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Union Depot welcomes back passenger rail May 7

After a 42-year hiatus, passenger rail service will return to the historic Union Depot in Lowertown Saint Paul on Wednesday, May 7—bringing the station one step closer to becoming the central multimodal transit hub planners spent $243 million envisioning and renovating.

Union Depot will return to its original intent of being a national connection point for train travelers when Amtrak’s Empire Builder arrives to the station’s Kellogg Entry at 10:03 p.m. Amtrak’s current station in the Midway area of Saint Paul will close when the Chicago-bound train departs that morning.

From Union Depot, passengers can connect to a variety of other transportation networks, including intercity buses like Greyhound and Jefferson bus lines, as well as Metro Transit and MVTA local bus services. In June, the new Metro Transit Green Line light rail will start rolling with Union Depot as its Eastern terminus. There are also plans to house a bicycle center, complete with storage facility at the station, according to a joint statement from the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority (RCRRA) and Amtrak.

Originally built in 1881 as a stepping stone for passengers arriving and departing on journeys to and from the quickly expanding Western United States, as many as 20,000 travelers a day passed through the station during its peak in the 1920s, says Deborah Carter McCoy, of RCRRA.

“It’s a very important building for many people,” says McCoy, who currently works out of the station. “Every day there is a new story about someone’s father who was a conductor or an uncle who was a Red Cap [Amtrak service agent].”

With the rise of the automobile and increased popularity of air travel, passenger rail service took a nosedive in the middle part of the last century. “There just wasn’t a lot of traffic in and out of these large train stations,” McCoy said.

Union Depot shuttered its gates in 1971 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The renovation wrapped up in 2012, priming the depot for the modern resurgence of train travel and multimodal transportation.

For the time being, the Empire Builder out of Chicago will be the only passenger train passing through Union Depot—a somewhat fitting start, considering James J. Hill, known as “The Empire Builder,” was a major motivator behind the station’s initial construction.

McCoy says feasibility studies are underway to explore additional trains running between the Twin Cities and Chicago, and the MN High-Speed Rail Commission is also looking at options for a more rapid connection.

Adult rail fares for the Empire Builder start at $66 each way to Chicago and $164 each way to Portland and Seattle. The RCRRA and Amtrak will host a free event celebrating the return of passenger rail service on National Train Day at Union Depot, Saturday, May 10.

Kyle Mianulli

President Obama highlights TC transportation during Depot stop

The Twin Cities’ growing transportation infrastructure grabbed the national spotlight when President Barack Obama dropped by the newly renovated Union Depot in Saint Paul last Wednesday to tout a $300-billion-dollar transportation proposal.

Obama pointed to the $243-million-dollar Depot makeover in Lowertown as an example of the boost transportation development can give to local economies. “This project symbolizes what’s possible,” he said.

The project was supported, in part, through a federal grant program known as TIGER, or Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, which was created as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“All told, more than 4,000 jobs were created for this project. And we’re seeing businesses crop up and new development crop up all along the line,” Obama said.

During his speech, Obama announced a $600-million expansion of the competitive TIGER grant program to spur economic development across the country. He plans to help finance the plan by simplifying the tax code and closing loopholes—a tactic Republicans generally oppose.

To hear the President speak, some 1,300-ticketed spectators filed into the multi-modal transit hub that will soon service the Metro Transit’s new Green Line, bus lines, and Amtrak trains.

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-St. Paul, who played an integral role in garnering $124 million in federal funding for the Depot project, was among them. She accompanied Obama on his flight from Washington aboard Air Force One.

“The President’s visit here today represents a great victory for all of the tireless champions of transit here in the east metro,” McCollum said in a statement. “Union Depot will serve as the crown jewel of transportation in the state of Minnesota and provide a critical upgrade to our region’s infrastructure.”

A shiny new light rail train that will soon be rolling down the Central Corridor was on full display in front of the Depot for Obama’s appearance. The President toured the maintenance facility for the trains during his visit.

“I just had a chance to take a look at some of those spiffy new trains,” Obama said. “They are nice. And they’re energy efficient. They’re going to be reliable. You can get from one downtown to the other in a little over 30 minutes.”

