On our way to the ceremony unveiling the plan for the five-block Star Tribune property in Downtown East, my son Shaw and I got off the train at the Downtown East/Metrodome station and I was asked directions by an older couple. They were looking for Periscope, the ad agency, at 10th and Washington. Obliging, I agreed to walk with them from the platform across 4th Street, where I would point the way to Washington and bid them adieu.
We stood waiting for the Walk signal to get across 4th Street and I detected a murmur from them as nothing was happening; there was no traffic, except for the one car that had come to a stop in the crosswalk in front of us, but nobody seemed to have a green light or walk signal. But the view across surface parking lots towards the Guthrie was…a view. Great, I thought, here is someone’s first exposure to our city and it is one of crosswalk confusion and lack of urbanity.
Why couldn’t I be pointing them in the direction of Nicollet Mall?
We finally crossed 4th Street, maneuvering roller bags around the car still stopped in the crosswalk. As I pointed down Chicago Avenue towards Washington, past the surface parking lots and hardscape, I detected a possibly Scandinavian accent. I asked where they were from. “Ohio,” she said. I raised my eyebrows and the man, sensing my confusion, chimed in “We’re originally from Denmark.” Ah, that’s better. I apologized for our crosswalk and lack of shade trees. They joked that Copenhagen has more bike lanes, and I sheepishly said “yeah, but we look to you for inspiration.” Not to be deterred, I encouraged them to take a stroll on the Stone Arch Bridge after their meeting at Periscope.
They went on their way, and who knows how the rest of their visit transpired. I like to think they had a pleasant time at their meeting, followed by perhaps a meal at one of our fine restaurants and show at the Guthrie. Shaw and I went to the unveiling of the Downtown East plan and I kept thinking about them and all the people who get off the train for the first time or the hundredth time and walk from the platform to the Mill District. What about them? What kind of city are we showing off to guests? What kind of city are we building for ourselves? How will that experience change in three short years when it all this new development is planned?
In an attempt to answer that question, I spent time on the Ryan Companies website looking at images and watching the “flyover” presentation on YouTube. I was shouting at my screen “go left,” “slow down,” “zoom in,” “pan down,” “focus on that streetscape,” “is that street two-way?” “oh, hell, was that a skyway?” It is hard to tell, as there is not much detail yet, but according to the plan’s timeline, if I should run in to my Ohio/Copenhagen friends on the train platform three short years from now, we’ll be looking at a decidedly different surroundings.
To our right will be a “striking” new indoor stadium that will draw crowds but not necessarily give the Vikings the necessary competitive advantage an outdoor stadium would bring to help them return to the Super Bowl. To the left will be a green space, with any luck a fully programmed park that will be the focal point of the downtown, a gathering place for all, and a crowning achievement in this public/private partnership. Possibly the crosswalk at 4th Street will be a little less confusing and more pedestrian-friendly. Across 4th will be an apartment building that fronts the 4th Street side of the easternmost Star Tribune block. As our friends from Ohio/Copenhagen walk down Chicago Avenue towards the Mill District, they’ll very likely pass under a skyway that connects a massive parking structure on that same block to another parking structure farther east, both of which are connected by skyway to the stadium. Unless some parking can be put under the new park, they will also very likely pass by that large parking structure. Maybe the streetscape along Chicago Avenue will be better, with street trees and benches, but only so much can be done to enliven a parking deck. Maybe there will be storefronts, but it is also possible that retail space won’t be viable at the street level because the skyways suck the life and customers from the street.
Maybe our friends will finish their meeting at Periscope and be intrigued enough to wander back to the Downtown East area and look around. They might walk along a pedestrian-friendly urbane street, with good commercial and residential frontage and plenty of pedestrian doors (their fellow Danish urbanist Jan Gehl would be proud). They could well pass a busker along the way, but whether that busker be leaning against the wall of a parking ramp as he wails on his saxophone remains to be seen. If they are seeking a late afternoon coffee, they may find it at street level, or perhaps it will be tucked away up on the skyway level, possibly not even open late in the day, as is often the case with many skyway-level businesses. Perhaps there will be a market event at the Armory and our friends can browse artisan crafts or sample some bacon-wrapped lutefisk on a stick. Maybe there will be a movie showing in the new park across the street. Maybe Wells Fargo employees will be emerging from work and populating the sidewalk tables facing across 4th Street to the new park. It is possible that 4th Street itself will be a safe, sane two-way street planted with trees that will provide valuable shade in a decade or so. Our friends might join others on the patio, sipping a drink and gazing across the new park at kids playing in the fountain, couples nuzzling in the glow of dusk, commuters biking across the park where Portland and Park Avenues used to run. Afterward they could grab a nightcap at a cozy wine bar in one of the new mid-block alleyways, while gazing at paintings in a small art gallery.
