28.2.06

stp: Univ. LRT "Porky's" Animation

Hey everybody . . . Check out the LRT animation!

I love how it shows Porky's, the epicenter of car culture. Can anyone imagine all those muscle-car folks cruising down the strip with a train in the background?

stp: Carleton Lofts at University Ave.

The University LRT boom is already starting. I've been noticing the construction along University Avenue, just East of Raymond Avenue, for a while now. They're doing something to all those big beautiful brick buildings along there -- including what was John Kerry's TC HQ.

And now I'm reading the (St. Anthony) Park Bugle, and there's an article about the Carleton Lofts.
Tranformation of the former Johnson Brothers Liquor Company warehouses into the Carleton Lofts is in full swing. The first residents should be ready to move into 169 new loft apartments at University Ave. and Carleton St. in spring 2007. Eventually the South St. Anthony Park site will include more than 400 apartments.
[ . . . ]
The two square blocks include three brick warehouses that were built in the early 20th century and have "hsitoric district" designation. The development will make use of these warehouses, while newer additions will be torn down.

The St. Paul Planning COmmission, which recoomended approbval of the rezoning, also granted apprioval for needed variances. The City Council, which gave final approval to the rezoning, also put the project in a tax increment financing (TIF) distric. Other assistance came in the form of tax credits, including credits for the area's historic designation status.

This is, of course, a great improvement. They'll be the first part of the University renaissance, which will dramatically change the street throughout the next decade. Plus, they're keeping the historical character of the place.

Let's just hope that Twin City Reptiles and Custom Cat Purrrniture can stay in business!

24.2.06

density&diversity: Road Rage Rage

I was standing on the Grand Avenue sidewalk the other day, enjoying the cold sunshine on one of the most pedestrian-friendly streets in town. I drank my coffee and watched this mother cross the street with her kid, and as a car slowed down to make sure she got across allright, all of a sudden this dude in the car behind started leaning on the horn because the first car wasn't moving faster. Dude was repeatedly honking and I watched the fat guy leaning back in his seat tailgate the car down Grand, through the Macalester College stretch that has those pedestrian islands and students everywhere . . .

I just wanted to grab the nearest piece of outdoor furniture and smash in the guy's windshield. "Stupid shitbag!," I wanted to say, "this is a calm, neighborhood street! *!@&!!!" I would smash the dude's windshield as I jumped on the hood, grabbed the fat-ass by the parka, and pulled him out of his old Toyota and threw him on the ground until he apologized and promised to calm down, drive slowly, and watch for pedestrians.

Of course, all I could do is watch and mutter . . . but nothing gets me madder than road rage. Goddamn!

mpls: What About The Wave?

The bellicose Minneapolis Park Board is on the verge of an unpopular deal to develop land next to the 3rd St. Bridge, along the St. Anthony riverfront. (Downtown Journal story.)
The park board's planning committee heard public comments on the proposed sale of the site at 420 1st St. - the former home of the Fuji Ya sushi restaurant - to make way for a riverfront condo development known as the Wave.

Heritage Development, a Little Canada-based developer, has proposed a 36-unit condo project and restaurant for the site that, at its highest point, would rise 11 stories.

Most of the people who spoke at the meeting were neighbors opposed to the project, said Parks General Manager Don Siggelkow.

The question is whether or not this land is worthwhile as open parkland, or whether the cash-strapped park system should take the money and run. Of course, once you develop open space like this, you can never go back . . . so this kind of decision should not be made lightly.

I'm of the opinion that open riverfront land is worth keeping open. Surely there's some sort of public use for this space, which is right next to St. Anthony Lock and Mill Ruins Park area.

The project hasn't gone to the city for approval yet, so look for more discussion about "The Wave."

21.2.06

bloomington: New LRT Station

There's talk of $2 million for a new LRT station in "downtown" Bloomington. (Here's the STrib story.)


At the urging of the city of Bloomington, Metro Transit will build a 34th Avenue station at American Boulevard. The station was dropped from initial construction for lack of money, but Bloomington thinks it will complement its development plans. Estimated cost: $2 million.

