Today started like every other day, meaning I traded valuable commuting time for the comfort and warmth of a comforter. I left the gate only 5 minutes behind my scheduled departure time, but that’s still five minutes late for a 9am meeting with my boss. I was hoping for a good tailwind so I could make up some time in the air.
The deck was stacked against me. After traversing downtown Minneapolis, which is a feat in itself, I had to run the gauntlet of Highway 55 better known as Hiawatha Ave. Its just a 5 mile stretch of highway cutting diagonally across South Minneapolis, but it’s an extraordinary road for one reason: RED LIGHTS! There are 11 of them to be exact.
These aren’t just any old red lights; you can sit at one day or night with no traffic for a couple of minutes (I’ve timed it). Quite often I hit every single one of them. At the posted speed limit you should theoretically be able to cover the 5 miles in 7 1/2 minutes, but the reality is 20. Tik-tok tik-tok.
This has always frustrated me. Cities have had the technology to time lights on major corridors for decades. For example you can drive from downtown to 50th street on Portland Ave, and if you keep it at 35 miles per hour you are almost guaranteed to not hit a red light.
I have a theory about Hiawatha however. You see Hiawatha is also the route for the light-rail. Now I realize that the train adds a level of complexity to the whole light timing thing, but the trains do run on a schedule and I would assume that modern computers could figure how to make it work. My theory is that the city actually has timed the lights, but in reverse, making the light rail the fastest option. I’ve actually thought about submitting a design to the city that they could use to brand the corridor using little flags on lampposts. The main design element would be a big red circle.
Today however was not like every other day. As I was looking ahead to the first light, trying to figure out which lane was shortest, something happened. A green light happened. That light is never green, wow. Soon the next light…green. Then another…green. What? This is too good to be true. Green… green…green… there’s got to be a catch, like an accident up ahead. 4 more greens…and I’m heading to the last light… GREEN!
The unbelievable has happened. I hit green lights all the way down Hiawatha. I feel like an olympian that just won gold for a perfect score. It’s a feat that will surely will never be repeated. So Like a great athlete that’s reached the top of their game, I think I should retire – going out on top by never taking this road again. If I don’t the next trip down Hiawatha will only be more frustrating when I hit every red light.
By the way, I got to work at 8:58 with 2 minutes to spare. The meeting was rescheduled for the afternoon.