There is much to be resolved, as the site plan is promising but vague, but yet all of this is possible in Downtown East. Over the next few weeks and months, it will be very critical for us to demand good urbanism from the city council, Ryan Companies, CPED and ourselves. There is public financing going to this project and it will pay for parking and improving the green space to a “basic level.” I sure hope we get something in return, like an attractive public realm and an actual park with a reason to visit. We cannot afford another Gaviidae Common, City Center, Conservatory, or Block E, and we must raise the bar even above the Target corporate campus and store and even the excellent Midtown Exchange. There is much more on the line with this project.
We must have better streetscapes and fewer skyways, more pedestrian doors and no visible parking. This isn’t rocket science, it is just sensible urban values and attention to detail. A stadium, 6,000 employees, 1,700 parking spaces and a green space doesn’t guarantee good urbanism. Good sidewalks, doors, windows, crosswalks, trees, benches, activity and people do. I sincerely hope there will be a little more public vetting of this plan as it races forward to the deadline of ensuring enough parking for the Vikings on opening day 2016. The city cannot afford to “fumble” this opportunity. It costs more upfront, but the return to the private sector, public coffers and our overall enjoyment of our city will be much greater over time. But we must demand a good urban experience, not only to impress our friends from Copenhagen, but to impress ourselves.
This was crossposted at Joe Urban.
The Strib reports: State gives city new tool to fund streetcars : "One provision in the state tax bill could have a significant impact on Mayor R.T. Rybak's dreams of building a streetcar in Minneapolis. The bill allows the city... David Levinson http://nexus.umn.edu
National eyewear company, SEE, plans to open its 30th store in Uptown Minneapolis adjacent Magers & Quinn Booksellers and Penzeys Spice at 3032 Hennepin Avenue. The store promotes that it sells fashionable eyewear at affordable prices.
No information was available about the store’s opening on the company’s website, local job sites, or news sites.
Harris Hardware, once located at 3045 Hennepin Avenue, placed this ad in the 1975 Calhoun Elementary School newspaper. The ad was a throwback. Check out this 1981 ad that’s a bit more conventional.
Hip carpet tile store, FLOR, opened in Uptown May 17, 2013, at 1426 West Lake Street. FLOR sells carpet tiles with a huge range of designs that the customer chooses (staff designers can help come up with designs) and then assembles themselves in their home or office.
The carpet tiles are placed on the floor and are interconnected to one another, rather than affixed to the floor. This allows easy installation and allows the customer to change its design on a whim. Each carpet tile is approximately 20″x20″ and costs range from about $8 to $16 per tile.
FLOR has 20 locations in the US and Canada.
My way was blocked by a sign signifying nothing. Same site as last fall, at The Commons hotel on Harvard.- dml... David Levinson http://nexus.umn.edu
Baseball is one of my favorite things, and I wrote a post for Streets.mn today about the lessons that SABRmetrics can teach critical urbanists.Lots of good stuff:First, baseball statheads rigorously test their theories. No old baseball assumption goes unchallenged at a SABR convention. For decades, there have been endless debates over whether pitchers can induce outs, the existence of clutch hitting, the importance of batting order, or how catchers “frame” balls and strikes. The adages of old school managers — e.g. the hit and run, bunting, always having a middle infielder in your leadoff spot (ahem, Gardy) — are continually being debunked by the sabermetric community.That’s something that urbanists should be doing too. Do streetcars really attract investment? Are wider car lanes really safer? Do parking minimums really reduce congestion? Continually challenging the assumptions of the urban design professions is a noble cause, and we can learn a lot from sabermetrics. No theory should go untested.Second, sabermetrics is excellent at noticing and ridiculing bad investements. Some baseball teams are legendary for signing aging players to long-term contracts. Some cities do the same thing, building spectacular economic development or transportation boondoggles. Ryan Howard’s contract is like Block E. The convention center subsidy is like signing Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year deal. The new Vikings Stadium is going to be for Minneapolis what Barry Zito was for the Giants. (A-Rod = the Big Dig?)Rejecting bad investments, and developing alternative models for allocating scarce dollars, should be the goal of saberurbanists. Some teams are adept at trading players when they’re most valuable, and signing young players to long-term team-friendly contracts. Is Portland the Tampa Bay Rays of urban planning?The final lesson of saberurbanism is that outsiders can change the rules of the game. As Moneyball shows, for a long time baseball insiders have been hostile to outside (sabermetric) analysis. People like Bill James have been writing critical analyses of baseball since the 70s, and new measures of value (like OPS, xFIP, WAR, VORP, etc.) have exploded in popularity for decades (especially on the internet). But most teams began paying attention only recently. The Twins just hired their first dedicated statistical researcher, and it seems that most front office people have slender grasp on even basic advanced baseball stats.
