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There's no way that we can possibly cover everything happening around bicycling, walking, and transportation in the Twin Cities region. That's why we started a blog network: a one-stop shop to get read all of the bicycling and walking blogs in the area. If you'd like to add your blog to this network, send an email to tlc@tlcminnesota.org. 

The Vikings Stadium / Star Wars Metaphor

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 10:13am
Seeing the Vikings stadium rise up over the city of Minneapolis reminds me more and more of the Death Star from the Empire Strikes Back. It doesn't help that the stadium design looks almost exactly like an Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer, or that everyone keeps raving about the stadium's "impressive equipment." (Get a room, preferably a non-taxpayer funded one.) Or that the stadium development's demands for an elaborate set of space dock-like skyways only make sense if you think about Minneapolis as being a total vacuum. Or that there will now be a sci-fi-looking landing platform over the light rail station.

So now I can't look at the construction without seeing the (second) Death Star. So I posted this image on my Facebook/Twitter feed and then Michael asked whether bicycling around the city was Endor and now I'm wondering how far the metaphor can go!

Vikings Stadium = Death Star

Giant horrifying thing slowly being built. 
Admiral Ackbar = Mark Dayton

Somehow in charge. Eyes reveal complete cluelessness. It's obviously a trap.

The Deflector Shield = Stadium Glass

The way that that the rebel fighters bounce of the Death Star's (cloaked) shield is exactly how migrating warblers bounce off the bird-killing stadium glass.


The Emperor = Zygi Wilf 

Brains behind the scenes. Fond of maniacal laughter. Entirely evil.

Darth Vader = Lester Bagley

Mind control tricks. Threats to politicians. Pounding on tables. Almost entirely evil.


The Death Star Super-Laser = Brain Injuries

Instead of going around blowing up innocent planets, the Vikings Stadium goes around destroying people's brains.


Han Solo and Princess Leia = The Audubon Society

Both trying to destroy the shield. Facing daunting odds.



Luke Skywalker = Ed Kohler on Twitter

Deploying massive (Jedi) skills to constantly fight off an endless supply of uniformed morons. Fondness for mind tricks.


Ewoks = The People of Minneapolis

Both powerless, adorable, massively outgunned, like to shake things in the air.


Endor Speeders = Biking in Minneapolis

Because it's the most fun you'll have in the movie or the city.


Jabba the Hut = Joe Soucheray

Both repulsive and horrible. Like to keep women in chains. In charge of some sort of strange cult-like society in the middle of nowhere (Tatooine or Saint Paul).

BUT

In the movie, the people blow up the Death Star and celebrate around a campfire in the primeval woods while fireworks go off in the sky. In the real world, the Empire wins.
[Oh well.]


Signs of the Times #95

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 10/22/2014 - 9:55am

 grow
[Powderhorn, Minneapolis.]
E-CIGSSOLD HEREALL FLAVORS
[Tree. Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis.] 

LIFEISFUN
[Trash can. West Bank, Minneapolis.]

For Osip Nikiforovplease drop thepackage inside here.Thank you
[Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis?]

 Clean UP AfterYour DOGIt's TheLAW
[Location Forgotten.]
 I [heart]Pedal Pub
[Northeast Minneapolis.]
WELCOMEto theNIGHT MARKET
[University Avenue, Saint Paul.]

PLEASEdo nottakeVegetables
[Garden. West Side, Saint Paul.]

Twin City Doorways #14

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 10/22/2014 - 9:49am
[E Lake Street, Minneapolis.]

[NE Central Avenue, Minneapolis.]

[Lake Street, Minneapolis.]

[Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]

[Selby Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[University Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[University Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[Grand Marais.]

A Field Guide to Bus Shelters

Twin City Sidewalks - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 4:14pm
[Replacing an ad on a flat-roof CBS shelter on Saint Paul's Minnesota St.]Last week, I wrote a Cityscape column all about bus stops and bus shelters. In doing so, I learned a lot about actual types of bus shelters and began noticing them as I went around the city.

Here's a bit of background from the piece:

The Twin Cities’ transit system has about 12,000 bus stops spread throughout the metro area, and somewhere around 800 of them have shelters operated by the agency. Of the stops with shelters, about 14 percent of them of have lights and 10 percent have heat for the winter. In theory, the agency has guidelines about which well-used stops should receive shelters, but in practice there are many stops in the center cities that lack shelters despite high ridership.
As it turns out, once you start spotting different types of bus shelters, it's hard to stop. Here's what I've learned so far.

There are three main types of bus shelters in the Twin Cities:
  • 1) Metro Transit shelters (without ads)
  • 2) CBS shelters (with ads) 
  • 3) Public/Private (aka "custom") shelters

Within those broad categories, there are even more distinctions depending on age, roof type, and size. Here's a rough sampling of a dozen or so.

CBS Shelters - These shelters are actually owned by CBS Outdoor, a large media/advertising company that also runs billboards, and advertising laden benches. Oddly, considering the trend toward privatizzation in other cities aroun the country, Minneapolis recently cancelled their contract with CBS Outdoor, so CBS shelters in Minneapolis are gradually being phased out. However, they are still being built and operated in Saint Paul and some other suburbs (I heard Roseville...).

