK sitting down next to me.

Me: "Good thing the 21 was right behind."

She: "I prefer the 53."

Me: "Yeah the 21 will probably stop at every corner between here and the river. How far are you going?"

She: "Just to Cretin Avenue. But there's not as many...colorful people on the 53."

Me: Stunned silence (looking around at all the non-white folks on the 21, and thinking, "Did she really just say that?"). I pull the cord for my stop, pleased to extend her uncomfortable ride on the "colorful" 21. Exit stage right, still non-plussed.

Posted by tgus at 4:30 PM

Speak Up About Transit Cuts

Here's a chance for U of M transit riders to tell Metro Transit how the proposed cuts might affect your ability to get to and from campus.

From the U's Parking and Transportation Services:

"PTS invites you to attend a Metro Transit Fare and Service Proposal information meeting. Metropolitan Council staff will give a presentation on the proposed plan and be available to answer questions afterwards. Here are the details:

TUESDAY, APRIL 12
NOON  1:30 PM
COWLES AUDITORIUM at the HH HUMPHREY INSTITUTE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
WEST BANK

This meeting is NOT an official public hearing and will not be recorded. Attendees can fill out written comment cards at the informational meeting which will be collected and made part of the public record before the Metropolitan Council as it considers proposed fare increases and service adjustments."

Posted by tgus at 3:57 PM

Pothole Haiku

Under the gray bridge
Spring troll of I-Ninety-Four,
Wakes up, grabs my wheel

--Scott Hvizdos

(originally published, less than adequately, in the StarTribune, March 22, 2005).

Posted by tgus at 11:14 AM

April 4, 2005

The First Iced Coffee of the Season

A sure sign that spring, and the return to self-propelled commuting, is at hand.

In a week or two.

Posted by tgus at 1:09 PM

Early Earth Day

My daughter and I spent the better part of an hour Saturday morning picking up litter around the bus shelter on the north side of Lake by the Hiawatha station. As I said earlier, she didn't want to wait until Earth Day.

The area was quite a pit. We brought gloves and gabage bags, but not a rake for the hundreds of cigarette butts and tiny scraps of litter.

So we got the big stuff, including quite a few booze bottles (there's a liquor stoe adjacent), and planned to return in a week or two with the proper tools to finish the job.

My daughter asked "Why do people use the world as their litter can?"

After we discussed that one a while, I asked her: if she were an anthropologist, and had to make a hypothesis about the what the people who left all this garbage seemed to value, she said "liquor and cigarettes."

Here's a shot before:

B2.jpg

and after:
B2A.jpg

More pictures if you click "continue reading."

Before2

After2

Bags o' Trash

Shadow of Triumph

Posted by tgus at 10:07 AM

April 2, 2005

Crude Above $57 a Barrel

And gas is heading for $2.25 a gallon.

Gas_Pump.jpg

This is getting serious folks. Serious profit for the Haliburtons of the world, at least.

Posted by tgus at 10:30 PM

Cars Just Don't Make Economic Sense

According to the AP, there are a lot of car-owners out there who are upside down on their loans. Cars depreciate so fast, and loan terms are getting so long, that more and more cars are worth less at trade-in than their owners are still on the hook for on their loan.

Transit, anyone?

Posted by tgus at 10:21 PM

April 1, 2005

Northstar Route Maps

Here's a map of the entire Northstar Commuter Rail route (only the first 40 miles are at stake in the recent legistative action--St. Cloud will need to wait).

And here's another map showing where the Northstar and Hiawatha lines will meet in downtown Minneapolis.

When this first leg of the line is done, people from Elk River and Anoka won't need a car at all to get to and from work in downtown Minneapolis, to and from the Minneapolis St. Paul airport. or even the Inferno of America.