It's a good idea, of course, because it improves the impact of the LRT as a development tool down on the South end of the line.

What's more, the fact that they're able to so easily add a station at this point is part of the LRT funding strategy. It's something like "point of entry" fundraising, where you ask for something limited and then add more once your population is more comfortable with the relationship.

Let's hope that happens, too, for the NorthStar line. They couldn't add a Northeast Minneapolis stop in their current proposal (there are no stops between Fridley and downtown), but perhaps they'll be able to add one in a few years after the line opens up.

19.2.06

mpls: "A" Mill Is a Go

Well, the zoning commission approved the Pillsbury mill condo project -- without even shaving a floor or two off the top of the four 20+ story towers. The only consolation they threw to the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) was to require facade changes: less glass, more "stone." (The Strib story.)

A committee of the Minneapolis City Council gave approval Thursday to the most controversial aspect of the project, the four towers of 15, 20, 24 and 27 stories.

The council's Zoning and Planning Committee rejected the recommendation of the Heritage Preservation Commission, which determined that the towers would be so tall that they would dwarf the Pillsbury A Mill complex, a National Historic Landmark.


I thought the arguements of the HPC were a bit weak, personally, and the developers were coming into the battle with the huge advantage of having two neighborhood NRP groups on their side. I think this is the right move to make.

In fact, I'd bet that if this project hadn't gotten the consensus of the NRP groups, it wouldn't be happening. In a sense, a lot of the political power in Minneaolis is at the neighborhood level. Mpls city officials know that, with turnout decreasing, solidified voting blocks like neighborhood organizations have a lot of influence.

14.2.06

density&diversity: The Transit Dilemma

I've been talking to people lately about the upcoming University Ave. LRT, and whether or not it's going to have tunnels (or bridges) at two key intersections: Washington Avenue at the U of MN, and at Snelling Avenue in Saint Paul.

The problem doesn't have an easy answer, but it points toward something I call the Transit Dilemma. Good transit is most expensive where it's most needed. Those places that are in dire dire need of a transit option are those places where the best option is an underground tunnel. (The short list is Lyndale/Hennepin, and the U of MN.) And of course that's god-damned expensive.

It's because of density, which is the most basic prerequisite for effective transit. In places like the Stadium Village stretch of Washington Avenue, you've got by far the most heavily clogged, pedestrian-laden place in the Twin Cities. This is a place where cars stream in at 45 mph from downtown only to be met with one lane of stoplight-encrusted road with busses galore, parking, and the most people per square foot for 500 miles in any direction. It's a real buzz kill. (Here's the strib story on the topic.)

To even think about putting LRT at street grade here would make the U of MN congestion ten times worse, and that's why this whole business about "Tunnel or No Tunnel?" is mere window dressing. The powers that be at the U of MN would never condone it.

Less so but still a problem is the Snelling Avenue interchange. This is the #2 traffic intersection in Saint Paul, and is only going to become more heavily trafficked as the Bus Barn site gets built up and the SuperTarget (and SuperWalMart?) go in at this site. Putting a LRT down the middle might tie this area in a Gordian knot, and maybe an unsightly Lake Street-style overpass (or a tunnel) would be a good idea.

But I don't think it'll happen here. Transit planners are probably thinking that University Avenue auto traffic will decrease somewhat with the LRT going in. (Though the overall traffic will be more than compensated by the train numbers.) And they're really trying to keep costs down. But, that being said, this will be the probable flashpoint of any anti-LRT aggression. Particularly since the damned Midway Books guy is going to be out protesting every time a train goes by.

These debates reveal why TOD is such a cost-effective way of building a transit system, but only in the long term. (In the short term it doesn't make any sense because you're building a rail corridor where there isn't any demand.) But in the long term, as infrastructure follows the capitol investment, you've got a great transit surrounded by density. And you've done it much cheaper than if you'd built the transitway after the density.

(Not to mention the whole chicken-and-egg conundrum, about whether density follows transit or vice versa . . .)

strib: Ridership Up Despite Fare Increase

This story in the Strib today.

Metro Transit reported a 7 percent increase in combined bus and light-rail ridership last year, despite a 25 cent fare increase and bus service reductions. A mild winter and high gasoline prices contributed to the strong ridership.

