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September 25, 2006

Ignoring the Masses

When I was told to find a social design issue I immeidately thought of the lack of mass transportation in Minneapolis and it's surrounding areas. Mass transportation can mean anything from buses to taxis to above ground trains to subways, but in Minneapolis it means the light rail and the bus system. Even though we have these two systems they are more than inadequate and greatly need to be improved. What happens to people who choose or can't afford to own a car? How do they get around or city as fast and efficiently as possible? The answer is they don't.
I have experienced this as a student at the University of Minnesota and not having a car here. I bought a bus pass and enjoy taking the bus and light rail places. It is way less expensive than what I would pay for three weeks worth of gas. However, on a weekend (Saturday or Sunday) day it would take me about an hour to get from the University of Minnesota to the University of St Thomas. The University of St Thomas is about three to four miles away from the U, so why does it take that long?? Because there aren't enough buses running multiple routes. This means that I have to ride all the way into downtown St. Paul and then loop back towards the campus. This is so inconvenient!!! Something that should be so revolutionary in the way we get around is so time consuming.
If we could change this and get a better and more elaborate mass transportation system than there would be less car traffic and emissions. This would benefit everyone, no matter if you were riding the bus or driving a car.
We can change this. In November we will have the oppurtunity to vote on whether parts of our tax money will go to expanding mass transportation. However, what many people don't know is that this money is already being taken out of our taxes. Right now it is being used to balance our general state budget, they took it away from mass transportation. This fall we will vote on whether or not the money will get swapped back into the right place. A lot of people don't know that this is the case and this needs to be changed. This proposition requires a 60/40 vote and if one doesn't vote than it is an automatic nay. We must make sure that the general public knows about this and votes yes because this is the time to change it.
We must not think that the mass transportation system affects only lower class people who can't afford a car. This is something that affects everyone within this city who needs to get around. This something that will benefit the lives of everyone and needs to be fixed.
Talk to legislators, fellow citizens, talk to them about the issue. Ask them if they have ever tried to use the bus or the lightrail after 7 or on the weekends and if it was convenient. My guess is that most of them will say no.

September 16, 2006

The Energy of A Community

An instant rush hit me as soon as I stepped foot off the light rail and saw the Midtown Market below me. This place was vibrant with energy; energy produced by the people. Energy is often a word that most people use to explain heat, water cooling, atoms bouncing off each other and many other scientific terms. However, as soon as I stepped into the market I felt a different and more tangible energy. I was welcomed into the makrket by vibrant music, beats, and dancing. However, this was only the undercurrent to the flair of the people. The energy was not confined by walls or doors; the energy was not confined by prejudices that can often times rule people's lives. It radiated through the people, the compassion and the understanding that we are never as different as we may think. Scurrying about the market were fathers with their sons, friends, couples, teens, a grandpa and grandma. People were welcoming, engaging, thoughtful, and very kind. It was one of the few places that I have been with people of many different ethnic and religious backgrounds where they made me feel as if I belonged there too. Everywhere I turned there were people holding hands, talking to vendors and each other; interacting with people through the environment.

Energy can be felt through the people of the market but it is created through the environment that we engage in. The market is a place that brings many different kinds of people together to share in the joys of food, music, and handcrafted goods. It is a very positive environment filled with the unescapable smells of fresh vegetables, rhythmic dancing, drumming, and bright colors everywhere your eye can rove. Even the sky being cloudy and gray couldn't take away the light the radiated from this place in every direction.

I took pictures of the market hoping to captivate the essence of it but I'm afraid I am not looking into photography as a major. While I was taking pictures I came across a man and a group of small children. The gentleman informed me that this group was a group of young children that went out into the community and jumped in feet first. They met adults and other mentors outside of their neighborhoods who helped them with different projects and guided them towards a finish line. When he heard that I want to be an architect he told me about an architecture project he's working on. The kids, architecture students, architects, and volunteers will meet in a park and build a model of a lighthouse. The lighthouse will then be on display somewhere in the community. I found it comforting and inspiring that if you put yourself and your energy out into the world, something very positive and meaningful can be created.


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