Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Favorite Urban Studies Posts

As an Urban Studies major here at the University of Minnesota, I have a large interest in writing about development in the Twin Cities and Minnesota. Over the time that I have had this blog I've written a lot about this topic and have some personal favorites and without furthur adeu here they are...

Central Corridor

One of my first posts when I first started this blog way back in September 2005

Maglev on University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus

One of my ideas of replacing the Campus Connector system with Maglev transit, I think it would be great, but probably way too expensive

A Commuter Rail Line Named…Northstar

Future Predictions on Urban Development of the Twin Cities

One of my best posts on this topic. Thank you to everyone that wrote in.

That's a good start to the list. Some of my current posts have been pretty good too in my opinion. What was really exciting was being published in the Minnesota Daily. I know most of you in the blogoshphere wouldn't care, but it was cool to see my name in a student newspaper as well as on their website. Plus, i got 25 extra credit points in my persuasion theory class for being published. Hopefully I can have some new topics in the near future, although we are nearing crunch time for Spring Semester. These next coming weeks are going to be crazy, wish me luck.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006


...In the Minnesota Daily, the student paper of the University of Minnesota. Check it out at the Daily's site.
Or you can read it here too...

University priorities
In the Friday Daily, there was an editorial, “Prioritizing transportation,” stating that the proposed Central Corridor light-rail line would benefit the University more than a University football stadium that has been proposed on the site of the Huron Boulevard Parking Complex. Although I agree with the author that the University and its students will benefit from the Central Corridor project, we do not need to give up a new stadium to get the project done.
In the editorial, the author states that the University has a seat on the planning committee for the Central Corridor. While the University is a major stakeholder affected by the project, this does not mean that the University can afford to put financial backing toward the project. State, federal, county and city resources can be used for this purpose, however it takes political capital to commit to the project.
I do agree with the author that the University should use its political power to stand with local transit advocates and state legislators to support the project. In the March 22 Pioneer Press, there was an article stating that the Federal Transit Administration approved the cost-effectiveness analysis of the Central Corridor. The next steps in the process will be the public commentary of the draft environmental impact statement. I suggest University students attend and state their opinions.
Light-rail transportation on the Central Corridor will benefit University students and employees, but so will a new football stadium. The stadium will add to the quality of life on campus, encourage the trend of students living on campus and bring a stable source of funding to University athletics.
At most universities, revenue from football pays for the cost of the football program and all the nonrevenue sports programs. A new stadium will help us fund these athletic programs. The stadium and the Central Corridor project are actually complementary. Events at the stadium will encourage use of corridor transit, and the availability of transit to the stadium will reduce the congestion associated with stadium events. We can and should have both a stadium and light rail.
Andrew Wambach University urban studies undergraduate

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Some Spring Break…Whew

This has been a hectic week…and Spring Break on top of that. Kristen and I worked almost everyday and were able to spend a lot of time together watching Season 1 of The Sopranos.

Monday was insane. As most of the residents of Minnesota know, Monday we had one of the largest snowfalls of the year with over 6-12 inches of snow falling in St. Paul alone. The snow was the really wet and heavy stuff, causing a lot of mayhem on the roads. I was scheduled to work at 8 at Minitex; I didn’t make it in until 10!!! My older brother, Frank, dropped me off at the St. Paul Campus at 7:30 AM so I could catch the Connector to the West Bank. A lot of people (including myself) were waiting at the bus shelter for the connector, however, no buses were showing up. Meanwhile, 2-3 #87 buses went past us and the snow continued to fall. Being fed up with waiting, I trudged through the snow down Cleveland to Como Avenue to catch a #3 bus to the West Bank and work. On my way down Cleveland, I was up to my ankles in snow and the snow was building up on the trees. It was beautiful, however, some of the snow was a little too heavy for some of the branches. In fact, a branch broke clean off right as I passed by…it was cool and spooky all at the same time.

