Monday, May 28, 2012

Building of Interest

Like most folks, I generally don't go around looking specifically for architecture and building styles when I'm out and about. Nonetheless there are still some things that will catch my eye. For me any building with a decent amount of color or shape will capture my interest.

One building that recently caught my eye was the office building located at 1185 North Concord in South Saint Paul, MN.  It's nothing spectacular, but the way it's built into an area surrounded by a steep hill or bluff, and a not so spacious gap between the road and this bluff, makes it sort of interesting. The colored tiles on each end however really make it stand out.
1185 N. Concord Street
1185 as viewed from across Concord Street looking south
Currently the building appears to be partly empty. I'm guessing at one point however it may have been a thriving office building. Also of particular interest with this building was the custom bus shelter across the street for northbound riders.
Metro Transit Bus Stop
The bus shelter across the street is painted to mimic the color tiles on the ends of the building.
Bus shelters that are specifically built for a business or company tend to be rare in the Twin Cities outside of downtown Minneapolis. This particular shelter structure appears to have been around a while, and was likely added back in MTC days. It is still served by Metro Transit route 71, although I doubt this stop generates as much ridership as it might have previously.

 What the future holds for this building is unknown. However it is an interesting sight. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Minneapolis to Move Towards Single-Sort Recycling System

Despite the move by waste haulers across the metro area to single-sort recycling, Minneapolis has stayed with their original curb-sort recycling method. All that will change however thanks to the Minneapolis City Council's Transportation and Public Works Committee vote Tuesday to transition towards the single-sort system.

City of Minneapolis Recycling Box
An example of the type of recycling container currently used by Minneapolis residents
With the single-sort method, all recyclable materials such as paper, cans, bottles, and boxes are placed together in a single container. The material is collected and then sorted out at the recycling center or collection facility. Containers for recycling are typically larger than the 18 gallon bins Minneapolis currently uses. For example, Waste Management and Allied Waste both offer large carts, with recycling instructions on the lid, for collecting recycling.
Allied Waste Recycling Cart  Waste Management Recycling Cart

Currently, Minneapolis has some of the most extensive sorting requirements available for recycling curbside. There are nine categories, and little tolerance for improperly sorted material. 18 gallon bins with lids are issued for biweekly recycling per residence. The bins tend to fill quickly, which also may contribute to the poor participation rate of 18%.

WCCO TV recently covered the changes coming, and has a report along with this footage of the current system:

While it is ideal to try to produce less waste in the first place, it will be interesting to see if this new system leads to better participation and material recovery for Minneapolis, and Hennepin County.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Greyhound Express: A Review

Last week I had the opportunity to travel from Minneapolis to Chicago using the Greyhound Express service. I have previously traveled between the two cities in past years using Greyhound, but had not yet tried the new "luxury" Express version. Overall I was impressed. Here is a brief overview of the experience.

Waiting for the bus:
  • Minneapolis: Express customers wait in the same general waiting area as everyone else who is traveling out of the Hawthorne Bus Depot. While this isn't as select as having a separate waiting area, it certainly works. Additionally Hawthorne was fairly empty while waiting to board on a Sunday evening. 
  • Chicago: Express customers are given a special seating area, at doors 1-6, only available to Express ticket holders. seating in the Express waiting area was not abundant, but still generally available as compared to the other gates.
Boarding the bus:

The Express service does not follow the "every passenger for him/herself", first-come-first-serve, boarding method that regular Greyhound services use. Riders board in groups, 1-10, 11-20, etc. Each ticket comes with a boarding number. Therefore you do not need to line up at the gate until your boarding group is called. This is much nicer than lining up at the gate when getting to the station in hopes of being able to pick a decent seat. This also means you don't necessarily have to show up an entire hour before the bus departs, although it is still recommended.

Once you get to board the bus, e-tickets purchased online will need an ID shown when handing it to the driver, so it is best to have that ready. After turning in your ticket you are free to board, and take any unoccupied seat you like.

Riding the bus:

Greyhound uses new or rebuilt coaches on its Express service, these feature electrical outlets, free wi-fi, and some extra legroom compared to their regular fleet. (After riding I think the first couple rows are still the same for legroom however.)
Greyhound Lines 86335
An example of a coach used for the Greyhound Express service, this is a MCI D4505 unit, and is equipped with power outlets and wi-fi service
Express service is just that, Express. There are usually only one or two stops depending on the distance traveled. From Minneapolis there was one meal stop and then one stop in Milwaukee to drop-off and pickup more passengers. It was the same on the reverse. This was much nicer than some bus trips where it felt almost like riding a city bus because the bus seemed to stop at every corner along the way.

The bus was not very crowded at the times I was traveling. This may vary depending on the day and direction however. Clientele using the service were not exactly the upper-middle class, but they weren't homeless bums and druggies either. Overall it appeared to be decent hard working folks and college students who were riding.


For this trip, time spent traveling was not excessive considering the mode. It took about 8.5 hours traveling from Minneapolis to Chicago,  and about the same on the return trip. While that is longer than a flight it is also a bit more enjoyable getting to see some of the country along the way. The 8.5 hours also included about 40 minutes of break time while en route.


This was the best part, $10 round trip between Minneapolis and Chicago. Even a very fuel efficient car can't meet that low price. Airfare? Ha! Now you won't get $10 fare if you want to ride tomorrow, you need to buy at least a month ahead of time for that sort of deal. Still if you want to go somewhere in say, six weeks, and you aren't dead set on driving or flying, Greyhound Express might be a nice option.