Friday, March 30, 2012

Making light rail look easy

I'm going to Florida this month, and I like to get in the vacation mood by reading books set in the destination locale. Because I have zero attention span for fiction, I picked out a book called Last Train To Paradise. It recounts the spectacular rise (and fall) of the oversea railroad from Miami to Key West, also known as one of the most insane construction projects ever attempted. I can't imagine building Central Corridor in open water, in tropical heat, through hurricanes, for 130 miles. It's all relative, isn't it?

Florida east coast causeway to Key West in 1928. 
Photo is public domain.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Let's see what you're made of: Part 3

University Avenue is a rough place for leafy green things. Heat, salt, concrete. Luckily, we have a secret weapon.

Structural soil. It's a mix of clay, gravel, some sort of high-tech hydrogel - basically, it's solid gold (and priced accordingly). It'll allow tree roots to grow and avoid being compacted under concrete. And it allows us to get a continuous tree trench and pervious pavers to catch water instead of individual tree grates that need irrigation.

[Also, don't be alarmed...the Catholic Charities building is still upright. I am just a little tired this morning.]

And speaking of solid gold, Hamline was paved last week in what I think constitutes record time. First concrete of the season for University Avenue.

I am hoping we see some curbs on the south side by the end of the week. Btw, March, this weather is quite helpful for building rail systems. Keep it up.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


It's been a long day. Is it just me, or is the LRT guideway starting to look like a graham cracker crust? Mmm, LRT. Here's hoping they fill this thing with cheesecake.

I think I need dinner.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Um, have you been to Oak Street lately? Because I hadn't. I had been holed up in my house all winter waiting for those days when walking outdoors is a pleasure instead of a chore. Luckily I had a good excuse to get over there last week (picking up an ice cream cake from DQ - yum). This is great ice cream weather.

There's this crazy ped mall with light rail...whaaat?

Not to mention a mammoth chunk of housing where Harvard market used to be. RIP Harvard Market. Ha! Just kidding.

Prospect Park is looking a little rough...

But there is a cozy spot to watch in Cupcake.

[Step right up to sneak a peak at the greatest show on earth, snag a front row seat for the AMAZING CENTRAL CORRIDOR LIGHT RAIL construction! Coming soon!]

That's the spirit. Did I mention I've been to Cupcake three times in two weeks? It has something to do with their new Thursday/Friday/Saturday night supper club. And cupcakes.

Also, I'm giving out a gold star to the first person who can explain this colored sidewalk in front of KSTP. I stare and stare but I can't figure it out. It is right on the city border.

Are they finally putting in a checkpoint? I knew it would come to this.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bus etiquette 101

I have several theories about people who talk loudly on cell phones on the bus. One is that this person was a hipster holdout, that is, someone who resisted getting a cell phone until about 2010 and is still going through the awkward "I can talk to you from anywhere" phase. Another is the type of person who has a short attention span and hates riding the bus, but hates more to pay for parking downtown (so they hide & ride in your neighborhood and punish your whole bus to listening to their convos). We'll call him...Guy in a Suit. I hate to say it, but the loud people are almost always men. Yeah.

Here are some typical conversations you can use to identify these riders.

Hipster Holdout: Hey man, I was just on the bus and I thought I'd check in...yeah - I'm calling you from the bus! I know, I'm almost home but...why not call you from the bus? Oh, hold on, I'm getting another call.

[Note: The Hipster Holdouts are also often guilty of talking on the phone while riding their bike, which is even more terrifying.]

Guy in a Suit: Hey, I'll be there in about 12 minutes, but I was wondering if you could read me all my emails in the mean time. I'm so bored! Hold on, I'm writing this down - wait, I'll put you on speaker so I can take notes.

To these and other offenders, I have one word for you: texting. Texting! It was invented so people could ride the bus in peace. True story.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
Location:The 50 bus

Monday, March 12, 2012


Last night we watched Midnight in Paris, which is basically about a man, full of nostalgia for the nineteen twenties, who likes walking in the rain. Which is kinda funny, because I found myself in the exact same place - that is, in the golden era - when I went on my second tour of the Union Depot in the rain today. I'm telling you, at the depot, it is nonstop 1924, and you don't even have to wait until midnight.