Just imagine what ridership would be like if there were adequate funding for transit. I'm amazed at how good our bus service is despite the fact that it's local government's redheaded stepchild.

Also:

There was this graphic in the Strib a while back comparing the demographics of bus riders to LRT riders. The upshot:

Bus riders have lower incomes and are much less likely to own a car. LRT riders have higher incomes and are much more likely to own a car.

It goes to show that the only way to really change "car culture" (congestion, environmental damage, and isolation) is to build a fast, comfortable LRT system.

(Either that or remove all parking lots . . .)

7.2.06

density&diversity: Eminent Domain

Eminent domain is going to be discussed during this year's session, and though it's somewhat of a symbolic issue,

For example, see this article.
The arguments in favor of an absolute prohibition, or an extremely circumscribed eminent domain authority are persuasive. The eminent domain process itself is unfair. As Jane Jacobs, renowned urban historian and a keen observer of urban redevelopment efforts noted in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court, "Condemnations generally benefit the politically powerful while the costs fall on the poor and politically disadvantaged."

My feeling is that (private-to-private) eminent domain is worthless. Screw it! Cities should advocate small scale development proejcts that fit into their neigborhoods and offer organic, human-scale densification and tax-base growth. There's a reason that big, totalitarian, top-down management proposals are incredibly unpopular . . . it doesn't work very well. It doesn't build neighborhood values. It alienates the very people who are supposed to benefint from urban planning: the citizens.

Look for more on this topic, as it's a quasi-libertarian red meat issue.

mpls: Target Credit

An interesting article on Target development plans in the Twin Cities Business Monthly, giving most of the credit for the downtown Mpls boom to the Target Corp. It's something I've heard before . . . (though only from Target employees).

Downtown's growth in all areas last year -- office, retail, and even residential -- can be credited in part to Target. Experts agree that the retailer's exponential growth has meant more people working and living downtown, which in turn drives other businesses in the area.

"If there are five key factors to downtown growth, they are Target, Target, Target, Target, and Target," says Russel Nelson, presdient of Nelson Tietz & Hoye, a Minneapolis commercial real estate and project management firm. Target employs approximately 10,000 "team members" in the downtown area, up from about 7,000 employees at the beginnin of 2003, Michaud says.

Meanwhile, the vacancy rate for office space downtown dropped to 19 percent in the third quarter of last year, after hovering above 20 perrcent for most of the previous three years.

The article goes on to make mention of the fact that the Target expansion is happening, not in downtown, but in Brooklyn Park -- far to the north [sic].

It begs the question: Is the "downtown revival" overblown? Is it mostly due to one corporation's growth? Or, is it part of a bigger lifestyle/mindset change?

stp: Transit Summit Round-Up

The Must-Have meeting of the year was a few weeks ago at Hamline University. I was there, and I'm probably one of the only people who took the bus to the meeting, which was why I was late . . .

But when I arrived, there was a packed auditorium-style classroom filled with the upper-middle class white Saint Paulites who are core transit buffs in a city known for transit buffs. They all had their notepads out and were riveted by the evening's lineup, all giving powerpoint presentations about the future of Saint Paul transportation planning.

Giving talks were:

  • Larry Soderholm, St. Paul planning administrator
  • Al Lovejoy, St. Paul something or other
  • Mike Klassen, St. Paul Public Works
  • Kan Haider, Ramsey County
  • Cris Roy, MNDOT
  • Steve Morris, Ramsey Rail Authority
  • Adam Harrington, Metro Transit
  • Rep. Alice Haussman, MN Legislature
  • Chris Coleman, Mayor
The most exciting moment was the 30 sec. CGI projection of what the LRT would look like as it came to a stop in front of Porky's and the Episcopalian old folks home at the corner of University and Fairview. It was a fun little video.