In an embarrassing turn, the new train that was on display careened off a snow bank and derailed on its return trip from the Depot shortly after Obama departed. It took workers several hours get the train back on track, according to the Star Tribune.

Obama didn’t miss the opportunity to bond with Minnesotans over what is turning out to be the coldest winter in decades. He chided Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, a North Carolinian, who introduced the President at the event, for being soft in the cold.

“When we got off the plane, Secretary Foxx…turned to me and he said, ‘This is the coldest I’ve ever been in my life.’ Now we were only out there for like a minute,” Obama said. The President added that as a native of Chicago, he found the single-digit temperatures that day “balmy.” “February in Minnesota—can’t beat it. Cannot beat it,” he said.

He also commended Minnesota’s contributions to the Winter Olympics in Sochi. “It is not shocking that Minnesotans might be pretty good at the Winter Olympics,” he said. Minnesota sent 19 athletes to the games—the second most of any state.

Sources: President Barack Obama, Rep. Betty McCullum, D-St. Paul
Writer: Kyle Mianulli

Community members to help plan Take the Field event

The Corcoran Neighborhood Organization (CNO) wants to encourage community participation in the planning of an ambitious event it's hosting this fall called Take the Field

The Oct. 11 event, which will take place at Minneapolis's South High School's athletic field, will be a block party-style get-together with a special artistic project, a picnic, a movie screening, and more. 

Tonight, people will gather at the intersection of 21st Avenue South and 31st Street to brainstorm for the event. 

Besides the community-building aspect, Take the Field aims to spark a dialogue about neighborhood traffic issues and possible solutions, according to CNO community organizer Ross Joy.

The event was inspired in part by the school district's decision to phase out yellow school bus service to the city's public high schools, he explains. Starting this fall, students will walk, bike or take public transit to South High, or more cars might be on the road, according to CNO.  

In response, the neighborhood group wants to lead a discussion about how 21st Avenue and 32nd Streets could become major corridors for pedestrians and cyclists. CNO hopes to jumpstart that conversation at the meeting this week, which is open to anyone. Attendees will help flesh out event details, as well, Joy says. 

The neighborhood group is collaborating with the artistic trio Janaki Ranpura, Andrea Steudel, and Meena Mangalvedhekar, known collectively as JAM, on the event's main attraction, in which huge projections and sound will turn the field into an interactive art space. Attendees can join in the visualization, or they can take in the spectacle from the bleachers.  

Joy hopes the public art project will “engage the community about the big ideas of scale, time and space.” That's important as the neighborhood considers how walkers, bicyclists and car drivers fit together, physically. 

These are issues that have been building in the neighborhood for some time. Last spring, South High students led a petition asking local government leaders to improve 21st Ave S and 32nd Street for cyclists. “Most students live east of Hiawatha highway 55 and thus major crossing like at 32nd Street are often dangerous and discourages bicycle use,” Joy explains. 

Furthermore, the event dovetails with other planning efforts in the neighborhood, including its small area plan and the Urban Planning vision for East Lake Street, he says. 

“One of the big outcomes we are seeking is for the wider community to embrace a new identity for the South High Athletic Field,” Joy says. 

That identity should be “high-use and diverse, engaging for pedestrians, and safe for cyclists,” he adds.  


Source: Ross Joy, lead organizer, CNO  
Writer: Anna Pratt 


























Bike Walk Week events this week

The annual Twin Cities Bike Walk Week stresses the benefits of biking and walking as an alternative to driving a car.

The daily festivities, scheduled from June 9 to 15, include all kinds of community gatherings, food, entertainment, prizes and more. (For a full schedule of events, check out the Bike Walk Week website.)

Every year, a number of local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, businesses and other community groups come together to make it happen, according to Nick Olson, a Bike Walk Week planner for the city of Minneapolis. Their mission is to “incentivize and encourage biking and walking,” especially people who are new to the idea, he says.