I got to Como and started waiting for a #3 with some others. I waited for about 45 minutes, and decided to give work a call to make sure that I really had to come into work that day. While we were waiting, a guy in a Honda got stuck in the right turn lane onto Cleveland. He tried rocking back and forth a couple of times, but his wheels just kept spinning and he wasn’t moving. So, I decided to be a Good Samaritan and help the guy out. He through it into reverse, and I gave him a push on the hood. Feeling like I had filled my quota by doing one good deed as an American, I figured I would see if anyone else was feeling generous. I went to the curb, put a big smile on my face, and stuck out my thumb hoping for a ride. Luckily, a man driving a 2002 Ford Explorer pulled up and asked me if I needed a lift. Without thinking twice, I hoped in. My boss had called me and said he would come and get me on his way to the St. Paul campus for the morning run, and I told him to pick me up at 15th and Como Avenue. Nick, the owner of the Explorer, was heading into downtown Minneapolis after dropping his kids off at school. Unlike the rest of the state, the St. Paul public school district did not cancel or have a 2-hour late start. This was the first time I had ever “hitch-hiked”, and thankfully it was with a guy like Nick instead of the horror stories or urban legends often associated with hitch-hiking.

While on the way, Nick told me that a #3 articulated bus was stuck further up Como and was blocking traffic. Over 120 buses were stuck or delayed because of the snow and icy conditions due to Mondays freak snowstorm. Nick dropped me off at 15th and Como and went on his way. While waiting, I got a call from my boss telling me that he couldn’t get the van out of the Minitex Cavern and that he couldn’t come and pick me up. So, with nothing else to do, I walked from the edge of Dinkeytown to the West Bank. By the end of the journey, my feet were about ready to fall off. I got off of work at 2:00 and met up with Kristen for coffee at the Royal.

Tuesday, it didn’t snow, however, I ended up sleeping in and nearly being late to work. Because of Monday’s snowstorm, Frank drove the Intrigue to work. On Tuesday, he decided to take the Protégé. I took the intrigue into work because I was already running late and didn’t want to deal with having to wait for another bus. I drove the Intrigue into work and the roads were a mess. Hennepin Avenue was the worse with thick ice and melting snow, but thankfully I didn’t get in an accident. I parked the car in the Law School parking lot and punched in at 8:10. Took my lunch break at Chipotle and had a delicious Chicken Fajita Burrito, one of the best burritos that I have had in awhile. Got off work at 2:00 and ran over to the HECUA office in St. Paul to turn in my completed application for the Scandinavian Urban Studies Term or SUST study abroad program in Oslo Norway. Hopefully, if all goes well I should be accepted and participating in the program fall of 06.

Having accomplished that errand, I headed towards Brooklyn Park to return the car, eat dinner with the folks, and get a ride back home to Lindig. My Dad got home from ER (Elk River) with some groceries and so I gave him a hand unloading those. Then Mom came home and we made Hamburgers with blue cheese and fries for dinner. My Mom and I then headed over to the Ford Dealership in Coon Rapids to drop off the New 05 Explorer, affectionately named “Black Beauty” by my Mom, for its first scheduled check up. While at the dealership, I took a look at the 06 and 05 Mustangs and caught myself a number of times starring at cars I knew that I would probably never be able to own or drive. This is funny because in the most recent Ford commercial they show a kid, younger than me, opening the door to a brand new 06 Mustang for his Girlfriend as if this was his first car…No *@&^ing way!!!

My Mom took me home and on the way there we stopped off at Kristen’s place, picked her up, and then we headed over to Lindig. Kristen and I watched some Sopranos and then went to bed. Wednesday, we both worked on campus. I worked at Minitex from 8 until 4. My boss tossed me down in Serials Exchange for the entire day. All the recycling bins were full, so instead we had to fill the postal bins until the recycling bins are emptied. We processed a lot of material and filled up about 10 bins before calling it a day. I came away with a handful of magazines; so the day wasn’t a total loss. I picked up an almost entire years worth of WIRED magazine, and a couple of issues of Nature’s Best Photography including an issue with Polar Bears on the cover and an entire issue devoted to the Grizzly Bear. Wednesday night Kristen and I ate dinner at Vescios and enjoyed some Fettuccine. After dinner we caught a #3 and then caught an #87 to home.

Thursday was another long day of work and stress. In the evening, the KU and I grabbed some dinner at Village Wok and enjoyed some Iron Hot Chicken and a sweet vegetable dish. Thursday night, we watched a couple more episodes of the Sopranos and finished off the night with the classic Gangster movie: The Godfather. I had seen it before on TV in bits and pieces but never the film in its entirety. The scene at the end where Michael takes over is great.

