Lileks: Is this talk of the town train the best way to get to-and-fro?

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 19, 2014 - 8:33 PM
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Someone told me the other day there was like, this train? Between Minneapolis and St. Paul? And I thought, well, sure, the freights, they go back and forth. No, no, he says, it’s a train that has people on it. Anyone can ride it. And I’m like, get out of here. I would have heard about that.

But he insisted it was for reals. (That’s what he said, “for reals,” which is more reals than just one, so he had to be telling the truth.) I went down to University Avenue to see for myself, and holy crow: There is a train!

Did you hear about this?

Well, I don’t know if I’m not paying attention, or what, but it does explain the articles in the paper about the Green Line and the news on the radio about the Green Line and the blimp that went overhead trailing a GREEN LINE banner — and let’s not forget the guy who was walking down the street the other day clanging a bell exclaiming, “HEAR YE HEAR YE, THE GREEN LINE IS FULLY OPERATIONAL!” and that explains the clanging sound I’ve been hearing down the street. Thought that was cows or something.

So I read stories about this race, where they timed who got from St. Paul to Minneapolis faster — bike, car, bus or the train thing. If I was the bike guy, I would have wandered over the tracks and pretended to get hit by the train, because then an ambulance would come and you’d beat everyone else.

But there are some other tests they should have done.

• Train vs. shot out of a cannon

Obviously you need a big cannon, and it reminds you that cannon dealerships are closed on Sunday. Why is that? Anyway, there aren’t many places downtown where you can stretch a big net. You could have aimed for the Metrodome but that’s gone. Still, if you could work out the bugs, it would be fast. I know, I know — you’re worried about the carbon output of a series of controlled explosions that shoots people from one city core to the other, but I’m thinking compressed air might work. But in terms of ease of use and price, there’s only one practical option. Winner: train.

• Train vs. windsurfing

Kinda depends on the weather, and from what I understand the bikes don’t like it when you windsurf in their lane and they have to duck when your mast comes whipping around. I know there’s a move to make our urban cores more “surfable” but it’s probably a few years out. Winner: train

• Train vs. holding on to the end of the train while wearing Rollerblade

Pretty much a wash, but cheaper. You would have to crouch so the conductor doesn’t see you, and it would probably hurt to stand up at the end. Also, the train takes a sharp turn when it gets to the University of Minnesota, and if it’s moving fast and you lost your grip you’d barrel down Washington Avenue and it’s either grab a light pole or shoot right into the Mississippi. Winner: train, which so far has not ended up in the river.

• Train vs. crawling 65 blocks on your stomach over broken glass

After a couple of blocks you’d think, “What am I doing?” and hail a cab, but they’re not so easy to hail. It’s not like other cities where there are lots of cabs just cruising around. There’s that Uber where you can call a ride on your smartphone, but you’d have to install the app first, and you’d lose time going back to your place to download it because it’s cheaper to use your Wi-Fi instead of the data plan, right? Winner: train

• Train vs. jetpack

You know those things in the James Bond movies? Those have to be faster. But I’m pretty sure that studies show they don’t have the same impact on development along the way. I mean, no one says, “Oh, there are going to be hundreds of people flying past on jetpacks. Let’s renovate this old factory into condos.”

Maybe coffee shops with takeout windows on the second floor, but they’d have to provide pretty fast service; if you have to circle around, it adds to your commute time. Winner: train

• Train vs. another train right behind it

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