So, after spending the last week in Minneapolis visiting family, I realized something:Minneapolis is the Scandinavian-style techno-utopia that we all wish San Francisco could be.
- There is a network of connected bike trails throughout the city. Not just bike lanes. Dedicated, beautiful, separately-paved bike trails, surrounded by green grass and trees, extending for miles without a car in sight. They follow the lakes, rivers, and railroad tracks, which together form a network that can take you just about everywhere. Minneapolis is consistently rated the #1 most bikeable city in the US for good reason. Look at the pictures below -- this could be your commute.
- Everywhere you look -- especially along these bike routes -- there are beautiful brand-new apartment buildings, renting for something like 1/3 what they would in SF. Like high density? Many of the new apartments are downtown, built as part of a project to convert it into a modern, high-density, walkable urban center (http://www.2025plan.com/
). Rather own a house? Plenty of those too, with houses under $100k to multi-million-dollar lakeside mansions within a mile or two of downtown. Want a huge estate in the country? The Northstar commuter rail can get you from farmland to downtown in 52 minutes -- with free wifi! There is no housing shortage.
- The light rail is brand new, shiny, clean, runs every 10 minutes, and doesn't smell anything like urine. (See the rather messed-up photosphere below.) It'll probably have free wifi soon, seeing as how some of the local busses already have it. Over the next three years, two more lines will be constructed (heading northwest and southwest), doubling the system's coverage. Many of the lines also follow bike trails, so you could bike when the weather is good and hop on the LRT when it's not.
- There is gigabit fiber-to-the-home across much of the city, provided by a local independent internet provider (US Internet) whose only business is IP connectivity. Not the cable company, not the phone company, and not Google, all of whom have serious conflicts of interest. US Internet also provides free outdoor wifi across the city (paid for by the city).
- The inner city is ringed by a nearly-unbroken 26-mile chain of parks, along the Mississippi River in the east, Minnehaha Creek in the south, the chain of lakes in the southwest, and Victory Memorial Drive in the northwest. You can go sailing or kayaking on the lakes, bike around the full loop, and go for hikes in the woods where you can't see any sign of civilization -- while still in the city limits. The park system is consistently rated #1 in the country (with neighboring St. Paul being #2).
- Minneapolis is just as liberal as San Francisco. Minnesota has the longest unbroken record of choosing Democratic presidents of any state. Minnesota legalized same-sex marriage by plain-old legislative action -- the way an effective government is supposed to operate -- while voters explicitly rejected an attempt to amend the constitution to the contrary (one of only two states where this occurred). Target Corp, one of the most vocal corporate advocates for transgender rights, is headquartered in Minneapolis (and hence reflects Minneapolis values). Minneapolis was once rated the #1 gayest city in America -- yes, over SF. OK, that may have been a stretch, but it generated this great Daily Show segment: http://www.cc.com/video-clips/ys5uqo/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-minneapolis-is-the-new-gay
- No earthquakes (nor hurricanes, nor any other disaster of such magnitude), and no drought (LOL, there is water everywhere).
- The city is clean
. Like you know how you walk around SF and think "ugh, everything is so dirty, but I guess it's hard to keep things clean, so what can you do?" Well, Minneapolis manages it, somehow.
- For all this, taxes are lower than in California. (MN is considered a high-tax state, but it's nowhere near CA, and as you can see, they are actually doing awesome stuff with the money.)
The down side: There is snow on the ground four months out of the year. But even that has advantages: There are ski hills just a 30-minute drive away (no need to stay overnight in Tahoe) and ice skating on the lakes. And yes, people still bike in the winter: just get some super-fat snow tires. They actually look pretty cool.