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Sidewalk Rating: Inclement

Yikes! Well, it's days like these that make you appreciate being indoors.

I almost saw an old lady fall over today on this very sidewalk while trying to get into her car. It reminds me of an old Jack Handey "Deep Thought" from SNL, back in the day:
When I see an old lady slip and fall on the wet sidewalk my first instinct is to laugh.
But then I think, what if I were an ant and she fell on me?
Then it wouldn't seem quite so funny.

For some reason, that always stuck with me.

[Here be dragons!]


A rather awesome grassroots sidewalk video of some dude complaining about street shoveling in Chicago:

We really, really need more Youtube videos like this. It reminds me of a Cristopher Guest movie.
Goddamn dumbasses. I shoveled this already! [...] They are biggest bastards God ever blew breath into. And you can quote me on that!

Though compared to Twin Cities snowdrifts, this guy has nothing to worry about.


After "vetoing himself", it seems Tim Pawlenty has skipped town, and is traipsing all over the state visiting places he hasn't yet screwed.

In other words, he's up in West-Central Minnesota stoking the fires of anti-city politics, exacerbating to the fullest extent the economic insecurities and cultural divides that exist between the metro area and "greater Minnesota."

I guess that's all he has left.

But, as Confrad De Fiebre points out, it's important to remember that he didn't just veto the Central Corridor, but nixed a bunch of transportation investment including a rail connection to Chicago. This projects would spur development and vitality not just in the Twin Cities, but in places like Winona, Red Wing, Rosemount, Hastings, Rochester, and Hinkley.

Speaking of leadership, I saw Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak speak tonight at the Riverview Theater for the Minneapolis Great City Design Team award ceremony. I'll have more on Rybak's wonderful speech next week, but I must immediately point out that he did his best Howard Dean impression, saying determinedly: "No matter what sometimes cynical politicians stand in the way, we're going to build the Central Corridor!"

Then he added: "And then we'll build a third Light Rail line through to the Southwest suburbs, and a fourth line to the Northwest metro."

Then he went on about all the transit investment that's going to take place, including two more commuter rail lines and "returning trolleys to the streets of Minneapolis."

It was quite impressive. In order for all that to happen, he'd have to run for Governor himself.

Hmm . . .


Banning Smoking Increases Drunken Driving

If that don't beat all? Sometimes the correlative chains of cities are just too complicated!


Five links:


A while back I blogged about Minnesota transportation and politics cartoonist Andy Singer, but I just happened across his website again, and I find it so wonderful. Here's a bit from his blog:

There have been a lot of politically and ideologically motivated attempts to blame the I-35 bridge collapse on different groups and individuals. These range from the most popular (blaming Pawlenty's veto of gas tax increases) to The Taxpayer's League and Republican theory that "Liberals caused it" by spending too much money on bike paths and public transit. The fact is that blame for the collapse rests completely with the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Sadly, we are about to reward them for their failure with a huge gas tax increase.

The I-35 bridge collapsed not because MnDOT lacked money but because it chose to spend the billions of dollars it had on expansion rather than maintenance. MnDOT receives at least a billion dollars each year from taxes that are constitutionally dedicated to highways. For example, proceeds from the state gas tax (which amount to over $450 Million per year) must be spent on highways. Even if the legislature had control over how MnDOT spends its money (which they don't), they couldn't force MnDOT to spend gas tax money on transit or bike paths. They would first have to amend the state constitution ...and highway interests aren't about to let that happen. It's the same with license tab fees and a portion of motor vehicle sales taxes. On top of this, MnDOT receives hundreds of millions in federal dollars dedicated to highways. Their total yearly budget tops 2 billion dollars, some years even more, such as when the legislature appropriates bonding money or some major federal project receives funding. What does MnDOT do with its multi-billion dollar budget? Like all major government agencies, it tries to expand.

I saw him give a fabulous powerpoint presentation at the Arise Bookstore a few years ago, on auto-orientation and walkability. It was seriously the most charming and intelligent thing I've ever witnessed.

Plus, as I learned at the talk, he loves Saint Paul's Western Avenue too.


There was an article in the Strib today about the homeless shelter over beyond the Target Center, kind of near where the new Twins Stadium is going to be.

Apparently, the city has recently cracked down on the people that run the homeless shelter.
Copeland: City wants homeless out of Twins new neighborhood
updated 10:30 a.m. CT, Thurs., April. 10, 2008

Sharing and Caring Hands founder Mary Jo Copeland, in a preemptive strike news conference this morning, alleged that Minneapolis city officials are trying to drive away the homeless people she serves ahead of the completion of the new Twins stadium.