I have been a baseball fan all my life. I went to my first Twins game at Met Stadium when I was less than a year old (or so I am told), and saw them win the ’91 World Series from the upper deck of the Metrodome. I’ve been following the sabermetric revolution since 2001, when I started paying attention to the Twins new crop of young players — Hunter, Jones, Mientkewicz, Koskie, Santana (eventually), Mauer and Morneau — as they began to gel and win games. That’s about the same time that an excellent group of Twins‘ bloggers emerged onto the internet and began critically analyzing the best and worst Twins’ performances. Because of their great writing, I’ve endured the Twins’ last few seasons — the terrible trades of Bill Smith (especially Hardy, Ramos, and Young), the inability of the front office to sign a decent starter, the back-to-back horrible seasons — with an unflagging optimism.
That’s why last week’s article on “the sabermetrics of urbanism” caught my eye. (SABR stands for the Society of American Baseball Research, people who write statistically-minded outsider analysis.) The author, Michael Hathorne, talks about the movie Moneyball and how the same kind of analytical revolution might occur in urban planning. He asks “what is the currency of urbanism,” and identifies a list of possible statistical measures that might help cities reconsider value.
It’s an interesting question that I’ve pondered before. Let’s call it “saberurbanism.” While there are few crucial differences between cities and baseball that limit the metaphor, at the same time, there are important things that urban design fields can learn from the sabermetric revolution in baseball.
The Limits To “Saberurbanism”
The first crucial limit to saberurbanism? One commenter on Hathorne’s piece wrote, “baseball is continuous, society is not.” Actually he’s got it backwards: baseball is discontinuous, society is not. A baseball game is an aggregation of hundreds of repeated, discrete events. Each individual pitch is a single data point, sometimes resulting in balls in play, seperated by long periods of standing around, kicking the dirt, and scratching oneself. This discreteness and discontinuity is the main reason why baseball is so amenable to statistical measure. The sample size and repeatability is very large.
Cities, on the other hand, are extremely complex systems that flow contiuously without separable “events.” (Think of an endless soccer game with millions of players, thousands of balls, and many different goals.) While certain things are measurable (traffic flows, tax receipts), so much remains inherently unquantifiable, and the complex interactions of everyday life are not remotely reducable to sets of numbers.
The second limit of saberurbanism: baseball is commensurable, cities are not. In baseball, even though some ballparks are large and “pitcher friendly,” some small and “hitter friendly”, and some have giant green walls where left field should be, baseball takes place within relatively comparable spaces. Advanced statistics take into account park effects (even Coors field’s atmosopherics), so that you can make an educated guess as to how many home runs Mauer might hit if he played for Yankees [shudder].
Cities are not like this at all. Notoriously, urban planners often assume that an economic development idea from one city will work in another. (Thus everyone building aquariums back in the 90s, urban malls in the 2000s, landmark museums, university research corridors, downtown casinos today, etc.) But cities aren’t interchangeable like baseball fields. Omaha doesn’t work like Orlando. Portland, Oregon is incomprable to Portland, Maine. You can’t apply “park effects” to apples and oranges.
Finally, cities are moral while baseball games are not. Baseball is literally a game. The Yankees winning another World Series might seem like the 27th coming of the apocalypse, but it really doesn’t matter. On the other hand, the design of cities controls people’s livelihoods. Alex Anthopoulos excepting, the Toronto Blue Jays’ poor start to the season won’t ruin anyone’s life, but Toronto’s allegedly crack-smoking mayor Rob Ford’s policies certainly will. Cities can foster generations of racism, lift people out of poverty, start revolutions, or slowly destroy the planet. The stakes are rather different, and treating urban planning like a game does not do justice to the billions of livliehoods held in the balance.
