Twin Cities

A Dangerous Journey Down Snelling Avenue

Thoughts on the Urban Environment - Mon, 07/06/2015 - 9:59pm

Snelling Avenue is a must-see urban landmark in St. Paul.

By “must-see”, I mean it’s unavoidable. For any cyclists living in St. Paul, it is an inevitable monster that at some point you’ll need to fight the seemingly endless hordes of fast moving traffic.

I decided to fight that traffic from south to north, through the entire City of St. Paul.

At it’s farthest point south, near my house in Highland Park, Snelling is a modest tree-lined, two-lane street that quickly transforms into a school zone. Traffic moves slowly until you cross Montreal. The lanes then widen and the speed increases. That is, until you hit the patchwork of local businesses situated on late-streetcar and early-suburban commercial nodes around Randolph.

The slight hill makes the ride enjoyable, and car traffic isn’t overwhelming. It’s not comforting, but I’m not fearing for my life. That last part is important when designing spaces for bikes.

Moving northbound, the intersection of Snelling and Randolph feels urban; buildings hug the wide sidewalks and apartments are above the shops.  The further northward I go, the heavier flow of traffic makes the area a biker’s nightmare even during quietest weekend hours.

What to do with these types of roads is contentious and the city and DOT often seems like they’re at odds. Is it a highway or is it a city street? While residential property owners would certainly benefit from reduced traffic, the business owners like it – especially if they are fortunate enough to have off-street parking. It’s a blend of urban meets suburban meets pedestrians meets highway meets potential bike lane. It tries to appease everyone, but successfully appeases no one.

From Randolph heading north, Snelling has single-family homes until St. Clair. Macalaster College’s green median turns the avenue into a three block stretch akin to Summit Avenue. This looks nice, for a short period, but quickly converts back. Despite good effort, the median that was designed to help students cross tightens the space and makes me feel on-guard. Speeding cars pass on my left and I debate jumping onto the sidewalk.

North of Summit you’ll find strip malls, a Buffalo Wild Wings, a gas station, and a hodgepodge of light industrial until you hit I-94 and University Avenue. Anyone who has driven this section of Snelling knows that congestion is the norm. But not today. I-94 construction has closed the intersection to cars and the silence is oddly beautiful. I picked up my bike and just walked right over. It’s a beautiful feeling to have control over a space that would otherwise be inhospitable.

Snelling from University Avenue north to Hamline University is medium-density lined with small businesses and multifamily dwellings. This stretch of road works, kind of. It accommodates pedestrians, businesses, buses, and cars. It’s noisy and chaotic, but it works. If Hamline University were to follow in Macalaster’s footsteps and spruce up the median, it could go a long way.

It’s always astonished me that the city hasn’t done more north of University Avenue; little improvements could go a long way. The congestion oddly acts as a safety buffer, too. The slow moving traffic ensured that any possible collision would occur at less than 5 miles per hour. It is here that I get feel refuge.

I stopped my ride near the Midway Motel, glanced over the bridge to the State Fair grounds, and figured that it’d be best to ride the sidewalk from here on out. And, that is what I did; relegated to the side as cars whizzed past at unknown speeds.

I can’t help but think that Snelling is emblematic of the transition we’re making from car culture into something else. It’s urban. It’s suburban. It’s a highway. Snelling Avenue is a lot of things. It just depends where you are.  The problem with Snelling is that it’s a little bit of everything, but doesn’t do any of those things particularly well.

Snelling doesn’t work as a highway; but as long as it tries to sometimes act like a highway, it won’t be able to act like a city street either. If it turns into a street city (with a median, narrower traffic lanes and bike lanes), what will happen to adjacent alternative routes? When congestion occurs on your traditional street grid, people have options. They’ll take Fairview or Hamline or Lexington. Will these roads become more congested and less desirable? Will it reduce traffic demand or move it elsewhere?

The answer isn’t clear. but, what is clear is that I wasn’t biking back on Snelling. I found another way.

Categories: Twin Cities

Second Train to Chicago: Still Running Late

Streets.MN - Mon, 07/06/2015 - 2:00pm

Last Thursday, after a delay of almost 2½ years, the Amtrak study for adding a second daily train between the Chicago and the Twin Cities was finally released. The agreement to begin the supposed nine-month study was signed back on May 3, 2012, and it finally arrived on July 2, 2015, thirty-eight months later. Cue your Amtrak jokes now.

The delay is bad. Even worse is the fact that this is just a feasibility study without any actionable output—just more data to put into another phase of study later on. The level of detail is pretty bare-bones, and fails to put this improvement in the context of any other projects in Minnesota’s state rail plan (Wisconsin doesn’t even have a rail plan, largely because of Governor Scott Walker). And of course, there’s no funding in place to do anything more at this point, so we’ll continue along the course of twiddling thumbs and wasting time.

I grew even more confused on Thursday and Friday as I saw news reports pop up that were literally pulling a little data from column “A”, a little from column “B”, and yet more from column “C”. The reports were based on the press release, which was based on the executive summary, which was based on the study itself, but apparently only a version that had been tossed in a blender first.

None of these documents alone are enough to understand what’s going on. The press release got Bob Collins confused. The study itself got me confused. You probably need to look at all three, and this is for a study that is relatively basic—something that should be routine and unremarkable.

The study conclusions, or rather, the conclusions put into the executive summary because the study itself drew no real conclusions, are themselves unremarkable and obvious, perhaps looking a bit preordained. Yes, adding a second train is a good idea. Yes, it would increase ridership along the corridor, and more than double it, actually. Yes, ending it in St. Paul is the cheapest, simplest option.

Is that the best option? Yes. Well, maybe. Um, er, just wait for the next phase of study when we actually bother to do benefit-cost analysis.

Current status: Faceplant (source)

There is some helpful information coming out of the study from computer modeling of train ridership, operating costs, and getting an idea of the upgrades needed along the route to support the extra. It’s embarrassing that it took so long for the information to be generated, though.

The study looks at four main scenarios, all based on the Empire Builder‘s current travel corridor, but with the western endpoint somewhere in the Twin Cities or St. Cloud area rather than all the way out in Seattle and Portland. The options are:

  • Scenario 1: Run from Chicago to St. Cloud, with stops at St. Paul Union Depot and Target Field station in Minneapolis.
  • Scenario 2: Run from Chicago to St. Cloud, with stops at St. Paul Union Depot and Fridley’s Northstar station (bypassing Minneapolis).
  • Scenario 3: Run from Chicago to Minneapolis, still including a stop at St. Paul Union Depot.
  • Scenario 4: Run from Chicago and terminate at St. Paul Union Depot.

Pay no attention to the orange line. Or the black line. Or Sturtevant.

Obviously, “Scenario 4″ is the cheapest to implement, since it’s the shortest route. It’s the one recommended in the executive summary, although that’s a short-sighted conclusion, if you ask me.

Each scenario was evaluated with three different alternatives based on different departure times from St. Paul, given the letters A, B, and C. These have a decreasing order of implementation cost—schedule “A” encounters the most rail traffic congestion and needs the largest number of improvements, while schedule “C” is least congested and therefore the cheapest.

Ridership is apparently the reverse, although only schedules “A” and “B” were evaluated in detail. Schedule “C” is assumed to have the same ridership and operating costs as “B”, which may or may not be a valid idea. You’ll only find schedules “A” and “B” in the study report itself. “C” is mentioned in passing, but you need to look at the executive summary to see it listed.

The executive summary (and the press release that was derived from it) quoted the capital cost ($95 million) from Scenario 4C, annual ridership (155,000) from Scenario 4B, and an annual operating subsidy ($6.6 million) that matches Scenario 4A.

Okay, I kind of get the first two, but what’s the deal with that subsidy number? For an era where we are obsessed with cost subsidies, why didn’t the study partners tout Scenario 3B/3C, which would extend to Minneapolis, pull in 22,000 additional passengers, and therefore only need $4.5 million in extra support annually?

The price tag is higher for building service to Minneapolis or beyond, of course. Here are the estimated capital costs and ridership estimates for each scenario’s “C” alternative (using “B” ridership figures, of course):

  • Scenario 1C: $210 million, 185,100 annual passengers
  • Scenario 2C: $194 million, 180,300 annual passengers
  • Scenario 3C: $114 million, 177,600 annual passengers
  • Scenario 4C: $95 million, 155,500 annual passengers

Scenarios 1 through 3 all have lower operating subsidies than scenario 4 because of those extra riders, but the higher construction cost is a big barrier. The cost per passenger is lowest for scenario 3, but only modestly lower for the numbers above ($904 vs. $910).

Planned and in-progress projects like this addition of a $63 million second main track from Big Lake to Becker make the study’s cost estimates out-of-date already.

However, the cost savings grows if you include the added cost of new rolling stock (add $46 million to all scenarios), and remove the cost for improvements already planned for the route to Minneapolis (subtract $8 million from scenarios 1 and 3). It’s possible to subtract a large chunk of cost from scenarios 1 and 2 to St. Cloud too, since BNSF Railway already has a $63 million project underway to add a second track in a gap that exists on their line between Big Lake and Becker.

The cost of extending the train to Minneapolis, at least in terms of the basic rail infrastructure, could be paid back in less than 10 years due to reduced operating losses. Admittedly, the feasibility study only considered the tracks and platforms, and ignored things like a new waiting area, but that could/should be carved off into a separate project, especially considering how it would be shared with the Northern Lights Express to Duluth, an eventual extension of Northstar to St. Cloud, a second daily train to Fargo, and other projects that have been on the drawing board for years already.

