[While this post is full of interesting, super important information, you may also want to read the 2012 carfree, downtown Minneapolis living update.]
Well, I’ve been a resident of downtown Minneapolis for two full months now and I’m happier than a wino at a Bartles and Jaymes tanker accident. I could write 2,000 words about why downtown is so great, but I’ve come to realize that you can’t fully appreciate how awesome downtown is unless you live here.
Right up until I moved into the TIWILM Command Center, I considered going downtown for any reason to be a spirit-sapping pain in the ass. I’d drive 15 miles in the opposite direction to avoid crawling the three miles into downtown, driving in circles for 30 minutes looking for parking, paying $3 in quarters for about 45 seconds at a meter, then having to sprint four blocks, pick up my face cream and dash back to my car before one of those meter maids with bionic meter-expiring hearing could appear out of nowhere and print out a ticket.
Though the advent of Light Rail has made journeying downtown more attractive, particularly for drinks and merriment (no parking woes, no tenuous sobriety self-tests at the end of the night), I still rarely traipsed down here, especially when neighborhood shops/restaurants were serving my purposes nicely.
Paradoxically, now that I live downtown, I loathe having to leave for any reason. It’s the pinnacle of convenience and options. Everything I could possibly need is within reasonable walking distance. Coffee, sandwiches, groceries, booze, banks, stores, restaurants, bars, movies, theater and every conceivable service are all less than 20 minutes away by foot. Any need, any spontaneous craving, any entertainment wish can be attended to instantaneously. It’s so – dare I say it – European. Except with less vacation days.
Which brings me to my ongoing car-free in Minneapolis lifestyle experiment. In short, I’ve been driven insane with the uncluttered ease I’ve enjoyed. Though friends and family have picked me up on occasion, I haven’t seriously wished I had a vehicle yet. As stated above, virtually everything I need is minutes away. On those occasions when I need to get somewhere specific, with Light Rail and dozens of bus lines passing through the area, I can get virtually anywhere in a single ride. Often it’s a near door-to-door trip. Admittedly, if it weren’t for all these transport arteries converging within a few blocks of my building, the car-free lifestyle would be far more challenging, especially with winter bearing down and the bike being retired.
Which brings me to the formerly unthinkable conclusion: downtown is the best place to live in Minneapolis. OK, perhaps families of five and gardeners may not agree, but for the rest of us, life is surprisingly nice over here. Sure the rent is crazy (you’ll pay more for a one bedroom condo than a three bedroom house in some parts of Minneapolis), but, harking back to the car-free lifestyle, after you subtract all the expenses of owning a car (loan payments, insurance, gas, repairs, parking, parking tickets, bogus moving violations alleged by desperate cops ducking the call for back-up at the armed and dangerous bank robbery ensuing down the street…), it’s pretty much a wash at the end of the month. You may even come out ahead. And just think of the environmental karma. You won’t get that in Burnsville.
On a final car-free lifestyle note, I’ve come down off my Bus Love high a bit. Timeliness has held steady at an excellent 95%, but I’ve been running into more and more glowering, mute, jackass drivers who swerve, accelerate and brake like they’re trying to shake the Terminator off the roof. Still, the occasional mild whiplash is infinitely better than the stress of driving and the hassle of parking.