Note that these shelters typically have ads only one side, usually the side that is the "far side" of whichever direction the police typically come from. (E.g. downstream from the direction of traffic.) Safety and transparency (meant quite literally) is a key consideration in bus shelter design.

[A flat roof CBS shelter, probably the oldest of the type. Wabasha and 6th, DT Saint Paul.]
[Metal variation of CBS shelter, probably much newer. Hennepin and Washington, DT Minneapolis.]
[Curved roof CBS shelter. Nicollet and 16th, Minneapolis.]
Metro Transit Shelters [basic] - These are the most common type of shelter, particularly once you get out of Minneapolis and Saint Paul proper. They are distinctive because of the lack of advertising. You can tell the ages of the shelters by looking at the type of metal and glass used (striped = more recent) and whether the roof is curved perpendicularly (older) or whether the curve is aligned with the shelter (more recent).

Also, increasingly these come in different sizes and configurations, such as fully enclosed and half enclosed.

[Curved roof MT Shelter without striped glass. Wabasha and 5th, DT Saint Paul.]
[MT Shelter with a higher peaked roof. Nicollet and 18th, Minneapolis.]
[Larger version of the above. Note different size roof and glass panes. Nicollet and Franklin, Minneapolis.]
[High peak half-shelter. Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]
[Silver MT "logo" shelter, the newest model out there. Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]
Metro Transit Shelters [deluxe] - In addition to the basic shelter, there are certain special Metro Transit-owned shelters that are becoming more common throughout the Twin Cities. Right now, the best example are the Marq-2 shelters along Marquette and 2nd, however as the proposed aBRT system rolls out, more deluxe Metro Transit shelters will become more common.


[A Marq-2 Shelter with NexTrip sign, quasi-benches. Marquette Avenue, Minneapolis.]
[One of the proposed aBRT "A Line" shelters.]
Public/Private Shelters - These are the really idiosyncratic ones. There are a whole range of privately-built and sometimes publicly maintained "custom shelters" throughout the Twin Cities. Sometimes, if they are designed to be compatible with Metro Transit's components (e.g. glass), they are maintained by Metro Transit. Otherwise they are wholly private.

[The "flower shelter", a custom design in North Minneapolis.]
[The "Taj Mahal" shelter on 6th and Jackson, DT Saint Paul.]
[A large non-bus stop shelter by the bus waiting area. Parking lot next to the library, Minneapolis.]
[Custom shelter. Hennepin Avenue, downtown Minneapolis.]
[Custom shelter. Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis.]
[Custom shelter. Note absence of glass panes. MT probably doesn't do much to this one. Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis.]
Update:

This amusing photo was sent in by a friend, showing a new Metro Transit shelter side-by-side with a custom shelter in Richfield.






The Silent Sanity of Freeway Free Pockets

Twin City Sidewalks - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:06am
[Childhood home, raised by whirrs.]Somehow, I didn’t notice it very often. I grew up in an old farmhouse in the suburbs, a one-acre lot surrounded by trees and lilac bushes in the golf course suburbs of Saint Paul. It was easy to pretend that you were “in nature,” getting lost in the patches of forest or climbing trees to be with my off-brand walkman. But every once in a while I’d go out into the front yard, and I’d hear the sound of the freeway.

It was easy on to notice, but my house back then was exactly 3/4 of a mile East of Interstate 35E, the last leg of the Twin Cities’ inner-ring freeway system to be built (completed in the mid-1980s). I remember once climbing the tree in the front yard to watch the sun set in the West. I remember hearing the sound of the freeway off in the distance, a never-ending high whirr of tires, sounding insistent, almost angry. Today the 80,000 cars each day works out to almost a car per second.

The freeway is surprisingly close to the house, and it made me realize that freeways are surprisingly close to most houses. It’s increasingly difficult to find anywhere within the 494-694 ring of the Twin Cities where you can’t hear the high pitched whirr of tires all hours of the day and night. Sonically speaking. The sound of car tires is a soft blanket covering the metro with an unceasing high frequency bed behind everything we hear. Cars are a backdrop to every outdoor conversation, every rustle of leaves, and every birdsong day in and day out forever.

[The freeway free pocket map. Pink = one-mile buffer from a freeway.]
[There's a little sound crotch by Lake Hiawatha.]The other day at streets.mn, Adam Froehlig made a map that answered one of the questions that’s been nagging at my earlobe for years: Where are the respites from the whirr? Is there anywhere in Minneapolis or Saint Paul where you can escape the sound of tires, if even for a brief moment in the middle of the night?

While it’s not perfect, Alex’s map does point to a few small places where freeways might be at least a mile off, enough I think to prevent the high bed from ringing in your ears.

Freeway sounds happen in the background. If you hear something every day, all the time, if fades into the recesses of your attention and you stop hearing the thing. Freeway sound becomes invisible (sonically speaking).

There are precious few of these freeway free pockets in Minneapolis: a pie slice of Northeast Minneapolis, a halo surrounding Lakes Harriet and (Haystacks) Calhoun, a few tiny pieces of South, and a peripheral edge of North Minneapolis.  Is there a silent way that these neighborhoods help with delicate sanity?

