28.2.13

Neon Signs #5

[Lyndale Avenue (?), Minneapolis.]


[East Lake Street, Minneapolis.]


[St Clair Avenue, St Paul.]


[Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]


[Lake and Minnehaha, Minneapolis.]


[East Lake Street(?), Minneapolis.]

Signs of the Times #67

To whom it may concern:
That's really fucking lame!

[Bus shelter. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.]


ALWAYS
 and
FOREVER

In our
Hearts!

[Grand Avenue, St Paul.]


Please, no Seating, Bicycles, Etc. Along Window Boxes. Thank You!

[Grand Avenue, St Paul.]


Thanks to
all who Donate
and Shop
Here
You're the Best!

[Sidewalk. West 7th Street, St Paul.]


ATTENTION
This is not a
waiting area
for bus riders.

THANK YOU
PIONEER PRESS

[Door. Downtown, St Paul.]


We will be closing
at 7:00 on
Sunday 17 February
as it is time for
our company party

[Door. Location forgotten.]


Australian goatmeat basic cuts


[Window. Lake and Minnehaha, Minneapolis.]



This is no
longer a Bus
Shetler

Please wait
outside

[Window. Downtown, St Paul.]

27.2.13

Reading the Highland Villager #78

[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager so that you don't have to. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]


Headline: Debate heats up over plans for new bar and restaurant at Snelling-Ashland
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: [As sure as a snowfall in Minnesota March...] Report on a neighborhood meeting  about the new Buffalo Wild Wings going in at the old Cheapo site on Snelling Avenue. Neighbors are frustrated by "noise and traffic," "lack of notice," and "excessive alcohol consumption." Best quote: "I feel this kind of business should be in a mall somewhere and not in our neighborhood," said one neighbor before calling the "black and yellow design of Buffalo Wild Wings' storefront 'terrible.'" [It's not that I disagree, its just that it's all so predictable.] The new plan involves closing a curb cut, some fencing around the parking lot. Article also mentions the Snelling and Selby development, which is still a ways away from selecting a final site plan because of height and setback negotiations. [This seems like slightly lazy reportage. Surely the Villager could have split these out into two separate NIMBY pieces?]


Headline: St. Paul Camera Club has kept its focus for 120 years; Members share finer points of photography
Author: Frank Jossi

Short short version: Human interest piece on the St Paul Camera Club, all of whom seem very old.


Headline: BZA grants massive sign variance for St. Paul Athletic Club building
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The newly remodeled Saint Paul Athletic Club downtown will be allowed to put  large "illuminated but not digital" signs on their building, almost 50 times the allowed size, as long as they fenestrate their walls within two years. Article includes the following quote from a BZA member: "I think St. Paul could use a few audacious gestures every once in a while." [What, so a huge sign for a gorgeous historic posh club is OK, but a protruding bit of signage for a rinky-dink sex shop isn't? Is that how it works, St Paul? Oh the audacity. -Ed.]


Headline: Federation looks to speed up work on former brewery office building
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Local neighborhood group is trying to get a city grant to market the office building where the "rathskeller" is in the currently remodeling Schmidt brewery.


Headline: St. Thomas plans new turf, building on south campus
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The catholic University is going to put new fake sod on its ballfields, while expanding the gym.


Headline: Magnolia Blossom agrees to five more years at Watergate
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A cruise ship will keep running out of St Paul at least until 2017.


Headline: Cosmic's Coffee is fined and has its license suspended
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The run-down coffee shop on Snelling and Selby hasn't paid its bills. It's closed, and doesn't look good. [That place was always creepy.]


Headline: St Paul may allow brewery tap rooms in business zones
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council kicked off a plan to change the regulations for breweries [tap rooms]. The Planning Commission will look at changing the rules so they can be located in commercial, not just industrial, areas. [I immediately volunteered to work on this. I think it will involve a lot of careful study, some research trips across the river. For research purposes.]


Headline: City Council to consider Rondo Avenue memorial
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There may be "street signs" commemorating Rondo Avenue along St Anthony avenue in the future.


