#900 – Dick Bernard: A Ride on the St. Paul-Minneapolis Green Line

NOTE: There is plenty of “regular” news about the inauguration of the Minneapolis to St. Paul Green Line train Saturday and Sunday. Minneapolis Star Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, and Twin Cities Daily Planet are three of, doubtless, many.

At the St. Paul Union Station terminus June 15, 2014

At the St. Paul Union Station terminus June 15, 2014

Some personal observations: a ride on the railroad
My spouse, Cathy, takes events like Father’s Day seriously. So, as Sunday loomed, she asked what I wanted to do for the day. I had only a single request: to join the throng that would doubtless pack the Green Line train on the opening, free, weekend. I even entertained the notion of trying to be on the first free ride early Saturday morning. That was a bit nuts, so we ended up going mid-afternoon on Sunday.
It wasn’t that I’ve never been on a train.
Occasionally we ride the Blue Line from Mall of America to Target Field via the Airport for a Minnesota Twins game. We begin the journey with plenty of seating; the return, after the game, begins with everyone packed like sardines.
The earliest train ride I remember was sometime in the late 1940s, 14 miles between Sykeston and Carrington ND, and back, in the single passenger car of the spur line which went from Carrington west to Turtle Lake in the morning, turned around and came back in the afternoon. Sykeston was the second stop. For some specific reason, on this particular day the route was reversed so that townspeople of Sykeston could “ride the rails” to small-but-larger Carrington and back, without staying overnight. There had to be some specific arrangement.
For a little kid, it was fun, including the occasional soot from the stack of the coal fired steam engine a few cars forward.
Once in awhile, rarely, there have been other train rides: as a college student from Valley City to Minneapolis about 1960 for a student union conference. That was an overnight ride, where the train seemed to stop in the middle of nowhere, frequently. Now and then there have been AMTRAK journeys, as St. Louis to Rochester NY; Washington D.C. to North Carolina; St. Paul to Hartford Ct via Rochester NY; Minneapolis to Chicago with my young son in the 1960s.
What are your memories of trains?
So, came Sunday afternoon, beginning at St. Paul’s Union Station. Initially the plan – my plan, as for a moment I “ruled the roost” – was to go the entire 11 miles and 20 stops from newly reopened Union Station to Target Field. I changed my mind. We went as far as the University of Minnesota stop, turned around and came back. The other stations we’ve seen before.
All of the route was familiar territory. It was just nice to see it from a train or, rather, experience it in a train. Westbound we were seated, and could see little; coming back we were standing, and could see little. It was a free day, after all, and train was full of people, including many friendly and polite families with young kids. This was an outing, not a trip to work!
Here’s two photos I took, one while seated; the second while standing. You can tell which is which!
View from the seated position

View from the seated position

...and from the standing position.

…and from the standing position.

Of course, there were a few grousers demonstrating. “STUPID” said one sign on Saturday; “Nobody will ride it” said another demonstrator. Waste of tax money….
Of course, it isn’t like the Green Line is something novel. Trains and subways and the like are ubiquitous, though not as ubiquitous as I’d like them to be.
As one nice person said while we waited at University Station for the ride back: “we drew preliminary plans for this route 25 years ago”. A news comment suggests that the idea was first surfaced 30 years before 2014. Long before that were streetcars.
It took so long because the “auto” interests prevailed. The monopolist who brought buses (big autos) to this area burned the streetcars so they wouldn’t be competition ever again. Later, I seem to recall, he went to prison for something or other.
But the Green Line was fun on Sunday, and when the hubbub settles down, it will be a busy line and enhance everyones quality of life. The grousers will grouse about something else.
Take it for a ride, sometime. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Green & Blue Line001

3 replies
  1. hshuckhart@yahoo.com
    hshuckhart@yahoo.com says:

    When I think about train rides, three come to mind, two involving me, and one involving my late uncle, Alfred Timm. In 1962, I was the vice-president of the Student Minnesota Education Association at Moorhead State College. I rode the overnight train from Moorhead to St. Paul for a President’s meeting at MEA headquarters and stayed at the Black Hawk Hotel. In 1979, I took my wife and 9-year-old son from St. Paul to Minot, ND to view the February total eclipse of the sun. When I was going through the papers and pictures that my late aunt had saved, I came across a train schedule from 1943 showing the trains from Vancouver, Canada to points east. My uncle was stationed at Prince Edward Island during WWII and used the trains to come back to Minnesota when he got a long enough leave. The schedule had been marked with the times and stops for his trip east and then back west again.
    As a final note on trains, the industry is not keeping up-to-date so they can safely handle transporting oil from places like the Dakota oil fields. Rachel Maddow did a good segment on what changes to tanker cars is necessary and the fact that the companies are resisting those safety measures resulting in a number of derailments and explosions.

  2. thofern@gmail.com
    thofern@gmail.com says:

    My wife and I also headed downtown St. Paul to try out the new Green Line train. During its construction, we made it a point to patronize businesses that were impacted by the building of the line. Mostly that meant eating out at one of the excellent ethnic restaurants along University Avenue.
    Sunday found us at Homi Mexican restaurant on University and Victoria. Truly a mom and pop operation with terrific, authentic Mexican food. The place was packed. After dinner, we decided to walk along the train route past the capitol building, through downtown to the Union Depot. Walking along University Avenue is one of my favorite urban hikes. It was great to see so many folks out enjoying the nice evening and adding to the diversity of Frogtown.
    We boarded the train at the Union Depot and rode it westbound to Lexington where we hopped off and walked back to Victoria. Much to our surprise, Homi was still open, long after their normal 6:00 p.m. close. Hopefully many of these folks will return to the area and become regular customers.
    The naysayers whine about how public transit doesn’t pay its way from the fare box and needs taxpayer subsidies to exist. As if the automobile culture is totally supported by fuel taxes.
    Beyond the argument over whether public transit makes economic sense–and I think it does–is the idea that it’s good for us as a society to interact with each other now and then. On the Saturday train we sat across from a young, mixed-race couple who had ridden their bikes from South Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul and were returning home via light rail. They were positively giddy over their accomplishment and eager to explain to us how easy it is to take bikes on the train. We chatted a bit and they were interested in finding out why a couple of geezers like us would come all the way from western Wisconsin to spend time in the “hood.” Laughs all around. A much different, and richer, experience than you get from being cocooned in your car driving down I-94 listening to NPR. We’ll be back.

    • admin
      admin says:

      I agree. Light rail between Minneapolis and St. Paul will be a boon for both towns in many ways. A tube (subway), a la London or Washington DC, or other places would make the richness of University Avenue less visible and thus less attractive (in my opinion). In either case, there would be a walk between the platform and the businesses. Making the route a subway would be much more expensive too. I wish they would have done this 30 years ago, when, apparently, the idea was first being discussed.


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