Last night I had the bedroom window open, and I woke up in the middle of the night after a particularly vivid dream about Baroque city planning. (Yes.)

I lay in my bed looking at the shadows of streetlights, and I could hear the sounds of the city reaching their thin fingers into my apartment: a train horn repeating, insistent and cheerful; the wind rustling the too-dry leaves; the tinkling wind chime; and yes the constant whirr of Highway 52, ADT 58,000 which runs a mile away to the East. (Or was it Shepard Road, ADT 17,000, slightly closer in the river valley?)

I’m almost out of the freeway pocket, but I can still hear it. Or is it all in my head?
[My current distance from a freeway is about a mile, pretty good for the core cities.]

*** Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Twin City Sidewalks - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 3:24pm
Sidewalk Rating: Grave

He spent all that day roaming over the house. He nearly drowned himself in the bath-tubs, put his nose into the ink on a writing table, and burnt it on the end of the big man's cigar, for he climbed up in the big man's lap to see how writing was done. At nightfall he ran into Teddy's nursery to watch how kerosene-lamps were lighted, and when Teddy went to bed Rikki-tikki climbed up too; but he was a restless companion, because he had to get up and attend to every noise all through the night, and find out what made it. 

[Rudyard Kipling.]

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 It doesn’t bother me in the least, for a moment I enjoy the genderless-ness, until they see my soft, pink face, and the unnecessary apologies start. I don’t feel particularly feministic about it all, I just marvel about how comfortable and beautiful I feel in an un-pretty occupation.
[this]
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*** *** JPods: Let's Fix Traffic from Bill James on Vimeo.
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Reading the Highland Villager #116

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 12:28pm
[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. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]



Headline: Not all applaud plan for reviving old Palace Theater; Concerns raised over $8M city subsidy, return on investment
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: There's a big pot of city money available, and it's ostensibly earmarked as an "8-80" fund [which means it should go to complete street improvements on would think?] but the Mayor's office wants to use $8M of the fund (to match $5M in state bonding money) to restore the Palace Theater in downtown Saint Paul. A Mayor's office guy says it would pay for itself because it fills a niche and would be managed by the folks at First Avenue. Some City Council members don't like the plan, especially CM Bostrom [from the East Side] who says "I'm a little nervous saying these are our friends and they helped use" [when referring to the First Avenue team]. Article includes a bunch of details of the theater's history. [The theater sits on the 7th Place Mall, one of the more uncannily depressing spots in Saint Paul, which is saying something. Regardless, even if it's a good idea, using the "8-80" brand name to restore a theater seems like a stretch to me.]


Headline: Mayor proposes $54M in street repairs in 2015; But plan could postpone completion of residential street repaving until 2050
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The Mayor has a plan to change how streets are repaired that basically shifts money away from the RSVP (residential street vitality program) and into a different fund called the SVP (street vitality program) where more of the money would be spent on repaving [but not necessarily reconstructing] arterial streets in the city [i.e. more trafficked commercial-type roads]. The plan also throws a bunch of city money at these arterial projects for next year (2015), most especially St. Clair between Albert and W7th, Kellogg Boulevard between Marion and W7th. This would take some money from residential street projects, which are more spread through the city. [Basically, it seems like more money going to downtown and the already wealthy southwest quadrant, i.e. Villager-land, instead of other less well-off neighborhoods?] Article includes [sympathetic] quote from CM Stark: Based on road conditions, we have to be doing this. The arterial streets are that bad." Article also mention of the downtown bike loop and the "grand round" bike loop projects [even though it seems like that money is coming from a separate pot, the one-time funding mentioned above. Christ why do I know all the details of this crap? What am I a government accountant now?]


Headline: Snelling Avenue road, bridge work to have major impact in 2015
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The bridge over I-94 at Snelling Avenue will be closed because it needs to be rebuilt. [Hide your children.] The new bridge will have wider sidewalks. [Holy crap, so long overdue... No seriously, hide your children.]


Headline: HRA awards loan for Old Home redevelopment
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city is loaning $250K to the folks who are redeveloping the old yogurt factory on University and Western and turning it into affordable housing. [That's a beautiful art deco building.]


Headline: Funding comments sought for Rondo Commemorative Plaza
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Someone is working on a a monument to old Rondo Avenue.


Headline: DNR presents new regulations for Mississippi River Corridor
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The DNR has some rules for the river area. They'll present them to the Planning Commission tomorrow.


Headline: City snuffs out tobacco license for Merriam Park grocery store [Boo pun!]
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A corner store on University Avenue can't sell smokes any more because they were selling them to kids.


Headline: Rebound in home values to bring big tax increases to some
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The economy, housing market still exist. [Yes, even in Saint Paul!]


Headline: Tax levy overall is held to 1% increase
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city tax rate is only going up slightly.


Headline: St. Paul's 10-year-old street maintenance fee still drawing protests
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city charges a fee to people when they reconstruction their sidewalks. [Yes, even churches!] People don't like paying taxes.


Headline: Palace Rec project is on tap for 2015; $5.46M plan unveiled at Oct. 28 open house
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A rec center in the West End will [finally] get fixed up next year. People have been talking about this for a long time. Article includes details, like a new gym, ballfields, etc.


