March 31, 2009

Who's Doing What? a.m. edition

On the northbound light rail out of Franklin Ave. this morning, in the front half of the second car, I counted:

5 people reading a newspaper
4 people reading books

Newspapers had a very good day. But before I could count the cell phone talkers and mp3 listeners, I saw:

1 person knitting.

It was my friend Karen, standing in the aisle, needles in hand. I clearly need to add another category to these occasional censuses.

Posted by tgus at 6:36 PM

March 30, 2009

A Tale of Life and Death on the 3

As I sat down on the 3, a man behind me was telling the woman next to him this tale:

...he watched her breathe her last, then left her in her chair and went out and around to the front porch where everyone else was.

He sat down, didn't say a thing for 15 minutes. Finally Dianna looked at him and said "What? What's wrong with you?" He just started to cry. They all looked at him. Finally he got up and led them around to the back of the house.

Then I couldn't hear any more.

Posted by tgus at 6:02 AM

March 28, 2009

Econ 101 for Legislators

Sheesh. From the PiPress:

The Minnesota House has given the go-ahead to spend federal stimulus dollars on roads, bridges and transit projects.

The House voted 113-19 today to authorize the state Department of Transportation to spend nearly $600 million in stimulus cash....Republican attempts to put up barriers to spending on transit projects failed. Opposition came from Republicans like Rep. Paul Kohls of Victoria, who says the federal government doesn't have the money to back stimulus spending.

Dear Rep. Kohls:

Yes, the federal government is borrowing money to stimulate the economy. They're doing that because there's this thing called a "recession" that's happening, and no one else either can or will borrow. Borrowing money to invest in productive projects like roads and transit is the whole point of "stimulus spending." It will give Minnesotans things called "jobs," and get them travel to work and school more efficiently. All of this is called "governing."

Sincerely,

TransitTales

PS--the federal government also has to borrow because this thing called a "surplus" that existed as recently as 2001 became a deficit under your party's rule.

Posted by tgus at 7:05 AM

The Challenge of Long-Term Solutions, Transit or Otherwise

The Transit for Livable Communities blog points out that the Met Council's short term fix (good news: no fare increases or service reductions for 2009) doesn't solve the long-term need to invest in a regional transit system.

In a culture that tends to think that "long-term" means either "after the next election" or "after the next paycheck," long-term thinking is notoriously difficult. Add in budget shortfalls and a recession, and the difficulty increases by a factor of, oh, 3,000. Just ask President O as he tries to pitch his budget as a long term investment with short-term costs.

Posted by tgus at 6:51 AM

March 26, 2009

Energy Stimulus $$ for Transportation projects?

STrib article today says that Minnesota is getting $37.3 million in stimulus money

to pay state and local governments for energy efficiency and conservation projects.

The article continues:

Among a long list of other things, the funds also can be used on transportation programs that conserve energy...

What might those programs be? Park and ride lots? Bus lanes? Nothing so transitty, it seems. Since "the money is being distributed to 23 cities, 10 counties and six Indian tribes; the state's energy office is getting the biggest chunk of cash, $10.6 million," it won't go toward big, coordinated projects--maybe energy-efficient stoplights in one town, and energy-efficient streetlights in another. Maybe. Maybe not.

Posted by tgus at 9:31 PM

Text you later

On the Hiawatha line tonight:

Cell phone woman: I'll text you later--

[silence]

Cell phone woman: [laughs] That's how I roll.

[silence]

Cell phone woman: From the mall. I might not buy anything. Text you later.

Posted by tgus at 9:17 PM

Who's Doing What? a.m. edition

On the 7:27 am northbound light rail out of Lake St. today, I counted who was doing what in my half of car #2. Out of 30 people, there were:

4 on their cellphones
1 reading a newspaper
2 listening to iPods or other music players
4 reading books

18 still waking up.
1 guy counting who was doing what.

The death of the book was still not in evidence. Newspapers, though, were looking unloved.

Posted by tgus at 8:58 PM

March 24, 2009

Central Corridor Update

The March issue of Metro Transit's monthly news publication, Connect, offers an update on the Central Corridor Project.

Of note:

-Major Construction will begin in 2010, and end in 2014.

-The Minneapolis terminus will be the new station near Target Field, the station that will also be the terminus of the North Star Commuter Rail Line.

-Trains will travel every 7.5 minutes during peak hours. It will take 35 minutes to travel the 11 miles between downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis. (That would take about 15 minutes in a car on I-94--assuming no traffic slowdowns and not counting the time it takes to find a parking place).

Train a-comin.

Posted by tgus at 9:06 PM

March 21, 2009

Biden Promises Money to get Northstar to St. Cloud

Though Senator Klobuchar dials down the expectations.

Dan Erhart, Anoka County Commissioner, wasn't listening to her. Erhart wonders "if there will be another $60 million in federal funding for another main rail line that would run from Interstate 694, in the northern metro area, to a station near Foley Boulevard in Coon Rapids. 'We'd like to connect the whole state by rail,' he said."

With a train-riding Biden on your side, why not think big?

Posted by tgus at 8:59 AM

March 19, 2009

Railswarm on the Hiawatha Line

Regular riders of the Hiawatha Line yesterday around 9 am must have felt surrounded as hundreds(?) of Minneapolis South high school students--excused from their classes for a few hours--boarded at the Lake Street station, bound for Target Center to cheer on their Gallant Tigers in the quaterfinals of the girls state basketball tournament.

