In Memory Of Lives Sacrificed For The “Greater Good”

The nation’s political class is currently paralyzed with rage over people dying of vaping.

Ignoring the fact that vaping has likely saved thousands of lives by helping people stop smoking, and more people never start – never mind! A death toll in single digits, almost entirely from using home-made vaping fluids or the occasional extremely rare lung condition, and Big Government, Big Left and, presumably, Big Tobacco are on the warpath against legal vaping.

Over less than ten deaths out of 320 million people in a decade.

And our political class is beating the whole world over the head with climate change – a crisis that has killed nobody, but has terrorized hundreds of thousands of school kids into turning into protest droogs on command. .

So I got to looking at the records for the Twin Cities’ three rail lines – the Blue and Green (“Vomit Comet”) light rail lines and the North Star heavy commuter line.

Now, I expected these deeply dim-witted projects to rack up a death toll.

I wasn’t ready for what I found.

Currently, the lines have claimed 26 lives in fifteen years.

Rail LineDeath TollYears in OperationBodies Per Year
Blue LIne1315.88
Green Line (aka “Vomit Comet:)851.6
North Star Line510.5

I’m adtually a bit surprised that the death toll on the North Star is as high as it is; the intersections tend to be pretty well-controlled, and the trains run on existing right of way.

On the other hand? The death toll on the Green Line astounds me – and the number for the Blue Lline kinda snuck into double digits when I wasn’t looking too.

That’s 26 people dead. 26 families forever altered. 26 Transit employees scarred.

Something has to be done.

June 23, 2020. That’s the 16th anniversary of the start of regular Blue Line service. And I’m going to observe it as Transit Memorial Day. A day of solemn rememrance of the 26 people (so far) whose lives have been sacrificed…

…for what?

To support the Met Council and the Political class’s urge to feel like a real big city? To build a monument to the government’s power?

Yeah, totally worth it.

See you June 23.

Overpowered By Awful

I just finished spending a year and a half riding the Vomit Comet (aka “the Green Line”) to work and back most days.

At its best, it was a serviceable ride.

At its most middling, it was crowded with free-loading University kids and, early on cold mornings, homeless people curled up sleeping on the chairs.

At its worst? I navigated between puddles of vomit, stepped in a pool of urine, and was to the point of intervening as a man attacked a woman.

You can almost sense the defeat in the Met Council’s latest release:

Metro Transit is ending 24/7 service on the Green Line between downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis.
The change, which is scheduled to take effect in August, comes amid concerns about drug use, assaults and other misconduct on the trains.
Under the plan, the light rail trains will not run between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. weekdays.
General Manager Wes Kooistra said the trains will be replaced with buses that will stop near each Green Line station.
Kooistra said the two-hour shutdown will also give crews more time to clean train cars and repair tracks

Emphasis on “clean the cars”.

An Idea Whose Time Should Not Come

When you’re a Republican, especially in a bluish-purple place like Minnesota, you hope you can vote for Republicans who’ll hold the line on taxes – even to the minimal level of not proposing new ones.

Sadly, we’re disappointed – as I discussed with Liz Mair on the show over the weekend. Senator Howe is proposing a tax on electric vehicles.

Here’s the interview:

I get the logic, sort of – it’s to replace some of the gas tax revenue lost by the increasing efficiency of cars the greater number of people driving electrics, and the people dropping out of the commuting force as telecommuting picks up speed.

But a Republican should be proposing fewer, not more, taxes.

And if we could see to some of that unsustainable spending, that’d be a cherry on the sundae.

Train In…Yep, Vain

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The advocates of high-speed rail to Chicago have changed their minds; they now want another low-speed train for a total of two per day.
Conspicuously left unasked: where are the photos of the throngs of people left standing on the train platforms because there’s no room on the existing train?   Is there actually a demand for a second train?  Is St. Paul-to-Chicago passenger demand unmet by the MegaBus, or airline?  If so, shouldn’t we know how many people we’re talking about, to gauge whether it’s worth spending a pile of money providing the service?
It seems odd to me that Amtrak would be intentionally leaving customers stranded rather than add another passenger car to the train.  That suggests there are no customers, only lobbyists.
Like the ones who convinced St. Paul and Ramsey County to spend a fortune remodeling the downtown train station, for its once-a-day train visit.  Beautiful, but desolate, a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Joe Doakes

Minnesota Progressives – not solving non-problems for 100 years.