I have extensive notes on the meeting, and I'm hoping to post parts of the talks for everyone to see in the future. But here are some of the proposed projects:

  • Central Corridor LRT
  • 35-E (b/w downtown StP and Roseville) Resurfacing and Reconstruction
  • New Lafayette Bridge
  • "Community "scoping"
  • I-94 Resurfacing b/w downtown StP and Cedar Ave. in Mpls
  • I-94 Noise Wall installations at Prior and Fairview (South side) and new the Snelling intersection
  • the downtown Union Depot
  • Planning for other LRT lines (W 7th, Robert St., somewhere to the North)
There was a lot of other talk, but the main problem is lack of money. Particularly depressing was the current state of the bus system. By all accounts, Metro Transit is a very effecient system (cost per rider), but they're simply hamstrung by lack of a stable source of funding. They've made great strides (esp. along Como and W 7th), and have high hopes of doubling ridership by 2025. But without a stable income stream, they're going to be hostage to politics.

But, the only thing really clear was that a whole lot is riding on the University Avenue LRT.

mpls: Greenway Area Rezoning

The Wedge newspaper has a story on proposed rezoning in the critical area along the Midtown Greenway b/w Lake Calhoun and 35-W.

In the past week, the City Planning Staff [. . .] proposed a plan to rezone a portion of the land which crosses through our neighborhood [. . .]. For us this means that the area between 28th Street to Lake street and Lyndale Avenue to Hennepin Avenue, which had been excluded from the city's rezoning approach, is now being considered by the City Planners as ready for rezoning and in some cases significant upzoning.

Those "significant upzoning" areas are along the major streets -- Hennepin, Lyndale, and Nicollet -- where they intersect with the Greenway and Lake Street. (Of course, for Nicollet Avenue you have the issue of that horrible K-Mart. When will you see the wrecking ball? When? When?)

This would mean significant changes, particularly at the intersection of Lyndale and Lake, which is (for the most part) already owned by developers, and they'll be looking to do some major demolition/rebuilding in the next few years.

Anyone in the area can attend the neighborhood meeting where the rezoning will be discussed. It's 2/15, 6:30, Jefferson School (1200 W 26th St.), Room 107, 612-377-5023.

stp: Park Fees/Requirements

Interesting debate here on Saint Paul development proposals.

"Redevelopment is tricky," said John Errigo, project manager of Metro Plains Development. "If you're in a location where it's all built up and you're doing a 200-unit high-rise, how do you dedicate land? You really can't."

Errigo said a parks dedication fee would add $600,000 to the cost of his current condominium project at the former Ramsey County Jail site in downtown St. Paul. That translates to about $2,000 more per unit, he said, which would get passed onto buyers.


Adding much needed park space at developer expense is a great idea, though I wonder how useful the kind of spaces that would be inserted into most projects would be . . . Would they be tiny, unuseable spaces, or would they be things like the oft-vauntned "public amenities" that are included in some of the more dense (i.e. tall) Minneapolis condo developements?

I highly doubt it would dampen development in Saint Paul's
"hotter" areas (like the Ramsey Cty. jail site), but it might affect mariginal (i.e. poor) areas. Of course, it's those areas where we badly need infill development . . .

I guess the benefits of this proposal lie in the details, but all in all, I'm all for it.

edina: Centennial Lakes-- City of Authenticity?

This story is hilarious, partly because I love/hate Centennial Lakes so much. If you've never been, go . . .

I like going to Centennial Lakes just to experience the pastoral falseness of the 3 man-made lakes in the land of 10,000 actual, real lakes. I love to walk along the quasi-Venitian canals as piped-in classical music plays through hedge-lurking Bose speakers. I love to visit the Chuck E. Cheese and boat past the lake-ensconsed fountain.

You can't make this up...

John Bohan thought he was choosing life in the suburbs when he bought his townhouse in Edina 10 years ago.

Tonight the retired Pillsbury executive, armed with more than 100 letters of support from other neighbors, will lead the charge on Edina City Hall in the hope of demolishing plans for a 17-story building that would tower over the man-made pond just west of his home.


Nothing like "life in the suburbs,." If only they'd stop sullying fake-nature with things like "buildings," and "condos." This has to be a new low for NIMBY-ism...

6.2.06

mpls: Back to the Population Future?