Southeast of the Twin Cities, Canadian Pacific Railway also has improvements planned, including a third main track near the Amtrak station in La Crosse. It’s not clear whether that’s included in the current figures or not, as the study only gave a singular high-level cost estimate for the whole distance between St. Paul and Milwaukee—a big amorphous blob of millions of dollars with zero detail given.

Great. Thanks.

The fact remains that adding a second train between the Twin Cities and Chicago is a good idea and has been for a long time. Over the long term, the per-passenger cost (including capital and annual subsidy) is comparable to or less than the price to fly the route, and the train connects eleven cities rather than just two.

This is the type of improvement that should take less than a month to decide on and less than a year to implement. It doesn’t take an airline three years to choose whether or not to add one more flight on a route that’s already in service. It doesn’t take a freight rail company three years to decide whether to run another oil train from a productive area. But somehow, adding one daily round-trip between the Midwest’s two most prosperous metro areas has already taken at least that long and is probably on track to take at least that long again.

Perhaps what this report needs is to be fed through an anger translator. A second train should be started tomorrow. Another train should be added after that. And another after that. Other places should be connected too, but they might take a little while. How about we give it nine more months?

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Categories: Twin Cities

Map Monday: Sixty Years of Sprawl in Minneapolis

Streets.MN - Mon, 07/06/2015 - 1:00pm

The attached map is from Christopher Barrington-Leigh and Adam Millard-Ball’s 2015 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, A Century of Sprawl in the United States. Because of the good parcel file data in the Twin Cities, we got analyzed in depth. The base of their argument is measurement of nodal degree (how many links meet at an intersection). Nodal degree 4 (a 4-way intersection) indicates less sprawl (more connectivity) than a nodal degree of 3 (3-way) or 1 (cul-de-sac) (nodal degree of 2 doesn’t make a lot of sense topologically, since that would be one continuous link, though it can happen depending on how the data is mapped and roads are named and laid out, and nodes are often used to indicate curvature). In short, the network used to be very gridlike, went through decades of non-gridlike additions, though more recent additions have been more gridlike again.

 

Spatial and temporal patterns of sprawl in the Minneapolis–St. Paul re- gion. Individual edges—that is, road segments bounded by two intersections— are shown at three time points. Edges are colored in five categories according to their connectivity, ranging from highly connected (gridded) in blue to cul-de-sacs in red. Connectivity is measured by the mean degree of an edge’s two terminal intersections, explained in the text. Because nodes can be cul-de-sacs, degree three, or degree four-plus, there are five possible values of edge degree, ranging from 2.0 to 4.0. In 1950, the developed area is largely gridded, but growth by 1980 and by 2013 is largely of the low-connectivity kind. Rural roads also tend to be gridded. The Lower Right panel shows the fraction, indicated by the vertical extent of a color, of each edge type built each year. The black line shows the pace of construction, defined as the number of edges dated to each year. Dramatic drops are evident during the Depression, World War II, oil shocks, a recession in the 1970s and 1980s, and the recent Global Financial Crisis. We focus on Minneapolis–St. Paul because all seven central counties are included in our parcel-based data and because the region closely tracks national trends (SI Appendix, Fig. S6).

 

 

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Categories: Twin Cities

Anaylzing Maps Shows How Traditional Development Makes the Most of Limited Land

Streets.MN - Mon, 07/06/2015 - 10:11am

Expensive is not the same as valuable – particularly when it comes to cities.

Big price tags on large properties offer the alluring promise of boosted tax revenue for both taxpayers and city officials. Yet our cities’ tax system is based on both the value of the buildings and the value of the land.

As properties get bigger, they tend to gobble up land faster than their value increases. Lawns expand faster than the homes they surround. Big retail centers require even bigger parking lots. The price tag may grow, but the value per acre steadily decreases. The promise those pricy properties once offered winds up broken.

This is a critical problem as cities scrutinize their budgets. Decreased value per acre means cities have to tax their residents more just to raise the same amount of money. At the same time, they have to pay for more streets, more pipes, more plows and more police and firefighters than they would if the land were used more productively.

 

Analyzing Parcel Sizes and Values

I wanted to see which parts of Hennepin County are the most productive. So I used the open-source mapping software QGIS and the parcels dataset from the county’s magnificent GIS open data site. I then divided the total market value by the parcel area (in square feet) to calculate a value per square foot for every parcel in Hennepin County.

Using that figure, I sorted the parcels into seven septiles, each with an equal number of parcels. That gave me five buckets for parcels in the middle – two above-average categories, two below-average categories and one average category. Meanwhile, it also created two buckets for the extreme outliers – government properties with no value on the low end and downtown Minneapolis high rises on the top end. The darker the blue, the greater the value per square foot. Click on the photo below to view the map. Major shopping centers and office buildings have been marked with stars. The legend is below the photo.

Click photo to view full map.

Legend for map of Hennepin County property values per square foot. / Source: James Warden

Traditional versus suburban neighborhoods

The resulting map largely echoed the points authors at Strong Towns and streets.mn have been making for years: traditional development tends to be a much more productive use of land than suburban development. Cities with old street grids are painted a deep, royal blue. Those with winding streets and spacious lots have much fainter hues.

The differences are starkest when you drill down into the history of adjacent neighborhoods that developed at different times. Thanks to converging rail lines, Hopkins had grown into a stand-alone city by the end of the 19th Century. Maps from 1896, when the city was called West Minneapolis, show the same grid that still forms the city’s core extending all the way to 14th Avenue. The homes there today date back as far as the turn of the century.

The neighborhood just across Shady Oak Road doesn’t appear on government maps until 1954. It mostly developed with the curving avenues we associate with post-war suburbs instead of the grids of old cities like Hopkins. Most of the homes, particularly those on suburban-style streets, date to the post-war period, although Fairview Avenue has a few homes built in the first decade of the 1900s.

Click to view slideshow.

Two streets illustrate how this played out on the ground. Minnetonka’s James Road is about 0.3 miles long between Fairview Avenue and Oak Drive Lane. Hopkins’ 14th Avenue, the westernmost street in that 1896 grid, is almost exactly the same distance. But James Road has 18 parcels on both sides of the street compared to the 20 homes that Hopkins has on only one side of 14th Avenue.

In this particular case, Hopkins has opted to use the east side of the street for a park, a city building and apartments. But the traditional design effectively puts twice as many homes on the same amount of street as the post-war suburban design. That’s a very efficient use of infrastructure.

The result is that it takes more land and infrastructure to accommodate homes on the Minnetonka side of Shady Oak than it does on the Hopkins side. Minnetonka’s side of Shady Oak is light blue. Hopkins’ side is dark blue.

Values per square foot around along Shady Oak Road. Hopkins is on the east side of the map, and Minnetonka is on the west. / Source: James Warden

To be sure, the Hopkins homes are not large, but they are a far cry from the high density development so many people fear. Cities can see big gains in wealth just by shrinking lot sizes a bit and scaling back yards.

The challenge is that history guides today’s decisions. Hopkins continued extending its grid well after the 19th Century. Lots in that grid conform to the earlier pattern even when they were built amid the post-war boom.

In Minnetonka, though, large lot sizes have been cemented as part of that city’s character, sparking debates as developers sought to build new types of housing that better suited the market. The Star Tribune detailed the challenges in a 2013 story:

When Minnetonka developed in the 1950s and 1960s, the city wanted to preserve the topography and wooded areas instead of creating a grid system. In Minneapolis, a typical lot is about one-tenth of an acre. But in Minnetonka, half-acre lots became the norm, in part so the city could rely on septic systems instead of sewers.

[Mayor Terry] Schneider, a longtime resident, said those decisions helped create rural-like curvy roads and “funny-looking” lots that left pockets of available land tucked in established areas.

“It left us with quirky-looking parcels you wouldn’t see in most communities,” he said. It “was a great goal, but it made it more difficult to redevelop.”

 

Traditional retail versus shopping centers

Click to view slideshow.

Retail centers follow a similar pattern. Maps show the Greater Minneapolis street grid extending close to what is now Southdale Center as early as 1952 (although there’s a half-century gap in the USGS online map record before then and some of the Xerxes Avenue homes date to the late 1940s). Edina made the decision to interrupt that grid when it signed off on the mall, which opened in 1956.

Looking at the property by itself, this decision was unequivocally good. The mall still provides among the best dollar per acre of Hennepin County shopping centers – not up to Mall of America standards, but certainly better than the Ridgedale and on par with Eden Prairie Center.

Values per square foot around Southdale Center and the Galleria, marked here with stars. / Source: James Warden

It’s also arguably catalyzed commercial and office development just across the street, particularly the Galleria. But the reverse is true for nearby residential parcels. Value per square foot are lowest for homes nearest the mall and increase the farther they are from the mall.

This trend is even more amplified at Minnesota’s most famous shopping center, The Mall of America, where property values drop off sharply near the mall.

Values per square foot around the Mall of America, marked here with a star. / Source: James Warden

An alternative to this choice can be seen just two miles up the road from Southdale at 50th and France. The shopping district may not be as big as Southdale, but it has incredibly high wealth per acre that enhances instead of subtracts from the value of nearby neighborhoods.