Ideas

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

I can’t believe how self-centered and thoughtless Christmas shoppers are.

I’m trying to back out of my parking space and pedestrians walk right behind me! Don’t they see me backing up?

They’re as bad as the drivers who back out of their parking spot when I’m trying to walk to the store. Don’t they see me walking here?

Joe Doakes

If only there were…pedestrian lanes!

The Carnage Continues Apace

The Green Line (aka “The Vomit Comet” – ride it late on a weekend night or early on a weekend morning to find out what that means.  Or…don’t) has claimed its second life this year:

The crash occurred at Syndicate Street and University Avenue about 4:30 p.m., according to Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla. Two men were crossing the tracks at the intersection, when a westbound train struck one of them.

The man who was struck by the train was taken to Regions Hospital, where he died about 5 p.m., Padilla said.

The crash disrupted Green Line service between Hamline and Western avenues until shortly after 5:30 p.m., according to posts on Metro Transit’s Twitter account.

That’s on top of another, two blocks away, last January, and at least 2-3 more previously.

That’s a project I may need to take on – going over the human factors problems that make the Green Line such a death machine.

On top of the six (last I checked) on the Blue Line, and makes the Metro Transit trains’ body count roughly 11 times that of Minnesota carry permit holders.

 

Dispatches From Never-Never Land

A friend of the blog writes:

Oh, boy. I think we know why this person isn’t a business owner.

I just think about my own job on this. Imagine your nurse showing up late or leaving early because she biked. Imagine morale amongst the co-workers who don’t have that luxury to bike, but have kids to pick up from school or other obligations, yet they need to cover the bicyclist’s 40 minutes of non-work. But, hey, I hope she does actually try to start a business. She might learn a lot.

She’ll have a flat tire and miss the grand opening.

The Power Of “No“

The most powerful word in the free market is “no”.

With the simple word “no”, each individual consumer votes every day on the products and services they do or, vastly more often, don’t want to spend their scarce, precious resources on.

Were it not for the word “no”, cell phones would still weigh 2 pounds and cost $10 a minute; cars would still have two wheel drum brakes; VHS tapes would still rule the home-video market.

The lack of the term “no” – or, at least, it’s complete on importance to central planners, who are all about their various pet “yeses”,- is one of the great flies, if not the fatal weakness, and socialism.

Without the word “no”, there would be no free market. Also, no improvement in goods, services or, really, the entire human condition.

With that in mind – people are saying “no” in record numbers to government subsidized mass transit.

The Federal Transit Administration released June 2018 data revealing that the transit industry has now experienced four straight years of ridership losses. June 30 was the end of the fiscal year for most transit agencies, and ridership has fallen in every fiscal year since 2014.

Nationwide, the total decline since 2014 was 7 percent, but declines in many urban areas were much larger:

• 29 percent in Memphis;

• 27 percent in Charlotte;

• 26 percent in Miami;

• 25 percent in Albuquerque;

• 24 percent in Cleveland;

• 22 percent in St. Louis;

• 21 percent in Milwaukee, Sacramento, and Virginia Beach; and

• 20 percent in Los Angeles.

The article Dash by the excellent Randall O’Toole – notes that the feds are blaming a lot of factors for this tree fall Dash ride healing services for the middle class, and the simple fact that most poor people own cars, and most people can reach more better paying jobs in 10 minutes by car than an hour by transit.

But they all boiled down to one thing – people everywhere, nationwide, of all economic groups (except for a tiny fringe of “car free” middle class trend follower is) are saying “no” to being jammed into trains to go with the government has deemed they need to be.

Spirit Of America

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

https://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/car-technology/a21272157/aerodynamics-car-science/

 

The reason all cars look the same is aerodynamics, which matter to fuel efficiency, which is mandated by the government.

I’d gladly give up a few miles per gallon if I could have my ’67 Mustang back, only with less rust and a modern reliable engine.

Give me a Mustang body sitting on a Hyundai Sonata powertrain and we’re golden.

Let’s see:

Yeah, that’d work.

The Rightful Owners

Former Iron Range legislator Carly Melin (who has since gone on to the great non-profit sinecure reward that awaits all DFL legislators) on the protests at the Blue Line on Fort Snelling yesterday:

Er, Ms. Melin? Why shouldn’t we be mad? We paid for it.

