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.