The Lessons of Saberurbanism
That said, there are a few things that the sabermetric revolution can teach urban designers. First, baseball statheads rigorously test their theories. No old baseball assumption goes unchallenged at a SABR convention. For decades, there have been endless debates over whether pitchers can induce outs, the existence of clutch hitting, the importance of batting order, or how catchers “frame” balls and strikes. The adages of old school managers — e.g. the hit and run, bunting, always having a middle infielder in your leadoff spot (ahem, Gardy) — are continually being debunked by the sabermetric community.
That’s something that urbanists should be doing too. Do streetcars really attract investment? Are wider car lanes really safer? Do parking minimums really reduce congestion? Continually challenging the assumptions of the urban design professions is a noble cause, and we can learn a lot from sabermetrics. No theory should go untested.
Second, sabermetrics is excellent at noticing and ridiculing bad investements. Some baseball teams are legendary for signing aging players to long-term contracts. Some cities do the same thing, building spectacular economic development or transportation boondoggles. Ryan Howard’s contract is like Block E. The convention center subsidy is like signing Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year deal. The new Vikings Stadium is going to be for Minneapolis what Barry Zito was for the Giants. (A-Rod = the Big Dig?)
Rejecting bad investments, and developing alternative models for allocating scarce dollars, should be the goal of saberurbanists. Some teams are adept at trading players when they’re most valuable, and signing young players to long-term team-friendly contracts. Is Portland the Tampa Bay Rays of urban planning?
The final lesson of saberurbanism is that outsiders can change the rules of the game. As Moneyball shows, for a long time baseball insiders have been hostile to outside (sabermetric) analysis. People like Bill James have been writing critical analyses of baseball since the 70s, and new measures of value (like OPS, xFIP, WAR, VORP, etc.) have exploded in popularity for decades (especially on the internet). But most teams began paying attention only recently. The Twins just hired their first dedicated statistical researcher, and it seems that most front office people have slender grasp on even basic advanced baseball stats.
Saberurbanism can learn a lot from baseball about how critical outside voices create change within large risk-averse institutions. The same kinds of outside voices have long popped up in urban planning. Jane Jacobs was the Bill James of urbanism, re-evaulating city neighborhoods and activities that had been written off as worthless. For baseball nerds, it took years of building alternative narratives, attending conventions, and sharing publications before insiders began to listen to them. How long will it take for urbanists?
For example, I remember when a group of dedicated baseball stat nerds used to sell their own alternative scorecards [called Gameday] outside the Metrodome. It was a far more interesting read, with actually critical thoughts about the Twins’ recent play and some snark about the opposing team. At first, the Twins’ managment saw this as a hostile challenge, and forced Gameday vendors to stand outside stadium property. Eventually the team realized that these devoted nerds were an asset, and now the Gameday notes appear on the official scorecard sold in the stadium.
The point is that it takes a long time to change institutions. Are cities more or less conservative than baseball teams? Are city planners, business leaders, civil engineers, politicans more open to new ideas, to letting go of misleading beliefs, than general managers or pitching coaches?
Changing the Rules of the Game (or Will the Twins have a strikeout pitcher before Minneapolis builds a cycletrack?)
The danger of saberurbanism is that it becomes another form of economics. For example, When Hathorne writes that “consideration should be given towards a human being’s rights regarding free will (ability to choose) that are associated with the human condition,” it crushes my will to live. We can’t continue to measure cities strictly in terms of economic value, no matter how creative we get with the numbers.
But cities can dramatically improve how they quantify value. For example, saberurbanism might replace LOS for cars with LOS for all people, or think more critically whether “jobs created” aren’t just being moved around in the metro area. These kinds of changes, combined with an increasingly wide-ranging counter-narrative about what matters in cities, will hopefully start to change the rules of the game. Cities are not baseball, but cities are complex institutions resistant to change. Maybe by looking at how sabermetrics has changed the game, we can start re-evaluating the really important things about urban life.
Metro Transit is hosting two open houses in May to gather input from community members about potential transit improvements in the Midtown Corridor in South Minneapolis. The Midtown Corridor includes Lake Street and the Midtown Greenway trench as possible routes for a potential streetcar (in the trench) and/or bus improvements on Lake Street.
