And it’s government’s fault. As usual.
A regular reader writes:
If only all of the transit oriented development projects that have destroyed neighborhoods had been just an April Fool’s day joke…
Alas, the other 364 days a year, the government of Saint Paul and the Met Council are as funny as chemotherapy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
Another victim of The Death Train.
If we save even one life…
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:
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.
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?
The used car market has been utterly brutal since then.
…and ever, ever, ever have to fly, then you just knew that this was inevitable.
Bonus question: If this plane had to set down in the Hudson River, how do you think the evacuation would go?
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.
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.
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.
I predicted in June, 2014 that the “Green Line” – the light-rail between downtown Minneapolis and downtown Saint Paul – would kill three people and account for a dozen vehicle accidents in its first year. It turned out to be two dead, I’m not sure how many vehicle accidents – and even more injured pedestrians than I’d figured.
Partly because the pedestrian “interface” for the Green Line stations and right of way is a complete joke.
And now, a reporter is talking about it – and I suspect the PiPress’ Maja Beckstrom is thankful she can talk about it. She relates the story of a recent close call, at University and Raymond:
Until now, I’d assumed that the people who have been hit by light rail in the Twin Cities were wearing ear buds and spacing out. I figured they were the kind of people who strolled straight down the rails and on the shoulders of busy streets, who crossed against red lights and took chances. Now I wonder if they were just like me, a bit confused and in a very wrong place at the wrong time.
I’m a regular bus commuter and no stranger to public transit, but I’d ridden light rail only once before. I decided at the last minute to catch it to work in downtown St. Paul. I was by Raymond Avenue dropping off a kid at summer camp, so I parked my car on a side street and walked down to University Avenue, where I could see the Raymond Avenue Station to my left halfway down the block. The pedestrian light turned green, and I walked across University’s westbound traffic lane. I figured there would be a sidewalk running up the middle of the street from the intersection to the station. Makes sense, right?
And I’m not the only one:
[The Transit cops who yelled at her after her close call] told me about the two people who have been hit and killed on the Green Line. They told me about a woman who was standing between train lines who was knocked by one train toward another oncoming train and who survived only because the fast-thinking driver of the oncoming train sped up so she fell into the side of the train rather than into its path. I later looked up the statistics. Eight pedestrians have been struck since testing began in January 2014 on the Green Line between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.
“In your defense, that intersection isn’t well designed,” one cop finally conceded, as he mellowed in the face of my contrite confession. “People get confused.”
In my day job, I try to design things to make sense for real people. And the design of the Central Corridor’s stations astounds me.
Yet again – big government at work.
SCENE: Mitch BERG is mowing his lawn. Avery LIBRELLE, fresh from a trip on the Green Line ,ambles up the sidewalk.
LIBRELLE: Hey, Merg! Societies that impose punitive taxes on cars, like Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, all have higher qualities of life than the US does!
BERG: OK. So?
LIBRELLE: So we could do with fewer cars!
BERG: Correlation does not equal causation.
LIBRELLE: What are you talking about?
BERG: All three of those countries have higher suicide rates than the United States. Clearly high taxes and lack of cars make people want to kill themselves.
LIBRELLE: Why do you hate science?
It was 112 years ago this December that mankind conquered heavier than air flight.
Air transportation, as a viable industry, followed within about 30 years.
And today, just shy of the hundredth anniversary of commercial air transportation, we may be on the brink of making air travel extinct.
If this idea goes into effect, I mean.
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
NOW they get interested in transit from downtown St. Paul to the airport, AFTER we destroyed University Avenue for a train that goes nowhere and nobody rides.
So there’s only one bus line to the airport. Do they need more? How many people ride the bus to the airport versus a cab or courtesy shuttle van from their hotel?
The problem, of course, is that the transit plan isn’t a transit plan. It’s a development plan.
The Strib reports on the weekends “tar sands resistance” protests.
Thousands of progressives swarmed the streets, and DFL scientific and economic illiteracy was on full display…
… But I repeat myself:
Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, said many frame pipelines as a safer alternative to oil-carrying trains but that it shouldn’t be a choice between the two.
“Pipelines leak and explode and so do trains. The choice is: Are we going to continue our dependence on oil or get serious about conserving?” said Hornstein, who called the debate a symptom of “America’s gluttonous appetite for oil. The science is in, the data is screaming at us. And what goes on inside here,” he said pointing to the Capitol, “is unfortunately not helping.”
Let’s ignore the whole “data is screaming at us” bit – I’m sure something is screaming at them, but it sure isn’t data.
I have a question for representative Hornstein, on the chance that he actually answers questions from plebeians: the road to a petroleum free future is paved with prosperity. Without prosperity, there can be no innovation.
So, representative Hornstein – can you name any societies that have ever conserved their way to productive prosperity?
