Monday, April 30, 2012

Catching up

Being away has made me feel like I have missed a lot of construction goodies - vacation MDT I suppose. So here's the update.

Somebody has been busy paving - all the way up to Victoria in the last week.

New trees are being installed in front of Gordon Parks High School.

Lexington Eastbound station infrastructure went up in a hurry.

A bunch of rail was moved down towards Marion - perhaps so they can finish up that section where it was being stored at Pascal? Just a guess.

Cedar Street got rail...whaaat? Cedar is such a darkhorse in the completeness competition - I've been busy ignoring it for months! My bus detour helps a lot. [Much thanks to Jess, my Lead Downtown Spy, for snapping this photo!]

And just when I thought my home bus stop was lacking in construction excitement, I got some new neighbors. Hey there, hay. You look delicious.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Greetings from the State of Flagler

For the past week, I've been on vacation in Palm Beach Shores, Florida. This tough assignment mostly entails reading on the beach, bobbing around in the waves, and collecting freckles (under heaps of sunscreen). 

Life is rough.

So while I am mostly out of the loop with this LRT thing, I have learned a few important things about the Sunshine State.

1. Flagler is king. Almost a hundred years after his death, this state is still obsessed with Henry Flagler (of FEC and Overseas Railroad fame). Some people joke that the abbreviation "FL" does not actually stand for Florida, and now I see why. Flagler Bank, Flagler Street, Flagler Hospital, Flagler College, Flagler Development Company, even Flagami (a city) - it goes on and on. This dude, a true railroad baron and mega-developer, was a tremendous visionary (if not a little bit of a kook). His touch on this place is undeniable - he practically invented Florida. Did I mention they wanted to name another city after him? But he politely declined, insisting on Miami. I mean, for serious. 

2. Center turn lanes are the worst. And Florida loves them. No one in Minnesota would ever pull onto Grand Ave and drive in the center lane, waiting to merge. These lanes are not for driving! A quick search revealed that I am not crazy. 

3. License plate art optional. Apparently, in Florida, you don't need a front license plate. That opens up that space for higher and better uses. I think this one speaks for itself.

4. Gators are
no joke. One afternoon, the hubby and I decided to rent a canoe for a peaceful trip down the Loxahatchee River. The advertisements sounded lovely: surround yourself with the beauty of old Florida. Just imagine... paddling your canoe down a cypress lined waterway, past heron, egrets, turtles, deer and all manner of birds and four-legged wildlife. It didn't mention that the Loxahatchee is pretty secluded, and more than a touch creepy.

The first gator we saw had a two-fold impact. Oooh look - an alligator! Right over there in the water! was quickly followed by that alligator is reeeeally large! I hate to admit, I was picturing the Florida Gators cartoon mascot. This one was not a cartoon.

Look close.

Our canoe outfitter, a man of few words, had given us brief advice - don't poke 'em, don't feed 'em, don't get out of your boat. The first gator was far away - a comfortable distance. I can't say the same about the second one...or the third (which was in the water and moving). The river was narrowing, so this third pass was within feet. Recognizing that our chances of being eaten were somewhat good, we turned back and retreated to the beach. I'm going to stick to the St. Croix - the real Florida is terrifying!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Welding magic

Ok, fellow rail nerds, this is pretty cool. I wonder how long this would take without this awesome piece of machinery! From the Union Depot facebook page:

In preparation for laying rail at Union Depot, crews are welding 39-foot sticks of rail into long strings. In this video, one of our rail workers shows us how the sticks are joined together, called a flash-butt weld. Watch one done in real time.

Nom nom

There are a lot of different people and ideas around here. But at the end of the day, we all want the same thing - food.

Artwork at Dale Street depicts the ancient temple of cutlery, 
home to the god of eats, Nom Nom.

University Avenue is filled with great family-run restaurants, and last night, I had the pleasure of kicking back with old and new friends at Cheng Heng, a Cambodian restaurant between Arundel & Mackubin.

If I was a halfway decent blogger, I would have mouth-watering photos of steamy noodles and ginger beef, along with a shot of the friendly restaurant owner, who was so grateful to have our support during construction. But I am kind of terrible at this, and was basically talking and laughing and chowing down on all those noodles when I should have been taking photos. Luckily, one of my dinner companions was John of Green Line Gems, who can tell you all about food. Perhaps I'll stick to pavers and bus drama.

In any case, you need to check out Cheng Heng, and bring a couple friends. They are really hurting with construction and could use a few more tables of hungry transiteers.

Cheng Heng, at 448 University - business on the outside, party on the inside.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Time Warp

I often suffer from a condition called Massive Distortion of Time (MDT). It's a common problem for bus riders, but drivers are not immune either. 