Story in the Downtown Journal about how, maybe, someday, in the future, Minneapolis will have as many people as it once had in the past...
The population of Minneapolis is growing at a significantly faster rate than earlier projections — planners now expect the city to swell above 466,000 residents by 2030, for an 18 percent increase over the last U.S. Census.

Downtown and Uptown are the growth leaders, accounting for much of the anticipated boom, although the Hiawatha Corridor also is expected to see significant development.

That's amazing, unless you consider the fact that the Twin Cities metro has tripled in size since 1940 . . .

3.2.06

mpls: Schubert Theater

This is a great idea from a development standpoint, simply because the North stretch of Hennepin Avenue is in such trouble. The Schubert, and the block around it (Block F) is a big barrier to extending the downtown bustle to the (horribly misplanned) "Gateway"area.
The top priority on the city's request for state bonding, the Shubert Theater, also has been in line for state money for many years. The historic Hennepin Avenue theater has stood empty since 1983.

If approved, the $15 million request would allow the city to construct, furnish and equip the theater complex.


But it probably won't happen this year, simply because Pawlenty is in charge. He knows he can't get any votes in Minneapolis, and will funnel most of the bonding dollars to the state's swing regions, like Rochester or Saint Cloud.

mpls: IRV is a Great Idea that will be Shot Down!

Here's a story that makes me happy . . . Talk of Instant Runoff Voting in Minneapolis.
Widespread support doesn't ensure the question will be put to voters this fall. There are only three ways to get an amendment on the ballot: through a vote by the City Council or the Charter Commission, or through a petition drive in which the signatures of 5 percent of the number of voters who turned out in the last city election are collected and verified. In this case, it would require 10,000 signatures, Massey said. Before any group could begin circulating a petition, the Charter Commission must approve its wording.

IRV would immediately double the vote going to third parties, and give the Greens (and others?) a great shot at city-wide offices.

That's why it'll never pass without a serious mega-grassroots effort.

My Promise:

If anyone high up in the DFL campaigns for this, I'll move to Woodbury.

mpls: 420 1st St. and the Park Board

The Park Board is weighing a proposal about a condo at the old Fuji Ya site, the corner of 1st St. and 4th in the Warehouse Dist. They're thinking about a caondo sale, and a hearing will be 5:30 on Feb. 15th, at the Park Board HQ (2117 W. River Rd.).

It's a beautiful building, as is . . . It'd be a shame if more nice brick spaces were torn down. I wonder if the condo proposal involves using the old spaces?

mpls: "A" Mill Lofts on Edge

Downtown Journal also had a report that the "A" Mill lofts, which were denied approval by the HPC at the beginning of the month, are going to appeal.

That's not surprising. What's surprising is that apparently the appeal will be shot down by Zoning Cmmttee. Chair, Gary Schiff.

The appeal could go before the Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee Feb. 16 and the full Council on Feb. 24, Frank said. The meetings begin at 9:30 a.m. and will include time for public comment.

After the Jan. 10 denial, City Councilmember Gary Schiff (Ward 9), who chairs Zoning and Planning, said he supports the height limits and does not believe that “skyscrapers” are appropriate next to the historic complex.


I really find this hard to believe . . . the HPC's reasons for denying the buildings are pretty weak (e.g. "it will reduce the profile of the 'A' Mill"), and the projects have NRP support. Frankly, this is the perfect place for dense development.

Maybe there's an issue with developer politics. I read a while back that one of of the NE developers (Flour Sack Flats guy) is mega-pissed that the "A" Mill project might geta height exemption when his already-approved project didn't get a height exemption... I'd guess that the City Council is trying to play fair, and make sure no one developer gets special treatment.

I'd bet they're going to try and whittle the "A" Mill proposal down a floor or two . . .

mpls: Fair Oaks Park, a.k.a. Don't Go There!

Considering all the capitol investment surrounding Fair Oaks Park -- the MIA, CTC, Hennepin Cty. History Museum, MCAD -- the park is in surprisingly rough shape. Last year I was at a Whittier NRP meeting where a group of youth workers presented the results from a "kid survey" of things to do in the Whittier neighborhood. The kids made a map of the neighborhood, with all the spots where they could go to do things, have fun, and hang out.

