Monday, November 28, 2005

So what do you want for Christmas?

The Holiday season is finally upon us. The adventure in consumerism began, as usual, the day after Thanksgiving. I myself did not partake in the frenzy of holiday shopping, however, I did enjoy the extended weekend. Having a 4-day break from the University of Minnesota was much needed.
Thanksgiving was great. This was the first Thanksgiving that the Kristen and I got to enjoy together and Kristen’s first holiday with the Wambach clan. I hope she had a great time and that us Wambach’s weren’t too intimidating. For dinner we had a 22-pound Turkey, a 19-pound Ham( I think), Stuffing, and several kinds of mashed potatoes. For desert we enjoyed both Pumpkin and Pecan Pie.
Friday Frank and I ran a few errands, and the three of us made Pancakes and Bacon for brunch. Kristen and I took care of the bacon while frank made his signature buttermilk pancake recipe. While we ate, we all caught up on episodes of our favorite show LOST on ABC. Kristen does not own a TV at her apartment and hasn’t been able to watch any of the episodes on live TV. She is only able to watch the episodes when she comes over to our place. Speaking of TV, this fall has been pretty decent. With the Amazing Race Family Edition on Tuesday nights, and Lost on Wednesday nights things are pretty good. However, my favorite show Battlestar Galactica on SCI-FI doesn’t begin airing again until January. Fortunately, Season 2 will be released just before Christmas.
Suffice to say the rest of the weekend was very relaxing and enjoyable. I was able to get some work done, though not as much as I could have. This weekend I also made my Christmas list. I had been putting it off as of late, because I wasn’t really sure on what I want. It’s funny how your list of things for Christmas changes as you age. When I was younger all I wanted were toys or video games. Now that I am older I find myself asking for things I really need. For example, more dress socks. Clothes and Kitchen stuff. These are things that I thought I would never ask for when I was younger. I also notice that the price of gifts goes up as you get older
I think I made a pretty solid list of things that I need and a few of the extravagant things that I would like to have. I hope that the final stretch of the semester goes well. Things are getting pretty stressful in the terms of deadlines on projects and exams. I am a little worried about Statistics but should be able to pass. I am excited to show Transit for Livable Communities the Power Point presentation I have been working on regarding the Central Corridor for class. I am also pleased with the work I did for my individual paper in Geography 3605 on the Midtown Greenway and I hope I get a good grade on it. Because in that class, I need it.
To close, I ask my readers, if there are any out there anymore…What do you want for Christmas? That new Ipod Nano? The latest Family Guy DVD? An Armadillo? Anything and everything let me know. It would be nice to here what is going on in the world of Bloggerdome

Until next time,

P.S Happy Shopping out there.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Screw it, build more highways, I give up

This afternoon, I was excited; I was all set to go to my first Central Corridor Coordinating Meeting at the Brownstone building from 3:30PM to 5:30 PM. Last night I had worked feverishly to finish my GIS lab so that I could make it to the meeting instead of going to my lab section. I even endured the bus ride from campus to find the damn brownstone building. Guess what happened when I got there, you guessed it, they canceled the meeting!!! Now I should have seen this coming, all through the summer and fall the Central Corridor Coordinating Committee (CCCC) had been canceling meetings one right after the other. I had already sent an angry email to Steve Morris on a previous occasion and it had absolutely no affect so I am not going to do that now.

Instead I suggest just building highways. That’s my recommendation to TLC. Stop advocating for LRT in the Central Corridor. Build a huge bypass over University Avenue, an elevated highway similar to the double decker highways found in California or the Nimitz Highway on the island of Oahu. The Central Corridor Coordinating Committee canceled the meeting without even telling anybody, they didn’t even make a note of it on their website. I think it’s pretty embarrassing when an organization can not capitalize on momentum and even keep the diehards (such as myself) interested in a project.

The momentum I am referring to is the ever increasing success of Minnesota’s first LRT system the Hiawatha line. If the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority (RCRRA) and the Central Corridor Coordinating Committee (CCCC) can’t keep people interested in the project and having the public not wanting to attend their meetings because they know they are going to be canceled, how do they expect anyone to take them seriously? If these organizations continue to keep the public uniformed about their meetings and when they will be held, if they will be held at all, people will continue to lose interest in projects such as the Central Corridor, and the Twin Cities will never have their transit system.