Among the week’s highlights are a series of commuter “pit stops,” at multiple places in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The “pit stops,” which take place at peak commuting hours, give people the opportunity to get their bike tuned up or to ask questions about routes, Olson says. Free bike lights will also be given away. “It’s a very direct way to get people out,” he says.

On Wednesday, breakfast will be offered for free to those on bike or foot at the Greenway Building on the Midtown Greenway at 28th Street in Minneapolis. “I recommend it. It’s a popular one,” says Olson.

Thursday is Bike Walk to Work Day. The celebration, which will happen at several locations throughout the day, includes a wide variety of vendors plus a couple of speakers. They’ll talk about “how biking and walking are a key part to communities and to business,” he says.  

People who pledge to bike or walk at least once within the week will be entered in a drawing to win a new bike or transit fare for a year, according to the website. People can sign up to take the “commuter challenge” individually or in teams.    

Besides showing people how to get from point A to point B, the activities demonstrate “how biking or walking can be tons of fun.”

Source: Nick Olson, Bike Walk Week event planner, city of Minneapolis
Writer: Anna Pratt



Megabus comes to St. Paul

Last week, Megabus, which offers low-cost intercity travel by bus, rolled out a St. Paul bus stop.  

The stop, which can be found in the Midway Shopping Center’s parking lot, is only blocks away from the coming Central Corridor light rail transit station on Snelling Avenue.

Mike Alvich, the vice president of marketing and public relations for Megabus and Coach USA, says St. Paul is a natural connection for the bus service. “We always felt that St. Paul was a place where we should have service,” though the company began conservatively, he says.

Megabus, which began in Britain and expanded into the U.S. in 2006, also has a downtown Minneapolis bus stop, near the Metrodome and a Hiawatha light rail transit station.

Megabus operates in 100 U.S. cities out of a dozen hubs nationwide, with Chicago being its first. “It’s been very exciting,” Alvich says, adding that the company just reached a milestone of 25 million customers.

In general, Megabus attracts an interesting mix of people, including small groups taking day trips, businesspeople and seniors, with students and young professionals accounting for the largest group of riders. “St. Paul fits the mold for us,” he says, adding, “The community fits the demographic.”  Additionally, Greyhound buses have discontinued service in St. Paul, he says.

While the Megabus service helps connect the city to other areas across the Midwest, “For those traveling into the city, it adds to the city’s economy,” he says. Part of the draw of Megabus is that fares can be as low as $1, while the buses are “state-of-the-art double-decker buses with wifi outlets and electrical outlets.".

Something he’s found from the company’s social networking activity is that “we provide more than just transportation. We provide the ability for people to do the things they love."


Source: Mike Alvich, vice president of marketing and public relations for Megabus and Coach USA
Writer: Anna Pratt



Creating a 'first-class region when it comes to transportation'

When it comes to transit, the Twin Cities has lagged behind other areas across the country.

Last Friday, 10 metro-area mayors and commissioners who gathered at the state Capitol agreed that the region needs to catch up. In a press conference, they voiced support for Governor Mark Dayton's transit initiative.

The plan addresses the need for several different modes of transit; it provides for additional bus service, funding for the Southwest Light Rail Transit line and new bus rapid transit or streetcar lines over the next 20 years, according to a prepared statement about the event.

To make it happen, the Governor's budget lays out that $250 million a year will come from a regional one-fourth-cent sales tax.

That allocation will help grow the transit system by 1 percent annually, according to event materials.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, a speaker at the press conference, said it's about creating a "first-class region when it comes to transportation," where people "choose to live in communities that have great networks of transportation options."

A number of cities across the country have already prioritized transit. "In so many different measures, they are beating us on the things that matter," he said.

That includes job creation, growth and in-migration of talented workers, as just a few examples, he added.  

But he's hopeful that as the region expands its transit system, the Twin Cities "will be second to none, in terms of the quality of life, in terms of the ability to attract talent and the ability to attract jobs."

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak seconded that, adding that the plan "will allow us to make dramatic and incredible improvements in transit infrastructure that grows jobs."

Residents need to be able to move easily throughout the region, from home and work. "You can't grow a region if you're stuck in gridlock."