Tuesday, May 21, 6-8 p.m. Colin Powell Center, 3rd Floor 2924 4th Avenue S., Minneapolis
Thursday, May 23, 6-8 p.m. Whittier Clinic 2810 Nicollet Avenue S., Minneapolis
Just for the historical record, please find attached a scan of the 1 page / 2 sided brochure that the promoters of the Northern Lights Express distributed at the May 11, 2013 National Train Day event at the Saint... David Levinson http://nexus.umn.edu
There’s a certain bar in my city that is famous for being right-wing. It’s an old family joint in a run-down corner of downtown. The people are surly but friendly, and the inside of the place is half-covered with right wing bumper stickers ridiculing Obama, bashing immigrants, and promoting guns. (Interestingly, there is also a large collection of union membership stickers.) On the other hand, they make the best coney island hot dogs in the city, and I enjoy going there once in a while for a snack and a change of perspective.I found myself there last week polishing off a coney with cheese and onions. I paid my bill, went outside, and as I was unlocking my bike, the patriarch/owner (also the cook) comes out to the sidewalk to smoke, and begins gently ribbing me about riding a bicycle. “Sure takes you long time to get on that thing,” he said as I was unlocking it, and arranging my bag. “I still have my bike from when I was 12 in my garage.”Actually, the whole exchange was friendlier than I thought it'd be, but it still got me thinking about why conservatives (in general) seem to have such a disdain for bicycles. Why is that?[Michele Bachmann promising $2 gas if she gets elected.]If you stop to think about it, real conservatives should embrace bicycles. Here are a few reasons why:Bikes are cheap – When I think about a “conservative,” I imagine someone who’s judicious, skeptical, careful with their money.Well, bicycles are a great way to save money. On average, cars cost over $8,000 per year $9,000 per year to own and operate. When you start talking about two- or three-car families, that adds up. If a bicycle lets you start cutting back a car or two, that would seem to be a sound financial decision. But, more than that, bicycle infrastructure is a great way for the government to save money. Conservatives are always talking about "wasteful government spending," but for some reason don't view freeway and road infrastructure as part of the problem. A single stoplight costs more than $3,000 per year to maintain and operate. (And huge projects like the unnecessary $600M+ bridge to rural Wisconsin being built right now in Michele Bachmann's district should make fiscal conservatives cringe.) Bike lanes and trails are extremely cheap and last a long time, one of the best values for government spending you'll find. [No caption needed.]Free from (foreign) oil – Go ahead and ask me: Hey Bill, What's the price of gas?Trick question! I have no idea. I might visit a gas pump once a year. I'd say that most conservatives don't like the thought of buying energy from overseas, particularly from places like Venezuela, Russia, or Saudi Arabia. Well, real energy independence comes from riding a bicycle. Zero % foreign oil. You can't beat that with all the drill rigs in all of Sarah Palin's dreams put together.The Ultimate in Personal Responsibility – Another conservative mantra is the notion of personal responsibility. Each of us should be "held accountable for our actions." Each of us should "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps" or whatever.Well, bicycling around the city is literally pulling yourself up with your bootstraps. (It's actually pushing yourself forward with your feet, but its pretty much the same.) Find another form of transportation (other than walking) that contains more personal responsibility. When I'm riding a bike, nobody or nothing is going to get me to the top of that hill except for my own limbs. The bicycle takes the conservative metaphor of individualism and independence and literalizes it, makes it real.You Can Fix it Yourself – Another conservative narrative is the "fix it yourself" mentality. (Here in the Twin Cities, one local radio blabber calls this "garage logic.") The idea is that real conservative people (men) have their own tools, and can fix and tinker with their own machines, and don't have to depend on anyone else. Well, its becoming more and more difficult to repair your own car. Nowadays, most of them have computerized black boxes that require proprietary tools. They have incredibly sensitive fuel injection systems or computers that nobody can fix themselves. (Thus the conservative nostalgia for American muscle cars of the 50s and 60s.)On the other hand, you can still take a bicycle apart with a few key wrenches. Most everyone who rides a bicycle has basic knowledge of how to fix a flat, and many bicyclists can disassemble their handlebars, cranks, brakes, or pedals. It's very common to build your own bicycle out of individual parts. Bikes display a DIY culture that conservatives ought to embrace.