For the past few years, University Avenue has been jumping, shaking, and rumbling under an earthquake of construction for a new light rail corridor between Minneapolis and St. Paul, hereafter referred to as the “green line.” With our train system prior to only providing rides to the most important parts of the Twin Cities (the Mall of America and Target Field, in case you were unaware what those were), the connection into St. Paul has been a while coming.
When the green line was first being constructed, and my commuting hours were spent trying to figure out what in the name of crappy public transit the new routes for all the University Avenue buses were, I bitterly lamented that by the time the green line opened and theoretically restored things to some sort of normalcy, I’d be all moved out of the Twin Cities. (I have been trying to do this since I graduated from college, so I’m not sure why I actually believed this. And, as has been the case for six years, I’m still here, and the green line is also here, so I can now write about it.)
The line opened in mid June. I started taking it immediately. I work in St. Paul, and rather than the buses being restored to their pre-green line construction glory, my main route to St. Paul was eliminated and the second best one was changed so that it no longer goes where I need it to go. I’ve never taken the light rail very much prior to now. Because many of the tracks are open, and the raised lines that are supposed to be enough to let one know if they are getting close to stepping onto said tracks are often covered with snow, I’ve been hesitant about overly committing to light rail travel. Though I often tell a joke that goes something like, “I’m convinced someday I’m going to die by being flattened by the light rail, hahahaha, aren’t I morbidly hilarious and so sophisticatedly macabre? May I have another drink before I continue to wow you with my wit?”, I kind of actually believe it a little bit. (The getting run over part, not the wit part.)
All this to say, it’s not been without a little heart pounding and deep breathing that I’ve switched transit modes. The first week, I flinched every time a train whooshed past me, even though I knew my feet were firmly safe and sound on the platform. Many of the light rail stops require that you walk into the street, cross the tracks, and turn onto the platform, in one theoretically seamless super-hero swoop. The first few weeks, I strode into the street with fake bravado, then waffled around trying to figure out which platform of the two side-by-side ones I should turn onto, while also avoiding bumbling onto the tracks. It’s getting easier, and having Kiva has been a huge advantage. For some reason I will likely never know, she LOVES the train, and wags her dancing way onto the platform like a pro while I fret behind her. I’m hopeful that if I ever end up on the tracks in front of an oncoming train, she will have enough self preservation to pull both of us to safety.
As much as I preach flexibility, and being able to change and evolve in order to promote progress, this has been a slow process for me. I never thought I’d say I miss the bus, but sometimes I do. I miss having contact with the driver, asking for directions if I need to. I miss the way different drivers call stops, from the reluctant mumble to the aspiring DJ whose microphone is their oyster. As much as the bus “community” often annoys me, on the train there is a certain aloofness. I like that no one has yet asked me if “you’ve just lost your vision, or were you born that way?” when I’m buried in a book minding my own business as they do on the bus. On the other hand, I miss the conversation around me, and the perfect opportunity I have to eavesdrop and then make fun of people. (I’m just keeping it real, y’all.)
Like everything, I’ll get used to it. And, in so far as the green line is a step in bringing more accessible and progressive transportation to the Twin Cities, I’m very thankful. I’ll find somewhere new to eavesdrop.