Monday, June 15, 2015

And so it begins

I drafted the following post 11 months ago, but it never felt quite right. It wasn't until I attended a performance in September 2014, The Green Line, 11 Miles of Hopes Dreams, and Fears,  that I understood why. This really summed it up:

"Like physical therapy that follows surgery, what happens next is important."

For the previous nine years, I thought that June 14, 2014, Green Line Opening Day, was the finish line. It wasn't. That's pretty much what I've been thinking about for the last 365 days.

So, here it is - almost as good as time travel - my unpublished post from a year ago. Happy one year anniversary, Green Line!


In the final month leading up to the opening of the Green Line, I was fortunate to do two test rides for work: one with legislators to talk about transit funding, and another with City of Saint Paul policy makers (my people). I also participated in an adorable employee preview where we got a ride, a tour of the new OMF, ate sandwiches, and took turns honking the horn in the train cab (no supervision!)

Me, driving. No biggie.

In the weeks before the opening, I read approximately 10,000 articles touting and dispelling the Green Line, and was equipped with a METRO Green Line lanyard and tshirt. 

Team Raymond, prior to the hurricane.

Saturday morning, June 14th, was memorable and miserable. What started as a cool, cloudy morning devolved into total chaos as parties and passengers were drenched with storms and driving wind shortly after trains started running. I worked at Raymond Station as a platform ambassador, a bit in shock as we focused our energy on things turning into flying debris, and watched our neighborhood launch party get shut down tent by tent. 

Soaked and disheartened, I grabbed a food truck lunch while chatting with people who had made their way from the Depot, still dry and in good spirits. They seemed joyful, and I felt beat down.

I ran into these guys.

So Sunday was do-over day. I worked in the morning, talking to a lot of friendly and excited passengers on Westgate platform. Dads had dragged their (grown) kids out to ride the train for Father's Day, and (little) kids were squealing and smiling at the sight of the train approaching. The sun came out. After work, the hubby and I went to a Green Line party, featuring green food and green mojitos. I saw a friend on the crowded train and he gave me a high five. Yes. This was how it was supposed to be. 

But I have to admit - I haven't written about opening day because it wasn't what I had pictured for 8 years living on University. It was a little traumatic. And I was pretty disappointed, up until I saw these. In the stress and disappointment of my own experience, I missed the bigger picture. I could look through those photos a hundred times - familiar faces popping up throughout. 

In some ways, opening weekend was a good summary of this whole crazy process. Expect the unexpected. Survive. Thrive. All's well that ends well. My commute the last couple of weeks has been so strangely normal that soon we'll forget life before LRT. And so it begins.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What Year Is it?

I am trying to remain calm. 30 days until the big day, and this stuff shows up. 

Hey, that's my sidewalk. And my bus stop. 

Today Walsh is going to start a mill and overlay of the whole street, and I can't help but feel oh-so-2011 as test trains zip by. So I'm gonna let you finish, Walsh, but all these orange cones are making me real nervous.

Monday, April 28, 2014


These days, it's rare to be surprised by a rail car gliding down University. Now that they're being tested all day every day, it's actually staggering to me how unremarkable it has become. I couldn't have processed this feeling even six months ago.

Perhaps that's why I was so caught off guard this weekend when I was walking the dog and heard that familiar sound - the ping ping ping of a light rail bell - from the sidewalk in front of my house. How many times a day do I hear that, working 100 feet from the Blue Line? It sounded so startling, and new, and beautiful on University Avenue. It's one of those small things I hope I never forget. 

Maybe all this lead up to opening day has made me overly sentimental about the avenue. Yesterday I rode the 16 in the pouring rain to meet a friend for tea. The crowd on the bus was especially chatty - there's a camaraderie among people who ride the 16. Especially on a Sunday. Especially in this weather. 

A man sitting in back row was talking to a friend, who was getting off the bus to go to work at Rainbow. He yelled as she left, "don't be a stranger! If you need me, just call 911 and hang up. Repeatedly!" That got a big laugh out of the back half of the bus. He turned to me and said, "I've been riding the bus with her for 11 years." I nodded and smiled. He said, "She's family. I give her a hard time, but I did invite her to the 80th birthday party they threw for me on the 14." I mean, gosh. Who wouldn't be sentimental about this stuff? I hope we never lose that. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The very last year

2013 has been good to me. I started a new job, traveled to both coasts and abroad, wore funny costumes in funny parades, ran my first (Jr.) Bix, and bought our first honest-to-goodness, real-sized Christmas tree.

But since LRT construction is, like, so 2012, one thing I did not do much of was blogging. So here are my top transity moments of 2013, the year that will be remembered as the VERY LAST YEAR that I ever had to live without the Green Line. Thank. God.

New LRVs in the wild
The only thing better than seeing the new LRVs in service on the Blue Line was seeing the new LRVs putzing down University Avenue, sometimes slow, sometimes fast, but always ridiculously surreal. Maybe the best part of this phase for me was that finally everybody on Facebook and Twitter was talking about LRT (not just transit weirdos...ahem).

At Government Center, downtown Minneapolis

In the yard, on my way to work.
Lookin' good, everybody!
At University & Chatsworth. 
Unfortunately, the bus doesn't stop so 
that I can take a decent photo.

