Thursday, December 30, 2010

Normal New Year: Out with the Old, In with the New!

Normal, 2011: what's OUT and what's IN

Out: complaining about the Traffic Circle
In:  complaining about the Multimodal Transportation Center (MTC)

Out: parking bump-outs
In:  bumper-to-bumper parallel parking

Out: Bank of Illinois
In: Heartland Bank

Out: corn crib as a storage unit
In: Corn Crib as a ball park

Out: mistakenly saying "Downtown Normal"
In: mistakenly saying "Twin Cities" (neither identical nor fraternal any more)

Out: complaining about the rough ride on Main St., just north of College Ave.
In: complaining about the rough ride on College Ave., just west of Towanda Ave.

Out: concern about pedestrian safety at crosswalks
In: concern about pedestrian safety at the MTC tracks crossing

Out: lengthy Town Council discussions about the appearance of signage
In: lengthy Town Council discussions about the appearance of buildings

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Normal HSSSM

An anonymous source close to those who know people who went to school with people who work for the town of Normal has revealed that, inspired by plans for high speed rail, there are plans in the works for high speed street sweeping machines. You know, those small vehicles that currently go about 5 mph, with the brush that sweeps junk from next to the curb out into the street? Evidently, someone is applying for a government grant to pay a local teen to "soup up" the town's street sweeping machines -- adding larger engines, huge tires, and maybe painting some flames on the sides. It is hoped that they could reach speeds as fast as 65 mph, enabling street cleaning to be accomplished in a couple of hours. The machines would have the right-of-way at all intersections between 3:00-4:00 a.m. on Wednesdays. The secret plan is affectionately referred to as "Operation Tasmanian Devils" (like in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons).

When contacted, people who post negative comments about Normal on the local newspaper's website say they are already calculating how much money will be wasted on these machines, how noisy they will be, and are brainstorming derogatory nicknames for the machines (e.g., "Normal Squirrel Mixers," "Normal's-High-Speed-Waste-Of-Our-Tax-Money-They-Can't-Do-Anything-Right Machines").

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Normal in Books

Google has created a "Books Ngram Viewer" which is a program that allows you to find out how many times a word or phrase has been mentioned in over 5 million books, between certain years. Of course, I had to try "Normal Illinois" and, as you can see from the graph, it wasn't mentioned at all in the late 1800s but peaked in frequency of mentions just before 1960. Local historians could probably explain the changes in frequency.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Normal HSR Efforts Catch On in Russia

First, Normal started planning for high speed rail. Now, Russia is doing the same. Russia is going to host the 2018 World Cup and Putin is promising high speed rail services linking host cities. Has he been reading the Pantagraph?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Normal Parking Spaces

A study by civil engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, estimates that there are 2 billion parking spaces in the U.S.  If all of those spaces were combined, they would occupy an area the size of Massachusetts. The estimate includes paved spaces (public as well as private, such as your driveway parking) and uses the assumptions that there are 8 parking spaces for each car and that there are 250 million cars in the country. (There are probably other factors involved, in case you're doing the math.) What I find interesting is the statement that there are "500 million empty [parking] spaces in the United States at any given time." Remember that the next time you are looking for a parking space!

I don't know how many parking spaces there are in Normal, but I'm sure somebody who works for the Engineering Department in Normal could come up with an estimate. Are there really 8 spaces per car?  Let's see, one for work, one for the Post Office, three for shopping (groceries, clothing, books), one for the bank, one for medical/dental appointments, and one for home. Yes, 8 spaces for my car!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Normal Tracks Crossing Dilemma

With the building of the new multimodel transportation center comes the dilemma of how to get pedestrians from one side of the railroad tracks to the other: tunnel or overhead walkway? The Normal Town Council has authorized a study of the issue. There are other places that have also faced this dilemma. Laramie, Wyoming, for example, has an impressive walkway over a major set of tracks. I don't think Normal needs a walkway quite that large! Mayor Oscar Goodman, Las Vegas, has proposed building a tunnel containing shops and restaurants to connect one part of the city to another, under some tracks. Well, Normal's walkway, if underground, won't be long enough for any businesses to locate there. Safety would be more important than retail opportunities, I'm sure. It will be interesting to see what the designers come up with.