Headline: City resumes Ford Plant reuse planning
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A city task force is trying to figure out what to do with the old automobile factory site. Ford wants it on the market by late 2015. Article includes shout out to bike infrastructure.


Headline: HDC, task force favor keeping Sibley Plaza's current zoning
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: Plans to re-zone a strip mall to have less parking along West 7th street seem to be unpopular in the neighborhood. The strip mall owner wants to tear down the shopping center and built a mixed-use development. [See last fortnight's recap for more on this.] The key issue is that the owner doesn't wants to keep his surface parking in front of the building. Article includes quote from one of the HDC members saying that the owners comments "feel like a threat" and that "frankly this part of Highland Park deserves better; the development doesn't fit what I envision for Highland." The issue seems a bit controversial. The rezoning plans are part of a much larger study of the area. [Note that this area is highly unwalkable and dangerous and also coincidentally home to many poor, transit dependent people of color. You know, for kids.]


Headline: Fresh Perspective; Michael Noble walks the walk when it comes to promoting energy efficiency
Author: Melenie Soucheray [Wait what?!]

Short short version: Bio fluff piece on the director of Fresh Energy, an environmental policy non-profit.


Headline: New design for Dickerman Park is in the works at University-Fairview
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A weird park right on University Avenue might be getting $3-4M in city money [from the "pot" mentioned in the first article above] to fix it up. Article includes some of the strange history of the park. Details are unclear.


Headline: Bikeway plan gets more tweaking
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The city's [long overdue] bike plan was released in its final draft form. It adds some stuff about bike parking, lockers, and some other [obscure] details but subtracts details about the Ford area. Article includes quote from neighbor : "the only one [of the 20 street repaved this year] that got bicycle lanes was Marshall Avenue." [See this streets.mn story for more on this.] Article also includes quote from city engineer about adding bike lanes: "If it's simply paining stripes, we can do that." [Seeing is believing, Saint Paul! PS This plan was supposed to be done many years ago. Please let's just pass it yesterday.]


Headline: Coat for many colors; Needy can find free goods and support at West 7th Street store
Author: Leslie Walters

Short short version: Neat piece on Josepht's Coat, a "store" for homeless/needy people on West 7th Street that gives away clothes. [I've often seen a line outside that door in the mornings, waiting to get in.]

TCSidewalks Live!: Saint Paul Almanac Reading at Trotters Café Tonight!

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 11:11am
[Trotters boasts one of the city's better sidewalk patios.]Hey I'll be reading a few things from this sidewalks blog as part of the Saint Paul Almanac crew tonight at Trotters' Café. It'll be just like if you were reading this blog at home, only instead of the voice in your head, it'll be my actual voice.

I definaitely read my short essay on the closing of Serlins' Café, (which is what appears in the 2015 Almanac), but will also add a few other of my favorite blog bits. I'll likely keep going until they forcibly remove me from the stage.

Come on by. It's tonight at 7:00 at Trotters (which is a very fine café in Saint Paul on Marshall and Cleveland).

Facebook invite is here!
The Saint Paul Almanac Literary Festival features writers published in the 2015 Saint Paul Almanac reading their stories and poems in venues around the city. Events are free and open to the public. Be among the first to get you copy and hear the stories from the writers. Almanac readings are hosted by Cracked Walnut! #2015Almanac

Featured Authors:
Rebecca Roepke
Rebecca Ramsden
Satish Jayaraj
Bill Lindeke
Robert McClain
Ardie Ann Medina
See you there.

Sidewalk Poetry #43: Gravy For The Prisoners

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 9:12am
Gravy For The Prisoners

I wouldn’t try to capture it
on the page, or in a blog, the inauspicious
leavings of a day. Closer to dream
than the hum of streets, and people
who once walked along them.
Yeah, I know. Know what I’m saying?
The grounds were ultimately too large for the compound.
A tree takes flight, and patterns are coaxed
Into recurring on adjacent walls,
out of thin air.
No such titan every visited
during my days as aedile. Yet wisps
still buttonhole us in random moats;
Was it this you were expecting,
and if not, why not?  

[John Ashbery, fm the New Yorker.]

[Hudson, NY in winter.]


Sidewalk Poetry #42: Sundays and Holidays

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 9:07am
Sundays and Holidays

May this day be dedicated to happiness! I have ridden
Horses to the tunes of a distant opera.
This carousel and the sky turn like the voice
Of children laughing to be there standing together.

Let’s leave the city to its stony stiffness
Its bulbs its ceilings its rivers with bridges
Let’s climb the roofs as far as the lightning-rods
As far as the naked sun you can touch with your finger.

Let’s say farewell to crosses and alleluias
Let’s smother the warrior sirens with kisses
To celebrate this Sunday let’s buy ourselves a bouquet
Of a thousand flowers like songs of the bells at noon.

[-Pierre Martory, trans John Ashbery.]
[Carousel, Troyes.]

