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.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
Location:Union Depot

Thursday, December 6, 2012

No biggie

Let's see, not much going this week.

The construction update has the regular stuff: Tom is selling Christmas trees at the Y, overhead wires are being installed (weather permitting), and some clean up work is happening. Slow news day.

It's not like this past weekend marked the end of heavy construction on University Avenue, and the beginning of the rest of our lives. It's no major milestone in our city's history.

This is what I would call understated:

Bus Details
Bus routes on University Avenue will resume to normal configuration. Visit or call the Transit Information Center at 612-373-3333 for the most current information.

Quietly, and without much notice, University Avenue has been buttoned up for good. Sure - there are more lane closures and more guideway work to come, but I'm taking a full minute and a half to savor this landmark moment.

And, hmm, what else is happening this week? Perhaps we could have a little party. For the opening of a $243 million historic depot 40+ years in the making. Whaaat? I can hardly contain myself.

Not one, but TWO random people at the bus stop last weekend were talking to me about this. I haven't heard that much bus buzz about a single event...ever. I was down there on Saturday to meet up with some friends - I can say I knew you when, Depot.

And because I can't manage to show any kind of restraint, I've copied the full list of events and activities happening between 10 am and 4 pm. I will be there early (media event and speeches start at 9:30!)

  • Commemorative Poster - Complete a Transit Pass to receive a free commemorative Union Depot poster designed by Twin Cities artist Adam Turman.

  • Union Depot History Display – Artifacts and photos that tell the history of Union Depot. 

  • Metro Transit Booth – Information on service and bus routes. Download a free bus pass at 

  • Jefferson Lines – Bringing intercity bus service to Union Depot in January 2013.Tour one of their featured buses and check out their new ticket office in the Kellogg Entry.

  • Amtrak – Coming to Union Depot in 2013, Amtrak will be onsite to share the glory of the Empire Builder train that will operate out of Union Depot. 

  • Minnesota Transportation Museum/Jackson Street Roundhouse – Learn about Twin Cities train history and view a historic map that depicts the location of the original Union Depot. 

  • Operation Lifesaver - Learn how to make safe decisions around tracks and trains.

  • Treasure Island Resort & Casino – Meet their mascot Toucan and spin the wheel for a chance to win prizes. 

  • Mississippi National River and Recreation Area National Park Service – Explore a giant floor map of the river. 

  • U of M Raptor Center – Check out three live raptors perched out on display including a bald eagle!  Onsite 12 P.M. to 4 P.M.

  • Mystic Lake Casino – Play Card Sharks for prizes.  Also, tour one of their shuttle buses.

  • St. Paul Saints – Play some baseball on the St. Paul Saints inflatable batting tee and get information on the new regional ballpark opening in Lowertown in 2015. 

  • One on One Bicycle Studio – Coming to Union Depot early 2013, see their new space and learn about products and services.

  • Saint Paul Winter Carnival – Meet the Royal Family and purchase your official Saint Paul Winter Carnival button.

  • Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB) – Learn how five metro counties are working together to fund new transit lines, and see the vision for our growing regional transit system.

  • Metropolitan Council Central Corridor LRT (Green Line) – Learn about the latest light rail project and take your picture with a large tapestry of a light rail car.

  • U of M Press – View a collection of their railroad books and meet some of the authors.

  • Harding High School – Enjoy musical performances  by the Harding High School Marching Band, Drum Line, and Ensemble. Performances at 10 A.M., 11 A.M. and  11:30 A.M.

  • Colleen & Bradley from MyTalk107.1 – Meet Colleen and Bradley from MyTalk107.1’s morning show.  Onsite 11 A.M. to 1 P.M. 

  • Snoopy Unveiling & Meet and Greet – Meet Snoopy and see our newly redesigned “Doghouse Days of Summer,” Snoopy Statue. Event at 11 A.M. 

  • Urban Sketchers – Meet local sketchers, including some of Union Depot’s own residents, to learn about sketching the world around you.

  • Taste of Lowertown - Experience the unique foods of Lowertown, with a new restaurant providing samples at the top of every hour.

  • Studio Sendero – Demonstrations and free classes in flamenco, belly dance, yoga and Zumba.

  • Recess Press – Pick up a pre-made tote, or learn from an artist how to screen print your very own. Totes are free while supplies last.

  • Bedlam Theatre Performances - Bedlam Theatre will perform a series of small and large-scale historically referential performances throughout the day. 

  • Light Rail Shuffle – Learn to dance the Light Rail Shuffle and other fun dances.

  • Train-Themed Photo Stand-Ins – Be the driver of a light rail car or the conductor of the William Crooks steam engine, and have your picture taken.

  • Postcards from Union Depot – Choose from several postcard designs created by local artists and send a postcard to yourself or a loved one from Union Depot. 

  • Movie night! Elf is being shown at 5:30. Woooo.

I plan to transfer from the 16 to the 21 downtown for the ceremonial joy of riding all the way to the depot on Saturday. You didn't get the notice? It's right here - in the bus route changes.