Drivers tend to experience micro-distortion. Have I been sitting at this stoplight for 15 minutes...or was it only 15 seconds? Or maybe it was 4 seconds. It seems like forever! Sometimes it seems like waiting for the next green light is literally going to kill them. They get jittery and honk. They make big, angry eyes. They pull into the intersection and block cars in the other direction. They wag fingers. They call home to say that they'll be late. Bridge Closed?? You did NOT just delay my commute by 42 seconds. Oh. No. You. Didn't. [Insert crazed commuter face screaming silent obscenities behind a rolled up window.]

Now when bus riders get MDT, it is at a totally different scale. For example, I once decided to drive to a night meeting on the East Side (sometimes I like to come home and eat dinner). Did you know it takes like 4 minutes to get to the East Side on I-94?! I thought it was 85 miles from my house to Conway Rec, based on Bus Standard Time. If I didn't hate driving so much, I might get used to this kind of time travel. Also, this is why I don't wear a watch - it's better not to know.

For this reason, drivers assume that driving is always faster. It's not. That's where the bus space-time continuum gets tricky. My house is a 6 minute bus ride to Oak Street. Ah, but you say, you still have to wait for the bus to come! No. I don't. Bus rule #634 clearly states: "do not wait for the bus like a schmuck." Use real-time information. You should not be waiting more than two minutes at your regular stop, people. I have the trip from my kitchen to the bus stop down to four minutes (three if I'm wearing flats, or four and a half if I'm trying to eat an Eggo while I walk). And, once I get to Oak Street, they let me off right on the sidewalk, near all the food stuffs. While I'm trying to pick out my Blizzard flavor, you are driving in circles looking for parking. And when you can't find it, you retreat to the parking ramp, where you drive around in (upward) circles looking for a spot where an SUV isn't parked over the line. What I'm saying is - try to beat me there - it can't be done.

But the most mind-bending time warp is the stuff you see coming out of the street on University.

Streetcar tracks, piled up at Dale Street, dating to approximately 378 A.D. To be replaced by...streetcar tracks. We'll call them LRT tracks to make us less depressed about it. 

Granite pavers being hauled off in front of the Rondo Library, to be donated to the (yet to be founded) Minnesota Museum of Urban Archeology.

It took us 60 years and a billion dollars to get back to this (It's ok to cry a little or punch something). All I can say is that this LRT better last us for a long, looong time.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Curb your enthusiam

I had some errands to run on University today. There is really nothing finer than spending a rainy day in Axman, where everyone was singing along to the chorus of "Walk Like and Egyptian" as it blasted over the radio. 80s music seems to go perfectly with this place, perhaps because Axman kind of looks like my parents' basement (a mix of my childhood stuff and random electrical parts). I cleaned up with some more masking tape (spring colors!), a lovely glass jar, and seven pieces of assorted brass hardware for jewelry making purposes. But there is one thing more exciting than this bargain haul...

Curbs! Curbs went in this week.

These are at Hamline - you can see the station popping up there, too.

But wait, it's too early, right? Let's take little trip back in time to our first curbs last season...this one's near Emerald on June 7, 2011.

Hmm. Two months earlier? I like where this is going!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Best and Worst of the Week

Most years you remember what happened when because you were freezing cold, or you were trudging through snow, or you were wearing flip flops for the first time even though it was not actually warm enough. This year, I have no idea what happened when or if time is moving at all. But I like it! I knew climate change would turn Minnesota into Malibu if I waited long enough.

And so I have a week of random photos, and have lost all sense of time. Were these all this week? I think so!

Worst. Huge parking. Can you guess what this shop sells? No, because you are only going there for the HUGE PARKING LOT. Btw, they are not under construction.

Best. Wall-E saves the planet. Something about seeing this little robot on the construction scene makes me believe we will be able to grow little green plants here again someday. (He actually is a robot with a remote control, but I have no idea what he does on the job.)

Worst. On-street parking on the 4th Street tracks. I would like to quote the wise Seth Meyers who once said...Really?! Really. Really. Oh yeah, well, we got your plates, twerp.

Best. Skyway signage. Did DSI put up this sign outside their office as a joke? Because it is freaking hilarious. No stopping! LOITERING BAD. Moving good. No sitting! NO EATING. Keep moving! Hallway/skyway! CITY ORDINANCE. This will never get old.

Worst. Granite pavers. These are too heavy to take with me on the 16, and yet they are sitting right here at my bus stop. Please stop teasing me.

Best. Spring has sprung. The first green buds on the trees on south side of the street (planted last fall) have started to pop.

Worst. Construction is insane. See also, "Best. Construction is hustling down the Avenue." Witness.

Best. Unintentional street art. Somebody please irrigate this already.