The Vikings Stadium / Star Wars Metaphor

Seeing the Vikings stadium rise up over the city of Minneapolis reminds me more and more of the Death Star from the Empire Strikes Back. It doesn't help that the stadium design looks almost exactly like an Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer, or that everyone keeps raving about the stadium's "impressive equipment." (Get a room, preferably a non-taxpayer funded one.) Or that the stadium development's demands for an elaborate set of space dock-like skyways only make sense if you think about Minneapolis as being a total vacuum. Or that there will now be a sci-fi-looking landing platform over the light rail station.

So now I can't look at the construction without seeing the (second) Death Star. So I posted this image on my Facebook/Twitter feed and then Michael asked whether bicycling around the city was Endor and now I'm wondering how far the metaphor can go!

Vikings Stadium = Death Star

Giant horrifying thing slowly being built. 
Admiral Ackbar = Mark Dayton

Somehow in charge. Eyes reveal complete cluelessness. It's obviously a trap.

The Deflector Shield = Stadium Glass

The way that that the rebel fighters bounce of the Death Star's (cloaked) shield is exactly how migrating warblers bounce off the bird-killing stadium glass.

The Emperor = Zygi Wilf 

Brains behind the scenes. Fond of maniacal laughter. Entirely evil.

Darth Vader = Lester Bagley

Mind control tricks. Threats to politicians. Pounding on tables. Almost entirely evil.

The Death Star Super-Laser = Brain Injuries

Instead of going around blowing up innocent planets, the Vikings Stadium goes around destroying people's brains.

Han Solo and Princess Leia = The Audubon Society

Both trying to destroy the shield. Facing daunting odds.

Luke Skywalker = Ed Kohler on Twitter

Deploying massive (Jedi) skills to constantly fight off an endless supply of uniformed morons. Fondness for mind tricks.

Ewoks = The People of Minneapolis

Both powerless, adorable, massively outgunned, like to shake things in the air.

Endor Speeders = Biking in Minneapolis

Because it's the most fun you'll have in the movie or the city.

Jabba the Hut = Joe Soucheray

Both repulsive and horrible. Like to keep women in chains. In charge of some sort of strange cult-like society in the middle of nowhere (Tatooine or Saint Paul).


In the movie, the people blow up the Death Star and celebrate around a campfire in the primeval woods while fireworks go off in the sky. In the real world, the Empire wins.
[Oh well.]



Signs of the Times #95


[Powderhorn, Minneapolis.]


[Tree. Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis.] 


[Trash can. West Bank, Minneapolis.]

For Osip Nikiforov
please drop the
package inside here.
Thank you

[Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis?]

 Clean UP After
Your DOG
It's The

[Location Forgotten.]

 I [heart]
Pedal Pub

[Northeast Minneapolis.]

to the

[University Avenue, Saint Paul.]

do not

[Garden. West Side, Saint Paul.]

Twin City Doorways #14

[E Lake Street, Minneapolis.]

[NE Central Avenue, Minneapolis.]

[Lake Street, Minneapolis.]

[Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]

[Selby Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[University Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[University Avenue, Saint Paul.]

[Grand Marais.]


A Field Guide to Bus Shelters

[Replacing an ad on a flat-roof CBS shelter on Saint Paul's Minnesota St.]
Last week, I wrote a Cityscape column all about bus stops and bus shelters. In doing so, I learned a lot about actual types of bus shelters and began noticing them as I went around the city.

Here's a bit of background from the piece:

The Twin Cities’ transit system has about 12,000 bus stops spread throughout the metro area, and somewhere around 800 of them have shelters operated by the agency. Of the stops with shelters, about 14 percent of them of have lights and 10 percent have heat for the winter. In theory, the agency has guidelines about which well-used stops should receive shelters, but in practice there are many stops in the center cities that lack shelters despite high ridership.

As it turns out, once you start spotting different types of bus shelters, it's hard to stop. Here's what I've learned so far.

There are three main types of bus shelters in the Twin Cities:
  • 1) Metro Transit shelters (without ads)
  • 2) CBS shelters (with ads) 
  • 3) Public/Private (aka "custom") shelters

Within those broad categories, there are even more distinctions depending on age, roof type, and size. Here's a rough sampling of a dozen or so.

CBS Shelters - These shelters are actually owned by CBS Outdoor, a large media/advertising company that also runs billboards, and advertising laden benches. Oddly, considering the trend toward privatizzation in other cities aroun the country, Minneapolis recently cancelled their contract with CBS Outdoor, so CBS shelters in Minneapolis are gradually being phased out. However, they are still being built and operated in Saint Paul and some other suburbs (I heard Roseville...).

Note that these shelters typically have ads only one side, usually the side that is the "far side" of whichever direction the police typically come from. (E.g. downstream from the direction of traffic.) Safety and transparency (meant quite literally) is a key consideration in bus shelter design.

[A flat roof CBS shelter, probably the oldest of the type. Wabasha and 6th, DT Saint Paul.]

[Metal variation of CBS shelter, probably much newer. Hennepin and Washington, DT Minneapolis.]

[Curved roof CBS shelter. Nicollet and 16th, Minneapolis.]

