Overview: Excitement is difficult to define precisely. Physics tells us that excitement is the amount of heat in electrons or something like that. Picture a vibrating slinky.
Physics also tells us that there are two kinds of energy: kinetic and potential. In LRT station area terms, Kinetic Excitement (KE) is the equivalent the the currently existing vitality. I.e. how many people are walking around a given station area at this very moment? How many interesting shops presently exist?
Rough glances can easily measure the kinetic excitement of an LRT station.
Potential Excitement (PE) is more difficult because you have to use your imagiation. That said, potential excitement is perhaps the definitive kind of excitement, becasuse most everyone can imagine things more exciting than the status quo. Measuring potential excitement requires a quick glance combined with future daydeams.
Combining these two types of excitement gives us our Combined Excitement Measure (CEM) for the station area as a whole.
Methodology: Two trips taken on the Green Line on separate days at separate times, with eyes wide open and imagination engaged.
Results: [As follows]
#18: Stadium Village
Unless there's a game at the giant stadium, this place is extremely boring. Extremely boring! I can't imagine anyone spending time here willingly. There are all kinds of parking lots surrounding this station, parking lots of every variety. It's a veritable who's who of car storage.
Government employees might be the least exciting group of people. These buildings are boring too, as government buildings must be. Hard to see anything interesting ever happening at this spot, barring a large protest on the Capitol Mall.
Many old people bespeaks a certain lack of vitality. The vastness of the Grigg-Midway building is matched only by its shoddiness. This station is boring for sure. Can it get less boring? Doubtful.
The single family homes along here (probably actually duplexes) make this somehat interesting, but not necessarily exciting. There is a great deal of auto-centric dullness in this area, for example the "eco-garage", Latuff Brothers, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and the massive U-haul facility. The prospect of any of these buildings being replaced with actual people-type-things fills me with anticipation. But I'm not holding my breath.
Ugh. The PE/KE ratio here is very high. So many parking lots and auto shops, so little time to enjoy each one individually and really appreciate each one's soul-sucking architecture. There are parking lots with fences, parking lots without fences, walls with fake windows and walls with no windows... so you've pretty much got everything. The only saving grace is the payday loan store on the corner? (DQ, White Castle...)
#13: Prospect Park
This might be the strangest station on the line. Like the Stadium Village station, it's basically parking lots without any sign of life. Yet I sense potential here missing from its neighbor. I have a tingling sensation that something could be built here that might provide a teensy catsup squirt of excitement. Nay, a dollop.
An unexciting place whose only pulse comes from its proximity to students. The Westgate Industrial area is where dreams go to die. The row of shops on the Southeast corner account for the lion's share of excitement.
Along with Snelling, the most dichotomous station on the line, with the crappy big box desert on the south side and occasional spots of shady historic intrigue on the north. The Town House accounts for two full points of KE all by itself. Lots of potential here too, what with all the abandoned old car dealerships.
This station sits right on the seam between one of the most derilict spots in Saint Paul and the Capitol complex, which makes it a odd mixture of lobbyists and very poor people. That's actually half exciting by itself.
Also, there are going to be lots of new buildings built on the old Sears site. I can imagine so much more besides, as the old Greyhound station or the blocks of Rice Street north of University start to get fixed up or demolished.
Future visions remain constrained, however, by incessant political parking lot fetishes.
Surrounded by boring buildings, for example the Department of Health and the History Theater. On the other hand, there's a few very nice churches and and the McNally Smith School of Hipster. On the other other hand, it's far too close to the freeway and there's little chance of anything cool being built nearby.
Surrounded by giant vacant lots, on which many things can be imagined. Unfortuantely surrounded by skyway-addled buildings, yet many pedestrians still walk past. The bus stops are quite exciting, perhaps overly so at times.
This is the best intersection on University Avenue, the only one with actual buildings at all four corners (versus parking lots). It's also chock-a-block full of amazing Asian restaurants, though a bit weak on street life because of the lack of density in the area. Apart from more foot traffic (and night markets), I hope nothing changes here because it's already awesome.
#6: West Bank
On the face of it, this stop is a complete dead zone, surrounded by embankements of dying grass, sandwiched by high speed roads. But lurking out of sight all round you is the city's most interesting neighborhood. My imagination runs wild. Think of all the things that might happen here!
From an architectural / urban design standpoint, this is the other great University Avenue corner. I don't see a ton of new development happening here, but I can easily imagine the existing building stock getting remodeled and trebeling in excitement levels. Yet for how nice this seems to be, there isn't a lot going on. There's not even a coffee shop.
Lots of dynamism despite everything, due to all the foot and car traffic. In fact, just sitting on this corner for ten minutes and watching the LRT conductor blast its deafening horn as cars ignore the turn signals and block the tracks is deliciously entertaining.
Still the CVS, Spruce Tree, and American Bank trifecta leave much to be desired, in every sense of the word desire. And apart from the bank, there's little hope of the wrecking ball making anything better anytime soon. Still, so many vast parking lots. So many dive bars.
On the plus side, there's a vibrant-but-ugly library and Big Daddy's BBQ. On the down side, the Uni-Dale mall parking lot and a Wendy's dominating half the space. On the up side of the down side, the Uni-Dale mall parking lot is pretty much the best mall parking lot in town. Still, I can't wait for the wrecking ball.
Currently as exciting as downtown Saint Paul ever gets. Likely to become better over time as, for example, the surface parking lots fill in, Station 4 gets replaced, and the TPT building de-fortifies itself.
#1: East Bank
Well, the middle of campus is pretty much ground zero for people watching in Minneapolis. You'll never be bored here between the hours of 7:00AM and Midnight. Plus there are seemingly endless numbers of new buildings popping up. This is the station that sets the bar for excitement. If only the street design wasn't so convluted it'd be perfect.
Conclusion: Station areas displayed a wide range of excitement. Some station areas are exciting because they're exciting right now. Some are exciting because they might be exciting in the future. (Think about that for a second.) Some are a combination, others lack any sense of dynamism.
To make a long story short, Saint Paul is kinda boring but at least you can dream.