Transportation needs to be addressed as a system, not in a piecemeal fashion. "It's critically important and it says a lot about our future," he said.  


Source: Press conference
Writer: Anna Pratt




All day celebration planned for opening of Union Depot

St. Paul is marking the beginning of a new era for the historic Union Depot with an opening celebration on Dec. 8, which will be an all-day affair. 

After undergoing a $243 million renovation over the past couple of years, soon the 1920s landmark will again serve as a transit hub--this time for trains, buses, bicycle commuting and more.

The station last saw trains in 1971, according to information from the Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority.

Josh Collins, a spokesperson with the rail authority, says, "We really see this as an important celebration to mark the completion of the construction," adding, "It's a chance for the public to see their investment," and to show off a beautiful building.

Going forward, the depot will be "the living room of St. Paul," with meetings, galas and conventions happening there, he says.

People can also go to the depot to "use our wifi and get some work done," he says.

The day's celebration, which begins at 10 a.m., includes facility tours, theatrical performances, historical reenactments, music, dance, art, food and more.

The depot's history figures prominently into the event. For example, the nonprofit Bedlam Theatre will be staging performances that recreate historic moments. The theater troupe will portray soldiers returning from World War II, early immigrants arriving in the city, and more. "It'll be a fascinating artistic experience," he says. "I'm really excited about that." 

Old photos and artifacts that were uncovered during the renovation will also be on display.

The celebration also offers numerous interactive family-friendly activities, with train-themed photos, a Snoopy statue unveiling, appearances from Winter Carnival Royalty and a screening of the movie, "Elf," according to rail information. 

Metro Transit will kick off its bus service to and from the station with complimentary rides. The union depot's new website, uniondepot.org, will soon go live with free bus passes for the day.   

Furthermore, people "can learn about our growing transit system," he says. 

Next year, the Jefferson Regional Bus Lines and Amtrak Twin Cities will settle in at the depot, while the in-progress Central Corridor Light Rail Transit, which is being branded as the Green Line, will come through the station starting in 2014, according to rail information.

Also in the coming year, One-on-One Bicycle Studio in Minneapolis will open full-service bicycle center with storage space, a repair shop and lockers.

Source: Josh Collins, Ramsey County Regional Rail
Writer: Anna Pratt

St. Paul contemplates bringing back streetcars

In the future, St. Paul could once again have a streetcar system.

Right now, the city is weighing its options, with the help of a San Francisco consulting firm, Nelson\Nygaard, which is conducting a feasibility study on the topic, according to Nancy Homans, a policy advisor to Mayor Chris Coleman.

The study, which will probably take a year to complete, entails “doing preliminary work around possible routes and identifying criteria by which we’ll evaluate both the geometrics of the street and transit ridership issues," she says.

Funding for the $250,000 study comes from the city, Ramsey County, the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, the McKnight Foundation and the Saint Paul Foundation, according to Finance and Commerce.

Over the next year, the city, with the help of the consulting firm, will also be asking for feedback from the public on its findings.

The city’s streetcars went away about 40 years ago. “It was once a well-developed system,” she says.

The reason streetcars are coming up these days is because “They are a good transit type of vehicle. People appreciate the fixed route,” she says, adding that the economic development impact has also been demonstrated.

“They support the business node and link into the larger regional system,” she says.

In this case, the city hopes that streetcars will build on the coming Central Corridor light rail transit line.

This is something that cities around the country are looking at. “The conversation has been, ‘how we do improve transit in the city,’” she says, adding, “I think this is a logical next step.”  

For St. Paul, getting there means working closely with Minneapolis, which already did its own feasibility study, and other regional partners to figure out financing. “We want to work together on common issues,” she says.

Source: Nancy Homans, policy advisor to mayor Chris Coleman, city of St. Paul
Writer: Anna Pratt





 



Zap Twin Cities encourages bicycle commuting

After a couple of weeks of beta testing, this Thursday, the  ZAP Twin Cities program will be up and running in downtown Minneapolis.   
 
ZAP workers will be on hand at the Nicollet Mall farmers market to share information about the high-tech program, which rewards people for riding their bikes to work or school.
 
