The snow started falling this morning and it has been falling all day. It has completely changed the way that everything looks, and it has also changed the transportation system in the Twin Cities.
Minnesota has ice and snow in its winters. Everybody knows that. But despite the certainty of ice and snow, it has a transportation system that is based on the expectation that rubber will always have traction on asphalt. When there is ice and snow, which are a predictable part of the Minnesota climate, there is no or little traction, and the transportation flails around in near death throes.
Steel on steel works pretty good in ice and snow. Trains don't slide around in the snow like cars and buses do. But in the transportation system of this metropolis of 3 million people there is only one eleven mile rail line.
The rest of the transportation system is based on rubber tires needing traction on asphalt streets. That wasn't happening today. For it to work tomorrow, thousands of dollars must be spent on plows and salt. And that salt keeps on changing things long after the winter is over.
Some people are opposed to a rail transit line between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. They say that buses serve that corridor just fine. Today I rode the bus line along University Avenue. The bus I was on filled up in St. Paul's midway, and at all the stops in Minneapolis around the University of Minnesota, the driver had to tell all the people who wanted on his bus to wait for the next. Who knows when that next bus would come or how full it would be.
A two car train would have had room for all those people who had to wait, and room for more. And it probably wouldn't have been as behind schedule as that bus was.
On another bus I rode, the driver announced that he was running more than an hour late. That's what happens when a transportation system based on the traction of rubber tires on asphalt meets the reality of a beautiful December day.