We appear to be back

Friday, February 29th, 2008

The server migration is complete. Let the words continue to fly.

It’s MYtunes!

Friday, July 13th, 2007

Let’s talk driving distractions.

Cell phones. CDs. Coffee. Cheeseburgers. Lipstick. Electric razors. Newspapers. Each of these things, if used while driving, will sap at least some of your attention from the road ahead. You’ll get dirty looks from other drivers if spotted talking on your phone in traffic. In some places, you’d get pulled over.

But nobody looks twice or says anything about the cute kids strapped into their seats in the back of the car.

They might be the biggest distraction of all.

Although my two daughters, 19 months and 4, have been in the car with me countless times, it wasn’t until a recent trip on some Washington County backroads that I realized how much attention they can command.

The backseat of our little hatchback is littered with toys, books and dolls, which in the past have entertained the youngsters just fine. Half the time they ignore the toys and high-five each other for 10 miles. My wife is usually there to help if something gets dropped. I can focus on the road just fine.

But now the youngest is more talkative and the oldest is more opinionated. Thus begins the struggle for music control. And that clash is hard to ignore.

On this particular roadtrip, the objects of competing interests were the Beatles’ “She Loves You,” as covered by Alvin and the Chipmunks, and “Do Ya” from local band The Owls.

The Chipmunks were on first, and the toddler quickly decided she wasn’t digging Alvin’s voice. She strianed against her shoulder straps in protest. “Turn, turn, turn,” she squealed, meaning “It’s my turn.”

When the song was over, we put on her choice. The oldest crossed her arms and huffed, looked down and pouted. After a minute or so, she started in with “It’s my turn now.”

For some reason we thought the incident might be a good lesson in sharing, so we repeated the cycle a few more times. Nerves frayed. We had meltdown. We turned off the music.

During most of the exchange I kept looking in the rearview to see what each was doing. I didn’t swerve or come close to hitting anything, but I certainly wasn’t as focused as a driver should be. I kept hearing Chipmunks in my head.

Thankfully, a couple of hot air balloons were in the sky up ahead, and tranquility prevailed.

Maybe next time we’ll bring the portable CD player. But they’d probably fight over that, too.

Guest poster Chris is a news editor at StarTribune.com and contributor to the Cribsheet blog.

A few things to consider

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

So, it’s about the halfway point through road construction season in Minnesota. How have you been faring? Does it seem better, worse or just like any other summer?

A random observation: It might be a good idea to hang up the cell phone when getting pulled over. I noticed a traffic stop in Minneapolis on Wednesday afternoon in which a driver pulled over, phone to ear, and kept gabbing even as the officer approached her window. I can’t think that helps make one’s case against a distracted driving charge.   

No solution yet to University and Snelling: The Star Tribune version. The Pioneer Press version. This St. Paul landmark is one of the more painful intersections in the metro that I frequently run into. There are also several intersections along Washington Avenue in Minneapolis to avoid at rush hour. What are your picks for bad intersections around the metro?   

Congestion elsewhere: The San Francisco Chronicle has come up with the top 20 worst bottlenecks in the Bay Area. Here’s a fun fact: “Last year, the Bay Area’s 100 largest bottlenecks caused nearly 7 million hours of commuter delay during peak commute hours, or a quarter of all peak time congestion,” according to a newspaper analysis.

Guest poster Chris is a news editor at Star Tribune.com and contributor to the Cribsheet blog.

A ride on the Finnish side

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Guest blogger Kitty works on the Star Tribune copy desk. She and her family just got back from a vacation in Finland, to visit friends and celebrate Midsummer. Though she is generally both bored and ignorant when it comes to transportation issues, she was struck, even impressed, by several transportation wonders.

Can these be imported?

1. Before you get on a tram, bus, train, ferry or the metro in Helsinki, you can buy your ticket using your cell phone. I saw my friend do it. You punch in a number, and the fare is added to your phone bill. And an adult with a kid in a stroller gets on free. Check it out here.

2. Intercity trains have a special kids’ car, with toys and books and a slide. Better, as you watch your kid play, you can drink a fabulous cup of coffee or cold can of beer from the DSCN1164.JPGtraveling refreshment cart.

On the other hand, if you don’t enjoy children, you can pick a different car. The nearest thing I’ve seen on a train here is the Lounge Car on the Amtrak. Nice views, but not that amusing for kids under 5.

Of course the first thing to import here would be reliable, regular intercity train service. Here’s the train website.

3. There seem to be bike paths next to every road, even 4-lane highways. For example, we rode the 8K trip to a summer cottage, from Tampere to Niihama, on a beautiful trail through the woods. In Helsinki, there are bike paths all over the city, too, even though the streets barely have room for cars.

In general, it seems like traffic goes about 10 miles per hour slower all over, city or highway. Could be we were riding with cautious drivers, but there are lots of “traffic-calming” features like roundabouts, curvy roads and bumpy cobblestone streets that would explain this.

You can decide if this is an advance or not.

Links: Asphalt art, an airport encounter and more

Friday, June 1st, 2007
  • Mural, mural, on the road: St. Paulites will be grabbing some paint and touching up a colorful piece of traffic-calming this weekend; click here for a Strib item.
  • Biking at the airport? Alert reader Nicole and alert reader Dan call our attention to this blog item, in which a violinist-bicyclist describes his arrest as he tried to pedal away from the Twin Cities airport.
  • 35W? Who needs it? We do, but we’re going to have to get through south Minneapolis without it this weekend; click here for a Strib story and map on the closing, here for MnDOT info.
  • Train chugs ahead: Three counties are making sure that the Northstar commuter rail project keeps moving forward this summer; Strib story is here.
  • Can’t afford to drive to Chicago? Vita.mn offers these closer-to-home ideas for shorter trips/day trips.
  • Seat-belt gaffe: After doing a story about the New Jersey governor’s car crash (in which the governor was not wearing a seat belt), Matt Lauer of the “Today” Show interviewed Mitt Romney in a moving vehicle — and neither man was buckled in. Click here for an AP story via KMSP.com.

Roadguy, Greengirl and few links

Monday, March 12th, 2007

Roadguy is officially on vacation the rest of this week — after today, look for prose from guest blogger Greengirl in this space. Gardening may be her speciality, but she can dish the dirt about TC transportation (and, her camera is nicer than mine).

And for your reading pleasure, a few links to share:

  • Metro sales tax: The Strib takes a look at DFL efforts to enact a metrowide sales tax to pay for transportation; click here.
  • Getting drivers with DWIs back behind the wheel: A City Pages story about some possible changes is here.
  • PhotoCop inches ahead: A bill to make the cameras legal advanced at the Legislature; click here.

I’ll be back next week, but keep those comments and e-mails coming so I have plenty to read upon my return.