I am sorry to buy into the rest of the “can’t do” that America is facing right now. It seems we can’t win the war in Iraq, we can’t fight terrorists, we can’t properly fund education, we can’t build a stadium for the University of Minnesota Gopher Football team, and we can’t fund transportation. Instead we are cutting everywhere and making sacrifices.

I hope that the people in charge of the RCRRA, the CCCC and the Metropolitan Council all wake up soon and hear the sound of transit federal dollars heading to other cities and the business community that follows those dollars out of this state to areas with less congestion problems as well as residents that might have lived, worked, and raised their children in the Twin Cities. If we don’t act, we will lose all of these to other cities like Denver, Vancouver, Portland and other transit oriented cities.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Frustrations with Urban Planning

A few weeks ago I was thinking about the Central Corridor, the post that everyone thought was way too long, and how the project will be measured in terms of success. The factors of success are: ridership, private market response, effects on both ethnic communities and lower income neighborhoods, issues regarding traffic along University Avenue that may or not be a priority.

The first measurement will be the amount of ridership Metro Transit records in the first couple of weeks and months after the project is finished. Ridership is a very important justification to both Metro Transit and to the Metropolitan Council- the regional authority of the Twin Cities Metro. However, ridership will not be a justification to residents or business stake holders. Here is a description of the route provided by the Metropolitan Council’s website:

Central Corridor: This is the primary east-west transportation route between downtown Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota and downtown St. Paul. The Alternatives Analysis/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is being finalized. Two build alternatives are being considered, BRT and LRT. Selection of the locally preferred alternative is anticipated by the end of 2004. The next step is to complete preliminary engineering and final EIS.

The amount of Private Market Response. This might be the most important measure of success by both the region and local economies and residents. The private market includes the existing businesses including some owned by Southeast Asian and African American business owners and sites along the University Avenue Corridor that could be improved for both commercial and residential development or the popular term in the urban studies field “Mixed Use” which is often associated with another development term Transit Oriented Development or T.O.D. This is where the Metropolitan Council and the city of St. Paul will have to show their authority to get the kind of “picture” that they want of University Avenue: higher densities, more pedestrian traffic, less auto oriented development, and more housing (both expensive and affordable). If the Central Corridor LRT is shown as “profitable” then it will more likely attract business owners and strengthen current businesses already located in the corridor. People need to see how they can benefit from having the LRT near a development be it commercial or residential and in the long run how the value of their properties can potentially increase. One thing to be carefull about is the length of construction time for the project, it would look very bad if a business owner is forced to close due to construction.

The effect on ethnic communities. This is another important issue. The Central Corridor goes right thru some of the poorest areas of St. Paul and areas that have a negative view of Government Planning, especially with transportation. The neighborhood that I am referring to is/was the Rhondo neighborhood which in the 1950’s was raised and I-94 was built straight thru it, displacing many African American residents. This was another travesty of the Urban Revitalization programs associated with American Cities during the 1950’s and 1960’s where many Ethnic communities where raised or displaced by Federal programs with the creation of the interstate program. Ever since the highway was built, this area has been very anti development of any kind or at least very fearful of government projects. As planners, we need to make sure that these residents, whom often feel left out of the process, are heavily included or else this project will fail utterly, especially if any person from that background is displaced by new forms of development. However, controlling development will be difficult but the city of St. Paul should be able to keep development on University Avenue alone at first with home owners and neighborhoods experiencing the gains in property values often associated with new Transportation projects, especially LRT. I say that controlling development is difficult because the bottom line is that if a developer wants a property and is willing to pay lots of money for it; 9 out of 10 times the city will give the developer the property and let them do whatever they want with it.