The Star Tribune has already updated the piece with a less damning version of the story (they depend on sports for much of their dwindling revenue), but it's really, really hard to justify something like this, no matter what kind of an asshole you are.

Here we have the taxpayers devoting hundreds of millions of government dollars to subsidizing a sports team owned by a billionaire, in an era when taxes have been cut for the wealthy and raised for the poor, when bridges are falling down and killing thirteen people, and the city is pressuring a homeless shelter to make sure that the homeless don't bother the sports fans on their way into and out of the stadium or the folks working at the law firms downtown?!

Of course, it's only one homeless shelter director's opinion, but any way you cut it, that's a deeply f****d situation.

And in other stadium news, the publicly-subsidized Washington Nationals stadium opened and is apparently well-integrated with its neighborhood. (I don't really believe it for a second, though.)

[The place where Christian Guzman now goes to ground out to second -- h/t streetsblog]

At the very least, once we've pushed all the homeless people into the river, let's hope our publicly-subsidized stadium has the good grace to benefit its neighborhood.


Here's another sidewalk blog, this time from Boise, Idaho.

It's called "Sidewalk 208: Boise at street level", and appears to very sparsely chronicle some of the goings on in the city of Boise. For example, libraries, local shops, and theaters.

Needs more sidewalks, though.

I wonder, what do Idaho sidewalks look like?


There was a great comment thread on the RoadGuy blog earlier this week about how long it takes to ride the bus around town compared to bicycling or driving a car.

Of course I agree, and would love to see the transittime : autotime ratio more balanced. But on the other hand, I am convinced that we also need to change our attitudes and expectations about how we move around the city. Here's what I wrote in the comments:

Actually, it sounds like you had a nice time. I fail to see the problem.
I remember talking w/ a friend’s grandmother one day about riding the old streetcar system in Minneapolis. She was telling a story about how kids used to somehow pull the thingie off the electric wires, stopping the whole trolley while the driver yelled at them.

I asked her, “weren’t you mad about being late?”

And i was surprised when she said that, “no. we weren’t in a hurry back then.”

I believe we just need to reframe our mindset about how we move around. I find riding the bus far more relaxing and interesting when compared to driving a car, and I don’t think it’s an unusual motivation to want to relax during your everyday life. It’s a different lifestyle, that’s for sure, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m nuts, or a loafer, or impoverished. (Though, I’m probably all of those things.)

Am I crazy? Or is it sometimes true that less is more?

It turns out nobody agrees with me.

For example, over at the Life by the Falls blog transit sucks:
Seriously, Metro Transit, this is the 2nd time in 4 years you have changed my route and made it substantially LONGER. I used to be able to take the bus to work in 35-40 minutes via Southdale. That route was canceled so then I took the 45 minute route via Light Rail and the Mall of America. Now, apparently, the route I took needed to serve more areas of Bloomington, hence my longer commute and $2 tour of Bloomington this morning. Metro Transit, you wonder why ridership goes down in the burbs, I have the answer for you.

Of course, I can remember at least two rounds of cuts to Metro Transit in the last five years, and it seems like another fare hike is coming.

These threads kind of prove how malleable the transportation calculus is, and how these little things ($, time, convenience, comfort) end up making big differences, changing how people make decisions.

I guess I'm just spoiled because I live right on the #3.


Three photos:

1) Kids and a camel on a sidewalk -- courtesy of ffffound:

2) The new 25 mph, ├╝ber-mpg electric ZENN car, available in Linden Hills -- courtesy of Aaron Landry:

3) A Ralph Rapson house -- courtesty of reference library


Don't forget to write a sidewalk poem for the city of Saint Paul!

The due date is April 24th.

Think of it: hundreds of people would step on your words! Talk about underground poetry . . . Talk about feet . . .



Andrew said...

Nice choice with Singin' in the rain, one of my favorite musicals. Another number with Gene Kelly on the sidewalk of a major city is: It's always Fair Weather

Anonymous said...

With regard to the remarks about transit time, it is honestly not difficult to make time for bicycle commuting and the use of public transit. I regularly do both year-round even when working 80 hours a week, and if more people actually worked this time into their schedule--and it is easy to do if you work 40-60 hours a week, do not live in a Pluto-orbit suburb, and limit your reality television dose to less than four hours daily--we might actually have a somewhat more sustainable civilization whose members spend a bit of their day thinking or reading as they make their way from place to place.

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