For a day, at least, the car reigned supreme. But the bicyclist joked that he may file an appeal.
On a gorgeous Monday morning that also was the first fare-paying day for passengers on the Green Line light rail connecting the downtowns, several reporters at the Star Tribune staged their own “Amazing Race.”
Taking different modes of transportation — light rail, car, bicycle and bus — the six journalists took off from the State Capitol in St. Paul at 8:30 a.m. to see who could best navigate rush hour and get to the front door of the Star Tribune in downtown Minneapolis first. At stake: a little bit of pride and bragging rights at the company’s annual picnic.
Automobile lovers will be happy to know that TeamCar, ferrying Star Tribune staff writer Jennifer Brooks and news intern Beena Raghavendran — along with Josey the dog — finished first. Despite a few wrong turns and Minnesota road construction, they made the trip in 26 minutes.
“I have never driven from downtown to downtown before, which is why we used a different route,” Raghavendran said just minutes after the big win. “Jennifer also is still getting used to the roads, so both of us were a little shaky on the route! So I took the 11th Street exit and probably should have taken one of the earlier exits, but it worked out fine anyway.”
While the two encountered a few slow spots, driving a car along Interstate 94 on this Monday was much quicker than the other modes. Brooks said this is not always the case.
“I-94 is a gridlock roulette wheel. Some days, you can make it from downtown St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis in minutes,” she said. “Other days, you should just block out an hour of your schedule to stew in bumper-to-bumper misery. Today’s one of the better days.”
Finishing second was Star Tribune staffer Matt McKinney, who was riding his bike. An experienced cyclist who pedaled along transitways and greenways crossing the University of Minnesota campus, McKinney turned in an impressive finishing time of 30 minutes, 57 seconds.
But McKinney was not gracious in defeat. He claimed that TeamCar cheated.
“The rules said we had to touch the door of the building. … I was first to do that, at least,” said McKinney, who covers the Minneapolis police beat. “After touching the door I turned and saw the car drivers standing next to their vehicle in the parking lot. They were chatting, and though they had arrived a few minutes before me, still hadn’t walked over to the building. Let it be known that the bicyclist followed the rules.”
Third, and grateful for a smooth ride and the time to chat with a fellow Green Line passenger, was James Walsh, the writer of this story and a train geek. While the Green Line stopped often, it made the trip from the Capitol/Rice Street station to the Downtown East station in less than 40 minutes. From the Capitol steps to the front door of the Star Tribune took a stress-free grand total of 42 minutes.
Eric Roper, a Star Tribune writer who favors buses and bikes over automobiles, spent much of his commute on the Route 3 bus. He finished the trip just five minutes behind Walsh. Roper didn’t seem to mind, taking time to enjoy the journey.
“The early crowd was a mix of all ages, from people in their 20s to those who appeared in their 70s,” he said back at the office. “Few people boarded or departed as the bus cruised down Front Avenue and the driver announced the stops one by one as they whizzed by: ‘Kent.’ ‘Dale.’ Most riders used automated Go-To cards [available at Cub and Rainbow], but one man who did not slowed the bus by about 27 seconds as he searched his wallet and inquired about a paper transfer.”
Despite that delay, Roper said he enjoyed the friendly driver and the ride’s “good vibes.”
Finishing last, owing to some confusion caused by changes to connecting bus routes, was staff writer Nicole Norfleet, who arrived at the newspaper 59 minutes after she left the Capitol. It was only the second time she had taken the bus in the Twin Cities, she said.
Nevertheless, she may have had the most interesting trip.
At the start of the race, she tweeted: “Waiting at Rice & Univ to take the 62. I was running after @StribRoper and woman yelled if I needed help. Probably thought he was robbing me.”
A bit later: “Just got off at 6th and Cedar. Unfortunately, the 94 left a few minutes ago so I have to wait to the next one after 9 a.m.”
Then, this: “I apologized to last bus driver for being so confused. She asked why I didn’t just take the train.”
When the race was over, Norfleet — who covers the St. Paul Police Department and works in the Star Tribune’s Woodbury office — decided to take a less stressful trip back to her car in St. Paul.
“Just got off the Green Line back at the Capitol,” she tweeted. “It was very pleasant.”