[Anti-bike lane protest signs from LA.]You're Out in the Elements – Hunting is another right-wing trope that has a bit in common with bikes. If you went up to a deer hunter and said, "Isn't it cold sitting in a tree for hours each November? Why would you do that?" they'd rightfully mock you. Hunting is part of a macho conservative culture that celebrates the idea of overcoming the elements and not whining about it.But for some reason, the same rules don't apply to everyday life, to walking or biking. The same people that will sit for eleven hours in a deer stand or ice fishing shack will whine about a lack of air conditioning in their cars. Conservatives will routinely say things to me like "Isn't it [windy/hot/cold] riding that thing?" Sure it is, but bicyclists learn to tolerate and even enjoy the changes in the weather. Most of the time, most people riding a bike wouldn't trade the sun on their skin and wind in their hair for the isolated comfort of a car. Bikes Support Local Business – Conservatives (like all political parties) love to tout their support for the small businessman, the shop on main street, the old-school store. Well, most people that ride bicycle support small businesses at high rates. (This is partly because its difficult to access large corporate retail places because of their large parking lots and auto-drenched locations. It's hard to ride a bike to a Walmart!) Riding a bicycle everywhere, you spend a lot of time on old main streets, old commercial corners. Bicycling fits neatly into the older commercial fabric of small and local businesses. You'd think more conservatives would notice.Freedom From Rules – Finally, most bicyclists I know have to adopt a libertarian attitude toward how they ride, and how they choose to regard traffic laws. Partly for safety and partly for efficiency, bicyclists have to make their own rules of the road. In some places you'll cruise through a stop sign, or disregard the red light. Sometimes you'll have to go onto the sidewalk or cut through the alley.In a way, to bicycle through the city is to live a libertarian fantasy. The official rules don't work well for bikes, so most bicyclists adopt their own rules. Isn't that what libertarians are supposed to be doing too? [Allegedly crack-smoking Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.]Yeah but...Of course, none of this really matters. Despite the professed principles of self-relaince and smart spending, most conservatives see bicycles as a vast left-wing conspiracy.Right-wing politics is deeply tied to the politics of the automobile. In fact, more than anything else, the car ties together the coalition of exurban escapaism, elderly white people, sunbelt autopians, and vast rural industrial economies that forms the fractious right-wing. In Canada, Rob Ford slaps NIMBY magnets on parked cars while unpaving bike lanes. Scott Walker and Chris Christie campaign against transit. Dennis Hastert, Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann trumpet hugely expensive freeway pork projects. Most conservatives probably believe that if God had meant for us to ride bicycles, he wouldn't have given us all Ford F-350s and endless supplies of $2 gas. Still, it'd be nice if conservatives would get out of their SUVs and try living their values for a change. I'll consider my life's work complete when my local right-wing bar has a bike rack out front.[Reagan riding a bike.]
I have a new post @ streets.mn: No Parking and De-Signing Streets : "Why is the default assumption that we give away scarce public right-of-way for the free storage of private vehicles?"... David Levinson http://nexus.umn.edu
This undated photo is looking at the top of the Mall just to the west of Hennepin Avenue. For many years, the Mall’s roadway connected with Hennepin Avenue. The apartment buildings in the background are still there today but the commercial buildings are today home to the Walker Library (well, the under construction Walker Library today).
I was traveling down St. Anthony Boulevard with my then 3 year old daughter. She was learning her alphabet and noted the P on a lot of street signs. Every time she saw it, she shared her observations. “P with a slash through it”, “P with a slash through it”, “P with a slash through it”, “P with a slash through it”, … “P with a slash through it”.
Well, this is one of the joys of parenthood, teaching reading and the alphabet through road signs. But it brings up a relevant policy question:
Why is the default assumption that we give away scarce public right-of-way for the free storage of private vehicles?
That is, the default assumption could be no on-street parking except where permitted, which would result in fewer signs on St. Anthony Boulevard, and more elsewhere.
There are three aspects of this:
Now I know we don’t want large areas of surface parking lots either, and if we have already built roads that are too wide for the purpose of moving vehicles, we might as well use them for storage, they aren’t earning interest doing anything else. But we are not done building and rebuilding roads, why are we building them with the intent of using roadspace for vehicle storage?
Perhaps it should be obvious where parking is permitted (the road is marked as one lane and more than say 15′), and where it is prohibited (freeways, right lanes narrower than 15′). Perhaps we need only sign when parking restrictions differ by time of day (no parking in peak hours). Perhaps we can paint the curb instead of putting up ugly signs. Perhaps we can change paving materials.
Certainly there are technological solutions with augmented reality which would overlay virtual signs on the environment, and if we all walk around with Google glasses, or their future equivalent, this might eventually happen. And certainly driverless cars will have a lot of this pre-programmed. But given the time it takes to fully deploy these advanced technologies, we are probably 30 years out before we can remove regulatory signs from our environment wholesale. There should be some intermediate solutions that can help us de-sign our streets.