Friday, Kristen and I had the day off from work, so we took the liberty of sleeping in. We woke up at about 10:30, and spent the morning cleaning. Kristen and I took care of the kitchen by cleaning all the dishes and the counter-tops, my bathroom, and the entryway stairs. We both tried to do homework, and I got a couple of loads of laundry taken care of. We tossed around ideas for the evening, and decided to head home to BP to grab the Intrigue for the weekend. Kristen and I took a #61 to downtown and caught a #766N to the Noble Park and Ride and got picked up by my Dad. We joined them for dinner with Nick and Willy’s Take and Bake Pizza, a new chain competing in the market of Take and Bake Pizza once dominated by only Papa Murphy’s…We’ve come to call this place Willy Nillys…and they have some pretty good pizza.

It’s March Madness time for the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament, so of course we have the Brackets through ESPN’s Tournament challenge. So far, Franky J is in first place, I’m in Second, and Kristen is doing well in third place. My Mom and Dad’s brackets were sabotaged by a couple of crucial upsets that no one saw coming…

Now it is the weekend, and we both have lots of homework to do. Hopefully we can finish up The Sopranos and get some work done. Tonight is Erik’s 21st Birthday, hopefully I’ll have a chance to get out tonight and buy him some shots or a beer.

Hope everyone had a great Spring Break and has a good weekend.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Maglev Trains + University of Minnesota = Bye Bye Campus Connectors

Way back in October, I wrote about my dreams of having a Maglev Train operating between the St. Paul Campus and the East Bank Campus ending near or around Stadium Village. To read the old post click here.

Recently there has been a lot of controversy about the Central Corridor and the University of Minnesota in regards to its alignment through Campus. There has also been controversy between the University On-Campus Stadium and the Station 19 Architecture Firm located in the Historical Landmark fire station off of Oak St. and University Avenue SE. To read the Star Tribune article click here.

Goldy's Rapid Express, Complete with Maroon and Gold Paint Job and University of Minnesota Emblem. Even Maglev Trains love Maroon and Gold...

The train could operate along the existing U of M Transitway, and then go underground beneath the University of Minnesota Stadium and have a station with direct access to the concourses for public seating as well as access to Suites. Or the train could remain on the surface, but then tunnel under Oak Street and connect with the Central Corridor Light Rail underground station (if it ever gets built). Students could then connect to the Central Corridor LRT and have access to the West Bank of the University of Minnesota and the Campus Connectors could be eliminated completely. Buses could be sold to Metro Transit, but still keep their Maroon and Gold paint jobs, heck even one can be given to the Minnesota Historical Society.

In the Minnesota Daily, there was an article about the Regents and the coming agendas facing them. One in particular is the Central Corridor. In the article, there is more talk about using University funds to build god awful monuments to faculty, this time a giant wall, with formulas and theories written by University Faculty. The Scholars Walk is nice, but has taken a really long time to be completed. Meanwhile, the Stadium is still in talks with the Minnesota Legislature, and the University won’t be able to have any decision making powers on the Central Corridor Tunnel. I suggest to the Regents that they try to negotiate with the Metropolitan Council and MNDOT to allow students in the schools of Architecture, Urban Studies, and Civil Engineering to work with these stake holders in designing the underground stations of the LRT, maybe even the stations above ground as well.

While searching through the archives of the Minnesota Daily I found an article from about 4 years ago, where then President Yudof suggested using students in the school of Architecture to help design University buildings instead of hiring high priced firms. Why not do the same with Public Infrastructure such as LRT stations? This way, the University can activly participate with the project. In addition, the students could improve the current bus shelters, by having heating vents in the ground in bus shelters and not from heating lamps above. Sometimes I wonder about people who designed those bus shelters and LRT stations and where they got their degrees from. Don't they know that warm air rises so its really not a good idea to have heating lamps as a way of keeping people warm in the winter months. Also, the University of Minnesota should stand with Transit Advocates such as Transit for Livable Communities and encourage lawmakers to find a dedicated source of transportation funding.