The multiplying effect grows when communities chain together small pockets of traditional commercial so no home is ever too far from a neighborhood commercial area to reap the benefits. For example, homes start to prosper from the wealth of 50th and France before they get too far from Linden Hills to completely lose the value of that neighborhood. The result is a wide swathe of properties with top-tier value per square foot.

Values per square foot around 50th and France. The well-known shopping district is marked with a star. / Source: James Warden

Lessons

These are not lessons you really need a map to understand. It’s clearly cheaper for a family to pay for a road when there are more families on that road to share in the maintenance costs. It’s just as clear that no one wants to live by a big mall like Southdale. But these basics can get lost in emotional discussions about a city’s character and the lure of big projects.

Even knowing this, cities may still choose to prioritize other goals over economic efficiency. People with sufficient wealth have long chosen to pay for more space. A city may choose to target high-wealth families willing to pay a premium for isolation or it may have desirable natural resources that attract wealthy people who can pay higher taxes. That’s why properties ringing Lake Minnetonka have top-tier value densities even with large lots.

The key is for taxpayers to recognize these trade-offs. There’s not much problem with a homeowner on a large Minnetonka lot happily paying the larger tax bill needed to plow, police and maintain suburban neighborhoods. The big problem comes when homeowners don’t like their tax bills but are unwilling to accept the types of development that would moderate the cost of government.

As cities consider the future shape of their neighborhoods, it is vital that they consider the financial sustainability of the plans they approve.

 

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Categories: Twin Cities

Second train to Chicago: Still running late

Hi / Zeph / 400 - Mon, 07/06/2015 - 10:00am
Last Thursday, after a delay of almost 2½ years, the Amtrak study for adding a second daily train between the Chicago and the Twin Cities was finally released. The agreement to begin the supposed nine-month study was signed back on May 3, 2012, and it finally arrived on July 2, 2015, thirty-eight months later. Cue your Amtrak jokes now.The delay is bad. Even worse is the fact that this is just a feasibility study without any actionable output—just more data to put into another phase of study later on. The level of detail is pretty bare-bones, and fails to put this improvement in the context of any other projects in Minnesota's state rail plan (Wisconsin doesn't even have a rail plan, because Scott Walker). And of course, there's no funding in place to do anything more at this point, so we'll continue along the course of twiddling thumbs and wasting time.I grew even more confused on Thursday and Friday as I saw news reports pop up that were literally pulling a little data from column "A", a little from column "B", and yet more from column "C". The reports were based on the press release, which was based on the executive summary, which was based on the study itself, but apparently only a version that had been tossed in a blender first.None of these documents alone are enough to understand what's going on. The press release got Bob Collins confused. The study itself got me confused. You probably need to look at all three, and this is for a study that is relatively basic—something that should be routine and unremarkable.The study conclusions—or rather, the conclusions put into the executive summary because the study itself drew no real conclusions—are themselves unremarkable and obvious, perhaps looking a bit preordained: Yes, adding a second train is a good idea. Yes, it would increase ridership along the corridor—more than double it, actually. Yes, ending it in St. Paul is the cheapest, simplest option.Is that the best option? Yes. Well, maybe. Um, er—just wait for the next phase of study when we actually bother to do benefit-cost analysis.Current mood: FaceplantThere is some helpful information coming out of the study from computer modeling of train ridership, operating costs, and getting an idea of the upgrades needed along the route to support the extra. It's embarrassing that it took so long for the information to be generated, though.The study looks at four main scenarios, all based on the Empire Builder's current travel corridor, but with the western endpoint somewhere in the Twin Cities or St. Cloud area rather than all the way out in Seattle and Portland. The options are:
  • Scenario 1: Run from Chicago to St. Cloud, with stops at St. Paul Union Depot and Target Field station in Minneapolis.
  • Scenario 2: Run from Chicago to St. Cloud, with stops at St. Paul Union Depot and Fridley's Northstar station (bypassing Minneapolis).
  • Scenario 3: Run from Chicago to Minneapolis, still including a stop at St. Paul Union Depot.
  • Scenario 4: Run from Chicago and terminate at St. Paul Union Depot.
Pay no attention to the orange line. Or the black line. Or Sturtevant.Obviously, "Scenario 4" is the cheapest to implement, since it's the shortest route. It's the one recommended in the executive summary, although that's a short-sighted conclusion, if you ask me.Each scenario was evaluated with three different alternatives based on different departure times from St. Paul, given the letters A, B, and C. These have a decreasing order of implementation cost—schedule "A" encounters the most rail traffic congestion and needs the largest number of improvements, while schedule "C" is least congested and therefore the cheapest.Ridership is apparently the reverse, although only schedules "A" and "B" were evaluated in detail. Schedule "C" is assumed to have the same ridership and operating costs as "B", which may or may not be a valid idea. You'll only find schedules "A" and "B" in the study report itself. "C" is mentioned in passing, but you need to look at the executive summary to see it listed.The executive summary (and the press release that was derived from it) quoted the capital cost ($95 million) from Scenario 4C, annual ridership (155,000) from Scenario 4B, and an annual operating subsidy ($6.6 million) that matches Scenario 4A.Okay, I kind of get the first two, but what's the deal with that subsidy number? For an era where we are obsessed with cost subsidies, why didn't the study partners tout Scenario 3B/3C, which would extend to Minneapolis, pull in 22,000 additional passengers, and therefore only need $4.5 million in extra support annually? The price tag is higher for building service to Minneapolis or beyond, of course. Here are the estimated capital costs and ridership estimates for each scenario's "C" alternative (using "B" ridership figures, of course):
  • Scenario 1C: $210 million, 185,100 annual passengers
  • Scenario 2C: $194 million, 180,300 annual passengers
  • Scenario 3C: $114 million, 177,600 annual passengers
  • Scenario 4C: $95 million, 155,500 annual passengers
Scenarios 1 through 3 all have lower operating subsidies than scenario 4 because of those extra riders, but the higher construction cost is a big barrier. The cost per passenger is lowest for scenario 3, however—only modestly lower for the numbers above ($904 vs. $910).Planned and in-progress projects like this addition of a $63 million second main track from Big Lake to Becker make the study's cost estimates out-of-date already.However, the cost savings grows if you include the added cost of new rolling stock (add $46 million to all scenarios), and remove the cost for improvements already planned for the route to Minneapolis (subtract $8 million from scenarios 1 and 3). It's possible to subtract a large chunk of cost from scenarios 1 and 2 to St. Cloud too, since BNSF Railway already has a $63 million project underway to add a second track in a gap that exists on their line between Big Lake and Becker.The cost of extending the train to Minneapolis, at least in terms of the basic rail infrastructure, could be paid back in less than 10 years due to reduced operating losses. Admittedly, the feasibility study only considered the tracks and platforms, and ignored things like a new waiting area, but that could/should be carved off into a separate project, especially considering how it would be shared with the Northern Lights Express to Duluth, an eventual extension of Northstar to St. Cloud, a second daily train to Fargo, and other projects that have been on the drawing board for years already. Southeast of the Twin Cities, Canadian Pacific Railway also has improvements planned, including a third main track near the Amtrak station in La Crosse. It's not clear whether that's included in the current figures or not, as the study only gave a singular high-level cost estimate for the whole distance between St. Paul and Milwaukee—a big amorphous blob of millions of dollars with zero detail given.Great. Thanks.The fact remains that adding a second train between the Twin Cities and Chicago is a good idea and has been for a long time. Over the long term, the per-passenger cost (including capital and annual subsidy) is comparable to or less than the price to fly the route—and the train connects eleven cities rather than just two.This is the type of improvement that should take less than a month to decide on and less than a year to implement. It doesn't take an airline three years to choose whether or not to add one more flight on a route that's already in service. It doesn't take a freight rail company three years to decide whether to run another oil train from a productive area. But somehow, adding one daily round-trip between the Midwest's two most prosperous metro areas has already taken at least that long and is probably on track to take at least that long again.Perhaps what this report needs is to be fed through an anger translator: A second train should be started tomorrow. Other places should be connected too, but they might take a little while—How about we give it nine more months?
Categories: Twin Cities

The Other Other Bad Light Rail Alignment: The Blue Line Extension

Streets.MN - Mon, 07/06/2015 - 9:00am

Regrets! We all have them. One regret that I maybe have, and that a bunch of other people like me maybe could have, is that we all sort of got distracted several years ago. You probably know about the various snafus with the Green Line extension out to Eden Prairie (maybe?) and how there was the whole thing what with routing it through an existing rail corridor to save money and time for suburban commuters, and then some other stuff happened and it turns out that that was probably a bad idea.

Right around the same time the Green Line extension was starting to go to pot, three entire years ago, Hennepin County was going through the process of choosing a Locally Preferred Alternative for the Bottineau Transitway. This is the northwesterly-aiming transit corridor heading out of Downtown Minneapolis, through North Minneapolis, and hitting a couple first-ring suburbs before ending up in either Brooklyn Park or Maple Grove. In retrospect, it is unfortunate that maybe we focused on complaining about Uptown and beating a dead horse that was buried under a light rail tunnel under a bike trail–we probably could have been paying more attention to what was going on in other parts of town.

(Interpret that sentiment however you want!)

Anyway, these two extensions of the existing Blue and Green Lines in the Bottineau and Southwest transitways are pretty similar and went through a similar process. The Blue Line extension is currently projected to begin construction in 2018 and open in 2021.

The options were winnowed down to two possible types of routes on either end. Bottineau’s two suburban options were to have terminated at either Arbor Lakes in Maple Grove or a literal field (more on that later) in Brooklyn Park.