The program, which began operating at the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus in January, will expand into downtown St. Paul in the coming weeks as well.  
 
Its objective is to “change how people in the Twin Cities choose to get around, helping reduce congestion and improve air quality in the region," a prepared statement about the program reads.
 
To take part, people get a ZAP tag, which gets fixed on a bicycle. “Bicycle trips are automatically logged when a cyclist rides past one of several ZAP readers,” the statement says.
 
The readers, which are solar-powered, beep when a tagged bicyclist passes by, transmitting the data wirelessly to the website.         
 
Steve Sanders, alternative transportation manager at the university, says it has many advantages over self-reporting bicycle trips. Besides eliminating any extra steps, it makes the trips verifiable. “Once you put the tag on [and register it online], you don’t have to do anything” except ride past the sensors, he says. 
 
Along the way, bike commuters pick up various rewards, such as bike accessories, gift cards, and more. 
 
As an added perk, the university offers health benefits for program participation. For example, “If you ride 40 times a year, you can earn points that create a discount for health insurance,” Sanders says.  
 
On the ZAP website, participants can check out their trip data, which includes figures such as calories burned and gallons of gas saved.
 
Since the program started at the university, over 1,200 people have signed up, a figure which is already well over the program's goal of 500 people in the first year.  
 
“It’s been very gratifying,” he says. “People were hungry for a way to have their bike commuting count. Tying it to health has also been important.” 
 
ZAP is a collaboration of the Commuter Connection in downtown Minneapolis, St. Paul Smart Trips, the university, and Dero Bike Rack Company.
 
Source: Steve Sanders
Writer: Anna Pratt
 
 
 

SPOKES bike walk center in the works for Seward

SPOKES, a new bike and walk center in Minneapolis’s Seward neighborhood, is preparing for its Aug. 22 grand opening.

The center, whose acronym stands for Seward People Operated Kinetic Energy, is housed in a 2,400-square-foot warehouse space on the former Bystrom Brothers machine shop site. This is also where property owner Seward Redesign, which is a community development corporation, is planning the Seward Commons housing complex. (See The Line story here.)

Last week, volunteers helped paint and set up workbenches and storage areas inside the shop, according to center director Sheldon Mains. Bike racks will soon be installed outside, he says.

The Seward Neighborhood Group is behind the center, which has been in the works for a couple of years.

Startup funds came from Bike Walk Twin Cities, a federal nonmotorized transportation pilot program administered by Transit for Livable Communities through the Federal Highway Administration, he explains. This funding is facilitated by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the city of Minneapolis, he adds. 

The center is part of a larger neighborhood initiative to “get more people biking and walking,” especially as a regular mode of transportation, Mains says.

Biking is more economical than driving and it’s a good form of exercise. “It can help build social connections, too,” he adds. 

The center will start out by targeting East African immigrants, who form a large community within the neighborhood. This is a response in part to a neighborhood survey that found that “what stopped people from riding was that they didn’t know how to,” he says.

Some people also said they couldn’t afford a bike or equipment, or they didn’t have a place to store it. “We’re trying to address those things,” Mains says.

Some helmets, bikes and Nice Ride bike-sharing memberships have been donated to the center, while the bike racks came from local manufacturer Dero. Seward Coop Market and Deli and Quality Bike Products have made contributions, as well.

The center is still looking for more used bikes to loan to low-income residents, he adds.  

SPOKES will also offer classesfocusing on basic riding skills, traffic rules, and bike mechanics. The shop will also host open work times for women, he says.

Plus, a bike repair station will be accessible 24 hours a day outside. “It’s a unique program,” Mains says.  

Source: Sheldon Mains, director, SPOKES
Writer: Anna Pratt

Met Council gets an app to improve regional bike-ability

To make the area more amenable to bicyclists, the Metropolitan Council has started gathering information about individual rides with the help of a smartphone app called CycleTracks.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority originally developed the app to improve its transit system. Recently the California agency licensed the Met Council, for a fee, to use the same program locally, according to council information. 

