Roadside Typos

Thoughts on three holidays, two of them in February

Friday, February 15th, 2008

The first holiday we’re going to discuss today is New Year’s. Roadguy outlined his resolutions for 2008 here, and he is proud to report that he has unequivocally achieved Resolution No. 3:


Yes, he bought a city of Minneapolis parking meter card, and he even loaded it with five bucks. He has yet to use it and still keeps quarters on hand for whenever he’s in St. Paul. (The card can be used in St. Paul, but one has to put money on it in St. Paul first.) Roadguy has been hearing that the cards, which cost $5, don’t work as flawlessly as one might hope — if you’ve got a story to tell, please do so below.

The second holiday worthy of mention today is Valentine’s Day, which Roadguy remembers like it was only yesterday. Alert reader Casey had Cupid on his mind this week when he sent along this unintentionally romantic sign, photographed Sunday in Roseville:


Casey knows that the preferred pluralization of “bus” is “buses,” whereas “busses” is the plural of “buss,” which means “kiss.” Having specific, twice-a-day times for smooching sure sounds like a way of promoting community spirit.

The last holiday we’ll mention, and mention only briefly, is Presidents’ Day, which is Monday. That means Roadguy’s card will go unused another day: city parking meters in Minneapolis and St. Paul will be free (the University of Minnesota, however, appears to be another story; click here).

Roadguy cleans out his camera

Friday, October 5th, 2007

About a month ago, one of Roadguy’s many bosses gave him a new memory card for CrapCam. It has four times the memory of the old card, and that means that four times as many poorly-composed photos can accumulate before Roadguy even thinks of clearing things out. So in an effort to lighten the load, here are five extremely random pictures for your Friday.

First, here’s a way that Roadguy is pretty sure he doesn’t ever want to be honored:


I’m all for remembering the fallen, but when’s the last time you ever heard anyone say anything nice about an interchange?

Next, another photo from the West Coast, filed under “things I’m glad we don’t have here” (or at least I don’t think we have):


Nothing says “welcome to the freeway” like coils of razor wire. They’re apparently there to keep purveyors of graffiti from scaling the poles.

As long as I’m offering California photos, here’s proof of that state’s high fines for HOV scofflaws:


That’s a lot of trips to Chipotle. Roadguy was very inspired to behave.

Closer to home, one of Roadguy’s many bosses (not the one who gave him the memory card) asked him one day about the “green stuff” that road crews spread on dirt, so Roadguy took this photo near the Crosstown:


It’s so … natural-looking. Roadguy assumes it’s some kind of grass-creating mixture, but he doesn’t know, and MnDOT’s a little busy for such questions right now. So if you have knowledge, please share.

Finally, as we’ve all learned in the past few months, redundancy is a good thing in bridge design. But is it a good thing on road signs?


This was near the 10th Avenue Bridge shortly before it reopened. (And you just know that some permit-less parker tried to tell a judge that the sign was ambiguous.)

Speaking of redundancies, to all a good weekend, and a good weekend to all (especially to those who leave comments below).

Mailbag: Those ‘crazy’ lights on 394, and a truck in need of editing

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

Roadguy is behind on his correspondence, so let’s look at a little something from Elizabeth:

I have a question that’s been driving (ha ha) me crazy. There are yellow lights along the carpool lane on 394 that blink randomly. Sometimes when there’s a car in the lane, sometimes when it’s empty. What the heck are they doing?

Thanks for saving my sanity,

This question arrived some time ago, and it kept getting lost in Roadguy’s cluttered inbox, so he sincerely hopes that Elizabeth’s sanity was not actually dependent on a prompt answer. When Roadguy did finally forward the question to those in the know, he got a very thorough e-mail from Kevin at MnDOT.

Mr. Roadguy,

…I believe the lights your questioner is seeing are part of the enforcement equipment on the MnPASS lane. As you know, people who use the MnPASS lane on I-394 who are driving by themselves during its hours of operation must pay a toll. To do this they must sign up to use the system and have a transponder. This is a small low-power radio device that interacts with antennas mounted above the lane.

The antennae are mounted on bridges or sign gantries along the corridor. On the other side of the bridge or gantry from where the antenna is mounted is a yellow beacon. It is square in shape, with a light in the middle.

Ever helpful, Kevin sent along a photo (which Roadguy has cropped down to blog size):


… When an active transponder passes under the antenna, the light that is mounted on the opposite side of the bridge or gantry flashes several times….

The lights are used by the law enforcement that patrols the lane…. The officer watches to see if the light flashes when a car passes underneath. If the light flashes, it means a valid transponder is in the vehicle. If the light does not flash, the officer will check to see if there are two or more people in the vehicle. If there are, it is a valid carpool and is allowed to use the lane for free.

If there is no flashing light, and there is only one person in the car, then that driver is illegally using the MnPASS lane and is subject to being stopped and ticketed. The ticket is $142.

The lights flash almost immediately upon transponder interaction, so if the antenna is mounted on a bridge, the car may not make it all the way past the bridge before the light is done. However, if there are a couple cars together, one in front of the other, it might appear that the light is flashing as the front car passes when the second car is actually triggering the flasher.