Issues regarding traffic. This may or may not be an issue in the long run, however, drivers will need a while to adjust to LRVs (Light Rail Vehicles) operating along the medians of University Avenue. This may include new signaling involved with left turns, and signaling priorities for LRVs over cars. At some of the busiest intersections we may see some accidents. Studies should be done where LRVs operate with traffic to see if an alternative such as an elevated guide way would be necessary or if the LRVS can operate safely on street level or at grade. University Avenue is still a major truck route yet is wide enough (120 ft. across) to support all the needs of existing traffic and added LRT gauge rail down the medians.

Finally, the success of the Central Corridor will rely on the completion/construction of other major transitways such as the Northstar Commuter Rail, the Red Rock Commuter Line, and other transit projects. However, with an estimated completion time of 2010 or 2012 for Central Corridor, hopefully Northstar can be finished and operating giving more incentive to the project to connect to the developing system.

Thank you for indulging another transportation related post. But hey, who said Urban Planning was going to be easy? It is definetly tougher than doing it yourself in Sim City.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

This one goes out to the KU:

Me and The Hassle at Meghan H's 21 first Bday Party

Kristen, also known as the Hassle from Dassel, is probably one of the greatest girls in the state of Minnesota if not the entire country. Why one might ask?? Well for starters she is dating me (I know huge ego right here). Besides that fact, this girl is smart, cute, funny, very attractive, and at the core as goofy as I am. When the two of us first started dating, it was my Dad and my brother Frank who noticed how good we were for each other by the way we acted around each other, especially in how we told stories. Before Kristen and I could even get to the punch line or funny part of the story we were already rolling on the floor cackling like mad men.

Another feature is the amount of hard work this girl does. She is a full time student and works as many hours as she can at the grad school. This summer, the Ku and I were working at the State Fair. Kristen worked both in the morning for the Employment Center and in the evening at the Adventure Park Ticket Sales with me until Midnight for every day of the fair. Now that’s tough. Plus with all the hours and amount of work that she had to do, at the end of the day she still had to put up with me, and I’m as much of a hassle as she is. This girls work ethic is one of the things I find very desirable, she doesn’t quit under pressure and comes thru in the clutch.

The reason I am writing this, is to let Kristen know how much I love her. Many times I have said to my friends and family “I am going to marry that girl someday”. The truth is, I really mean it. It’s really hard to not see her everyday. It was nice during the summer, when we were working together and we were living relatively close to each other. Unfortunately with the pressures of schools of due dates and exams and neither of us having access to reliable transportation, we are not able to see each other as much as we used to. At sometimes it has almost torn us apart trying to coup with the fact that we are relatively not that far in terms of distance yet not able to see each other. However, I feel that this challenge has been good for us and that if we can survive this then we become even closer in our relationship.

Kristen and I have been together for 1 year and 7 months (November 4th!!), and I couldn’t be happier. Thank you Kristen for loving me, and allowing me to love you.

To quote Stevie Wonder: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I am yours!!”

BTW- Our song is “I want to hold your hand” by the Beatles, I’ll have to save the origin tale for another night.
Good night Ladies and Gentleman, and to the KU See you in Dreamland!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Time to invest in some traps…

Tonight I killed my second mouse. I heard the signature sound of a mouse scratching on the screen and knew immediately that something was up. So without hesitation I began searching the four windows in my bedroom and sure enough I found one attempting to climb its way in just as the other one had a few weeks ago only in a different window. Having located the mouse, I grabbed my trusty fireplace shovel and flashlight, threw on my hoody and headed outside to deliver the killer blow.

This mouse was an almost exact copy of the mouse I killed a few weeks ago. This suggests that we have a nest on our hands or the potential establishment of a nest in progress at the house on Lindig. The next time I am at Target I will have to invest in some mouse traps and put them around my bedroom windows. I think I should bait them with Peanut Butter, but Cheese works great as well. If anybody has any suggestions for baiting mice I would be glad to hear some. This isn’t very surprising really, as the temperature gets colder the mice are going to double their efforts to come inside and snuggle up with us where it is nice and warm and they have an unlimited food supply at their disposal. This is where I come in, to thwart their advances.

I should probably call my land lady about the screen which still needs to be fixed due to the last mouse. Oh well, two mice down, unknown numbers to go.

Until next time,
Good Night