Metro Transit Shelters [basic] - These are the most common type of shelter, particularly once you get out of Minneapolis and Saint Paul proper. They are distinctive because of the lack of advertising. You can tell the ages of the shelters by looking at the type of metal and glass used (striped = more recent) and whether the roof is curved perpendicularly (older) or whether the curve is aligned with the shelter (more recent).

Also, increasingly these come in different sizes and configurations, such as fully enclosed and half enclosed.

[Curved roof MT Shelter without striped glass. Wabasha and 5th, DT Saint Paul.]

[MT Shelter with a higher peaked roof. Nicollet and 18th, Minneapolis.]

[Larger version of the above. Note different size roof and glass panes. Nicollet and Franklin, Minneapolis.]

[High peak half-shelter. Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]

[Silver MT "logo" shelter, the newest model out there. Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis.]

Metro Transit Shelters [deluxe] - In addition to the basic shelter, there are certain special Metro Transit-owned shelters that are becoming more common throughout the Twin Cities. Right now, the best example are the Marq-2 shelters along Marquette and 2nd, however as the proposed aBRT system rolls out, more deluxe Metro Transit shelters will become more common.

[A Marq-2 Shelter with NexTrip sign, quasi-benches. Marquette Avenue, Minneapolis.]

[One of the proposed aBRT "A Line" shelters.]

Public/Private Shelters - These are the really idiosyncratic ones. There are a whole range of privately-built and sometimes publicly maintained "custom shelters" throughout the Twin Cities. Sometimes, if they are designed to be compatible with Metro Transit's components (e.g. glass), they are maintained by Metro Transit. Otherwise they are wholly private.

[The "flower shelter", a custom design in North Minneapolis.]

[The "Taj Mahal" shelter on 6th and Jackson, DT Saint Paul.]

[A large non-bus stop shelter by the bus waiting area. Parking lot next to the library, Minneapolis.]

[Custom shelter. Hennepin Avenue, downtown Minneapolis.]

[Custom shelter. Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis.]

[Custom shelter. Note absence of glass panes. MT probably doesn't do much to this one. Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis.]


This amusing photo was sent in by a friend, showing a new Metro Transit shelter side-by-side with a custom shelter in Richfield.



The Silent Sanity of Freeway Free Pockets

[Childhood home, raised by whirrs.]
Somehow, I didn’t notice it very often. I grew up in an old farmhouse in the suburbs, a one-acre lot surrounded by trees and lilac bushes in the golf course suburbs of Saint Paul. It was easy to pretend that you were “in nature,” getting lost in the patches of forest or climbing trees to be with my off-brand walkman. But every once in a while I’d go out into the front yard, and I’d hear the sound of the freeway.

It was easy on to notice, but my house back then was exactly 3/4 of a mile East of Interstate 35E, the last leg of the Twin Cities’ inner-ring freeway system to be built (completed in the mid-1980s). I remember once climbing the tree in the front yard to watch the sun set in the West. I remember hearing the sound of the freeway off in the distance, a never-ending high whirr of tires, sounding insistent, almost angry. Today the 80,000 cars each day works out to almost a car per second.

The freeway is surprisingly close to the house, and it made me realize that freeways are surprisingly close to most houses. It’s increasingly difficult to find anywhere within the 494-694 ring of the Twin Cities where you can’t hear the high pitched whirr of tires all hours of the day and night. Sonically speaking. The sound of car tires is a soft blanket covering the metro with an unceasing high frequency bed behind everything we hear. Cars are a backdrop to every outdoor conversation, every rustle of leaves, and every birdsong day in and day out forever.

[The freeway free pocket map. Pink = one-mile buffer from a freeway.]

[There's a little sound crotch by Lake Hiawatha.]
The other day at streets.mn, Adam Froehlig made a map that answered one of the questions that’s been nagging at my earlobe for years: Where are the respites from the whirr? Is there anywhere in Minneapolis or Saint Paul where you can escape the sound of tires, if even for a brief moment in the middle of the night?

While it’s not perfect, Alex’s map does point to a few small places where freeways might be at least a mile off, enough I think to prevent the high bed from ringing in your ears.

Freeway sounds happen in the background. If you hear something every day, all the time, if fades into the recesses of your attention and you stop hearing the thing. Freeway sound becomes invisible (sonically speaking).

There are precious few of these freeway free pockets in Minneapolis: a pie slice of Northeast Minneapolis, a halo surrounding Lakes Harriet and (Haystacks) Calhoun, a few tiny pieces of South, and a peripheral edge of North Minneapolis.  Is there a silent way that these neighborhoods help with delicate sanity?

Last night I had the bedroom window open, and I woke up in the middle of the night after a particularly vivid dream about Baroque city planning. (Yes.)

I lay in my bed looking at the shadows of streetlights, and I could hear the sounds of the city reaching their thin fingers into my apartment: a train horn repeating, insistent and cheerful; the wind rustling the too-dry leaves; the tinkling wind chime; and yes the constant whirr of Highway 52, ADT 58,000 which runs a mile away to the East. (Or was it Shepard Road, ADT 17,000, slightly closer in the river valley?)

I’m almost out of the freeway pocket, but I can still hear it. Or is it all in my head?
[My current distance from a freeway is about a mile, pretty good for the core cities.]