Fair Oaks Park was marked with a big skull and crossbones.

The Downtown Journal has a story this week about a community non-profit that's sprouting up to try and reclaim the park from the drug-addled vagrants who make it their home. (Partly, the area's roughness is because of the Steven's Church soup kitchen nearby, and the Peace House a few blocks away. Where are these people supposed to go?)

The story doesn't give many specifics. There's mention of some superficial investments in making the park more appealing by adding a footbridge and a pond. But apparently they want to add lighting and video cameras -- which would scare the bejeezus out of Fair Oaks vagabonds.

Working with the city, the nonprofit hopes to increase legal use of the park and push out crime through such measures as increased lighting and high-tech surveillance.

The Park Board already has in place a foundation for Fair Oaks and a master plan for improvements. Whittlef has contacted both the Park Board and the Park Police about the nonprofit’s plans and hopes to build the necessary partnership with the city, neighborhood institutions, residents and donors to implement these and other changes.


Also:

This looks like a dig at the Park Board. It's certainly true that they aren't known for working well with with the community . . .

metcouncil: State of the Region

Strib op-ed today about Peter Bell. Essentially, I agree with them when they say that Peter Bell is the best we could have done given a hard right governor like Pawlenty in office.

Still, given that he's part of the most conservative administration since the Met Council's founding in 1967, Bell's pragmatism has helped maintain the momentum of the past two councils. A natural resources atlas to help guide the growth of far-flung suburbs has been completed, new regional parks proposed and new benchmarks on regional growth established.

Those benchmarks should be refined to measure progress on some of the metro's thorniest questions: Is it good enough that 30 percent of household growth is occurring in central cities and inner suburbs, or would a 50-50 split be a better goal, given that this region is still sprawling faster than its peers? Are new jobs concentrating along transit corridors or in scattered places that will require more auto trips? Is the metro area becoming even more economically segregated?


Peter Bell: not as bad as he could have been.

mpls: Chicago & 26th

A little birdie told me that the Chicago Avenue block across the street from Minneapolis Children's Hospital is being levelled, in preparation for another massive hospital building.

It was always strange to see semi-abandoned businesses next to the hospital. I wonder what it's like to live across the street from it?

2.2.06

density&diversity: Traffic Congestion

Every once in a while, the transit naysayers will point out that transit projects don't do anything to releive traffic congestion. For example, people said this a lot during the '04 transit strike, when the lack of buses didn't seem to affect the rush hours on I-94.

To those naysayers, I say: "Yes. You're right." Transit projects such as the LRT do very little to relieve freeway congestion.

But then to the naysayers I also say, "Nothing, nothing, nothinig will relieve congestion," while I jump and dance around in rags, clutching a walking stick, and wearing a bike helmet. I dance and leap in intricate cocentric circles, shouting "Nothing! Nothing! Nothing!" over and again, and the look in my eyes, the look that bespeaks of interminable human masses, the look that parts the curtains on the oceanic weight of six billion reproducing people, silences them and they sit down right in the median to gaze at the asphalt and count its pebbled flaws.

What I mean is, I was reading the New York Times magazine the other day, and came across this article about the inevitablity of traffic congestion.

The best part:
But gridlock, various experts have now concluded, cannot be "solved." (The express-lane plans actually presume continued gridlock; if adjacent lanes aren't crammed, who will opt to pay for a fast-moving alternative?) To dip into the oddly fascinating science of traffic is to find specialists grappling with both indeterminacy and ineluctability. On the one hand, theoretical physicists in Germany, busy comparing traffic flow to the movement of gas molecules, have suggested that tiny and inexplicable fluctuations in car speed or spacing can cause major disruptions that take a long time to clear up. On the other hand, the Principle of Triple Convergence prevails: expand capacity on a busy road, and within a short time, word of speedier travel will spread -- drawing drivers who previously resorted to different routes or off-peak hours or public transportation. Before you know it, the road will have returned to its earlier level of congestion.