Two times in two days last week I was asked to fly to an east coast city for a half-day meeting. The meeting organizers offered to pay my travel expenses. I asked to save the travel money and tele-conference in... David Levinson http://nexus.umn.edu
I was at a public forum in Hinckley, Minnesota last night (home of the world-famous Grand Casino), giving a talk on the Northern Lights Express (NLX). The crowd was, in the immortal words of Grampa Simpson "Agin' it". My... David Levinson http://nexus.umn.edu
Don't worry. You're not alone....OK, that's a good point. You actually are alone, technically speaking, in the sense that you're sitting in your room staring at your computer, taking a break between rounds of Geoguessr to browse the internets.But what I meant was that you're not alone because that there are others just like you, thousands of others all around the world suffering from the same problem. Geoguessr Addiction is real, commonly referred to as GA. And GA is here. Each day, more and more people become victims of GA, sitting in their homes, unable to think of anything else, locked in an endless quest to name the un-nameable, place the un-placeable. Something must be done....Where are these people? I don't know, all over the place....No, I'm not going to give you a clue as to their whereabouts....It might be a desert area, I don't know. It doesn't matter! They're everywhere, all around you. People just like you who can't stop trying to pinpoint locations based on vague visual signs. You're not alone, see?...Ok? Sorry. So, let's talk about our options. The first step is to admit you have a problem....My high score is 11529, actually, thanks for asking....Yeah, I know that sucks. But were here to talk about you, not about me. I'm not the one with GA. OK? Can you admit you have a problem?...Very good. That's the first step. Now let's talk about what we can do about it.The thing is, GA draws on some very powerful forces, deep within human nature. It channels our need to navigate, to master space. It fuels itself on that feeling we all have, especially men, of refusing to ask directions. Once they begin playing Geoguessr, people are drawn in by the desire to know, the desire for omniscience, the desire to decode the landscape. Geoguessr beckons to you by saying "All places are unique." It says, "You can decode and understand your landscape."...See? That's what I mean. Well, the first thing you have to understand is this: That is a lie. Everywhere is just like everywhere else.Don't believe me? That's where the beauty of my one-step program comes in. Using the latest in psychogeographic technology, I've developed a Geoguessr antidote that I call ApplebeeGuessr.Try it out and see what I mean.OK. Study the image carefully, and then click on which of the ten (10) Jacksonville, Florida Applebee's locations you think it is....See what I mean?... Oh, you're still trying? OK. I'll give you another shot. Here's Round 2. See? ...There, there. Don't cry. It's OK. My point is this. Everywhere is the same. There is no trace left of the real. There's no there there. We've replaced the territory with a map of the territory, and we've replaced that map with a very large Applebee's menu. No matter where you go, there you are. There are 34,205 McDonalds restaurants in the world today. Walmart's 2012 gross income was 92 Billion dollars. There's no way to win at GeoGuessr. It's time to move on. Let it go, just let it all go....It's not your fault. It's not your fault. You'll be OK...
Over at Price Roads, Lewis Lehe has a great post: Price Roads | economists get what they want: "Economists get what they want Over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen says: Voters are getting more or less what they want, which... David Levinson http://nexus.umn.edu
Check out the the 10 News from Sydney, Australia. The road authority has a series of warning signs before the entrance to the harbor tunnel and the video shows the last warning sign (at 35 seconds in) - a water... Mike
[Basically the problem is that the best source of Saint Paul streets & sidewalks news is the Highland Villager, a very fine and historical newspaper. This wouldn't be a problem, except that its not available online. You basically have to live in or frequent Saint Paul to read it. That's why I'm reading the Highland Villager so that you don't have to. Until this newspaper goes online, sidewalk information must be set free.] [Special Note: This is the 60th Anniversary Edition of the Villager. There's a special insert with enough Villager history to fill an abandoned streetcar tunnel. There's a large 60-year Villager highlight timeline, and its worth picking up.]Headline: Highland makes its case for city bonds to help finance new Village streestcapeAuthor: Jane McClureShort short version: Businesses in Highland "Village" are trying to get Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) money for a new streetscape (replacing the older inlaid sidewalk bricks, planters), but its unlikely because the project wasn't ranked very high by the committee. [I'm all for sidewalks, but IMO, there are many many more important priorities for scarce city money. Re-polishing the (auto-oriented) sidewalks along Ford isn't crucial to the future of the city. There are some places in the area, like Davern Street, that don't have sidewalks at