God knows you didn’t.

This Is What $1.4 Billion Of Government Work Gets You

It used to be that when you waited for the Green Line train, a little billboard on the platform told you how many minutes away the next train was.

Today?

The time is nice, if you have a schedule and the trains are on time (which you don’t and they’re not).

The track number?  There’s one track going in that direction.

But along with the news that mere citizens will be barred from the trains on Super Bowl week, I suspect it’s just another way of telling the peasants “be happy we grant you this much largesse, peasant! Be grateful!”

Line In The Sand

Some things I will never, ever do:

  1. Vote for a Metro Democrat
  2. Buy a Windows phone
  3. Own a “driverless car“.

The first is common sense; I’d no more vote for one of them than Hector Maduro.  The second seems just good sense.

The last?  It’s unamerican:

These days, Real Americans don’t much go to sea [a Moby Dick reference – Ed.] to relieve the damp, drizzly Novembers in our souls, but we do like to fire up the muscle Mustang or the F-150 truck with the gun rack and head out on the open road, following our noses and letting the trade winds blow us where they may.Or at least we used to like it. But with the advent of the abomination known as the “self-driving car,” one of our most precious freedoms is now in jeopardy.

I mean, who asked for this? Communists? Women? (I know, same thing, voting-wise.) Sob sisters, pantywaists, geeks, pencil necks, and nancy boys? I suspect them all. It’s bad enough to climb into the cockpit of a new car these days and be confronted with a home entertainment center on wheels, complete with giant video screens that don’t do a damn thing electronically a 1934 Packard couldn’t do manually back in the day when men were men, women loved them for it, and we had the culture to prove it.

Now what? A “self-driving” car is an oxymoron, in the same way that “paying for a tax cut” is. Someone or something is going to be driving that car, and the whole point here is that it ain’t going to be you, brother.

Never going to do it.   Ever.

The Twin Cities: A Huge Government Toy Box

News broke earlier this week that mere Minnesotans without Super Bowl tickets will be barred from the Met Council’s train lines on Super Bowl Sunday:

Metro Transit is the best way to reach downtown Minneapolis with expanded schedules on key routes for local commuters and additional schedules for Super Bowl related events. That includes unlimited fan passes ($40 for unlimited rides on all buses, light rail and North Star from January 26-Feb 4), Gameday Passes ($30 – only those holding a Gameday Pass and an official Super Bowl ticket will be able to ride the light rail on game day) and All-Day Passes ($1-5, varies by time of day and day of the week.)

Right after this, the unions representing Metro Transit staffers voted to strike…curing Super Bowl week.

So – after building a train line ostensibly to get working people to and from work (and not to serve as a monument to the perspicacity of the sitting Met Council, nosirreebob), they’re basically turning the whole shebang over to the high rollers who can get tickets (but presumably can’t afford the much preferable car rentals, cabs, Ubers, or everything else that’s preferable to riding the train if you have any options, which is pretty much everything above “camel caravan”) – just in time for another part of the racket to seize control of the toy for its’ own shakedown.

Clearly they all learned well from Zygi Wilf.

 

Creative Clash

Distort the economy of a sector, an industry or a city to benefit an industry, a policy or a class of people, and you’re going to cause unintended consequences – almost all of them bad, at least for someone.

Fifteen years ago, the NPR-listening, Whole Foods-Shopping, Volvo-driving set nodded and snapped their fingers to the beat of Richard Florida, who wrapped up a bunch of toxic economic interventions in a bunch  of artisanal wrapping paper and slapped a name on it – appealing to the “Creative Class” – that was marketing genius, making the children of America’s upper-middle-class feel like their apps, their hedge funds and their vegan restaurants were part of something Big and Important.

Cities – or rather, city planning wonks (who love to see themselves in that Creative Class – fell all over themselves to engineer cities to draw this class, on the promise that they’d spur economic growth.