Using GPS technology, the free app, which is available to both iPhone and Android users, captures data about cyclists’ routes, distance, and travel times. The app also collects demographic information such as age, gender, ride frequency, and so forth.  

Jonathan Ehrlich, a senior planner with the council, explains: “We’re using it for transportation planning. We can get data about cyclists, what facilities they’re using, and for what purpose.”

“The app tells us everywhere a bicyclist has been,” he says.

It also distinguishes recreational bicyclists from commuters and others who bike as a primary mode of transportation.

This information will tell the council “what roads and paths are being used and what ones are being avoided,” he says.  

People can also add notes about their ride.  

Right now the app has a couple hundred users and the council hopes to get several thousand. “We’re very pleased with the response so far,” Ehrlich says.

The council is trying to get as much data as possible this summer and fall, to aid in a private study.  
 
Another senior transportation planner, David Vessel, adds that this is “a great way for regional cyclists to contribute to a more accurate model of cycling activity and improve the plan for future cycling facilities.”  

At the same time, “The app stores the ride map and stats for the cyclist on their phone too,” he says, adding, “It is a handy free cycle computer.”

Source: David Vessel, Jonathan Ehrlich, senior transit planners, Met Council
Writer: Anna Pratt

Cycles for Change expands with $30,000 grant

Last month, Cycles for Change, a nonprofit bike shop, celebrated its expansion along University Avenue in St. Paul.

The shop, which has been around since 2001, strives to increase bike access for low-income and underserved populations in the surrounding neighborhoods, according to its website.

It has grown a lot over the past few years, and it needed more space to accommodate that, according to development and outreach director Jason Tanzman.

To carry that out, recently the shop, which was formerly known as the Sibley Bike Depot, received a $30,000 grant from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative

As a part of the project, the shop added 600 square feet to its existing 3,000 square feet, he says.

Through the project, the administrative area and workshop (where customers can work on their bikes), got more space, he says. The retail section moved to the storefront area while the walls got a fresh coat of paint and the floors were refinished.   

The shop has also been able to get improved signage for better street-level visibility, which is especially important considering the challenges of Central Corridor light rail transit line construction, he says.

Prior to the expansion, the bike shop was a bit out of the way in the building, he says.

Besides the phsyical changes, the place was able to increase its retail hours.   

All in all, the changes “enhance our ability to be a community organization and promote biking as a way to get around in combination with public transit," he says. 

Despite the momentum around biking right now, it can still be cost-prohibitive, especially for minorities and low-income people. “We need a level of intentionality about it so it’s not an upper-middle-class white thing, and that we’re able to expand the circle of who has access,” he says.   


Source: Jason Tanzman, development and outreach director, Cycles for Change
Writer: Anna Pratt

Kuramoto Model (1000 Fireflies) bike-light project makes community connections visible

Close to midnight on June 9, up to 1,000 bicyclists will be outfitted with special LED lights that will create a synchronized spectacle across the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis.

This experiment/public art display, which is part of the arts-geared Northern Spark Festival that will go all night in Minneapolis and St. Paul, is called, “The Kuramoto Model (1000 Fireflies).”  

The artist/techie behind it, David Rueter, an MFA candidate in art and technology studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, explains that whenever the lights blink, they broadcast a radio signal. As the lights "hear" each other, they begin to blink in synchronized patterns. By themselves, they look like regular LED cycling safety lights,  “but in groups, they exhibit an immediately noticeable and striking phenomenon,” a statement about the project reads. Reuter explains that the lights “can adjust or form a consensus” visually. “These lights are always listening.”

The project takes its name from Yoshiki Kuramoto, who pioneered research along these lines, Rueter says. He hopes that the bike ride/public art display will reveal the connections between individuals “and what amounts to a system of urban cycling, and connections that exist, whether or not they’re intentional.” He’s interested in seeing how that “transforms the way people perceive cycling,” and how it “changes the flow of cyclists.” For starters, it “alters the social rules of proximity. Different ways that people form in groups will be unveiled. It’ll change the way people approach interacting on bikes,” he says.

Well after the festival, people may continue to use them, and have chance encounters with each other.