On the city end, the line was to leave Downtown Minneapolis along Highway 55 (Olson) and then either turn north at Penn Avenue, heading up to West Broadway through the Northside and then over to a Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad corridor, or it could continue down Highway 55 and link up with the same railroad corridor further south, traveling through Theodore Wirth Park up north. You can make a headless stick figure as you mentally visualize the route options.

Here is a professional-looking map (see further down for a more up to date map of the route) to help you visualize it, though the MS Paint one may help you make your decision also.

Alternatives (Source: MinnPost)

On the suburban end, we went with Brooklyn Park over Maple Grove. On the city end, as is tradition, we chose the option skipping the parts of the city with lots and lots of transit riders, preferring to try to build a train through a park. Though of course, it is more complicated than that!

Penn Avenue

The Penn Avenue option (like Nicollet Avenue!) was not fantastic. Currently a two lane county road, putting light rail on it at grade while keeping two driving lanes would have required all sorts of property acquisitions, as you can see on pages 23 through 26 of this large PDF. Penn Avenue itself is also a bit far west of the remaining big commercial drag on West Broadway, and the route probably wouldn’t pick up a whole lot more ridership than the existing Route 19 bus.

It should be pointed out that the lack of imagination inherent in these two options is mind-boggling, especially when you consider that we’re talking about a decades-long planning process for a 100 year investment.

“Either tear down nine blocks of houses in a low-income part of town–and good luck owning those optics–or build the train through a park a mile away from the center of the most transit-dependent population in the state,” they said.

Is it because Hennepin County and its consultants have been intentionally picking bad urban options and fudging ridership and cost estimates to support routes that favor suburban commuters in accordance with transit philosophies from the late 1980s? Who knows! That would be crazy. This isn’t House of Cards; Frank Underwood had a grade-separated heavy rail line on which to toss Zoe Barnes.

But this is the route we went with. For what is currently estimated at a hair under $1 billion dollars, what will we get? In the spirit of adventure on a beautiful summer day, I decided to go check it out, riding from Oak Grove Street (where I live) in Minneapolis to Oak Grove Parkway in Brooklyn Park.

Highway 55 (Olson)

As part of the project, Highway 55 will see a makeover, sort of like what happened with University Avenue in St. Paul when the Green Line was built. This is very much a good thing and will help knit two parts of the Northside back together. At present, it is very much a state highway.

Look at that! Is that spitting distance from Downtown Minneapolis or a business bypass in Isanti County? These first couple stops, Van White and Penn, are a lot like much of the existing Blue Line along Hiawatha Avenue. Not intuitively transit-ready next to the stations, but with lots of room for improvement and many walk-up riders in surrounding neighborhoods even if no new development happens.

After those first two stations, though? Not great!

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Pass Xerxes Avenue

The line swings north at the border with Golden Valley, and drops to run parallel with an existing rail corridor through Theodore Wirth Park. The route is technically in Golden Valley at this point, but it’s on the other side of the park, faraway from any substantial amount of walk-up riders from Golden Valley. There are no park and rides planned at either potential station (we don’t know if the Plymouth and/or Golden Valley Road stations will even be built) and in any case it’s pretty hard to imagine any substantial number of people in wealthy Golden Valley getting on a bus to go wait at a train station to take a train downtown when they can just drive the whole way in ten or fifteen minutes.

Also, hey, check this out.

That’s an old railroad tie in the water! (current tracks in background)

Looks marshy! You’ll remember the recent $350 million dollar cost increase on the Green Line extension largely stemmed from unexpectedly crummy soils in Eden Prairie. The plan here involves existing right-of-way, and the freight rail tracks will be shifted over and the light rail tracks will be plopped next to them. The rail corridor is quite old.

A very helpful man from Metro Transit with an unenviable job explained to me after a station area planning open house that the railroads have been basically just dumping rocks here for 100 years to build up the berm the tracks sit on. Standards these days are somewhat higher. The cost estimates we have are based of off 1% engineering–what will they find in the other 99%? (Hopefully oil!!!) The very helpful man with the unenviable job said that people are out doing soil sampling right now trying to figure out just what we’re going to need to build.

A Bright Spot

No qualms with Robbinsdale. Building a train station on the edge of a first-ring suburb’s walkable downtown is a good idea. This should probably be the terminus of the line.

Also, is it crazy there’s no bike shop in Robbinsdale? I was hoping to stop and get some air but no such luck. A business opportunity exists here.

Crabgrass Frontier

Out past Robbinsdale, things are less rosy. The Bass Lake Road and 63rd Avenue stations are in the existing rail corridor, next to Bottineau Boulevard. Bottineau in this part of town is a six lane county road with no shortage of car traffic. It was not particularly pleasant to bike along, and is flanked by auto-oriented commercial uses, and residential uses that actively hide from the road. A retention pond at the southeast corner of Bottineau Boulevard and 63rd Avenue requires pedestrians and cyclists to take a cockamamie route to cross Bottineau from the south.

One potential wild card is the Crystal Airport between the Bass Lake Road and 63rd Avenue stations.

Crystal Airport is across Bottineau Boulevard from the rail corridor

Building a bunch of electrified overhead catenary across the street from and under an approach to an airport at which casual pilots are landing Cessnas? It would be shocking if no one checked that out ahead of time, so we’ll assume they did. And if the airport closes in the near or medium-term future, maybe this would be a site for large-scale transit-oriented development. Could be cool.

After 63rd Avenue station (which already has a structured ramp at a park and ride) the line crosses Bottineau Boulevard and veers over to the Brooklyn Park part of West Broadway. There’s a station at Brooklyn Boulevard, which is surrounded by strip malls and big box stores with huge parking lots.

Looking west down Brooklyn Boulevard towards West Broadway.

Maybe it’s easy to imagine one of those boilerplate sprawl retrofit watercolors and think about what this intersection would look like twenty years after a light rail station is built. Maybe. Does that often happen in a lot of places? Maybe not.

Keep biking down West Broadway, and you’ll find yourself at the next station, at 85th Avenue. Cool government decisions abound here, where a large vacant lot at the northeast corner is currently fenced off and has some kind of construction project going on.

What is it? A one story building. Huh okay, what will be in it? Funny you should ask–it’s a new library. Wait, they’re building a brand new one story library on a vacant lot right next to a planned light rail station? I guess! Okay, remind me: who runs libraries again? Hennepin County. The same people who sited the train station there? Shouldn’t they be thinking long-term about investments on this site? You would think that, sure!

Good joke aside, this isn’t a completely terrible spot for a station–North Hennepin Community College is across 85th Avenue from the library site, which is a good thing to put on the light rail system, and while relatively unwalkable, there is a lot of dense-ish residential within technical walking distance of the station. Though it is maybe a red flag that there is a Mills Fleet Farm 13 minutes away from the station by foot.

Continuing north on West Broadway, we arrive at 93rd Avenue station. At the time of the draft environmental impact statement, a park and ride was planned for this spot on the northeast corner. As it turns out, there is a brand new building there!

Building on the right isn’t even on Google Maps yet!

When you snooze you lose, and so the park and ride at this location was scrapped in favor of building one huge park and ride at the final stop. A lot on the southeast corner which was vacant in the DEIS is also currently under construction–a church is going there. Not sure why you’d even include a station here without a park and ride.

At this point in the ride, we’ve entered Dreamland–a new term we could use to describe literal farmland that we are building light rail to. Light rail, a mode of transportation with high capacity and frequent service, running pretty much all day except late at night. The public sector is building that through a park and along a car-oriented suburban arterial road to farmland.

Not just farmland, though. As I biked down West Broadway, a familiar symbol appeared off in the distance–the Target logo. With a wee bit of direct subsidy, Target built a huge campus in Brooklyn Park just north of Highway 610, which was also not built for free. The final stop on the Blue Line extension is at Oak Grove Parkway, a road which you can assume replaced oak groves.

The scale of the surroundings make it feel like it’s barely even within walking distance–Google Maps estimates a ten minute walk from the station site to the southeast corner of the Target complex, and you can imagine that they will probably run a shuttle at least in the winter.

The Oak Grove Parkway station site is something to behold! Close to the armpit of Highway 169 and Highway 610, here are four things within hollering distance of this terminus of what may be last the large mass transit project we will build in Minnesota for some time.

Clockwise from top left: A farm; transit-oriented development, just kidding: “wooded homesites”; a flip flop; self-explanatory.

Folly

Crazy, right! What are we doing! From a transit standpoint, it’s unclear exactly what we’re doing. As mentioned in the intro, I did not participate in the planning process at all, though odds are good I was not old enough to watch The Simpsons when the decision was actually made. On the way back, kind of spent from the Pride Dabbler the night before, I biked from West Broadway in Brooklyn Park down Brooklyn Boulevard to the Brooklyn Center Transit Station, hopping a bus back downtown.

On a Saturday afternoon, I saw people waiting for buses and biking and walking along a route far denser with people and walk-up destinations than the Bottineau route, and couldn’t help but feel that it was kind of similar to University Avenue in St. Paul–full of strip malls and speeding cars, but full of potential, and with existing transit users who aren’t being served as well as they could be. It was not hard to string together a mental route mirroring the Route 5 bus (by far the region’s busiest) through North Minneapolis up to Brooklyn Center and then down Brooklyn Boulevard to, if you wanted, the same farmland.

