This is why I love Light Rail

busstop.jpgThere was this time in February 1995 when I swore I’d never take Minneapolis public transportation again. I remember it like I remember all personal injustices: with brutal clarity.

I lived on 18th street and Park Ave, “The ‘Hood” as we affectionately called it as we reinforced our windows with 10,000 volt chicken wire. I caught the bus to work right on the corner, just outside the Green Zone, where witnessing a 7:15AM gang-related beatdown up the street wasn’t out of the ordinary.

That is, I tried to catch the bus right on the corner. This being the coldest month of an especially cold winter, standing on the street corner for more than the bare minimum of time was no joking matter. People were losing digits out there. And I’ll lay odds that deficient bus punctuality was indirectly responsible for dozens of cases of frost bite and even deaths that year. The bus routinely came rumbling up over 10 minutes late, usually about the point when I was debating seeking medical attention. Worse, sometimes it came seven minutes early. Or not at all. In either case you didn’t know this until you’d stood out on the effing corner until your testicles (or what have you) were petrified and various unmentionable symptoms of Reverse Puberty had set in.

After countless mornings of cheating Death By Frozen Pee Pee, I decided I’d had enough of the bus. I started wearing two more layers, including a ludicrously giant, cinched-down hood that later inspired the South Park character Kenny, and walked my ass downtown to work, which, as it turned out, wasn’t so bad. The first 15 minutes were admittedly a frozen hell, but after that I’d sidle into the Skyway at Centre Village and I’d walk the final eight blocks in wondrous warmth.

After a couple days, it became clear that walking to work was more reliable, cheaper, more cardiovascularly beneficial and ultimately only nine minutes slower than taking the bus. So, I said “&$^* this. I’m never taking the &$^*ing bus again.” (That’s how we &$^*ing talked the &$^*ing ‘Hood.)

Well a lot has changed in 12 years. First, bus drivers aren’t the mute, sometimes combative, outpatient schizophrenics they once were. Second, they’ve made it so that a single ticket allows you to ride for two and a half hours in any direction, including reverse. Finally, we have Light Rail, which couldn’t be cooler if the trains had a pirate ship-style figurehead of Jesse Ventura on the nose.

For those of you out of town, LRT starts in downtown, wiggles through South Minneapolis, passing virtually any kind of store/shop you could need, out to both airport terminals and finally the Mall of America (in case you didn’t pass a better neighborhood version of the store you needed along the way). All that and it gets traffic priority the entire way once it leaves downtown. The only downside is that, despite shattering all ridership expectations, they continue to raise LRT ticket/pass prices twice a year. I blame the governor. Somehow.

I’ve given this careful thought and theorized that if one lives near a LRT stop, they can effectively live full lives without ever owning a car. As such, I’ve decided to make myself a case study for a Minneapolis car-free lifestyle.

The environmental impact to our beloved city notwithstanding, here are the benefits of not owning a car in Minneapolis:

• No car payments
• No preoccupation or time wasted worrying about parking
• No winter fender benders with inattentive coffee drinking, cell phone talking doofuses (or would that be ‘doofi’?) driving like it’s a clear summer day
• No car repair bills resulting from the above
• No paying rising insurance premiums resulting from the above
• No having to study and interpret the constant flux of snow emergency parking rules
• No getting stopped by a cop short on his weekly quota of traffic citations and being accused of not signaling a turn or running a red light (it was yellow)
• When the local news does its bimonthly story about rising gas prices and they cut to some jackhole in a Ford F150 that’s never hauled a load bigger than three bags of groceries, who’s bleating about how it costs him $60 to fill his gas tank you can point and laugh while you enjoy your bimonthly $60 worth of fillet mignon, wine and imported chocolate

I’ll post smug reports from my case study here as events warrant, with all due swipes at people who live in Burnsville and drive their cars to pick up a half gallon of milk and commute 40 minutes each way to work and pay $100 a month to park five blocks from their building and then wonder why their lives suck so much.

[Photo credit: jen (pluie latéralement)]

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Car-free lifestyle | 5.11.2007 12:52 | 2 Comments

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