Transit Troubles


The Twin Cities is starting to feel like a pretty special place, considering that Bill Nye, President Obama and the Dalai Lama have all visited within the span of a week. Among those, at least the POTUS couldn’t resist commenting on Minnesota’s weather, which is actually living up to its reputation at present. He seemed to think that his time in Chicago gave him the necessary credentials to dismiss the temperature as “balmy,” and also joked about potholes. Aside from this blatant pandering, the President’s visit and his focus on transportation fits in with what many of us have been feeling lately: the difficulty of simply getting from place to place.

Last week, we wrote about abuse of the Safety and Security escort service. The usage of the service has likely been increased by the bad weather which discourages people from walking outdoors. The main alternative to using the escort service is public transportation, which can be a challenge to use effectively and is not usually as convenient as having a car. On the other hand, letting Metro Transit do the driving for a couple bucks is starting to sound more attractive compared to horrible traffic and persistently ice-clad roadways. So, Obama’s visit and speech in downtown St. Paul’s newly remodeled Union Depot came at a unique time for those of us without four-wheel drive, without a car or without easy public transportation options.

We at The Oracle are certainly looking forward to the opening of the new Green Line light rail route along University Ave. this spring, and are glad that the President is in support of such projects. Cities like Minneapolis-St. Paul, with an increasing traffic problem, consistent difficulty dealing with adverse weather and an underdeveloped transportation system, are heading in the right direction with the light rail system in addition to establishing more bike lanes.

Although things are looking up, the conditions of the roads this winter have been, quite frankly, horrendous. We understand that salt and other ice-melting tactics are ineffective at temperatures below 15 degrees, which have been the norm lately. The amount of snow and the level of temperatures has been the worst in recent memory. But, that means that city governments should adapt, and do whatever they can to deal with the problems as best as possible, rather than simply admitting that the existing procedures aren’t working. Put more sand down to improve traction, promote use of public transportation, or, if we really want to keep people safe, start encouraging the use of tire chains. Most side streets still look more like hockey rinks than roads, and although chains might cause potholes, that’s better than the car crashes caused by lack of traction that are now frequent.

In fact, as of last weekend, the city of St. Paul has issued a new parking ban on most even-side residential streets, so that there will be more access for emergency vehicles. A similar even-side street restriction went into effect in Minneapolis. According to the Pioneer Press, towings began at 8 a.m. last Monday.

Basically, we’re pretty much done with winter, and we’re tired of feeling like our mobility is limited. But, on the other hand, what we need to do in every area is try to adapt and work with what we have, rather than simply complaining about what we think we deserve. Sure, for the amount we pay for tuition, it’d be great if Hamline would buy a few more vehicles and hire more staff to provide escorts. I’m sure S&S would love that as well.

But we don’t have the light rail yet, so for now we’ll spend these snowy days inside dreaming of riding the light rail in the sunshine come June 14.