The results?   Well, I predicted this – and now, Richard Florida himself is acknowledging it:

The rise of the creative class in such cities as New York, Washington, and San Francisco did produce economic growth—but mostly just for those who were already wealthy. The poor, and especially the working class poor, were right out of luck. They were priced out of the city and driven out to the suburbs, where they created the kind of urban problems known only to the cities. The modern city is the greatest economic engine the world has ever known, but these days it seems to run only for the aid of those who need its benefits least. When the rich, the young, and the bohemian revitalized Austin, Boston, and Seattle, they induced a cycle of soaring prices and class replacement. The creative class brought an income inequality that hadn’t been predicted. Florida could call them a new class all he wanted. They proved to be merely the children of the old white-collar meritocracy, grown doubly rich from the rising tide of urban renewal.

So, in The New Urban Crisis, Richard Florida takes a long second look at the nation’s cities. He doesn’t admit that he had been wrong in 2002 with The Rise of the Creative Class, mostly because he doesn’t think he was wrong. The city progressed just the way he described. But what he has called the “externalities” have mounted to such an extent that they now outweigh the gains he saw 15 years ago. The creative class triumphed, and his prize cities have turned into wealth preserves—the old gated communities of the suburbs, transplanted to the urban core.

The whole thing is worth a read.

Never Waste A Crisis

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

If the dams break, if Houston is washed away, if the earth is scraped clean . . . what a wonderful opportunity for urban planners to rebuild ‘the right way.’

 

Tear up all freeways and residential streets.  Replace them with bike trails and light rail.  Mail and deliveries to be made by electric drone.

 

Ban fossil fuel vehicles.  Permit electric trucks in alleys to restock stores but nowhere else.

 

Ban single-family houses, strip malls, chain bookstores and big-box retailers.

 

Build apartments with a pocket park every six blocks for picnics.  Require space for a coffee shop, nail salon, cell phone store and sub shop in every development.

 

Chase away all industry.  Dig up all underground tanks from former gas stations.  Rename public places in Esperanto to avoid cultural insensitivity.

 

This is an exciting opportunity.  The city council should adopt the new plan fast, before any scruffy citizens can show up at the meetings to complain.

Wanna bet Betsy Hodges wishes we got hurricanes?

How To Protest The Met Council

One of the reasons that Black Lives Matter gives to justify their tactic of blocking freeways is that the inconvenience suffered by the “white” (?) motorists shoiuld put them in mind of the inconveniences suffered by black people.

Fair enough!

The Met Council is making it incredibly difficult to be a commuter in the Twin Cities – to get from where one lives to where one works, and back.  Commuting is the norm, not the exception.  The Met Council’s mania for building trains (from where people largely aren’t, to where they largely don’t want to be) at the expense of roads has made that task even more onerous.

So let’s borrow – dare I say, “appropriate” – an idea from BLM?

Let’s gather outside the Met Council’s next meeting.

And block the hallway to the bathroom.  While waving signs telling them to imagine they were trying to get to the next exit to get to a bathroom?

Can you smell the victory?

The Green Line Of Death: All Is Proceeding Exactly As Predicted

Two years after it first “rolled” out, the results of the “Green Line” train between the downtowns are, put diplomatically, “mixed”:

As Metro Transit’s $957 million Green Line project marked its second anniversary on June 14, even die-hard transit advocates acknowledge jobs, housing and commercial development have been a mixed bag.

“I think we’re on a great track with housing, and we always knew that housing was an area that would grow first,” said Mary Kay Bailey, director of the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.

Well, of course they knew that housing was an area that’d grow first; it’s being subsidized by various levels of government.

If you pay people to do something, someone’ll probably do it.

“But I think it’s time to keep our eyes on job growth. … We want to see it improve with more job-focused development. That’s an important piece for us as a city.”

While Minneapolis and St. Paul have increased their job base by 7 percent since 2011, the collaborative found that job growth averaged less than half that along the Green Line corridor, with wide variation from neighborhood to neighborhood. Some segments of the Green Line have yet to regain jobs lost since light rail construction began nearly six years ago.

The article mentions not a word about the crime rate in the neighborhood.  I’m not going to blame reporter Frederick Melo for that just yet – he does a generally conscientious job of covering Saint Paul.

But while the city’s various spokespeople will downplay it for all they’re worth, the general sense in the neighborhood is that crime is up, especially south of Thomas Avenue, four short blocks north of University.  And one undeniable fact – which, to be honest, may be a fluke; only time will tell – is that many of the city’s murders this year have happened up and down University Avenue.   Of course, it’s early to tie that statistically to the train  (notwithstanding one victim who literally died alongside the tracks last March) – but when you see smoke, it’s not unreasonable to think there’s a fire down there somewhere.

