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.

The Racket Swings Into Action

Good old Saint Paul.

The business economy just continues to spiral down the vortex; it’s schools are a disaster for African-Americans and other minority students; it’s choking on traffic, and obsessed with choking it further.

But apparently none of that is so serious that the city, in its infinite wisdom, isn’t going to try to socialize… Garbage collection.

And the city, having learned so much for watching the Met Council jam down the Green Line, is going about getting its way the way it always does; anyway it has to to get what it wants.

A reader from Merriam park emails:

Gotta love this report– they received survey responses from 2,000 residents and conclude that based on those responses, “a majority of St Paul want organized trash collection.” They’ve also concluded that immigrants and minorities have too much trouble making decisions to make a good decision in choosing a trash hauler, so this is better for them. Of course, it doesn’t appear that they asked too many in the poorer neighborhoods of St Paul, since their map (see .pdf through link below) indicates that more than 800 responses came from Mac Groveland/ Summit Hill zip code.

The reports are at the link above.

But here’s the map of the survey responses:

screenshot-macgrove.org 2015-10-15 09-27-48

So the “survey” drew 2,000 responses – and if we take each of the different “color” bands at their half-way point, it’s fair to estimate that 70-80% of them came from the city’s four most alpaca-wearing, Subaru-driving, NPR-listening, Jon Stewart-worshipping, Saint Olaf-alumni-ing, upper-middle-class, white, government-union-or-academia-employed, “Progressive” zip codes.

Seems pretty even-handed to me.

Clunked

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

There will be no Social Security increase in 2016 because there is no inflation, according to the government.  But I notice that prices in the POS market are not slumping:

2004 Saturn L300. 133,000 miles. $2,750 or best offer.

2004 Ford Ranger. 65,500 miles.$9,500 OBO.

2000 Lexus ES300. 141K miles. $3900 or offer.

1997 GMC Safari. $2500 firm.

Lingering effect of the disastrous Cash for Clunkers program?

Joe doakes

The used car market has been utterly brutal since then.

Calculation

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

My brother claims the reason I hate light rail has nothing to do with public transportation, and everything to do with Junior High math. See the problem is, I want to meet my buddy for beer after work, but if my train leaves Saint Paul at 5:00 and his leaves Minneapolis at 5:15, both traveling 35 miles an hour and randomly hitting the lights, which bar will we meet and what time? Last one to arrive buys and it’s always me. I think my brother is on to something.

Some days, you’ll meet on the part of the Green Line where the only bar will be the White Castle.

Autonomy And Its Victims

Back in the storied history of this blog, there was a liberal blogger who fancied himself a transit advocate – indeed, was alleged to have taken money from light rail interests to attack, using his various sock-puppet blogs, not only opponents of light rail, but proponents of any competing type of transit.

Among some of his many howlers over the years, the leftyblogger claimed – repeatedly – that I was a supporter of “Personal Rail Transit”, notwithstanding the fact that I repeatedly wrote I did not.   “His” “reasoning” was apparently that Michele Bachmann once parenthetically noted some interest in PRT, and Bachmann is a conservative, and I’m a conservative, so I must also support it.  To be fair, it wasn’t the least logical the little fella ever got.

But I always opposed PRT.

Part of it is, and has always been, that I think PRT’s supporters underestimate or underreport the technical challenges of having “just in time” personal rail service on a city-wide network of tracks.   Also the costs.

Part of it is that I don’t care; I’d rather have a steering wheel in my hand.

But the biggest reason I’ve never supported PRT was that I believed that the private market will provide a way to power cars from hydrogen and guide them with software decades before the government can put tracks of any kind, ultralight and personal or heavy and East-Germanlike, from anywhere people are to anywhere they actually want to go.

And, as usual, I’m right.

Not that I’ll ever buy one.  Trusting my safety and schedule to a bunch of programmers is only marginally better than trusting them to government transit employees.

You Had One Freaking Job

From the beginning of the planning for the useless monument to the “wisdom” of our sitting government that the Met Council is pleased to call the Green Line, I accepted a few things as givens.

I accepted that the traffic, never pleasant on University Avenue, was going to turn into a Sisyphean ordeal.

I accepted that businesses more than a block or two from the stops, and businesses that depended on people making impulsive left turns for roughly half of their business, were going to have trouble.  Didn’t like it, but what are you gonna do?

I accepted that the parts of University Avenue that weren’t gentrified into ridiculousness would become even more blighted than they were.

I even accepted that the entire thing was a mammoth exercise in picking winners and losers – the stores, constituents and ethnic groups that were more favored by the city came out better than those that were not.  It was a great thing for DFL-voting fans of “high density” living along the corridor – white, middle class, middle-aged, professional.  It was an OK thing for people who owned, or could obtain, or could afford to continue, businesses within easy and convenient walking distance of the stops.

All I asked – well, not all I asked, but the big favor to which I supplicated the demons of urban “progress” – was, whatever else you eff up, at least leave the Russian Tea House alone.

The Russian Tea House, a little hole in the wall at University at Fairview that sells the best piroshki, vareniki, borscht and other Russian goodies anywhere in town, is taking it in the shorts, naturally; the train from hell, which has blocked off all left turns that used to lead to the little restaurant, has slashed traffic to the store so badly, they’re down to one day a week:

“The first day they started ripping things out, a quarter of my customers went away. For the three years, I shut down for the whole summer,” he said. “All during construction, business was really bad. Now that the Green Line is open, there are no left hand turns, no parking in the street. The regular busses still stop, and if you’re behind the busses, you stop every block. We’re next to Wendy’s and their business is down 25 percent.”
“We’re opened only on Fridays now because during the week, no one comes. We’re two and a half blocks from a station. No one comes off the light rail to come here. No one will want to walk from there in the winter.”

The stupid is rolling over StPaul in waves.