Sidewalk Mailbox #3

Hi Sidewalk Guy/Gal-

Do you have any history or observations (remembrances) of Stendahl’s, 1001  Nicollet Avenue? (shoes on first floor, bridal on second!?) What happened with that  business after a 1972 fire?

I believe it was part of the “bridal corner” of 10th and Nicollet, or was that  10th/Marquette.

Thank you,
Something Old

Dear Something Old:

Having never been a bride in the 70s, I'd never heard of this. I did a Google search and nothing came up. I looked it up on the Minnesota Historical Society database too. Nothing. 

I did, however, buy my only suit at Nate's Clothing which used to be on 1st Avenue and while I was there shopping all the old guys were watching the Cubs play a day game on a TV above the cash register, and I found that really charming for some reason, particularly as I was being measured by gent with a measuring tape. Nate's was also across from the Army Surplus store (somehow still there) and so one might have called that the “Groom's Corner”, as it contained all you needed to both get married and to flee, escaping into the wilderness to survive off foraging and small game. Alas, Nate's is no more.

TC Sidewalks

Dear Sidewalks:

Glad I came across your post.  As someone working on a project in alternative transportation funding with a particular focus on its politics, I was pleased to see you making points I try to make.  Recently I gave a presentation at the Transportation Research Board/University of Florida Workshop on Innovative Transportation Pricing. 

I especially liked your point about how standing at the gas pump is “the most visible, visceral economic relationship we have to our vehicles”.  That very point was at the inception of our project (Efficient Vehicle Assessor (EVA)).  EVA has grown to address other urgent needs but at its root is this notion:

Of all the tools government has to incent or encourage behavior, the tax is arguably the most effective (excluding passing a law mandating or outlawing something) tool policy-makers have.  
When the gas tax was conceived (at least in the iteration under Eisenhower), transportation funding was its only goal, the only thing we needed it to do.  There were no worries about carbon emissions, petro-terrorism, etc.

So while the current gas tax approach made sense then, it doesn’t now.  In fact, as currently structured, it pits our funding needs in direct opposition to our environmental and energy needs (both of which are urgent).    It is a single, blunt tool that is so crudely designed as to be almost useless as a policy tool.

EVA is based on the notion that the most effective place to effect consumer behavior is at the gas pump, where everyone is, as you point out, hyper-sensitive to the price.  And so the concept of EVA was born:  A variable-agnostic platform for transportation pricing.  Any number of factors can go into the calculation of the tax – vehicle characteristics, socio-economic factors (the current flat structure is quite regressive), as well as many others.  In short, whatever policy-makers agree are the factors needed (and that will surely differ from state to state).

I won’t go on further here.  I’ll just point you to our project website www.evasmartpump.com and compliment you again on your post (for which I’ve posted a link on our news link page).


Dear Eva:

I like this, I suppose. Much like everyone on Earth, I hate standing at the gas pump. (This is why the states of New Jersey and Oregon have made it illegal to stand at your own gas pump.) And really the only thing that could make standing at the gas pump bearable is looking over at the next sucker standing at the next gas pump and seeing that he's driving a mid-90s Chevrolet Suburban Extend-o-thon which gets 11 mpgs, and so the delicious feeling of schadenfreude sweeps over you like a wave.

And really the only thing that could make that schadenfreude any better would be knowing that the gas pump was programmed somehow to charge him MORE for living out in Rodgers, MN, or for owning four cars, or for being in the top income bracket (in this case the schadenfreude target in question would be more likely driving a Porsche Cayenne Turbo). Then the schadenfreude might reach serotonin highs normally only achievable with chemicals or bodily passion, neither of which typically occur anywhere near a gasoline pump, which would somehow form this subliminal neuron connection in my habit memory associating pumping gas with ecstatic pleasure, leading me to think of little else besides gasoline schadenfreude during my everyday humdrum life, leading me to seek out more and more frequent ways to “fill my tank”, at which point I too would buy a mid-90s Suburban and drive to and from Elko just to pick up a shrink-wrapped Deli Express ham sandwich for lunch (and of course to “get my gas on”) at which point both my wallet and my soul would be emptier then the town square of downtown Mandan on a cold Saturday evening in February.