And Jack Tomczak caught this one on Facebook:
Demonstrators at Saturday’s march varied in age and demographics and included protesters from out of state. Megabuses brought in several hundred from Wisconsin to participate, while the Madison chapter of 350.org drove five hours to stand in solidarity with locals.
Help me out here – are Megabusas powered by sails? Or are they hydroelectric?
TREBEK: And you have the board.
CONTESTANT 1: I’ll take “Things Mitch Berg will never set foot in for 500”
TREBEK: These vehicles…
(CONTESTANT 3 rings bell)
CONTESTANT 3: What is “any self-driving car, ever?”
TREBEK: Correct, and you control the board…
…I was going to buy a GM car any time soon (over overall vehicle quality, not to mention the bailout)…
…but this adds wood screws to all the nails in the coffin.
I’ve been saying it for 25 years; The free market will develop a hydrogen powered car, at a network of fuel stations to support them, decades and generations before government can build rail networks capable of adequately serving the needs of people in large, dynamic cities. Assuming they could afford to do it, which they can’t.
The self driving car isn’t exactly the advance I was hoping for the market to provide – working in IT as I do, I know I’m a better driver than most programmers are coders – but my basic point still stands; people will vote with their feet, and their earnings, for the solution that allows them choice, hands down, over the one that takes it away from them.
Ergo – look for government to begin the major campaign against self driving cars, sooner than later.
Back in 2008, I went without a car for ten months, opting to save gas money and walk, bike, or (as a last resort) use transit to get around.
After ten months, I was in the best shape I’d been since college (thanks, biking!) – and agog at the amount of time I’d wasted waiting for late/absent buses, and sitting on buses clanking their stately, sluggish way down backstreets.
Transit – unless one is lucky enough to live, work, socialize, go to a doctor and churches that are all within a quarter-mile of train stops – is slooooooooow, Wanting to get places fast on transit is like trying to shoot the weather along.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; the bus is slow, unreliable and annoying for everyone.
But don’t tell the Strib. They’re on a roll.
What’s In A Headline? The headline in of this Strib story, unlike the hed of this posting, is not intended to be satire:
I saw the headline, and thought “What? Does Metro Transit sandbag black and Latino commuters? Do lines from North Minneapolis and the West Side and Frogtown run slower than white people buses? Doesn’t #BlackTimeMatter?
So I read further (and added emphasis):
Twin Cities transit users of color spend almost 160 additional hours a year commuting when compared to whites who drive to work solo. That’s according to a report out Tuesday from four advocacy groups opposing cuts to public transportation funding.
The report “It’s About Time: The Transit Time Penalty and Its Racial Implications” cited infrequent service, indirect routes, delays, overcrowded vehicles, and insufficient shelter at bus stops as factors that contribute to a transit time penalty that adds time and stress to each commute. For Blacks and Asians who used public transit, that totaled an extra 3.5 weeks a year and for Latinos it was 4 hours a year of additional time required to travel between two points by public transportation, compared with going by car.
That’s the lede.
You have to get to the final graf of the story to also see that “5 percent of whites and Minnesotans of Asian descent commute by public transit, 8 percent of Latinos, 10 percent of Blacks, and 29 percent of American Indians” use transit as their primary means of getting to work.
So why doesn’t the Strib report lead with “A Transit-Centered Life Wastes A Lot Of Time?” or “Cars Are More Time-Efficient?” Do they think a white person who commutes doesn’t waste the same exact amount of time? Because I’m here to testify.
It’s too much to expect the Strib to note that the report was gurgitated by Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, TakeAction Minnesota, ISAIAH and the Center for Popular Democracy – four groups that have been working for decades to make sure that poor people are warehoused in the inner city and forced to be even more dependent on the arrogant vagaries of transit than the rest of us – and the report seeks funding to provide cars to black families.
Just kidding. They want more funding to spread more slow, unreliable transit to everyone else.
The automobile is one of the great inventions of all time.
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
Reading this article, even I want to visit thriving, exciting, beautiful Saint Paul . . . on the train, no less. And I live here!
Now that’s some darn fine travel writing.
Advertising is the fine art of making a weasel believe it’s a mink.
In three years, the price estimate for the Southwest LRT, from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, has jumped from 1.5-ish billion to, as of yesterday, two billion dollars. And in a move that smacks of “giving the DFL political cover” (or, if you feel really cynical, responding to the NIMBY responses of his Kenwood neighbors), Governor Dayton has started what looks like walking the project back:
Dayton said in a statement released Monday that the rising costs to design and build the Southwest light rail “raises serious questions about the viability and affordability,” of the project.
Dayton called on the Metropolitan Council, which he appointed, to review other options for providing public transit to the region.
In the news conference Monday, Dayton said the project will not get additional money until costs are under control.
Prediction: Governor Dayton and the DFL are going to use any potential cancellation as proof of their “fiscal responsibility”, as well as to inoculate the Met Council from further criticism.