The train doesn’t stop here anymore (5×8 – 4/5/13)

Is commuter rail a failed idea, Ebert on Ebert, in the saddle with the guv, Minnesota: land of manure, and raising tomorrow’s racists today.


1) IS COMMUTER RAIL A FAILED IDEA?

After refurbishing the marvelous Union Depot in Saint Paul with the notion that someday commuter trains from the east metro would disgorge passengers there, we’re getting the word: it won’t happen.

The Pioneer Press says it’ll be an old standby in the commuting future: buses. A Washington County politician blames the Northstar commuter rail line which originally was to be a connection between Minneapolis and St. Cloud but ended up only going as far as Big Lake. It’s been a passenger-rail failure. No sense replicating that idea, she figures, in the corridor to Eau Claire or the one to Hastings.

It’s worth noting the collapsing economy stalled growth in the East suburbs in recent years. But now that things are picking up, dozens of farm fields are scheduled to be turned into housing developments, further burdening a strained transportation system.

More money and politics: President Obama offers to cut Social Security and Medicare.

2) EBERT’S VOICE ON EBERT

Everyone’s got a different memory of Roger Ebert, who died yesterday, so there’s no use trying to compete with people far more sophisticated in writing about theater and reviewers. So instead, I’ll just pass along one of the more compelling Ted Talks ever given.

Oh, and also read this. And this.

More obits: The legendary owner of Molly’s Tavern has died. (Duluth News Tribune)

3) IN THE SADDLE WITH THE GUV

How many 90-year-olds (in September) do you know who still ride a horse.

Former Minnesota Gov. Al Quie still does.

“The morning I spent with Governor Quie, he rode a beautiful young gelding named, ‘Rambler’,” according to Alex Hiniker at Ecumen. “As I borrowed a horse from his barn, and rode with Governor Quie, I saw how his political negotiating skill ties to his horse handling. Governor Quie is a ‘horse whisperer.’ Many of the horses he’s owned or trained have come from friends and acquaintances, which after struggling to train the horses themselves, are told ‘The only person I know who can train a horse like that is Al Quie.’ A friend came to him and asked if he’d train Rambler while he was out of the country. Governor Quie hesitated. He was 88 years old. Did he really want to risk his wellbeing for this horse? Governor Quie found he couldn’t resist the challenge.”

(h/t: Eric Schubert)

4) LAND OF MANURE

Several rivers appear to be running brown this spring. Farmers have no place left to put manure that’s been piling up all winter so they’re spreading them on fields that are still frozen. When the snow melts, it all runs into the river and may kill the fish.

The Pollution Control Agency is asking farmers not to do it; many of them are doing it anyway.

More spring: Sometimes, spring needs a little coaxing. The Coast Guard this week reopened the path between Madeline Island and Bayfield.

5) RAISING TOMORROW’S RACISTS TODAY

Will someone pass the word to Georgia that it’s 2013? OK, thanks.

WSAV: News, Weather, and Sports for Savannah, GA

Bonus I: A satellite captured a massive ripping of ice off Alaska that started in January with unseasonable warm weather. Arctic ice, NASA says “is a collection of smaller pieces that constantly shift, crack, and grind against one another as they are jostled by winds and ocean currents. Especially during the summer–but even during the height of winter–cracks–or leads–open up between pieces of ice.”

(h/t: Derek Schille)

Bonus II: Every now and again, another story surfaces about an apparent overreaction by airline pilots based on behavior of passengers. James Fallows has this week’s.

Bonus III: New technology now allows a computer to grade tests and coursework. In the future, perhaps, your professor will be a computer. (New York Times)

Bonus IV: The guy who broke his leg last weekend.

Related: Broken Leg Renews Focus on College Athletes’ Health Insurance (NY Times)

TODAY’S QUESTION

A Pew poll released Thursday found that 52 percent of those polled said marijuana should be legal. Forty-five percent said it should remain illegal. Yet, more than half of the respondents said they would feel uncomfortable with people using marijuana around them in public. Today’s Question: What limits should exist on marijuana use?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Friday roundtable, featuring Friday Roundtable featuring political reporters Pat Lopez, Star Tribune and

Tom Scheck, MPR political reporter

Second hour: The Peabody Awards were recently announced. They go out each year for excellence in broadcast journalism. This year’s crop included a few names that might be familiar to you: This American Life, Radio Diaries, and Studio 360.

Third hour: Writer and director Noah Baumbachwill.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Gary Eichten hosts MPR President Jon McTaggart for a Member Appreciation Week edition of “Ask the President.”

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – A talk with the author of “Drunk Tank

Pink” on the hidden triggers that affect our behavior.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - In Somalia, two decades of war have created more than a million refugees. Tens of thousands of them found a refugee camp thats provided care for so long that it’s evolved into a village of its own. NPR will interview the Somali doctor who created the safe haven and her daughter, who is inheriting it.

  • Kassie

    Union Depot is absolutely beautiful and deserves to have trains using it regularly. I know I would take a weekend morning train to Duluth/Red Wing/Stillwater and come back in the evening, as would others.

    But they aren’t even putting the buses into Union Depot. The 16 and 94 should have a terminal there, as should others that make downtown their starting/end point. The suburban buses coming into downtown should stop there too. Make people use it, or it will fail.

  • Jim Hartmann

    What? Science Friday is completely gone now?

  • MikeB

    My confidence in today’s political leaders is low in regards to solving our probelms and having the foresight to look ahead and make decisions today.

    Transportation, education, civic and economic development, and general public policy, we have lost our touch in making the big decisions.

  • MN 123

    I live along the Northstar route. I would use the train often if it were set up for more general use. The local politicians (GOP all) were against this project from the beginning. The fact that the route ends in Big Lake rather than going on to St. Cloud was a set up for failure. The fact that the last train leaves downtown in the early evening (with the exception of Twins’ special events) makes it less likely to be used. I would love to go into the Cities for a show, or a game or to meet friends, and would definitely take the train. Our children would take the train from the Cities out to our home for the weekend to visit. But the train does not run at those times. St. Cloud students would very likely take the train into the Cities for a weekend (many to visit family) and head home on Sunday evening. But the train does not run at those times. The fact that the train shares the rail with freight routes limits the schedule. In order to get the route up and running, these limitations were agreed to….and even then it was opposed by the local GOP pols. I believe that these limitations were designed to fit into a preconceived view that this train would not be used. The limitations themselves make the train unusable by the majority of the most likely customer base. Then the crowing that the whole thing is a failure can begin.

  • Bob Collins

    //What? Science Friday is completely gone now?

    My mistake. I swapped out two shows. Fixed.

  • Kevin Watterson

    My god. We spent how much money redoing the Depot based on the assumption it would get trains? The rail and transit brigade is pert near criminal in how much money they’re committing us to.

    Also – Bob, your guy from Nebraska is quoted in the story about the FAA using 30-year-old data for funding control towers.

  • Pat

    MN 123. I couldn’t have said it better myself! St. Cloud students who commute (drive) would take the train if only it ran so they could. A midday train would also be a boon. If you are a Northstar rider who needs to leave early for an appointment or whatever, you must drive.

    I have been a regular Northstar rider for about a year. Driving is much faster for me but I’ve decided to put up with the longer commute time (door-to-door) so I don’t rack up the miles on my car.

  • Snyder

    So who are the decision-makers for determining the Northstar commuter rail schedule and how do we go about asking them to reconsider the schedule that has been established?