Led by Tayler Hill, South defeated an overmatched Blaine squad 73-34. I'm guessing the light rail ride back to South was one of the most jubilant trips to school ever.

Posted by tgus at 9:23 AM

March 18, 2009

Preliminary Met Council News on Stimulus Projects

Sounds like Minnesota will get $94 million for transit , with $69 million of that for metro area projects.

Half of the transit projects "must be ready for contract letting" within 180 days. Wonder which of these, listed in the article, could be ready in that timeframe:

• Replacement buses for Metro Transit and Metro Mobility
• Additional vehicles for the Hiawatha Line to increase capacity
• Additional vehicles for Northstar Commuter Rail
• New bus garages for bus storage and maintenance
• Park-and-ride expansions
• A bus-only ramp on TH169 and Stagecoach Road

Maybe the first three?

Half of the MN/DoT projects must be ready to let in 120 days. So seven projects have been identified as what I'm calling super shovel-ready: Contracts could be let this spring. While they aren't sexy (upgraded lighting constitutes three of the projects; re-surfacing and replacing median barriers constitute two others) they do improve safety and will start to ciruclate the stimulus money relatively quickly.

This one also sounds somewhat green, for a roads project: "Creating a living snow fence at the Fish Lake interchange in Maple Grove."

Posted by tgus at 9:59 PM

March 17, 2009

Stimulus $ Gives High Speed Rail a Chance

Of course, the sub-title of the Strib's recent high speed rail editorial doesn't exactly build confidence. Rochester makes great sense as part of the route, though as commenter luxaeterna notes, it would complicate things by requiring new track and rights of way, when time is of the essence in the queue for federal money.

The editorial wonders whether the light rail line should beyond St. Paul's Union Depot to Minneapolis. I don't think so--the Central Corridor light rail will facilitate that connection. High Speed Rail's purpose isn't to link downtowns that are what, 10 miles apart?

Posted by tgus at 11:37 PM

March 16, 2009

What The Recession Sounds Like

While I was walking home (beginning the seasonal transition from mass transit to personal transit), a fifty-something woman stepped out of the front door of a modest house, talking on her cell:

Woman: ...I was just feeling like I was at the peak of my career...

[silence]

Woman: Yes, I think so. And it makes me second guess a lot of them....

Posted by tgus at 6:33 PM

March 15, 2009

High Speed Rail and Rochester?

I blogged in favor of Rochester and high speed rail like, ages ago (in interwebs time).

Posted by tgus at 9:59 PM

March 14, 2009

Who's Doing What? p.m. edition

On the 5 pm light rail out of downtown yesterday (Friday), I decided to count who was doing what in my half of car #1. Out of 36 people, there were:

2 on their cellphones
2 reading newspapers
5 listening to iPods or other music players
5 reading books

At least in this rail car, the death of the book is not in evidence. And newspapers--in a metro area where one of the two major newspapers is predicted to be gone by the end of the year--are still breathing, if barely. I'd guess there are usually a couple more people talking on their phones, but maybe not. Maybe I tend to notice them because they're audible.

There were also:

1 guy counting what other people were doing, jotting notes for his blog post
1 other guy looking bemusedly at the guy counting and jotting notes.

Posted by tgus at 8:23 AM

March 13, 2009

Definitely Not Madoff

Woman on her cell, waiting for the 24:

"He's out now. Has to stay in the house for 21 days."

[Listens]

"I told him not to get down on himself about it. Gotta go. Bus is comin'."

Posted by tgus at 10:18 AM

A Genuine Rail System for the Twin Cities?

"Train me out to the ballgame"....says commenter Marypjb in response to the Strib article about a plan for a $130 million transit complex near the new Twins Stadium, where the Hiawatha and Central Light Rail, will converge with the Northstar commuter line as well as other potential light rail lines and a high speed train to Chicago.

Of course it's much bigger than getting to a ballgame--this is starting to sound like a genuine rail system for the Twin Cities. Long, long overdue.

Posted by tgus at 8:20 AM

March 12, 2009

Satellite City

Waiting for the 24 in the morning dark,
The Castle glowing behind,
A big moon burning before.

The 24 pulls up, eclipses the moon,
Reflects the Castle,
Its diesled gravity pulls me in, and then it
Carries me on its non-elliptical orbit.


Posted by tgus at 2:03 PM

Public Hearings on Proposed Northstar Line Fares

From the Met Council.

The hearings will be April 8th and 14th.

$8.00 one way, between Big Lake and Minneapolis. So it looks like, if the line ever extends to St. Cloud, it would be about $15.00 one way. Seems a bit steep. Anybody have a sense of how those prices compare with commuter rail fares elsewhere? Would a round trip fare have any discount?

The article also says that the trains will travel at speeds "up to 79 miles per hour." There can't be very many stretches where it would reach that lofty mph--let alone sustain it.

Posted by tgus at 12:59 PM

Trying again

It's been over a year between posts. Still, that's an improvement from two posts ago .

Been riding the light rail and various buses all winter. At $2.25 each way (peak) the price has gone up at least 30% since I started this blog--maybe more like 50%. And ridership is still surging , even after gas prices have deflated from their July peak. But transit is still short of funding. Lots of catching up to do, in more ways than one.

Posted by tgus at 12:22 PM