Better Block
Although not on University Avenue, the Better Block event on East 7th was one of the most epic transit/bike/walk events of 2013, involved pretty much all my favorite people, and was powered (in part) by a large box of Trung Nam croissants.

That's Jessica, taping with great precision.

Damian and I defacing the street with spray chalk.

I painted that sign with the help of a small child!

New neighborhood cafe

Duct tape is so useful.

Closing the CCRC
The Central Corridor Resource Center in the old Lexington Library has been, over the past 7 years or so, the site of pretty much all melodrama, wacky and wonderful meetings (Charles Avenue...did that actually happen?), and too many heating and cooling hijinks to count. Every situation was made only more bananas by people randomly dropping books in the long-closed book return, window parts being stolen, or a car running into the building. The real question is, what on earth is going to happen to that scale model of University?

Does anybody have room for this?

Open Streets
Open Streets was the last big party before the next big party: opening day. Probably my favorite moment was when a woman handing out Green Line swag asked me if I "liked LRT" and pushed a neon bag into my hands. Play it cool...take the bag...jump for joy!

Maybe the first day ever that I wish I owned a bike.

Best Steak House kid working the crowd.

Do I want a bag? Um, yeah.

You and me both, buddy.

Twinkle Bus
Bucket list: Ride the Twinkle Bus. Check! I think putting this bad boy in service on Route 16 is well overdue.

Twinkle Bus training at the garage.
Yep, it works.

I think I had a dream like this once. 

Washington Avenue Reopens
Dinkytown is great. I mean, I used to complain that I needed to transfer to get there. But no offense Dinkytown, now that the three-year construction detour is over, I may never visit you again. Washington Avenue, which is almost unrecognizable with new development, reopened in December with buses sharing the light rail tracks. There are a few kinks to work out before LRT opens...the worst being that when we stop at Oak Street, the Jimmy John's guy runs on the bus and hands out sandwiches. I know people like free sammies, but you're killing our running time.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Market watch

This is a really great time of year for farmers' market shopping. We buy vegetables until our arms hurt from carrying them, or until we run out of cash. We eat still-hot kettle corn. We sample apples with exotic names and have conversations with farmers about "eating apples" and "baking apples" (as if). The flowers are out of control. Even the sub-par Minnesota corn is killing it lately (hey, I'm from Iowa). Today, out of pure curiosity, we bought some ground cherries. Is it a tomato? A gooseberry? What the heck is this thing? It freaks me out a little. I don't know whether to make salsa or put it in a pie (as if).

Shockingly, the ground cherries were not the most surprising thing we ran into at the market.

Apparently somebody (awesome) decided that 11 am on a Saturday was a good time to push a train from Union Depot, through a mass of humanity and vegetables, into the OMF. I don't know who was squealing more, me or the hundred little kids that witnessed this.

Just think, when I come to the market next summer, it'll be on LRT!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Welcome to Saint Paul

Between the dust and noise and stress of building a rail line, there are a handful of days that stick out as milestones. Days when your heart beats fast and you feel overcome with pride for this community. For me those days are (in no particular order) the rail pull, the FFGA signing, the first curbs and then the first asphalt, the first trees to be planted, the opening of the Depot, the first LRV delivered. And today we add one more: the first light rail train on Saint Paul tracks.

I woke up anxious this morning, threw on running shoes and went up to Dunns. I sat there with my bagel and tea, looking west. A train car was on its way, not of its own power (the catenary wires aren't all up yet), but pulled by a fatty truck down the tracks from the Hiawatha rail facility to Lowertown. I waited for a half hour, refreshing twitter every couple minutes. Where is it? Did everyone at the U really sleep through this?

And then a huge clue. A woman walks out to the median of University, sporting a big ole' telephoto lens, and just camps out, looking west.

I ran out the door and walked towards Bedford Street, running into a friend and his son. We walked west, looking down the hill towards Stadium Village. All of the sudden, the train turned onto University at 29th, not at the slow walking pace we expected, but at a pretty fast clip. We jogged back toward Saint Paul. It stopped at the border and honked at us, with happy rail staff on board.

After crossing Berry Street, 206 pulled into the eastbound Westgate platform and the rail workers jumped off. One guy said to me, "I'm dying for a cup of coffee!" as they filed into Dunn Brothers. The question has been: will light rail bring customers? The answer is already yes.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Zing Zing Zing (went my heart strings)

After month of seeing them from afar, I finally got my chance to ride a new train - number 203! I hope you can forgive me for my temporary case of vertical video syndrome - it's a serious affliction I'm working through. Besides, I was excited and just happy to have my phone handy.

The sun was shining, birds were chirping. I practically broke into song as it pulled up to the station. Cue Judy.

How excited are they?! These are my people. I would have hung out the door re-enacting this scene if that was even mildly allowable. The folks on my train were less enthused.

Interesting gap going on at the bottom of the door, here. We need those little rubber flaps, stat. Doesn't snow fly in there?

Much more open, with more seating in the middle. I won't miss the little loveseats in the articulated part - too awkward if the train is full.

I got off the train just one stop later at the Dome, and took a couple more photos. As I walked away, a guy ran up to me (also taking pictures with his phone) and exclaimed, "aren't they beautiful? It's so exciting!" I smiled and nodded. Perhaps in hindsight, that guy would have been up for singing with me on the platform. Next time I won't hesitate to ask.