That would certainly cost more than a route along freight rail tracks and down a second-ring suburban arterial, but as with other transit projects in the Twin Cities, it’s like “hey, if you’re spending literally billions of dollars, why not kick in the extra couple hundred million to make the route not terrible?” Unless, à la Southwest and Kenilworth, a bunch of consultants did their math wrong and the park route ends up costing as much as the route through the city.

It is generally assumed that, after the Nicollet-Central streetcar is built, the City of Minneapolis (perhaps with help from Hennepin County or the Metropolitan Council) will be building a streetcar from the outskirts of Downtown Minneapolis up Washington Avenue through the North Loop, and then over to West Broadway through the heart of the Northside. It is unclear whether or not that streetcar will connect with the Blue Line at some point on its western end. That streetcar will not particularly improve mobility (a measure of getting places) for people in North Minneapolis. Several existing bus routes will continue to be a quicker trip to most destinations.

It would be a mightily impressive feat to build the Green and Blue Line extensions and the Nicollet-Central and West Broadway streetcars, spending something close to $4 billion dollars of someone’s money to not really improve mobility for anyone compared to running damn buses at grade.

One thing that would be nice is if people (politicians) could be somewhat more upfront about the goals of our various transit projects. Here’s a concession: “political considerations” is actually a reason to do a thing! It doesn’t not make sense, in this big region of many counties and many municipalities that are largely suburban in nature, to spread our investments around. It is understandable! But don’t make up other reasons for your investments–just say it. “We’re building this to give the suburbs something.” Then we (including those in the suburbs!) can honestly and realistically evaluate the projects on their merits. Don’t make up numbers and arguments that then fall apart and make transit advocates look like idiots.

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Categories: Twin Cities

Can You Build Your Way Out of Congestion? Let’s Look at the Data

Streets.MN - Sun, 07/05/2015 - 10:28am

“You can’t build your way out of congestion”. Although this is a longstanding liberal dogma, I’ve never really subscribed to it, at least in the theoretical sense that is seems to be brought up. But recently I noted in comments to an article that Kansas City seems to move pretty well. Recently I found a good source of data from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute that sheds some light on this question.

http://mobility.tamu.edu/ums/congestion-data/

There’s all kinds of data going back to 1982, so I had to select data to chart. Choosing freeway lane miles per capita was an obvious choice for how well built an area’s freeways are. For congestion, I chose annual hours of delay per auto commuter, because how long you’re stuck in traffic is the most noticeable and obnoxious thing for motorists, not the value of your time, the congestion index, or other more abstract metrics. Here’s the nationwide average data.

Now here’s the data for the Twin Cities. Although the scale is exaggerated, the slight dip in freeway miles per capita in the early 1990s is still a deep chasm. Basically nothing substantial got built through the 1990s while population continued to grow. Finally a series of funding bumps leveled off the decline, and eventually we are back at the 1980s level.

In both cases the congestion curve actually bears more relation to VMT (Vehicle Miles Travelled) than lane miles per capita. Congestion delay was reduced because the Great Recession cut the size of the economy. The well-documented aversion of millenials to driving may also be a factor, since VMT have been slow to recover since the Recession, as shown in the next chart.

Regardless of recent VMT trends, traffic projections assume congestion will worsen. Even the St. Croix Crossing, which has been made out by the anti-car forces as a paragon of excess, is forecast to be congested in the next 50 years. (And it’s worth noting that with the signalized intersection that Oak Park Heights insisted on, the capacity of the Minnesota approach road is a lot less than the traffic apocalypse that was US 169 in Bloomington).

But let’s not abandon all hope of proving that freeway lane miles can make a difference in congestion. Everyone knows that Kansas City flows better than New York City, so another comparison would be how congested various cities are compared to how much they’ve built to date. Obviously there are cultural and geographic differences influencing annual hours of delay per auto commuter, but if there is a trend it could be revealing. Thus I’ve run the data through a data smoother to see if there’s a trend that’s getting masked by some of the choppiness.

A couple of things are apparent, at least with the raw data it looks like there is a noticeable decline in congestion as lane miles go up sharply . It also looks like there may be a noticeable increase at the end, once lane miles fall below a certain point. The smoothed data suggests that on average, building more lane miles really does make a difference in congestion.

As for the outliers in the middle of  lane miles, I’d suggest that Miami, Phoenix, and Tampa have a large number of retirees that don’t need to drive in rush hour. Washington DC has a large number of government office workers,  San Francisco has significant geographical barriers, LA, Houston, and Atlanta have significant car cultures. The Twin Cities is a low outlier, I’d suggest despite a lot of choke points at under-built river bridges, overall our unique “grid” system to freeways makes it easy to route around congestion.

I also looked at the effect when arterials are factored in (using a conversion factor) from a different source that did a . Rather than see the same pattern, to my surprise this is what I saw.

I see no obvious correlation. This data is from back in 1999, but if you take it at face value it seems contrary to conventional wisdom that a good arterial system can relieve freeways. I’d suggest that there’s a strong motorist bias towards freeways, and directing resources other directions can even be counterproductive if there is an opportunity cost of not improving the freeways directly. Wide suburban-style roads are nice to get quickly from your neighborhood to the freeway, but it seems the quantity of them has little effect on the overall congestion on the area. In real life, witness what a horrible disaster area I-494 in Bloomington is at rush hour, compared with how well American and 77th move, both wide suburban style roads designed specifically to attract traffic from I-494.

As a side note there was an article recently that suggested that transit, while obviously worthwhile, should not be promoted as reducing congestion. So what is the effect of transit on average hours of delay per auto commuter?

Looks like the most congested cities and the ones with the best rail networks are the one where transit makes the biggest difference to motorists. In other cities apparently most people that can drive already do so. Still, it may be worth promoting it as such as kind of a white lie. As part of society I agree that we should have transit, but there’s a lot of people around me that are either apathetic or against it so promoting it as something to get other people off the roads they drive on may be the only way to get broad support. Like this Onion article.

As a final side note, here’s freeway lanes miles over time for some of the cities. In addition to Kansas City, Minneapolis, and the national average, I chose Chicago because of its famous congestion, Phoenix because of its aggressive highway expansion due to a local sales tax, Houston because of its famous auto and suburban growth culture, Portland because it’s the anti-Houston,

Overall, my views remain unchanged. It’s always possible to build our way out of congestion in a theoretical sense. The street in front of my house has been “built out of congestion”; with only two lanes, it’s not filled with people induced to come down from Blaine and drive back and forth on it just because the capacity is there.  Maybe we could build I-35W out of congestion with 15 lanes in each direction. Of course we can’t as a practical matter, but it’s still worthwhile doing something; if we can’t fix I-35W we can make a difference elsewhere rather than just repeating the dogma and doing nothing.

And of course self-driving cars are on the way, which will be the ultimate solution to the problem. Even if there’s still a bit of congestion, taking a nap or working on your laptop will make it not wasted time.

 

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Categories: Twin Cities

Roadkill Bill – Responsibility

Streets.MN - Sun, 07/05/2015 - 8:30am

After an awesome weekend of sketching at the Saint Paul Jazz Festival,  pencilling of  Bicyclopolis Book 2 has resumed and continues apace. While you are waiting, here’s a Roadkill Bill comic from many years ago about something that happened many years earlier (PDF). Click on the comic to make it bigger:

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Categories: Twin Cities

Sunday Summary – July 5, 2015

Streets.MN - Sun, 07/05/2015 - 7:00am

Now that the fireworks are over (except, perhaps, for those leftover firecrackers which will still be heard around the neighborhood for awhile), you can take a look at what happened on streets.mn last week.  On the streets of the Netherlands, the Tour de France is underway, but it’s been a pretty light week here on streets.mn:

Seasonally appropriate

A Great But Imperfect Country celebrates America and its strengths of freedom and opportunity. Certainly here on streets.mn we often find much to criticize about transportation, land use, and public policy, so having a seasonal reminder of what makes the USA strong (while also acknowledging there is always improvement to be made and more work to be done) can generate debate of another kind.

Minnesota has much to celebrate, too. 50 Reasons: Minneapolis is the Bike Capital of America showcase the eponymous short film by GearJunkie that provides a humorous and enlightening look about what makes the Twin Cities such a great place to have a bicycle. From the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway to the Bike Junkyard, there’s so much to be thankful for (and to explore if you haven’t already!).

For some explosive fun, check out Capitol Bombs, featuring some great footage of last year’s fireworks by the state capitol!

Main Street, USA

Independence Day is one of those holidays which sparks ideas. Free Idea: Main Street Minnesota is a quick suggestion about reusing great old buildings from dying towns by relocating them to other places. Commenters are intrigued, but have some questions about money, feasibility and how we know when towns are dying. Or, you could visit Main Street – Mahtowa, Minnesota in pictures (or perhaps take a road trip) so you don’t miss the Wurst Hearse and other highlights.

TJ’s Wurst Hearse, Mahtowa, MN

Current events and public policy

The Minnesota Massacre Needs to End reviews the latest pedestrian fatality; a jogger was struck and killed by a motorist in Plymouth. Looking at the road and intersection where this death occurred, a 45 MPH Four Lane Death Road™, this post traces the changes to this road segment including removal of the marked crosswalk which make it less safe for people who are not in cars and calls for change. Commenters debate this location and its problems, but also consider pedestrians, road design, and behavior in the bigger picture.