I think it would be really sweet if the Maglev Train operating through Campus could become a reality, but maybe the buses will be what we have for the rest of our days. Plus, by the time all of this stuff is said and done, I will be long gone from the University. But it never hurts to dream. I have heard support for this project from others and I hope support continues to grow.
Let’s go Maglev and Light Rail. Trains may not be the “magic bullet” solution for all of our urban problems, but they can help reduce our dependence on the automobile and create a better urban form.

Think it over, and tell me what you think blogosphere readers.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

Big Dig- Twin Cities

Either I might be watching too much science fiction, or I could be watching the Discovery Channel/History Channel in the wee hours of the night. After watching a documentary on Boston’s Big Dig of its Central Artery Highway, I got interested in mega engineering projects of private/public development. Maybe I am in the wrong major? For three years I have been participating in the Urban Studies Program pursuing a degree in Urban and Regional Planning. Recently I attended a Career Transportation Expo held at Coffman Union. At the Expo there were many firms that were looking for Civil Engineers, people who actually build things, and not urban/regional planners. This kind of had me worried.

But I digress. Lately I have been thinking is that Minneapolis and St. Paul should build “superhighways” underground. These underground highways would operate below existing highways that go right through the cities. The best examples for Minneapolis are I-94 and 35W. For St. Paul we have I-94. These sections of the highways would be “buried” underground, and the above ground land could be reused/rezoned for public parks, housing, commercial development, anything besides Highways. There would be some problems, such as engineering new on-off ramps, and dealing with emissions created by the cars in the underground highways.

I suggest putting the highways underground in sections for three reasons: 1) Cost, 2) Time, and 3) keeping the Highway ROW open for traffic. The Cost alone of putting all of I-94 and 35W underground makes the project impossible. However, I am only suggesting putting certain areas of I-94/35W that go through the dense urban areas and usable space of Minneapolis. In cities further out, the highways would still be above ground. The sections would have to be done either one after the other or all at once, and with the way we fund transportation projects I am going to say for Times sake that this will have to be done one at a time, to allow for necessary funding. Also, as the section is being put underground, the above ground section will remain open until the “superhighways” below are completed and the necessary access points are created.

Who knows?? This may happen in the near future, or it may not happen at all. It will depend upon crucial innovations in tunneling technology that reduces the cost and time requirements associated with modern tunneling. It will also depend upon travel trends in the world, the state, and the cities of Minnesota. As fossil fuels become scarcer, are we going to see a reduction in the number of cars people own/use? Further investment in zero emission vehicles using alternative fuel sources? The answer to many of these types of questions for some of us is “we hope so”. With the car so ingrained into our current society, I don’t see it going away anytime soon.

Well, think it over, let me know what you think out there members of the blogosphere (or not, whatever people feel like). It’s about 1 AM, and I have things to do tomorrow, so I need a goodnight’s sleep.

Goodnight, but before I go, I encourage everyone to dream, and dream big. No small dreams have the power to stir men’s souls.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Take That Phil Krinkie!!

For people who both love and hate (though I think there are more lovers than haters) Light Rail Transit, I think you should read this article… Home on Hiawatha

The article was published in the Metropolitan Council’s Directions newsletter. I’ll admit that the article is biased, however, it is showing that the investment in Hiawatha is paying off; in the form of new housing, new commercial opportunities, exceeding Ridership estimates, and rejuvenating downtown Restaurants. These are all good things if you ask me.

However, I wish that Hiawatha didn’t end at the MOA. Originally it was to continue down Cedar Avenue, but was terminated at the MOA due to funding and site acquisitions for stations. Since it seems that they are willing to add another station in the already existing alignment (cost 2 Million), why not rip out the god awful MOA station, build a more aesthetically pleasing station in between Phase I and Phase II (expansion of MOA in the talks) of the MOA and connect them via Skyway. Then we could extend Hiawatha further south and create even more opportunities for development.

I titled the post “Take That Phil Krinkie” because he was the most outspoken person against the states first LRT line. Numerous times he was cited saying, “no one’s going to ride it, because it doesn’t go anywhere” and that it was a waste of public dollars. Well, Phil, the proof is in the Ridership numbers and in the $$$ being made off of this line. I think even a Republican like yourself can appreciate that. BAM!!!