Twin City Shop Windows #9

Twin City Sidewalks - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 10:34am
 [Lyndale Avenue, Minneapolis.]
 [West 7th Street, Saint Paul.]
 [Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]
 [University Avenue, Minneapolis.]
 [Downtown, Saint Paul.]
 [University Avenue, Saint Paul.]
 [Grand Marais.]
[Downtown, Duluth.]

Twin City Neon #10

Twin City Sidewalks - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 10:31am
[Grand Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[Downtown, Saint Paul.]

[Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]

[Selby Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[Downtown, Duluth.]

[Stadium Village, Minneapolis.]

[Lake Street, Minneapolis.]

9th Bloggaversary Post

Twin City Sidewalks - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 10:52am
[Happy Nineaversary!]This last Friday was marks 9 years of blogging here at the Twin City Sidewalks blogger blogsite. This last year has also marked the proliferation of my so-called sidewalks writing into other more respectable and lucrative venues, such as my new Cityscape column over at Minnpost. (Check out all of them here.)

(For a real mindf**k and to track one man's evolution of idealism, check out the previous years' bloggaversary posts: 8th, 7th, 6th, 5th... Yikes!)

One of the strange things about writing for multiple venues is trying to maintain distinct voices. Compared to Minnpost or streets.mn, this blogspot is meant to be a more poetic, personal, and snarkastic approach to thinking about sidewalks and cities. It's also meant to be a place that offers a more positive purchase about why urban life can be so rewarding. I'm hopeful I can keep that part of my life (and my voice) alive through the blog.

[Spare a copper for an old sailor?]Finally, I took a few months "off" this year to finish my dissertation. (Please note: Even when "off"," I must keep Reading the Highland Villager.)

As the draft is pretty much complete, I'm hopeful that I can get back to focusing my writing efforts on a long list of things I've been wanting to do, including the crafting of a number of TC Sidewalks "field guides" that collect the information from various tours over the years (dive bars, bowling alleys, chinese restaurants, coney dog joints, etc.), a renewal of the Sidewalk of the Week feature (my favorite) and other various psychogeographic endeavors.

Please consider making a donation and purchasing a postcard if you appreciate this blogsite. Any donation of $5 or more receives an artisanal sidewalk postcard complete with site-specific koan delivered to your door. All proceeds go directly into the cat füd fund, and DJUNA BARNES (the cat) always seems to enjoy food.

And thank you so much for reading this nonsense! Here's to a lifetime of pedestrian driftlessness.

[Djuna helping with teh blogging.]

*** Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Twin City Sidewalks - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 10:48am
Sidewalk Rating: Golden
It's an ill wind that leads to Rome.
Time and tide do as the Romans do,
Rome wasn't built but it poured.
When in Rome, sailors take warning:
Every cloud leads to Rome.
Red sky at morning, do as the Romans do,
Render unto Ceasar in a storm.
A fool and his money lead to Rome.
Let sleeping dogs do as the Romans do.
When in Rome, wait for no man--
A miss is a good as the things which are Ceasar's.
Every dog has the thing which are Ceasar's.

[from Harry Mathews, Selected Declarations of Dependence.]
[Fall trees at Grand Marais, MN.]


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Reading the Highland Villager #115

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 1:29pm
[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. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.]


Headline: MPCA asks for examination of old Ford dump on Mississippi
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The old automobile factory is probably very dirty.


Headline: Paster unveils fresh start for Sibley Plaza; $50M mixed-use project would feature retails, residential spaces
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The owner of the strip mall wants to build a five-story apartment/retail building on part of the land, but the plan is [weirdly] contingent on NOT being rezoned from B2 to TN zoning. [I say weirdly because TN zoning is meant precisely to support mixed-use development.] Apparently the redevelopment plan is contingent on the city NOT rezoning the property to TN. [Very strange, that.] The mall owners' big objection is that TN zoning would restrict sidewalk-fronting parking and drive thrus. [This seems almost like zoning blackmail.]


Headline: Proposed rezoning would affect plaza project
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The rezoning of the strip mall is part of a larger land use study in the area, "almost two years in the making." The neighborhood group seems conflicted about what to do.


Headline: Summit hotel, W. 7th storage challenged; Neighbors appeal two redevelopment plans
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The approval for the self-storage facility by the Schmidt brewery and the boutique [B&B-style] hotel on Summit Avenue [see last fortnight's recap] are both being appealed and fought by their respective neighborhood groups/preservation associations. The City council will have the final say.


Headline: Restoration of historic sign on W. 7th gets STAR grant
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The sign for the liquor barrel store will be restored thanks to money from the city.


Headline: High bid postpones work on new Marshall median
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: A [watered-down] median on Marshall Avenue intended to make it easier to cross the street is more expensive than people thought [making it all the more dumb that the city decided to change the plan, thus losing the dedicated grant from Macalester College].


Headline: Council overturns ruling on Summit Ave. windows
Author: Jane McClure

Short short version: The owner of a house in Merriam Park can install the windows they want to despite complaints from the Heritage Preservation Commission that they won't be historic.




Three Things You Should Know about the Suburban Equity Cry

Twin City Sidewalks - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 10:03am
[Woodbury.]Last week, I wrote about the theatrical five-county meeting and whether or not the suburban counties’ claims to injustice had any merit. You’re welcome to pore over the suburban manifesto for yourself, or read my asinine translation. And over at Minnpost, I wrote about about how the normally opaque political wrangling over regional transportation investments had coalesced into a moment of clarity.