So, yeah, I don't think your idea is very likely to happen. All of our politicians are still sniffing gas fumes like there's no tomorrow.

TC Sidewalks

Dear TC Sidewalks:

So.... I've got a traffic/planning proposal. Thought it might be interesting to get y'all's take on it. Here's the idea:

 Convert Main St SE to one-way (direction of travel: NW) from 6th Ave to Hennepin.

Here's why:

* Bike traffic is really picking up.
* So is pedestrian traffic.
* Cars trolling main st move too slowly and seem to get lost all the time, not to mention looking for parking is weird and awkward.
* Bike/pedestrian traffic has REALLY picked up in the summer time this year.

So... what if Main St was 1-way? We could reduce the road's width, and widen/install real bike lanes. The would make pedestrians & bikers a lot happier. I think even cars would be happier, because it would be a bit easier to drive down the street and figure out where you're going. Plus, 2nd street is really underutilized relative to its size, so it could handle the spillover traffic from a reduced-size main st.

What do you think? Is it a good/bad idea? Could I convince the city to do it? Or at least study it?

Juan Weigh

Dear Juan:

I hate one way streets. I like two way streets, but only if they're sized the same as a one -way street so that if two cars enter the street from opposite ends of the block, they have to confront each other and one of them has to eventually give up and put their car into reverse, only to discover that there are two or three more cars heading their direction coming from behind them and so the driver of the potentially backing up car has to get out and attempt to explain and convince the other drivers heading his direction that it's an impossible impasse and their best way forward is to go back, only its difficult to do this, and none of the other drivers believe him, perhaps because our driver is so self-sacrificing in the first place and lacks the necessary charisma or rhetorical capability. So then everyone gets out of their cars to go see the impasse first hand with their own eyes and when they do so, all massed in an angry huddle, staring at two rows of cars stuck facing each other with no way out, they realize that maybe they didn't want to be driving that day in the first place and, confronted with the absurdity of the situation, they all decide to walk to their destinations instead, or maybe even skip their destination altogether and go off to the nearest pub to grab a pint together and sing songs in three-part harmony.

That's my dream. Your dream is a one-way street on Main Street SE. Well, I hate one way streets, but I actually like 5th Street SE, which is a mega-traffic-calmed one way street with a contra-flow bike lane, so maybe if they did that it'd be cool.

Though I dare say that the street would be aimed in the opposite direction, so that traffic coming off the Hennepin Avenue bridge could turn down the street and find parking (or whatever it is that cars do).

Also, nobody at the city will make any changes to the street unless they have the complete backing of all the local business owners and the city council person, which in your case is Diane Hofstedte, so you're probably screwed.

Best of luck!

TC Sidewalks


Alex said...

Juan makes a good point about Main St - the pedestrian and bicycle traffic is high, and cars mill about looking for parking (and probably checking out the view or maybe some of the cyclists or pedestrians). Seems like the simplest solution is to get rid of the parking and expand/separate the sidewalks and bike paths (I for one usually ride on the street there anyway, at least west of the Central overpass).

Erik Ostrom said...

Main Street SE between Hennepin and the Stone Arch Bridge would be a great bikeway on paper, but I hate riding that brick street on my bike.

Stephen Gross said...

Juan here. Some followup:

* I'm not claiming a 1-way conversion would reduce cruising. I'm mainly interested in finding a way to better accommodate the huge volume of pedestrians and cyclists in the summertime.

* I realize that the traffic coming off Hennepin would most naturally desire 1-way to the SE, not NW. Not quite sure how to handle that configuration.

* Erik's comment about not-riding-on-brick is exactly the point. No one likes riding on brick. As a result, you get a huge amount of bikes and peds on the same narrow sidewalk. Result: congestion! I really think there's enough road width to handle a redesign.

* As for the political pressures: Yeah, you're probably right. Well, I'll pitch the idea and maybe I can convince a few people.

bloguay.com/mueblesmadrid294 said...

I found a lot of worthwhile info here!