Home To Roost

Ten years ago, the transit-happy left pointed to the DC Metro as an example of how urban mass transit could be done.

In particular, they said?  It was less of a money pit than anticipated.

Unmentioned (except from the right):  they shaved money by deferring maintenance.  Equipment and facilities that were supposed to have a thirty-year service life has been soldiering on, deferring maintance, for forty years.

And it’s starting to cause problems; a series of public meltdowns including a train that spent an hour stuck under the Potomac river yesterday:

A female passenger on the disabled train told us she will no longer use Metro after this incident.

“Say no to Metro,” she said. “I haven’t done it in a while and to be on a brand new car – no … I got better ways to go. I’ve got two feet. I trust those better than I do Metro.”

Mass transit.  It’s great, provided you actually believe those who claim to know better than you actually know better than you do.

State Of The Union Depot

Two years ago, Saint Paul re-opened the Union Depot after a $240 million taxpayer-financed facelift.

Now comes news that Christos – a long-time anchor restaurant in the Depot’s lobby, since back the day when the Depot itself was the anchor, ifYouGetMyDrift,  is likely bailing.

OK, restaurants come and go – although it’s weird to think a place like Christos, that survived a couple of decades in the neighborhood before taxpayer-finance subsistence in the form of CHS Stadium and government-subsidized artist lofts finally came to Lowertown, is just now pulling up stakes and heading back to Minneapolis (although that is perhaps part of a larger series to be done, about why restaurants just can’t make it in Saint Paul, and so retreat to Minneapolis or the ‘burbs to make ends meet).

But behind that story?  The big news:  even with all the taxpayer-subsidized largesse descending on Lowertown, the Union Depot is losing $6 million dollars a year:

“It doesn’t go a week that somebody doesn’t stop me in the street and say, ‘You threw away my money,’ ” said Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega, who fought from the beginning for the Depot project. “How do you put a price on quality of life, mobility of community, which has a huge impact on economic situation?”

I do.  It’s in the property taxes I pay to finance Rafael Ortega’s version of “quality of life”.  It’s a very definite amount, and it takes away from my quality of life.

I digress:

If you can’t put a price, you can put a cost. Ramsey County says the Depot is bringing in $1.7 million in revenue, but costing $7.7 million to operate. That’s up from 2014, when revenues were $1.5 million and operating expenses $6 million — a $4.5 million gap.

Ortega, who is chair of the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority, and other county officials say the site was never meant to be a direct revenue generator. They note repeatedly that ridership, foot traffic and the Depot’s long-term social and economic benefits may not be realized until years — perhaps decades. And since its December 2012 opening, they have focused on attracting major carriers, and gotten them: Amtrak, Greyhound and Megabus.

They got them by squeezing out of perfectly adequate quarters elsewhere; Amtrak’s presumably long-paid-for station on Cleveland is now sitting fallow; the former Greyhound “station” on University, likewise.  Megabus?  In Minneapolis, Megabus picks up at a city bus stop by Target Center.  No need to spend hundreds of millions.

And don’t give me that “the long-term benefits won’t be realized for decades” claptrap, Mr. Ortega; that sounds a lot like “there’s trouble in River City and that starts with T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Pool”.

Look, I get it.  It’s a beautiful depot.  But we warned you this would happen.

The Gore Line And The Rail Of Death Line

Yet another pedestrian has been killed along the Rail Of Death Line from downtown Minneapolis to the Airport.  I’ll urge prayers for his family and the people in his life.

screenshot-www.iridetheharlemline.com 2016-01-03 22-00-12

Map borrowed from “iridetheharlemline.com”. I do not ride the Harlem line, but it’s one of the better maps of the TC rail system I’ve seen…

This follows on two more train-pedestrian accidents on the Rail of Death Line, as well as the Gore Line through Saint Paul, last month.

If It Saves Even One Life…:That brings death totals to:

  • Twelve dead on the Blue Line of Death in a little over ten years.
  • Three dead on the Gore Line in about 18 months.
  • And – I didn’t know this at all – four deaths on the Northstar.

That’s more deaths than in every spree killing in Minnesota history – and we’re paying for it.

Minnesota doesn’t need any spree killers, Kim Norton.  We have our transit system.