It’s encouraging having the support of those who contributed to his $1,000 Kickstarter campaign, he says. “Everyone seems to latch onto the idea,” he adds. “Their imaginations run wild.”   


Source: David Reuter, Kuramoto Model Project
Writer: Anna Pratt

Northeast Ride to show another side of the city

The first-ever Northeast Ride, which is coming up on June 2, is a chance to see Northeast Minneapolis up close and personal, on bikes.

It'll show off everything from the area's bustling arts district to its up-and-coming beer breweries.

The family-friendly event is geared for cyclists of all ages and experience levels, according to information from the Northeast Community Development Corporation (CDC), which set it up.

The bike ride’s co-presenters include Bicycle Theory, MPLS Bike Love, and Altered Esthetics, along with a number of community sponsors.

Jamie Schumacher, who leads the Northeast CDC, says via email that the nearly 12-mile bike ride came about as a creative way to highlight the Northeast area.  “You always see a neighborhood differently on a bike, and we'll be touring throughout all of awesome Northeast,” she says. "We hope people take away from it a good introduction to Northeast, and a fun and creative experience."   

The ride also takes advantage of new bike trails and bikeways, according to Northeast CDC materials.

Participants will travel the route in small groups, starting out at the Northeast Minneapolis Armory, and exploring each of the neighborhood parks. Related activities will be happening at the parks along the way, including a post-ride expo, according to Northeast CDC information.  

Throughout nine stops, cyclists will get a taste of old and new developments in Northeast. They’ll visit such neighborhood landmarks as the historic Casket Arts building, the longstanding Grain Belt Brewery, and the brand-new Indeed Brewing.

Neighborhoods such as Logan Park and local businesses such as Community Bees on Bikes, which delivers honey via bike, are among other highlights of the ride.

The ride will wrap up with a party at Altered Esthetics, which will have bike-themed art on view.

 
Source: Jamie Schumacher, executive director, Northeast CDC
Writer: Anna Pratt

Videotect 2 picks winning videos with sustainable transportation theme

Videotect 2, the second annual video competition from Architecture Minnesota magazine, got people thinking in many different directions about sustainable transportation.
 
The 39 submissions included everything from an old-timey PSA about the benefits of walking to a Super Bowl-commercial-inspired video about getting around in the future.
 
The grand prizewinner, "SaddleBag," which won a $2,000 prize, was announced at the competition’s March 1 screening at the Walker Art Center. (Watch it below.)
 
Gaardhouse and Shelter Architecture teamed up on the video, which was tongue-in-cheek yet informative. “I hope more outfits take a cue from it,” Hudson says. “It had a great story line with lots of facts and it was easy to read and understand the diagrams.”   
  
The most popular video among viewers, which also received a $2,000 check, was “Twin Cities Trails,” by Steven Gamache, Matt Herzog, Ben Lindau, Chris Lyner, and Mike Oertel. It showed a 1980s hair band that sang about the Twin Cities’ unmatched trail system. “It spoofed Queen amazingly,” he says, adding, “It was inventive and funny.”   
 
The $500 honorable mention awards went to the “Church of Automobility,” by Michael Heller and Ryan O’Malley, “A Fistful of Asphalt,” by John Akre, “Over/Under,” by Daniel Green, and “Sustainable Transportation,” by Ryan Yang. 
 
In general, guidelines for the 30- to 120-second videos were pretty open-ended. The pieces just had to “present a point of view on transportation choices, their impact on the environment and human health, and the role that design can play in enhancing them,” according to a statement about the competition.
 
Why is the magazine doing it? “The crux of it is, trying to bring more voices and creativity into urban design debates. It can be dry stuff, but it’s so important to the quality of our lives and how we design cities,” Hudson says. Videotect is a “great way to have fun with it, to make it entertaining to get at some of these issues that we keep debating as citizens.”

That's evident in the fact that the contest drew more submissions this year, and online voting spiked by 250 percent, he says.
 
Source: Chris Hudson, editor, Architecture Minnesota
Writer: Anna Pratt

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Videotect 2: SaddleBag from Architecture Minnesota on Vimeo.

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