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.


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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.


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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.



Tuesday, February 12, 2013

In Service

People sometimes ask me, "who gets to ride the first train?"

Who? You.



I just missed catching this train after work, but then ran into it downtown. Oh, hey.



Does anyone on the platform even notice? Why are they not cheering?

It's a jolting thing, seeing the new LRVs in service on Hiawatha. The 200s! The type twos! It had been awhile since we first met, although my new cube has a primo view of the turnaround tracks near the Cedar Riverside station. Yep, this is my new friend that visits every morning.


Now if we can just get that catenary finished to Saint Paul...

Friday, January 11, 2013

The other side of the tracks

As of Monday, I now work in the Minneapple. Which means, of course, that I have to cross University to catch a bus...which takes surprisingly long, doesnt it? And like every one else, I've developed a terrible habit of crossing against the light and waiting in the guideway. The traffic signal is too damn long! Humans first.

After five days, I can tell you, it's weird. Seeing LRVs on 5th Street every morning is like swimming through a transity dream sequence - a giant, yellow, this-is-your-life mirage floats past as I try remind myself that, here, it is a terrible habit to cross against the light and wait in the guideway.


I love my new job, but I miss Saint Small. It has beautiful historic streets, downtown parks, a river view, and lots of charm.

And Minneapolis has...the Interchange. It's hard for me to get excited about it after the Depot opening, but it's strangely fitting for this neighborhood. It will be great transit station - as long as it never rains.





They say that a train station is a place where you should be able to fall in love, and I'm not feeling the love here. But we'll see. Woo me, Interchange. Prove me wrong.

Location:Target Field

Monday, December 10, 2012

How to throw a party

I stayed up too late on Friday night. We went out with friends and I found myself explaining, over the last round of drinks, the history of the depot, and why I was getting up early on Saturday.

It happens to me before an early flight, or when I am nervous about a big meeting. My alarm goes off, and I spring out of bed, unable to settle back into the blankets. (My dog loves this, because her whole existence is based on getting fed as early as possible.)

With a couple layers and my snow boots, I ran to the bus stop at full speed. I settled into the 16, feeling guilty that everyone else was on their way to work and looking miserable, and that I was going to the depot. I jumped off at 5th Street and waited for the 21. I ran into a friend, who was walking towards the depot and wondering why I was just standing there. I told him that the 21 would bring us into the depot - onto the mezzanine! He smiled and we waited together.




My very first arrival at the depot was a quiet one. Somebody had to open a door for us. It gave me a chance to walk through the concourse and waiting room before the crowds.






A big plastic curtain separated the head house, where the media event was being staged. I slipped through the curtain to find a packed room. At 9:15?! Die hard train people.



Spotted: world's cutest future ridership. Why didn't I wear overalls?


One hour and fifteen minutes later (!), the electeds pulled down the curtain to the cheers of a restless crowd. Music blared as streams of people, smiles on their faces, cameras and phones and kids held high, poured into the depot and flooded the waiting room.





Turns out, the depot isn't very big when it's crammed with happy, train-loving people. Kids chatted about Thomas while parents wrote out postcards to mail. Old friends hugged and talked about their childhood. Elderly couples sat on new benches holding hands. Artists beamed. Train conductors posed for photos with the carnival princesses. This is how you throw a party, my friends - with heart. You let people be the main attraction, and let the depot slip right back into its supporting role.

And, of course, I got absolutely nothing done - I didn't even collect my commemorative poster! Everywhere I looked, there were people from different parts of my life in Saint Paul. It was a 4-hour onslaught of hugging people out of context, and it was magnificent.

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Location:Union Depot