This story is important because it shapes how transportation (and especially transit) spending priorities will proceed in the Twin Cities for the next decade. Are we going to continue building culs-de-sacs and dangerous ring roads out into the exurban farmland? Continue to catalyze big-box cannibals? Continue pour millions down the vast parking lot drains chasing the mirage of suburban transit? Continue subsidizing developers and over-extended cities on the margins?

(Yes, of course we are. The next highway to Wyoming is well on its way.)

The issue of regional transportation politics is complicated, and it’s very difficult to sum it up gracefully. The more you learn about how decisions are made, the more you wish you didn’t care. But at the same time, the more you learn about the regional transportation balance the more the CWADS’ (CWADS = Carver-Washington-Anoka-Dakota-Scott) outcry seems absurd (and frankly immoral).

Here are three things that are rarely explained about the regional transportation funding situation.


#1) Highway Spending is Already Weighted Heavily Towards Sprawl

[Overdesigned cul-de-sac courtesy of Nate Hood.]No matter the geographic scale, in Minnesota we disproportionately spend our road money in our least populated places. In fact, Minnesota proudly boasts of its long tradition of spreading highway spending around all our exurban, rural, and largely unpopulated ares at the expense of our cities. This is particularly true at the state and regional levels.

Understanding the complex details of this imbalance is the kind of thing for which lawyers get paid big money. And as I’m doing this for free, one example might suffice.

Let’s zoom in on the County State Aid Highway System (CSAH), which is a huge highway funding cash cow ($600M annually, as of 2013; please note that CSAH is an anagram for CASH).

Luckily, the state legislature’s House Research office has already produced a short document that explains the geographic inequality at the heart of CSAH funding.

For example, under the section “limitations on aid”, the CSAH formula requires that “counties must typically expend 60 percent of their allocation on construction projects and 40 percent on maintenance efforts” and that “counties are also required to expend a share of their aid on stretches of county state-aid highways located within small cities having populations under 5,000.”

Similarly, the “distribution formula” for CSAH dollars is almost entirely based on geographic area (rather than population): 10% is divided equally between counties, 30% is proportional to a county’s lane-miles, and 50% is “based on county construction needs to bring the system up to county engineering standards.” Only 10% of the spending distribution has anything to do with the number of people who live in each county.

Finally, in the Twin Cities’ metro, the metro-area motor vehicle lease sales tax is explicitly earmarked for “counties in the Twin Cities metropolitan area—excluding Hennepin and Ramsey.” (Note: I couldn't easily find out how much money is in this fund.)

The CSAH money pot isn't the only one that's weighted against central cities. Federal spending, MNDOT more generally, and intra-county decisions have similar problems (e.g. within the huge county of Hennepin).

[CSAH 22.]
#2) Twin Cities' Poverty is Heavily Concentrated

Despite some recent trends towards increased poverty in the suburbs, the Twin Cities’ is still extremely segregated according to race and income. Yesterday, I posted a map on streets.mn of the Twin Cities’ “(racially) concentrated areas of poverty.” The vast majority of these areas are located in the core cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Here are some data from the census:
[I made this myself.]
So, for example,  Scott County is the richest county in the state. The other CWADS counties are not far behind.

And these county-level data hide large inequalities within each county. So for example, here is a list of the top Minnesota cities according to per capita (not household) income:


[My Dakota County hometown comes in at #11; Joe Mauer lives in #3.]By contrast Saint Paul sits at $20,216 and Minneapolis is only slightly higher at $22,685 per person. In other words, there’s a big difference between Wayzata and Hilltop. And within each city, there are areas of great wealth and deep poverty, typically disproportionately home to people of color. I hate to say it, but ignoring this geographic inequality is tantamount to racism.


#3) TAB Composition is Already Biased In Favor of the Suburbs

The final detail has to do with the way that the decision-making process is set up. As I explained in my Minnpost column, one of the key decision makers’ in the regional transit and road funding process is the Met Council Transportation Advisory Board. Here's how I explained it:
In order to understand the suburban counties' complaints, one must dive into the weeds of the Twin Cities’ unique regional governance system. In our area, the Metropolitan Council has shaped land use planning, sewer investments and our transit and transportation system since 1967. (Most U.S. metros are fractured and don’t have an independent metrowide governmental agency.)However, the Met Council is appointed rather than elected, and so federal rules require an additional body — the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) — to weigh in. The TAB has 33 members that include elected officials from all seven counties and some cities, as well as citizen and state agency members. The TAB makes decisions on Federal funding and sends recommendations to the Met Council, which retains the final say over regional planning. (See, I told you it was complicated!)
The key thing to know here is that composition of the 33-member board is already heavily weighted in favor of suburban and exurban interests. You’re welcome to take a look for yourself, but of the board composition has almost nothing to do with existing population density. Instead, members are appointed equally from each of the seven counties, and (somewhat arbitrarily) from individual cities. (Currently, there are city members from Saint Paul, Saint Louis Park, Maplewood, Minneapolis, Edina, Hugo, Newport, Apple Valley, Blaine, and Eagan).