Headline: Effort to save College of Visual Arts continues with fundraiser
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: This Friday at the Amsterdam.


Headline: Commission to hear changes to Highland Village sign regs
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There will be more rules about what kind of signs you can and can't have in "Highland Village." [Nothing digital or literally flashy.]


Headline: Public Works appeals rejection of wider Lowertown sidewalk
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Article om the current state of play in the [much discussed on this blog] lowertown sidewalk issue. The Heritage Preservation Commission rejected the expansion, but the City Council will decide on an appeal next Wednesday. Article includes summary, some of the public works changes to the project. The current plan is to only remove six parking spots. Best quote comes from a building owner: "Lowertown had wider sidewalks more than a century ago 'and that's the way it should be.'" [Snap! Stay tuned...]


Headline: Madison-Benson paving approved
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Streets will be repaved somewhere in Highland Park.


Headline: St. Paul considers TIF district for Ford site
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The City Council may vote to "preserve TIF as an option" for redeveloping the Ford site in Highland.


Headline: Lilydale Park roadwork OK'd
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: They are definitely going to build the new roads, trails, and parking lot in Lilydale Park.

26.2.13

Today on Streets.mn: Shoup-ian Parking Economics vs. the World of Costanzas

I had a late start today, but just finished my fortnightly post over at Streets.mn about parking lot economics. I've already written about the 6th Street sidewalk expansion debate in the context of historic preservation (and why I think the St Paul HPC got it wrong). Here's another stab at the argument, this time from the perspective of parking economics.

Basically, I finally coughed up the dough and bought Donald Shoup's thick book on parking. I'm really glad I did! It's terrific.

It really helps you understand the mysteries of parking, or as I put it, why we all "turn into Costanzas" when were trying to stop driving our car. I spend a lot of time explaining Shoup's main points, which aren't that complicated, but here's the punch of my piece:
Let’s return to the example of the parking spaces around Mears Park. What the original analysis gets wrong, showing that removing these meters will cost the city $55,000 each year, is that parking is a dynamic market. If you remove one parking spot, it doesn’t mean that money goes away. People will still be driving around, looking for somewhere to stop their car. If you take away one meter, the one next to it immediately becomes more valuable.
The issue in Lowertown, Saint Paul is that lots of people want to park on a very few places of land. The problem that comes from that is that many people spend a lot of highly frustrating time “cruising,” struggling in vain, attempting to find one of these precious patches of asphalt nirvana. That’s the key problem! We need to find a way a way liberate people this teeth-grinding white-knuckled automobile parking hell.
Shoup’s solution to this problem is to tweak prices so that the parking market equals out, to use pricing to equalize the supply and demand between the highly in-demand and the little-used parking psots in the city. (As a friend recently pointed out, downtown Saint Paul has lots of parking. Most of it is underused.) This might mean raising prices around Mears Park, and lowering them on the north side of West 7th Street. This might mean raising on-street prices in general, and lowering prices at the many parking ramps. Done right, there would always be a spot for the taking along Mears Park, and many of the (city-owned) underused parking ramps would be full.

While I'm not living and dying on whether or not this sidewalk expansion gets built, I do get irritated when people use faulty and misleading arguments to make their case. I think Americans are far too obsessed with parking. It's not something I can understand at all. Reading Shoup's book makes me realize that I'm not alone.


25.2.13

Both Craft Beer and Bicycling have Endless Room for Growth

“Can you believe how many breweries there are in the Twin Cities now? It seems like only five years ago there was only Summit.”

I was talking to my friend the other day at Republic bar on the West Bank, as we sat in awe of the seemingly infinite array of taps.

“Yeah, I know,” He agreed. “I wonder if Summit is hurting from all the competition now.”

“Hell no,” I declared. “I just read somewhere that craft beer is still only 6% the total beer market. There’s tons of room to grow.”

It was true. Despite all the publicity and buzz, despite all the new tiny interesting breweries opening up in Northeast or Minnetonka or Stillwater or Saint Louis Park, in the big picture, craft beer is still just the condensation forming on a bottle of Bud Light. With a 6% market share, the amount of small local breweries could double and double and double again and the big breweries would still be taking up half of the market.

