Archive for September, 2007

9.75 Years Later

It will be ten years in March. On a dark wintery morning in Helsinki I ran across an abandoned house while out for a walk. A once grand home in an area comprised, 100 years earlier, of Helsinki’s wealthy residents, in a state of disrepair. Windows boarded up. Porches missing. Unpainted siding. I became intrigued by this house.

A man from the city archives was kind enough to pull a copy of the blueprints for the house. He also pulled out a small article that had been written about it. He made copies for me.

I hired, Nina, a photographer. In the darkness of night, we attempted to capture some pictures of the place. The goal was to capture the images exactly as I had encountered the house. It was too dark and even with long exposure times, none of her pictures came out.

Our of sheer luck, another month later, a friend captured a picture of me walking in front of the house. It’s become one of my favorites.


I wrote a brief story of my encounters at the address of Eläintarhantie 14 in April of 1997. Sent it out to some friends who had asked about what I’d been up to.

By 2004 the house had been restored, complete with its original wallpapers and some of the original owners furnishings. Oskar Bloom built it. He was an engineer for the railroad. I was able to tour the now restored home in 2005 during a visit to Helsinki. A book has been written about the house, as well. I purchased a copy.

This evening I received an e-mail from a friend of a friend of a friend. Luke lives in South Africa. I’ve never met him. On a recent trip to Helsinki he recalled having read the story, and embarked upon a journey to find the house, which, he believes he found based upon his memory of the story. He wrote to get a copy of the story and informed me that he has a friend there, Nina, who is a photographer.

It is such encounters, such situations of nuance, where people enter into a scene for whatever reason, then and now, that are the foundations of the book I embarked upon writing last winter. Excerpts from the book can be found at the link to the right listed as “Hakaniemi”.

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Part II: Just How Far?


Delivered by mail, my Greyhound tickets to Peterborough have arrived.

I revisited flying to Ontario. Sixteen days prior to departure, the tickets to Toronto were priced at $325 roundtrip. Forty-eight hours later, the price on Delta and Northwest (domestic code-share partners) had jumped to $590. That seems like a lot for what amounts to a trip to the other side of the lake. It was that day I gave my business to Greyhound. The same trip (+ arrival in Peterborough): $90.

Earlier this week I delivered a friend back to Port Columbus. Traffic to the terminal was backed up a good 100 yards. Slow and go to stop and go, there was the feeling of pre-departure anxiety bustling from the white-knuckled drivers even before they reached the parking garage. You know, that sense of “hurry up and wait” associated with ticketing lobbies of today’s airports.

I realized at that point that Greyhound was probably going to be a much nicer experience. From home I’ll be able to take COTA to the Greyhound terminal downtown. They’ll be no parking issues and while I’ve not taken Greyhound in years, I can’t imagine their terminal being filled with lines of anxious travelers.

Reports show that train travel is increasing in the U.S., but I’ve seen no reports on statistics surrounding long-haul bus service. Could Greyhound increase it’s market share by relocating its bus terminals to airports? Could airlines reduce their carbon emissions by code-sharing with ground transportation? Might the airplanes flying the seven flights per day from Cincinnati to Columbus be better utilized if their customers could simply jump on a bus and be whisked into downtown Columbus? Is there really a need for four flights a day from Dayton to Cincinnati? Fifty-eight miles by air…come on already!

Perhaps it’s not only Columbus that needs a comprehensive transit package, but maybe the entire nation’s transit system needs rethinking. Our networks (air, train, bus) do not mingle and are currently designed to function independently, rather than together.

Could it be that, for so long, our neighborhoods have been separated from our shopping districts and our shopping districts separated from our manufacturing districts that Americans no longer understand the benefits of mixed-use anything? Is it possible that an caste system socially forbids a passenger to complete their travel via bus?

If so, we’ve got a bigger problem on our hands than merely getting from one place to another.

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Seattle’s New SLUT

Officially, it’s the South Lake Union Streetcar. But in the neighborhood where the new line runs, it’s called the South Lake Union Trolley — or, the SLUT. At Kapow! Coffee, a shop in the old Cascade neighborhood, 100 T-shirts bearing the words “Ride the SLUT” sold out in days, and another 100 are on order.

Read the full story here.

We’d considered this in Salt Lake years ago when working on a new name for UTA – Utah Transit Authority. Ours was SLUT – Salt Lake Urban Transit.

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Something Old, Something New.


Beautifully restored, the train station in Canal Winchester stands as a monument to what once was, and what can be, again. The last passenger train stopped here in 1949, though for eighty years prior, passengers could board trains heading to Columbus as well as Lancaster.

The rail lines went electric in 1904, with trains running every two hours at speeds up to 62 miles per hours. Interurban trains stopped running in 1930.

Growth along the 33 corridor to the south expected to outpace that of growth along the 23 corridor north into Delaware County. This existing platform becomes an ideal location
for a rail line that would ease congestion and whisk commuters into Columbus and Lancaster once again.

This building is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Meter Maids


The summer months might prove best. Perhaps the occasional warm day in December or February. Temperature is relative.

When parking issues turned publicly sour in Australia, meter maids came to the rescue. Parking meters were installed along the tourist-packed beaches of Australia’s Gold Coast in 1964, but by 1965 a public-relations campaign was in place to lure back visitors.

Clad in gold bikinis, these Australian meter maids would pop coins into expired parking meters where visitors had parked. In doing so, tourists avoided receiving parking citations. It was one of the most successful public relations campaigns ever, and continues to this day.

As the parking meter issue continues in the Short North and along Gay Street, let’s create a scenario where we lure more folks into the area by brining this type of meter maid to Columbus. We already have the “clean and safe” team wearing day-glow green keeping downtown spic and span Add gold lame bikinis for the new “meter maids” and we’d have a team of people working diligently to promote downtown as the preferred destination.

For a unique twist, the new meter maids could assist the public at bus stops throughout downtown and the Short North. Their sash could be printed with a specific transit route, complete with time tables. Now there’s an incentive to get from Point A to Point B.

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Here’s how the folks in Carrollton, Kentucky are dealing with things these days. I stopped for gas at this Shell station on the way to Louisville and couldn’t help but capture the moment.

Reminds me of the saying, “Be careful for what you ask for”.

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