Thinking about how we design our cities for the cars which aren’t moving, Minneapolis’ Progress on Parking: A Channel 79 EXCLUSIVE  links to the City of Minneapolis’ government channel coverage of this issue, plus reviews some of the positions and comments on this issue (See the earlier post on this subject which previewed the Council’s action). You Won’t Believe What Happens if You Invert Circling to Find a Parking Spot in Minneapolis provides another perspective on the parking “crisis” through a tongue-in-cheek travelogue to the St. Louis Olive Garden.

How to Improve the Vikings Pedestrian Bridge with One Easy Step  highlights an important design flaw in the bridge which aims to separate floods of football fans from the street and light rail tracks. Namely, that it doesn’t stop most people from crossing the light rail lines as it only connects to one platform (and the lesser used one, at that). The solution? A flight of stairs.

Plymouth, MN intersection changes and crosswalk removal

Audiovisual department

Charts of the Day of the Week: Dutch Bicycling Rates by Age and Gender, from the good folks over at the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, show some intersing statistics plus some good analysis to help unpack what we mean when we talk about gender equity. There’s also a bonus chart of mode share by gender in the United States showing a very different landscape.  Average Home Size over Time, Midwest vs. US shows homes trending larger over time, probably to no one’s surprise, plus some current events from the Strib about just how big. Fine Particle Concentration, July 4th vs. Control provides an interesting look at how much residue from fireworks you breathe in during your revelries, as well as giving some links to streets.mn content from Independence Days past.

Map: Map Monday: The US Overlaid By Road Straightness highlights a map showing where the roads are curviest. Spoiler alert: it’s straight sailing in the Midwest.

Comics: Roadkill Bill – There Goes the Neighborhood continues the story as we wait for Bicyclopolis, Book 2.

Dutch biking by gender

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Categories: Twin Cities

50 Reasons: Minneapolis Is The Bike Capital Of America

Streets.MN - Sat, 07/04/2015 - 8:30am
Published on Jun 28, 2015

An original production by GearJunkie.com and Twin Cities filmmaker Erik Nelson (www.eriknelson.co), ’50 Reasons’ stakes a claim that Minneapolis is the bike capital of America. The film documents the local bike culture, from publicly-funded trails, infrastructure, and programs, to engaging Minneapolis/St. Paul personalities and bike-based businesses.

The film reveals a cross-section of the city’s scene to make its case that biking in Minneapolis/St. Paul is unique to any other experience in America, including a diversity of biking options, vast public support, bike art and culture, bike design, competitions, massive adoption of bike-commuting, and a population that rides year-round, from humid summers to the depths of the Minnesota winter.

The full list, including 50 “reasons,” are below. And this is just a start to what makes riding in Minneapolis/St. Paul the best in the U.S.

1. The Grand Rounds Scenic Byway 2. Theodore Wirth Singletrack 3. M.O.R.C.-built Mountain Bike Trails 4. The NSC Velodrome 5. The Midtown Greenway 6. Martin Olav Sabo Bridge 7. Winter Biking Fanatics 8. Bike Cops With Fat Bikes 9. Beez Kneez Honey Delivery 10. Taco Cat 11. Greg LeMond 12. Nice Ride MN 13. Koochella Racing Team 14. Biking Musician Ben Weaver 15. Bike Weddings 16. ARTCRANK 17. Bike Tour To ‘Save The Boundary Waters’ 18. Cars-R-Coffins 19. MPLS Bike Love 20. Bunyan Velo Magazine 21. The Stupor Bowl 22. Minneapolis Bike Week 23. Open Streets Minneapolis 24. Dedicated Bike Lanes 25. Babes In Bikeland Alleycat 26. Adam Turman Bike Murals 27. MN Public Radio PedalHub Podcast 28. QBP 29. Surly 30. Salsa 31. All-City 32. Wolf Tooth Components 33. Search And State 34. Park Tool 35. Twin Six 36. Banjo Brothers 37. HED Wheels 38. Donkey Label 39. Peacock Groove 40. ‘Official Winter Biking Day’ 41. Birthplace Of Modern Fat Bike 42. ’30 Days Of Biking’ 43. SPOKES Organization 44. Pedal MN 45. Brake Bread 46. Copenhagenize Index 2015 47. Independent Bike Shops 48. Regional Bike Chains (Penn and Erik’s) 49. One On One Bike Shop 50. The Bike Junkyard

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Categories: Twin Cities

Capitol Bombs

Streets.MN - Sat, 07/04/2015 - 8:18am

Last year the fireworks display in Saint Paul took place at the State Capitol. It was my daughter’s first fireworks show. I brought my camera along.

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Categories: Twin Cities

*** ¡Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Twin Cities Sidewalks - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 3:49pm
Sidewalk Rating: AcesThe car instead gives freedom of movement. One can travel, uningibited … The city street acruires then a peculiar function – to permit motion; if it regulates motion too much, by lights, one-ways, and the like, motorists become nervous or angry.... the anxiety comes from the fact that we take unrestricted motion of the individual to be an absolute right. [-Richard Sennett, the Fall of Public Man.][Arrow sign on West 7th Street, Saint Paul.]*** CLICK ON IMAGES FOR LINKS! ****** ****** ****** ***"because big-box stores are designed to be functionally obsolescent, that comparable stores are those that have been closed and are sitting empty—the “dark stores” behind this method’s name."[this.]*** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ***emotionally disturbed suburbanites convinced that, amongst all the concrete and imported palm trees, beneath the cars and swimming pools, there must be some sort of buried treasure, some great and lost thing that can redeem all this, making their lives of unbearable mundanity finally worthwhile.[this.]*** ****** ****** ****** ***When it gets really hot in Baltimore, people in poorer neighborhoods spill out into the streets. This is because they don’t have air conditioning. Because crime goes up when the temperature goes up, the police department sees hot temperatures and people in the streets as a recipe for violence. So they respond by sending scores of cops into these neighbors to clear out the corners. The city ends up spending thousands of dollars on overtime just to basically harass the people in these neighborhoods for trying to keep cool.[this.] *** ***A generation ago, however, Dolores Park — and this city — had a different set of concerns. Veteran cops recall it as an open-air drug emporium; crime was so rampant that cash-rich drug-dealers actually begged police for protection from armed robbers lest they be transformed into human ATMs.[this.]*** ****** ***There’d be a line out the door. We went from doing $2,000 or $3,000 a night in liquor sales to $10,000 a night. It got crazy there for a few years. I once saw a guy come out of the bathroom naked, get kicked out the front, then come back through the back door wearing a robe.[this.] *** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ***
Categories: Twin Cities

Chart of the Day: Fine Particle Concentration, July 4th vs. Control

Streets.MN - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 12:57pm

Via Bob Collins at MPR, here’s a chart showing fine particle pollution in air for July 4th compared to an average control day:

Particulate matter is an easy thing to forget about unless it’s not.

For other great 4th of July content, check out some of the fine streets.mn 4th of July stories from past years…

Bemidji

Rockport, MA

East Side of Saint Paul

Stone Arch Bridge, Minneapolis

Rondo Neighborhood, Saint Paul

Streets.mn is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

Categories: Twin Cities

How to Improve the Vikings Pedestrian Bridge With One Easy Step

Streets.MN - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 12:48pm

On July 2nd, it was announced that the Minnesota Vikings have offered to shoulder half of the burden of building a pedestrian bridge over Chicago Avenue and the Downtown East light rail station. While this doesn’t necessarily exonerate the bridge from the sharper criticisms of Nick Magrino’s story on the issue (particularly on how converting the Downtown East station to an island platform would render this bridge pointless), it is certainly a better deal than the Metropolitan Council being fully responsible for what is obviously a stadium amenity. The bridge leads out from the stadium, over Chicago, and to the northern platform of the light rail station, allowing the thousands of projected transit riding football fans to quickly board a train and head home. Unfortunately, there’s a problem.

The bridge is designed to accommodate for a future Metro system that is built out enough that a Vikings game would see so many commuters from all corners of the transit system that the resulting herd would need to be kept away from road and rail traffic for their own safety. Granted, we know that with the right amount of planning, a herd can be safely loaded onto the light rail even with traffic:

Watching the video, you can see as TCF Bank Stadium empties, the resulting crowd heading for the trains is sizable. A close eye will notice that Metro Transit is metering the amount of people allowed on the platform based on the capacity of the trains in order to make sure each is full and the crowd is dispersed in an orderly fashion. The people waiting for their train are queued up in the road under this arrangement, so as the Metro system grows and event usage expands, it does make some sense to build a separate guideway to allow people to exit the new stadium and wait in safety without having to be so close to (or mixed in) with traffic.

But this leads to the most baffling thing about the proposed bridge – it feeds out only to the northern platform towards the future Commons Park. And as of right now, that would lead passengers directly to Downtown Minneapolis, and only Downtown Minneapolis. On opening day in 2017, prospective passengers will exit the Vikings stadium, cross the bridge specifically designed to keep them from having to cross the light rail tracks… and then cross the light rail tracks to reach stations east and west of the stadium. The bridge is perfectly suited for passengers of the future Southwest and Bottineau lines, but they don’t exist yet. Unless they’ll be connecting to a bus from downtown, the soonest someone could use the bridge and immediately board a train home will be 2020.

Pedestrians leaving the stadium can access four Metro stations from the north side of the tracks, or 32 stations from the south side.

So even for the eight days out of the year that the bridge is in use, including the 2018 Super Bowl, it still fails to keep people from having to cross the tracks. Yes, the bridge has gotten the football fans safely across Chicago Avenue, but that’s already something we can handle without a bridge. If the fear is rowdy fans getting hit by trains, this bridge does nothing to solve that problem.