As Kevin Costner said, "if you build it, they will come." The T.C. isn't even close to a gridlocked metro area, but it's getting there. Surprisingly soon, as more and more people move in to the metro's far reaches, it will be nearly impossible to reliably commute along the freeway. And, really, there's nothing we can do about it . . .

talesfromthebus: Movin' Along

A while back I was reading the "The Economist" column in the NYT Magazine, and they had a question that went something like this.

"I was riding the bus in Chicago and the bus stopped for this woman who had a baby in a stroller. The rules are that you can't come on board a bus unless your stroller is folded up, and when the woman tried to get the bus driver to wait for her to fold up the stroller, the bus driver said 'Sorry lady,' and shut the door in her face. Doesn't this seem wrong?"

The Economist (or was it The Ethicist?) then replied that the bus driver had done the right thing, pointing out something like the Kantian categorical imperative. If everyone made the bus wait 60 seconds at each stop, the buses wouldn't run on time, and people wouldn't be able to get from place to place.

A similar thing happend the other day while I was riding the 3B. This lady came running up to the bus just as the driver was pulling away and shouted, but either the driver didn't hear or else didn't want to wait for her.

Then later that trip, the driver noticably prompted a few Slow Payers (i.e. those people who fumble to get their bus cards out, and then stick them into the reader the wrong way causing valuable dozens of seconds to elapse) to move on into the bus and stand in the isle while preparing their payment. Whatever the cause, that driver was driving like a bat out of hell (if that bat were stuck in traffic and obeying all flying mammal traffic laws.)

Of course, some times bus drivers will see people coming from down the street and wait patiently for them to arrive at the door. Sometimes bus drivers will help people with their cards, or chat and shoot the breeze with the door ajar, as if they're on break or something. In fact, I'd way Minnesota busses are distinctively personal. Many drivers greet you and thank you when you board and exit, and many of them seem to proceed oh so leisurely down the avenue. One might say that they cruise.

It prompts the debate:

Is it better to be cold and quick . . . or warm and stately?

Should drivers maintain professional demeanors by focusing on driving the bus . . . or should drivers chat and engage their patrons?

mn: The Michigan Left vs. the Traffic Circle

Check out this discussion on mnspeak.com, about the "Michigan Left":
The Michigan Left was developed to avoid the interlocking left-turn movements along divided highways. In this way, the only turning movements allowed at such an intersection are right-hand turns. Traffic lights can be placed at busier Michigan Left intersections if warranted. For the most heavily-used "crossovers," specialized traffic signals may be placed to ensure traffic does not back up on the highway waiting to turn left.

This reminds me of the return of the roundabout (for example, Hwy 13 and Co. Rd. 2 in Scott County).

mn: Motor Vehicle Sales Tax Ballot Initiative

Barrring a miracle, the MVST ballot initiative is the big deal this year. So, Pawlenty's announcement in support of the measure is good to hear. (Election year, anybody?) I heard Saint Paul Representative Alice Hausmann talking about this initiative the other day, and she is wholly behind it too. It seems that if both sides can agree on this, it's bound to pass.

(Here's the Strib story.)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Wednesday that he would borrow $2.5 billion to pay for long-delayed road projects if voters approve a constitutional amendment to direct more money to transportation.

He sees this as an alternative to a gas tax increase, which he vetoed last year.

But, the current debate is over whether or not the gas tax ought to be raised. (The answer is obviously "yes.") Current squabbles are attempts to pin the Governor down on his veto from last year, which put the metro area even farther behind the transportation curve.

Conclusion:

The ballot measure will pass, and at least that's something.

But, the real crux is that the current price of gas isn't even close to covering for the subsidized cost of auto trasportation in this state. Raising the gas tax is just about the only way to affect consumer behavior, and even that takes years.

I just read an article on gas taxes from State Tax Notes ("Motor Fuel Taxation and Ecnomic Development: A Regional Approach" -- 12/26/05), which argues that a gas tax would reap economic and health benefits, even if you refunded the collected gas tax money on people's income taxes. Just shifting some of the auto costs onto a 'user fee' type of system would bring consumer choices in line with supply costs.

Debatable conclusion:

Vetoing last year's gas tax was the worst thing Pawlenty has done while in office.