New pedestrian plaza out front.

Christos, back in place. Greek food + trains? These are a few of my favorite things.

Digging the half-glass walls - to all trains (behind me). Oh wait, to most trains. LRT is out in front.

Old Western Union counter.

A glass wall will be inserted here to help with air pressure between the different parts of the building.

The golden age is back - the waiting room ceiling.

Skylights have been cleaned - hello, daylight savings! After 5 pm and still tons of natural light.

On the train deck, platforms starting to take shape.

New three-story Amtrak addition.

Access to future platforms.

Inside the Amtrak building, escalators have been installed.

Looking down over the "kiss & ride" drop off and ticketing area.

Looking out onto Lowertown. The bike path on the train deck will run between the glass and that brick wall on this upper level.

New elevator from carriage way to the front door.

Carriage way has been expanded under the front steps of the depot, allowing for drop off.

Out front, the LRT station takes shape.

(Thanks, as always, to our wonderful tour guide, Josh!)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Best and Worst of the Week

What a long week! I traveled to Toronto for a whopping 48 hours and met some great plannery people. So here it goes, Transit City edition:

Best: Bumber to bumber streetcars (drool). Never realized how great it is to have a back window!

Worst: Overhead wires. Yikes, there is a lot of clutter. Finger crossed that Saint Paul can swing some of those wireless trolleys.

Best: Cool subway font used in every station. The tiles are also pretty amazing. Of course, I am not the first person to notice this - I am just one of many fans.

Worst: Skinny platforms. Makin' our LRT platforms look pretty luxurious. Amazing what a little ADA can do (I missed ADA often while in Canada.)

Best: Commonwealth candy. Picked up a Mr. Big and a Coffee Crisp - hubby's favorites.

Worst: The King Seat. Not sure why the back of every bus has this special throne, but this would cause a lot of trouble on the 16. There are already power struggles in the back of the bus, people. Terrible idea!

Best: A foot pedal on a public trash can. Yes! Why don't we have these?

Worst: Wayfinding fail. A wayfinding panel that says that maps will be added soon. Not helpful!

Best: Bike fairy love. Found on the seat of a Bixi (bikeshare) bike in Dundas Square.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Greetings from Transit City

If I were in the business of creating reality shows, I would be hauling a crew up here to Toronto to set up Real World Transit City. And the first person I would put in the house is Mayor Rob Ford. I could fill you in on all the melodrama, but I feel like these headlines really sum it up:
Did I mention that these were all just from this week? You get the point - this guy would be absolutely terrific in a Real World house. And I think the second person I would add to the house would be the author of this sign. I spotted this today on Queen Street at Broadview Avenue.

A few notes: David Miller was the former Mayor and creator of the Transit City plan, and Gary Webster is the TTC general manager who was fired last week by...that's right, Rob Ford! So good.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Total clarity

Some of us thought that the bus stop closures would cease in our neighborhood after heavy construction, but we were wrong. Now that Prospect Park construction has started, the traffic transitions (read: closures) are set up all the way to Berry Street. I suppose that's what I get for living in border country.

But what I love most about our liminal existence is the extreme clarity that Metro Transit provides so that we can find our bus stops everyday.

Posted at Berry Street: "The 8 bus either does or does not stop here. Hard to say. If it doesn't, it might stop down at Eustis. But don't worry, if you happen to miss it, it be back in only 30 minutes. Thank you for playing our game."

 Creepy Minnesota Opera lady looks annoyed...

Posted at Eustis: "Silly rider, I can't believe you fell for that! You should probably start waiving frantically at the approaching 8 bus, making your most pathetic face in hopes that some newbie driver will pity you. Thanks for playing our game."

Other things of note this morning: I see that the Hamline EB bus stop is up and functioning, and that Walsh has really outdone themselves this time. They've added luxurious grocery cart parking spaces on the temporary platforms. Who says this project isn't adding on-street parking? And does this gentleman know he is taking up a whole parking space? Sheesh.