Fortunately, the answer is simple, and has the added bonus of giving the bridge a constant, daily purpose: add a second staircase to the south platform.

A proposed second staircase to the Vikings pedestrian bridge.

Downtown East is the first station serviced by both the Blue and Green lines, making it the natural transfer point on the line for trips between St. Paul and Bloomington. By adding a second staircase to the bridge, transfer passengers can safely cross above the tracks to the other platform, regardless of whether the stadium is in use or not. And when the stadium is in use, there’s now a perfect place to set up two separate lines for North/Westbound and East/Southbound trains.

Granted, a second staircase would require a second elevator. It would undoubtedly add to the cost of the bridge. And at the end of the day, this station should really just have been built as an island platform. But if the Met Council and the Vikings are set on building this bridge, and they’re going to do so under the guise of protecting pedestrians from trains, why is it being built in a way that still requires a rider to cross the tracks in order to get home?

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Categories: Twin Cities

You Won’t Believe What Happens If You Invert Circling to Find a Parking Spot in Minneapolis

Streets.MN - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 10:00am

I don’t know about you, but when I think of childhood in America, one thing comes to mind immediately: handheld gaming. Pokemon, where did that even come from? I mean, Japan, but how was it suddenly so popular in summer 2000? Trends are tricky–living abroad on a military base in Europe at the time, we were perhaps behind-the-times. As a relatively masc Scorpio, I was of course a Pokemon Blue player and, generally, a Bulbasaur guy–all probably foreshadowing, sorry mom & dad.

As you’ll remember, the top feature of the Game Boy Color was that thing where your friend could trade you his Mew and you did that trick and actually it cloned the Mew!! The second most important and first most underrated feature of the Game Boy Color was its color inversion capability. If you held right + B and turned it on, it would turn on and the colors would be inverted! The background would be black, like so:

Above is the best picture of this on the entire Internet. Color inversion was helpful when playing games in difficult lighting conditions, but it also allowed players to see their games in a totally new light.

Recently, while playing around on my Game Boy Color, I found myself on a couple local news websites reading about “parking” “issues” in the Twin Cities. Many people all across America drive their cars to locations like Uptown Minneapolis or a St. Paul Saints game and find that they did not get parking as easily as they would have liked.

I did a bit of my own research on the topic, finding that, for example, parking is not hard. But seeking to expand my understanding of these complaints further, it occurred to me that I could do the same thing I did when playing Pokemon Blue version but wanted to get crazy about it.

I could invert the story.

This Tuesday evening, I held right + B, turned on my Game Boy Color (teal) and navigated to the Pioneer Press website to reread this story about parking, and—-

5:02 PM

Preparations commence. For years, the downtown retail submarket has struggled, and face paint is hard to come by on short notice–a Party City exists to the north, n’er the Quarry across the great river. Time, however, is not on our side. Crayola fabric markers would have to make do for warpaint. Beads are grabbed from the bottom of a drawer, detritus of college football games passed. A jet-black MRRSVLD bandana is donned.

5:14 PM

I retrieve my bicycle, a sad mountain bike purchased from the Roseville Target right before Welcome Week at the Academy, a once powerful institution now in the thrall of various peddlers of dubious remedies and banking options. The rendezvous point is a mere two blocks from my home.

5:25 PM

I see that Lindeke, a powerful mage from St. Paul, has already arrived at the rendezvous point.

5:30 PM

One by one, the warriors arrived, and we began amassing at the corner of 15th & Willow in Loring Park, a den of sin if one ever existed. We are told, if indirectly, that Loring Park circa 1986 is the model is for the new Downtown East Commons. History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

5:40 PM

From far across the land they came, as far south as 36th Street, all dreaming of the spoils of war.

watch out @olivegarden, we’re coming for you! @StreetsMN @UrbanMSP #notchilis pic.twitter.com/stu1LO07l2

— Ben Somogyi (@brsomogyi) June 30, 2015

5:45 PM

The first sacrifice of the evening is made–one rider is coming late, and would have to catch up. Having made 6:30 PM reservations, time is of the essence. Google Maps says 22 minutes to our destination, who knows what we will encounter on our journey.

We depart the park.

5:46 PM

Phil, the Quartermaster, his bike equipped with speakers, begins playing the Classic Italian Pandora station.

5:47 PM

Guy from work also biking down 15th Street sees me with my face painted and beads and cut up shirt. Damn. Will need to explain that later.

5:48 PM

Here be dragons: We navigate across the treacherous Ye Olde Hennepin/Lyndale Bottlenecke, to the Cedar Lake Trail. We head west, following the falling sun.

6:01 PM

Passing under the city gates and heading towards St. Louis Park, we can feel the sorrow of the gentry to our south–Kenilworth.

6:08 PM

Man, what a beautiful evening. The past two months have been just great–either 75 degrees and blue skies or pouring rain.

6:14 PM

We leave the safety of the Cedar Lake Trail, fording the trail near the Sabes JCC parking lot and finding our way up to residential streets.

6:20 PM

They have erected a maze of frontage roads and on/offramps. But there it is, over the horizon. Olive Garden. We have found it. Their engineers think they are clever, building this wall.

The battle begins.

6:21 PM

We ride under it.

The battle is won.

6:23 PM

We park. Our bikes, numbering 14, easily fit into one parking space. A truck immediately next to us takes up two spaces.

Fourteen bikes, one spot. One truck, two spots. @UrbanMSP @streetsmn pic.twitter.com/QRQv2BZ2dj — Joey Senkyr (@JoeySenkyr) June 30, 2015

6:28 PM

We are seated at the St. Louis Park Olive Garden, ready to collect tribute. Never missing an opportunity to make an “A Beautiful Mind” joke later, I run in and grab a seat at the head of the table–a throne of sorts.

6:33 PM

After a short skirmish, an emissary–Danielle–is sent from the kitchen to negotiate the terms of peace–sangritas and regular sangria and a type of mead known as “Blue Moon” followed freely as we waited for our breadsticks and salad. I need not remind you of the limits to these breadsticks.

6:39 PM

Most opt for salad, but a few go with soup–of which there are four options: Chicken & Gnocchi, Pasta e F*gioli, Minestrone, and Zuppa Tuscana.

6:43 PM

Danielle gets takes our orders–I go with Seafood Alfredo, in an effort to get in touch with my roots, which are one quarter Sicilian. Alfredoes appear to be a popular choice–the calorie-dense concoction feels justified after biking to a whole new city. The mage Lindeke and Melody go all in, ordering the 2 for $25 Tuscan dinner, which Bill describes as the “hot date dinner.” Alex of Fremont seeks the rumored “breadstick sandwich,” but alas, that was a limited time offer.

6:55 PM

Quartermaster Phil attempts to conquer all four soups, known in some circles as “Il Quattro.”

Can @PhilmrPhil go for Il Quattro? pic.twitter.com/b4gkzG7vxw

— Nick Magrino (@nickmagrino) July 1, 2015

7:01 PM

He succeeds, and Danielle remarks that this is uncommon.

7:07 PM

We eat our pastas and lasagnas and equivalent.

7:30 PM

Desserts and cappuccino. Bills. It would appear that the Andes mints are no longer a thing.

7:38 PM

Our bikes are still there. The truck is gone.

7:41 PM

We roll out.

Nirvana pic.twitter.com/sxl7G43qou

— UrbanMSP (@UrbanMSP) July 1, 2015

1:30 AM

I eat a piece of cold pizza out of the refrigerator. Jesus.

P.S. Our server was a very good sport, someone give her a raise.

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Categories: Twin Cities

A Great But Imperfect Country

Streets.MN - Fri, 07/03/2015 - 7:30am

It’s quite easy to be critical of America. We are failures in numerous ways from health and obesity to how many people are killed every year on our roads (though MN is better than most states in the U.S.).

When it comes to child well-being we are ranked 26th out of 29 developed nations[1].

As well, there are many elements of daily life elsewhere that I would love to bring back with me. Dutch bikeways and bikes, Austrian cappuccinos, and British pubs to name a few. Europeans’ consideration for others in not talking loud in public places (British pubs occasionally excepted), no-turn-on-red, their tram and train networks, appreciation for good and lasting architecture, awnings instead of umbrellas, and not over reacting and getting hyper uptight about things that really aren’t a big deal wouldn’t hurt either.

We are the land of plenty and also find plenty of things to whine and complain about (especially in the transportation and land-use arena).

When it comes to the really big stuff though, I think we’ve largely got it right. We’re not perfect and we have a ways to go but I think we’re better than most if not better than all others.

You need only talk to someone who immigrated here to fully appreciate America and what a truly great nation this is. How great the opportunities are that we have and how great is our freedom. There are important reasons why so many work so hard and risk so much to come here.

While there is plenty to complain about, we have the freedom to complain without fear of arrest. We have the time to complain and to write for streets.mn because we don’t have to worry too much about where our next meal will come from or hike a couple of miles to the local well for water or worry about protecting those we love from marauding murderers like ISIS[2]. We also have realistic hope that our complaints and ideas for improvement will be heard and that we just might see real improvement.

Our whining and complaining are largely about first-world problems—problems that the vast majority of the world population wish that they had.

We should continue to strive to improve. We should continue to look at how others do things better and we should emulate them or invent new and better solutions to our problems. We should continue to advance technology and build new companies and create new products and enjoy all that we have.