So there you have it, Elizabeth. Hope that helps keep you out of a padded room.

Our other piece of mail today comes from loyal reader 406er, who has blessed us in the past with photos of some seriously awful parking jobs (here and here). But he has other interests:

I read your blog because I like transportation. I also like to nitpick about punctuation and grammar:


I’m visualizing apostrophe imperfection.

Heh — proper punctuation is almost as rare as proper turn signal use, and almost as distracting to the well-intentioned driver.

Roadguy wouldn’t want his readers to fret too much about their own punctuation, of course. So even if you don’t know the basic pluralization rules of your native language, keep those e-mails and comments coming.

Little Mr. Sunshine

Friday, October 20th, 2006

Roadguy realizes that he’s not exactly been accentuating the positive this week, so to get everyone into a Friday frame of mind, here are a few photos from the more upbeat end of the spectrum — some Transportation Affirmations, if you will.


This skyline picture might not immediately seem transportation-y, but it was taken from one of my favorite sites in the Twin Cities: the Highland Park Water Tower in St. Paul. The tower’s observation deck is only open to the public a few days each year, and its fall open house was this past weekend. The idea is to let visitors check out the autumnal colors, but it’s also a transportation geek’s dream. Not only are there vistas of the airport tarmac, but the views down Snelling Avenue…


…provided cartographic delights. (It’s not really visible in this CrapCam photo, but due south in Dakota County, there was a gap in the trees. Turned out to be Pilot Knob Road — who knew it lined up with Snelling?)

The observation deck also offered the opportunity for aerial traffic-flow analysis:


Fortunately, no Morons were sighted (or cited) from above.

Because autumn is not just leaf-turning season but also election season, we now take a look at this attempt at low-cost car refinishing:


This extremely loyal vehicle has probably been around for a couple of years, but I just spotted it last week in Minneapolis’ Wedge neighborhood. Kucinich campaign materials are not easy to come by these days, but boxes of bumper stickers for other doomed candidates will be widely available starting Nov. 8, so plan your rust-proofing today.

Next, a sign of hope in the struggle against bad signage:


Yes, someone actually thought the word “dangerous” had an “e” on the end. (I again find myself slightly concerned about the state of education in my native Wisconsin, where this was taken.) The heartening part is that someone other than yours truly wielded the equivalent of a giant eraser and tried to fix the problem. One Roadside Typo down, a few zillion to go.

And finally, some Transportation Affirmation in the truth-challenged world of roadwork signs:



Behold — the lanes in question are actually closed. Gold stars all around — I was beginning to wonder whether such things were possible.

All right, that’s enough goodness for one day — too much at once and Roadguy needs his insulin. But if you’ve got any Transportation Affirmation nominations, send ‘em on in.

Read “me”

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

As previously noted, we’re an overeducated metro area, one in which there’s no excuse for distracting drivers with improper uses of the English language. So Roadguy admits to feeling a twinge of metropolitan superiority when he saw this sign at a real estate agency in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin:


I sometimes “wonder” what would happen to the “economy” if all the superfluous quotation “marks” were eliminated — would paint and ink prices plummet? At least I was able to write off the sign as a bit of rustic quaintness — until, much closer to home, I drove past this:


Sigh. I couldn’t help but imagine Stephen Colbert making air quotes with his fingers and saying the word “trading” in his inimitable tone. Of course, one might argue that quotation marks are appropriate because it’s not actually trading — you can’t just walk in with two chickens and a goat and drive off in a Civic. Still, the whole thing makes Roadguy yearn for a giant red pen (or perhaps a giant eraser) and some seriously long arms.

Got any Roadside Typos to share? Send them “in.”

Gentlemen, start your editors

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

We’re gonna have a little section here at Roadguy called Roadside Typos. In a metro area as overeducated as ours, there’s really no excuse for subjecting unsuspecting motorists to misspellings, punctuation flaws, grammatical errors and the like. (There’s really no excuse for this blog to expose you to any of those, either, but at least my mistakes aren’t in 3-foot-high letters.)

Packing an out-of-date digital device I affectionately refer to as CrapCam, I’ve been collecting Roadside Typos for a couple of months now. On one summer night, I headed to St. Paul to check out a particular freeway billboard that had been bugging me, and photographing it proved to be a challenge because the neighbors, clearly opposed to punctuation errors, had succeeded in getting the state to wall off their homes from the offending sight. Reluctant to stand on the highway’s shoulder (I’ve read way too many stories about troopers getting hit), I decided to pause on the side of an entrance ramp with my hazard lights flashing. The least-horrible image, even after trying the fancy “focus” function on my photo-editing program, is this:


For those of you without superhuman retinas, it says: “Captains of industry your flagship awaits.” To which I say, “The Saint Paul Hotel, your comma awaits.” Had I been truly dedicated to the cause, I would’ve climbed the sign in a Greenpeace-type manner and sprayed the comma myself.

The ad has since been taken down, but I know there are more typos to be found, so send ‘em on in to Roadguy.