(Opposed to all these members from suburban cities are the core cities' delegation, and three members representing so-called “transportation modes” like "transit" and “non-motorized.”)

That the existing TAB is so heavily weighted toward suburban cities might be one reason that the CWADS screed calls that "the Transportation Advisory Board must play a strong role in the preparation and approval of the TPP."

To be frankly, given its composition, that the recent economic equity changes to the TAB’s funding formula passed at all should be considered a minor miracle. 

[Thinking about the CWADS meeting is a little bit nauseating.]
Like Stealing Candy from a (Poor) Baby

[The current call for more “equality” reminds me a lot of this.]It's hard to blame individual county politicians or city workers for demanding more money. After all, their job is to represent their own geographic interests.

But in the light of the Twin Cities' historical spending inequalities, the picture changes. Given how heavily the transportation funding deck has been stacked against cities, poor people, and sound investments, the fact that the five-counties are banding together to denounce so-called injustice seems disingenuous at best and immoral at worst. The only shame is that, because of the complexity of the funding and political mechanisms, more people can’t connect the dots and see last week’s meeting for what it is: a cry for help.




*** Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Twin City Sidewalks - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 10:00am
Sidewalk Rating: Forboding

A train barrelled past, knocking him into the seat he'd been heading for. After a moment the two trains seemed to cruise together. He looked out now at his counterpart, in the other train. Small woman, whom he would have judged Jewish without being able to articulate any precise reason why: dark, pretty, smiling to herself, in a blue dress from the seventies--big collar, tiny white bird print. She was frowning at his t-shirt. Trying to figure it. He felt like it: he smiled! A broad smile that emphasized his dimples and revealed three gold teeth. The girls' little dark face pulled light like a net bag. her train pulled ahead, then his did.
[from Zadie Smith, SW.]
[Person waiting to cross in the crosswalk on Saint Paul's West 7th Street.]

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The Best of the 5-County Manifesto (translated)

Twin City Sidewalks - Thu, 10/02/2014 - 4:17pm
[This is what it looks like.]You might have missed it, but on Monday the five non-Ramsey or Hennepin counties of the 7-county metro had a high-profile meeting where they expressed their disgust at transit funding that actually takes account of poverty. I will heretofore refer to the 5 counties as CWADS (CWADS = Carver + Washington + Anoka + Dakota + Scott).

Here's the best part of the Strib article on the meeting:
But the strictly suburban counties — Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Scott and Washington — say their pleas haven’t been taken seriously. And as a result, they say, the plan focuses on transit and nonmotorized transportation without paying enough attention to highways and freight, which they count as their lifeblood.“It seems like they don’t hear us,” said Carver County Board Chair Gayle Degler.
Don't get me wrong. I grew up in Dakota County. Some of my best friends remain in Dakota County. (Hell, I'm in Dakota county right now as I type this.) In fact, not being able to walk or bike or take the bus in Dakota County is one of the main reasons why I am blogging on this here blogsite.

At the center of the issue is a document we might call the CWADS manifesto [scroll to the bottom], which consists of 13 melodramatic pages written almost entirely in engineering and planning techno-babble. Because of this language barrier, I fear most people would not be able to make much sense of the thing. But given the amount of attention that CWADS generated at their meeting, it seems important to bring it to the masses.

That's why I've taken the liberty of translating the best parts of this fine document into plain English for you. Keep in mind, the art of translation is a delicate one. Many a hand has been wrung over the difference between synonyms. Rather than serving as a literal translation of every syllabic nuance, this translation attempts to stay true to the intention of the original.

[See this is what it looks like...]Here are the highlights!
4c. Citizen members of the TAB should provide balanced viewpoints that reflect the diverse modal needs of the metropolitan area. The representation on Transportation Advisory Board and the Council prevents all transportation modes from being represented equally. This results in TPP direction being skewed toward transit and non-motorized transportation modes which cannot address the future transportation needs of much of the suburban metro area population.
Translation: I know the committee is already stacked with CWADS engineers, but we want it all. Those transit and bike people really need to shut up. Balance = cars. Have you noticed that everybody keeps driving? Put that in your tailpipe and smoke it already.

[Know your CWADS.]5b. The plan contains multiple statements that are not supported by accompanying data and are skewed to transit and non-motorized policy (a few examples include: people want expanded transit, congestion represents economic vitality, and focus on operating and maintenance to stay competitive). Statements related to improving the highway system are virtually non-existent.
Translation: Congestion is good? People don’t want to drive all the time any more? What nonsense! I’ve been living in CWADS for my entire life and never seen any evidence of any of this horse crap.

7.a.    The current revenue scenario plan predominantly focuses on MnPASS and preservation for the regional highway system and has limited vision related to strategic capacity enhancements.
    c.    There is not enough detail about the principal arterial needs in the region. The region lacks principal arterial capacity today and in the future based on established spacing guidelines, yet the TPP does not adequately address these needs.Translation: Money goes for roads. And not just any roads, but new roads. Like roads that weren't there before, and more lanes for them and even more lanes for these new roads that we already put lanes on. If money isn’t building new roads, what is it even doing? CWADS need new roads! CWADS has arterial needs! Haven’t you seen Trainspotting?

