From the Rails 4 (Sky High Edition)

Well folks, here I am sitting in the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport waiting to depart for Austin. Since I arrived a little earlier than expected, I thought I’d write another ‘From the Rails’ post, even though this would technically be ‘From the Air’. Either way, it will help to pass the hour or so of waiting I still have to endure.

Of all the cities I’ve visited so far, I’d have to say that Minneapolis is far and away the cleanest. The street lamps are without posters, flyers or stickers; the walls are graffiti free; and the lack of blowing trash would astound just about anyone from the northeast. In addition to that, it’s a place where fitness and nature are top priorities. How do I know this? Well, it was pretty hard to miss.

NYC and Chicago both have bike share programs that I took advantage of while in town. For NYC it’s Citibike and for Chicago it’s Divvy. In Minneapolis, they have Nice Ride Minnesota and usage-wise, it trumps both of those other programs (or perhaps it just seems that way). Aside from cyclists, the number of joggers I saw at all times of day was pretty spectacular too. I still run before work and usually I’d see about 4 or 5 people out at the same time. But in Minneapolis, I could count about 20-25 people every morning. Obviously, the timing of my stay played a role in it, as I can’t imagine this many people out and about during the winter months. 

Then there are the parks. Once you step foot outside of the downtown area, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a park. Whether it’s a small landing with some benches or a giant greenspace filled with flowers, tables and plenty of room for frolicking, this is a city at one with the earth. I know there are plenty of hiking trails and mountain paths nearby and while I didn’t have a chance to hit any of them during my stay, there presence was greatly welcomed. You can escape the city at anytime, either for an afternoon or an entire weekend. And you never have to stray too far from home. How cool is that?

Clearly, there's something special about this city. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but things here are just… well… a little different. It could be the crisp air or the ever-present charm of the Midwest. Either way, the people here are kind, genuine and calm. And the city, even in it’s busiest moments, is still peaceful in its own way. I was actually surprised the other day, when I took my headphones off on a busy side street and noticed it was nearly silent, despite being filled with diners lounging in the nearby patios. That’s not something you’d find in a lot of big cities.

Now, I’ll have to wait and see how it compares to my remaining stops. I hear the west coast is a much different place than where I've already been. I’m excited to find out for sure; but first, I need to visit the wonderland that is Austin, TX. So, I’ll see you all there.

-Steve-

Day Eighty Five

Indeed it is.

This past weekend was a much-welcomed break from the chills of winter. I did my best to take full advantage of the warm, sunny days by venturing into some of my favorite neighborhoods and even did some mid-afternoon reading at Union Square Park. Looking around, you could tell everyone else had the same idea too. The sidewalks were more crowded than I’d seen them since Super Bowl weekend.

Of course, all of that walking gave me plenty of time to think too. As I strolled through the Meatpacking District in Manhattan, I came across the High Line—a section of repurposed train tracks that now houses a gorgeous public green space. It instantly reminded me just how many projects are in progress to transform NYC into a city of tomorrow.

It’s too common that NYC gets a bad rap for being dirty and overcrowded. Sure, that may ring true for some areas of the city, but that can be said about any major metropolitan area. I’d argue that now, more than ever, the city and several private companies are trying to shed these preconceptions with a variety of green space and tech developments aimed at attracting more young professionals to the area.  We’ve already seen the addition of new bike lanes and public spaces in areas such as Times Square, but those only scratch the surface of what this city has planned for the future.

The weekly Farmers' Market at Union Square Park.

The Low Line, which takes its cues from its sister High Line, is billed as the world’s first underground park. Utilizing innovative solar technology, the project aims to transform an historic trolley terminal into a stunning park underneath the Lower East Side. Although negotiations are still underway, several elected officials support the project, which is looking to complete construction in 2018.

Roosevelt Island, that weird space under the Queensboro Bridge, is being transformed into Cornell Tech’s new campus through a joint partnership between the city and Cornell University. Designed to be one of the most forward-thinking campuses in the US, the new Cornell Tech will be utilized to fast track tech careers in the area, encourage a greater presence from tech companies in the city overall, and provide a space to explore the potential of tomorrow’s tech.

These are just a few of the innovative investments the city and its partners have made recently. From the expansion of the LIRR with East Side Access, to the area-wide rollout of Citibike, New York City is ensuring it’s not left in the dust when it comes to attracting lucrative start-ups and young professionals. While there’s still a long way to go, it’s encouraging to see the city make such a sweeping effort to lead the future. I actually saw Cleveland making similar motions before my departure too. It goes to show that even if a city isn't your best fit now, you should always keep an eye on where it’s going. In the end, it might turn out to be a good place to call home after all.  

-Steve-