It got me thinking about bicycling in the Twin Cities. The total commute mode share in a high profile bicycling place like Portland, Oregon is also about 6%. (In Minneapolis its closer to 4%, maybe higher if you include non-work trips.)

Despite all the attention and buzz around bicycles, they’re still just a diminutive tiny fraction of the total mode share, and in order to reach the kind of market share you find in places in Northern Europe, the amount of bicycles in Minneapolis would have to grow six-fold.

Think about that for a second. In both of these cases, all the recent activity over the past few years remains negligible when you look at the big picture. Imagine a city with six times the number of quality bike lanes, six times the number of people riding bicycles all around town. What would it look like? How much bicycle parking would you need to create? (Bike corrals are easy to build.) How much would the culture around streets shift as more and more people found ways to leave their cars in their driveway and get easy exercise instead? How safe and comfortable would bicycling be if it became ubiquitous, and began to rival automobile mode share in our cities?

Similarly, imagine a city with six times more micro brews. Every neighborhood could have its own little brewpub, where you knew the men or women making the beer, and the world would be filled with new seasonals, tongues paved with an endless variety of stouts and lagers. Imagine the acronym "MGD" ceasing to have meaning.

I mentioned this to my friend, how both bikes and beer were still stuck at 6% of the market, and had seemingly limitless possibilities for growth.

“That makes sense. They’re probably the same people, riding the bicycles and drinking the good beer,” he replied.

(Gulp. Guilty!)

There just might be a parallel between only drinking Budweiser and driving your Chevy Tahoe everywhere. In both cases, it's safe and boring. And in both cases, more and more people are opening up their senses to a richer variety of experience. Whether that means trying a new hoppy IPA or enjoying the fresh air and sunshine on your way to the store, in both cases you’ve traded in a bland pre-packaged commodity for something far more urban and urbane, a world filled with all the varieties of experience. For craft beers and urban bicycles, there is almost infinite room to grow. The sky is the limit.

22.2.13

*** Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Sidewalk Rating: Treacherous
Philadelphia, by Franklin's time, answered less and less to the religious vision that William Penn had started off with. The city was becoming a kind of high-output machine, materials and labor going in, goods and services coming out, traffic inside flowing briskly about a grid of regular city blocks. The urban mazework of London, leading into ambiguities and indeed evils, was here all rectified, orthogonal. (Dickens, visiting in 1842, remarked, "After walking about in it for an hour or two, I felt that I would have given the world for a crooked street.") Spiritual matters were not quite as immediate as material ones, like productivity! Sloth was no longer so much a Sin against God or spiritual good as against a particular sort of time, uniform, one-way, in general not reversible -- that is, against clock time, which got everybody early to bed and early to rise.

[-Thomas Pynchon, nearer my couch to thee. from NYTRB.]



[Sidewalk sign at a West Side yoga studio obscured by fresh snow.]



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Upon the whole, sir, it is a pestilential, topsy-turvy, harum-scarum whirligig. Give me the old, solemn, straightforward, regular Dutch canal — three miles an hour for expresses, and two for jog-and-trot journeys — with a yoke of oxen for a heavy load! I go for beasts of burthen: it is more primitive and scriptural, and suits a moral and religious people better. None of your hop-skip-and-jump whimsies for me.
[This.]


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Good luck trying to draw Minnesotans to Florida year round.  After all, loyal Minnesotans know that:

Minnesota is ranked the 2nd best state to live in.  Florida is 37th.
Minnesota is 1st in high school graduation rates.  Florida is 34th.
Minnesota is ranked the 4th healthiest state.  Florida is 44th.
Minnesota is ranked 19th in total pollution.  Florida is 45th.
Minnesotans average commute time is 17th lowest.  Florida is 40th.
Minnesota is ranked the 6th most educated state.  Florida is 36th.
Minnesota has the 3rd lowest poverty rate.  Florida is 27th.
Minnesota is ranked the 2nd best place to live in 2032.  Florida is ranked 46th.

[this.]

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