[Foreclosures in Carver County c. 2008]8b.    There is little to no recognition of key local and trunk highway “A” minor and non- freeway principal arterial needs in the region.
Translation: OK I told you about my arterial needs, but you don't know how deep these run. We especially need wide new roads that go past still strip malls and brand new big box stores to replace the older empty big box stores. Oh, and have symbolic but unusable sidewalks.

    a.    Counties are truly Minnesota's subject matter experts when it comes to addressing poverty, and the causes of poverty. But these policy plans demonstrate no recognition of this experience and proficiency. Additionally, the plans contain no data demonstrating the effectiveness of the included strategies.
Translation: You don’t know me! Oh my god you have no idea what it's like to drive in this hellhole. CWADS exurban highway engineers know what’s best for us. They love us like a lover should, with wide new roads and park and rides that make us feel loved even if we never use them personally. Nobody knows us like we know ourselves. Oh yeah.

[Abandoned K-Mart in New Hope.]10.a. The TPP does not recognize important resources suburban and rural counties contribute to improving and redeveloping the urban and urban centers and the entire region and State.Translation: Where would Minneapolis be without CWADS and our resources? You know, things like… people who go to stadium concerts and ride on Pedal Pubs. How would the Coen Brothers make fun of their home town without a supply of suburban clichés about places like Normandale? Where would you put your Cabelas-es?
Item #11: The TPP should highlight the importance of advancing both transportation and recreational bicycle trails.
    a.    Counties and cities have worked for many years to develop a regional and local recreational trail system and have invested significant local and federal funds to these networks.
    b.    Many county regional trails provide both recreation and transportation, paralleling the county and State roadways, yet will not have equal standing when competing for funding. Regional trail networks make important connections to schools, community centers, parks, and activity centers that can be reached by bicycling and walking.
Translation: Why is everyone pretending that you can actually ride your bike to actual places (like the store, or school, or work)? It’s obvious that bikes are for riding around in parks for exercise on a Sunday. So why not lets just count all those bike trails along side the high-speed roads even though nobody is riding on them. Just please, please don't make us stripe any bike lanes. That would be silly.

[Average Carver County home: Norwood Young America.]12a.    The minimum 20 dwelling units per acre for fixed/dedicated guideway exceeds FTA New Starts/Small Starts guidelines of nine to fifteen dwelling units per acre and is unrealistic for some transitway station locations. This requirement limits communities’ ability to consider input from their residents and market conditions.
    b.    If land use density minimums are perceived to be unattainable, land owners and some communities along transit ways could potentially resist new transitways and station locations and slow the region’s investment in new transit corridors. Translation: Why do we have to build apartment buildings? That’s ridiculous! Nobody is going to do that out here, and having to pretend to try is going to put everyone in a bad mood. Like a seriously bad mood, you have no idea. Also, get off my lawn.

16.f.    The regional importance criterion favor projects near areas of high job concentrations but does not account for areas of projected regional job growth particularly in the suburban areas and beyond. Translation: When we're doing planning and building transit systems, it's really important to be sure and count all the imaginary growth we planned in our heads when we platted our roads and political careers. Surely one imaginary corporate office park is worth at least 2/3 of an actual corporate office park? Can't we work on this?
[Cars in Coon Rapids = not enough roads.]Item # 13: The TPP restricts certain types of land uses such as “surface parking lots” immediately around transit station areas.
    a.    While the logic behind encouraging higher densities, mixed use, and more walkable land use is sound, the prohibition of certain types of land use is overly restrictive.
    b.    Local land use planning decisions are a city/county responsibility that should be made by elected officials and should not be mandated by the Metropolitan Council
Translation: OK, this is the last straw. If we can't build surface parking lots next to park-and-rides and BRT stations, where can we put them? Also, "surface parking lots", as if there was any other kind of parking lot? We refuse to even acknowledge the distinction. If we can't pave it, it doesn't exist.

[An empty lot by a Northstar station in Anoka County.]

Twin City Street Musicians #14

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 11:52am
[Violinist. Lowertown, Saint Paul.]

[Guitar player. Lowertown, Saint Paul.]

[Guitar player. Grand Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[Guitar player. Location forgotten.]

[Cello player. New York City.]

[Guitar player. Boston.]

 [Guitar. Boston.]
[Brass band. Lowertown, Saint Paul.]

Signs of the Times #94

Twin City Sidewalks - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 11:48am


 valkommen att bestalla entrappa nerl
[Pole. Växjö, Sweden.]
[something in Swedish.]
[Pallet. Växjö, Sweden.]
Henstillen afcykler forbudt
[Fence. Copenhagen, Denmark.]

NO PHOTO100 KR.
[Pole. Stockholm, Sweden.]

The most famouspastry in SWEDENcinammon bun cardamom bun
[Window. Stockholm, Sweden.]

 DON'T TOUCH!
[Plastic box. Stockholm, Sweden.]
Ei polkupyøorilleODOTA TASSA!
[Fence. Turku, Finland.]  

DontTouch
[Fruit stand. Helsinki, Finland.]