And we should be continually thankful for the country that we have and for the people who’ve given their lives, in time and blood, for us to live in such a great nation. We should continue to improve and make America even greater and we should help others to achieve what we have.

May you have a very happy 4th of July!

 

[1] Child well being in rich countries, UNICEF, Innocenti Report Card 11

[2] http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/11/does-america-have-a-hunger-crisis-a-thanksgiving-faq/281903/

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Categories: Twin Cities

The Minnesota Massacre Needs to End

Streets.MN - Thu, 07/02/2015 - 11:15am

Brian Lew of Plymouth is the most recent victim; he was struck by a motorist while jogging in Plymouth last Thursday on Vicksburg “Lane.”

A likely scenario

Vicksburg Lane crossing 26th Ave and recreational trail in Plymouth.

Updated reports say that Mr. Lew was struck “near” the intersection of 26th Avenue and Vicksburg Lane, but not at it. Police spokeswoman Tammy Ward is quoted as saying Lew “was not crossing in a crosswalk or at a controlled intersection,” which rules out a crossing at 26th itself since there are two legal unmarked crosswalks at this intersection per 169.011.20(1).

Plymouth’s official trail map implies this trail (east-west) crosses Vicksburg “Lane” (north-south).

But wait, there’s a multi-use path just south of 26th Ave that appears to intersect with Vicksburg Lane in the photo to the right. It also intersects according to the City of Plymouth’s official Parks & Trails Map.

Let me be clear: We don’t have enough from media reports to know exactly what happened, but it seems likely that this location, where Vicksburg Lane crosses a city recreational path, is where it happened. Regardless, this entire stretch of Vicksburg Lane is a 45 MPH Four Lane Death Road™, a type of roadway facility that is especially deadly-by-design.

Shirked liability, welcomed devastation

An aerial view of this trail and its representation on a city trail map would make it appear that it’s a legal unmarked crosswalk of Vicksburg, per 169.011.20(1). But let’s take a look at two Street Views of this crossing, from 2008 and from 2014.

A deliberately failed intersection.

In 2008, this was clearly a legal marked crosswalk, with signs, zebra stripes, and stop bars. Even without any of that, it still likely meets the legal definition of an unmarked crosswalk since the curb cuts imply it is an “intersection” defined in 169.011.36(a), considering that the “intersection” definition references “highways” (not defined this generally) upon which “vehicles” can travel (defined by 169.011.92 to include bicycles or other trail users). In 2008, this was a crosswalk no matter which way we slice it.

Vicksburg traffic counts

By 2014, the city had “improved” this intersection by attempting to cease its existence. All crosswalk markings are gone (except for a lone southbound “pedestrian” sign), and the curb cuts are filled in. Confoundingly, stop signs were added for trail users, which appear out of context given the desire to give no indication that this is a crosswalk or an intersection. Do the stop signs require stopping before a trail user crosses? Would this be jaywalking, or would it be legal after a stop?

It’s ridiculous to think that anyone could have made this change in an attempt to make the street safer. This is what a failed intersection looks like. This is a complete disregard for anyone not-in-a-car, and this change possibly cost a man his life. If this is the location that took a life last Thursday, then this design is culpable and the City of Plymouth could very well be legally liable for this wrongful death.

Whoever designed and approved of this change saw trail users, including joggers, as the problem. But the problem is clearly the Four Lane Death Road™, signed at 45 MPH, overcapacity for the 12 to 17 thousand vehicles per day. Instead of a refuge islandHAWK beacon, or similar improvement, Plymouth decided to Bloomingtonize by (incompletely) making this trail intersection disappear. There is no clearer indication that the values of the public are not the values getting applied to streets and urban roads in our communities, and people are dying as a result.

When people are seen as an impediment to cars and excluded rather than safely included as users of our public space, is it any wonder that the Minnesota Massacre continues?

The public health crisis of our time

We need to treat deadly-by-design roadway facilities for what they are: the largest public health crisis of our time. The CDC and the MN Department of Public Safety both note that automobile crashes are the leading cause of death for people ages 1 to 34. MN DPS includes a parenthetical with this statistic, “(people generally thought of as ‘too young to die’).” Anyone, whether 7 or 57 or 97, is too “young” to die a preventable death merely because we don’t value their lives as much as we value efficient and speedy vehicular travel.

We are all responsible for deaths like this. We all accept a system of a built environment that devalues human life on our public streets and roads. We generally treat these crashes as inevitabilities, as collateral damage of modern life, or even as “accidents.” This isn’t the fault of a rogue motorist here or there, this is on all of us: We all have some blood on our hands for being resigned and complacent rather than demanding an end to this public health crisis.

This is the Minnesota Massacre, and this needs to end.

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Categories: Twin Cities

Chart of the Day: Dutch Bicycling Rates by Age and Gender

Streets.MN - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 3:01pm

Via @GBCyclingEmbassy, here’s a chart [in Dutch] that shows the gender ratios of bicycling mode share separated out for different age cohorts in Holland:

In my opinion, the issue of gender disparities while bicycling is often talked about problematically, with women being used as a too-convenient shorthand to talk about other ideas like safety or child care. Most egregiously, you find the “indicator species” language; see reactions here or here.

But in more subtle ways, I notice that women bicyclists are often grouped into overly simplistic categories that leave assumptions about who is riding a bike, and how and why they ride, untouched.

It’s interesting to see a country where the gender ratio is not only gone, but ever-so-slightly reversed. What conclusions can we draw about gender, bicycling, and infrastructure design?

[See also, streets.mn podcast with Stephanie Weir.] 

Bonus: For contrast, check out US bicycling rates sorted by gender:

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Categories: Twin Cities

Free Idea: Main Street Minnesota

Streets.MN - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 11:30am

You know what I don’t think we have enough of on Streets.mn? Huge, improbable, thought-provoking ideas.

We’re all familiar with Nicollet Ave and a lot of the buildings that reside on it. It’s the Main Street of Minneapolis, representing a lot of what’s great about both cities. However, that’s Minneapolis; it’s not all of Minnesota and as we’ve seen in the recent political conjecture, sometimes the cities get a little too much focus leaving outstate in the dust.

So I’ve come up with a plan that combines two of the best parts of Minnesota: its rural heritage and its urban character.

There are tons of little towns in Minnesota, some you’ve heard of, some you haven’t. But the fate of these little towns (in my opinion) is clear; they won’t make it to the end of the century.

We can’t pin exactly how cities thrive or die, but we know they come and go often leaving behind ghostly reminders of their existence. Sometimes those are nothing more than ruins, sometimes they seem to be perfectly good buildings. The latter is what I want to focus on.

Vernon Center is a city of about 330 people located just south of Mankato. This city has very little hope of surviving unless Mankato simply gobbles it up in its quest to sprawl. However, this doesn’t mean that Vernon Center is worthless or that it should simply be forgotten. In fact, you can see on Google Maps that it has at least one quaint, charming main street building.

This is where Minnesota Main Street (Editor’s note: this Free Idea is not part of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota’s Main Street Program) comes into play.

The idea is that you would pick a city, in this case I would say Mankato, and find a street worth redeveloping (we have plenty of them.) As Vernon Center continues to decline a group of volunteers (individuals and companies alike) fueled by federal/state aid and donations, comes to Vernon Center, buys the building and it is  moved to the aforementioned street in Mankato. The building is then brought up to code and marked with a plaque summarizing its history.

These “Main Streets” could pop up all over Minnesota metros homaging the smaller villages that simply went out of existence. The program would preserves history and gives us some great buildings that a lot of architects seem negligent to build.

I realize that the plan is half-baked, but hey, what’s wrong with that? Sometimes ideas are just conversation starters which end up being real plans with actionable missions.

I think it would be a cool lesson in history and a great way to recognize our forefathers who built these cities.

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Categories: Twin Cities

Main Street – Mahtowa, Minnesota

Streets.MN - Wed, 07/01/2015 - 8:30am

Mahtowa, Minnesota (near Barnum, in Carlton County) (map) is probably the smallest town profiled in this series. My visit was an accidental stop from up north to down south.

Mahtowa is notable for TJ’s Country Corner, which is a thriving corner store and sausage purveyor on Old Highway 61. TJ’s claims to have the best tasting sausage on earth, or anywhere else. As Carl Sagan often said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. This claim I cannot verify, though it tasted good. Their wurst hearse is a notable, and risqué, piece of roadside Americana.

TJ’s Country Corner

TJ’s Wurst Hearse

The age of the store can be roughly determined by its location on Old Highway 61.

Old Highway 61

Old Highway 61 was replaced by new US Highway 61. US 61 was downgraded in this region at some point to Minnesota 61. Though it still runs more or less continuously, Highway 61 has been functionally replaced, I-35W now serves the corridor from Duluth to St. Paul.

The now discontinuous Old Highway 61 paralleled the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad whose abandoned tracks have been converted to the Willard Munger State Trail and a local playground.

Willard Munger State Trail

 

Bicyclists on Munger Trail

The main part of the town (on the other side of the “tracks” from Old Highway 61) has the smallest regular street grid I have seen. There are six streets (five of which are unpaved), 3 east-west and 3 north-south). The East West Avenues are North, Central, and South. The North South Streets are numbered from 1st to 3rd. Even Jesse Ventura could navigate this.

Aside from the Country Corner, there is a small bookstore and some very small churches serving the surrounding countryside.

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Categories: Twin Cities