all! -Ed.] Article includes quote from CM Tolbert about their "deplorable condition," quote from CIB about "trying to balance a lot of needs."Headline: Shepard-Davern studied again [Detecting some jadedness from the Villager here.]Author: Jane McClureShort short version: There will be a study of land use in Shepard-Davern [the very end of West 7th Street, near the airport] to look at new developments, redevelopment opportunities, etc.Headline: Carter accepts new post as state director of early learning; November election set to fill his seat in Ward 1Author: Kevin DriscollShort short version: Report on CM Carter's decision to step down from the City Council. Article gives overview of his accomplishments from 1.5 terms. The City Council will appoint an interim, but would prefer that they don't run in November. Declared candidates include Noel Nix, Adam Robinson [and I've heard Johnny Howard, Debbie Montgomery, and two Hmong-Americans that I don't know. I covered Montgomery's tenure in this office before, and did not like her very much. (See this TCSidewalks post from 2006.)] Headline: Holden throws his hat in the ring for mayor; Midway businessman is running as independentAuthor: Kevin DriscollShort short version: the guy who owns the building that houses the lingere shop on University Avenue is running against Mayor Coleman [because nobody else is doing it]. His platform includes more parking, not liking the Saints stadium (because of "traffic congestion"), not liking the achievement gap between people of color and white students, and not liking the loss of Macy's. Headline: $1.5 million study looks at ways to improve mass transit between downtown St. Paul, MSP Airport; West 7th, Shepard Road and 35E Parkway are all being eyed for upgradeAuthor: Jane McClureShort short version: Ramsey Councy is undergoing "preproject development" for transit along the "Riverview Corridor" [which is another way of saying West 7th Street]. They tried this back in the 1990s, but this time, it's different. The transit investment seems to be focused on a streetcar, but not necessarily, and seems to be focused on West 7th Street, but not necessarily. It has a large list of local politicians backing the plan. The study will "determine if the Riverview Corridor merits a higher level of transit service than it is currently getting." [That's a loaded question if I've ever seen one.] Headline: Judge dismisses suit over Pizza Luce's parking lotAuthor: Jane McClureShort short version: A lady sued over the Pizza Lucé parking lot, but the judge threw it out.Headline: Summit Hill home allowed to keep disputed drivewayAuthor: Jane McClureShort short version: A family on Fairmount Avenue can have a driveway in their front yard, but can't park on it.Headline: Planning Commission to discuss Grand Ave. zoningAuthor: Jane McClureShort short version: The Planning Commission [tomorrow] will decide what to do about the rezoning study about density and development along the West End of Grand Avenue [by St Thomas].Headline: Summit-U grocery ordered closed for fencing stolen goodsAuthor: Jane McClureShort short version: A corner store on Victoria Street was caught for "food stamp trafficking." It'll likely lose its license.Headline: Development comes at a price in Lowertown: Nighttime noiseAuthor: Jane McClureShort short version: There will be more sound in Lowertown in the future, including this summer (because of street construction, bridge construction, stadium construction). Article includes quote from organizers of the local Zen center: "we've meditated through a lot of noise." [Not sure why "nighttime" is here in the headline? Most construction work happens in the day.]Headline: Parking opens up on Grand Avenue for new French Meadow Bakery and Café; Pagagonia parking lot is restriped with 33 spacesAuthor: Jane McClureShort short version: The old Coffee News is becoming a French Meadow and will share the Patagonia parking lot.Headline: Twin Cities' 80-year affair with the streetcar ended 60 years agoAuthor: Peggie Schommer and Jane McClureShort short version: [By sheer coincidence] the Twin Cities' streetcar system closed at the exact same time that the Villager began publishing. Article includes lots of streetcar history.Headline: St. Paul may revive streetcars as connection to other transit; feasibility study looks at 18 possible routes along major arterialsAuthor: Jane McClureShort short version: Report on St. Paul's streetcar study, including some discussion of modern streetcars and their "appeal." Article includes quote from West 7th neighborhood memberl "It's a pretty big ball of wax." Headline: Ford Motor Co. was just the start; Before Highland Park became the neighborhood it is today, city fathers envisioned it as a large industrial tractAuthor: Jane McClureShort short version: Complete history of highland. Plentiful and cheap land, hydro power, all this land coulda been a huge factory.Headline: Cradle of the city; West 7th served as birthplace for many groups that defined St. PaulAuthor: Lisa HeinrichShort short version: Complete history of West 7th/7 Corners. Great 1934 photo of amazing old building. Lots of stories of famous men. Headline: Selby's steady resurgenceAuthor: Lisa HeinrichShort short version: Complete history of Selby / Cathedral Hill. Lots of details about architecture, nadir off the street in the 70s.