Thursday, March 22, 2007

Skywalker

Two skywalk items today.

First, That Grand Canyon skywalk is ready to roll (literally), but not without some controversy. Seems some of the natives are worried about turning their reservation into a tourist trap (which I thought was the whole point) and disturbing sacred burial grounds. The burial ground thing got my attention. I've seen 'Poltergeist' many times and know what happens when you fuck with sacred burial grounds. Quick rundown - tearing your own face off, eating maggots, trees coming alive and trying to eat your kids, stuffed clowns coming alive and trying to eat your kids, houses abducting your kids and tiny women with strange voices coming into your house and over staying their welcome. Not good stuff.

Plus it appears that skywalk won't actually stay in place. It extends and retracts from a base. Somehow that makes me even more uneasy. On the bright side Buzz Aldrin will be there for the grand opening. He went to the moon, you know, which somehow makes him unafraid of heights. Not sure of the cause and effect of those two things, but if Buzz says so, I'll agree.

My second item involves the new 'improved' skywalk at Wellington station. For those unfamiliar, Wellington Station is the main Orange Line stop where the trains go to be taken out of service and maintained. It's also where all the switching problems occur and where those poor MBTA workers got run over by their own train. On the opposite side of the station is a huge parking garage that can be accessed from Wellington Circus....er...Circle. It sits right next to the new Qdoba, Kelly's Roast Beef and Starbucks, as well as some new apartment/condos.

They used to run cable operated trams between the parking garage and the train stop. However, constant breakdowns and delays finally put an end to that disaster. Over the course of 6 months they got rid of the useless trams and put in a brand new skywalk. Now you can just walk from the garage to the stop.

Personally, I don't know why they didn't do this in the first place. Why install automated trams when everyone knew there were going to be mechanical issues eventually. There were actually two that ran side by side and when one broke down the line of people waiting went through the pay lobby and up the stairs. Why not install one tram with a regular walkway next to it. This way if there were problems, people could just walk.

Whatever. It was finally decided by the new management crew to do away with them. They made up for this by installing automated pay stations that eat your parking ticket and refuse money 80% of the time. The poor parking guy has to come out, unlock the machine, do some sort of voodoo to get the ticket to spit out, then takes the ticket into his manual pay station and encodes your exiting ticket that way. In all the automated stations add about 15 minutes to the process. I don't use them anymore.

Still, I was glad to see them get rid of the trams. It was basically a gamble whenever you parked in the garage whether they were running. 50/50 most of the time. 30/70 in the winter. The odds were never with you. So, I waited patiently while they did their work. Taking the shuttle buses and watching the walkway slowly progress. Emphasis on slowly.

Finally, it was done. There was no fanfare or announcement or even a little 'hey, no more shuttle buses' sign. I happened to notice that there were no people waiting at the stop. I went to the pay area and there it was in all it's so-so glory. Disappointment is an understatement.

First of all they didn't even use the full width of the original structure. There's enough room for maybe 3 people to stand side by side inside the walkway with 4 feet on each side not being used for anything. It's just empty space. Second, the floor is made of corrugated steel or aluminum or some metal that is very loud to walk on. Thirdly, it's not heated. It's basically an outdoor glassed in hallway with vents at the top to let cold air in. During the St. Paddy's Day storm, snow was blowing in through the holes and accumulating on the inside walkway. Metal + snow = falling on ass.

You know what. I can live with that. It's only a 200 yard walk. I can suck it up. The killer is the floor. Not just that it's metal, but they are built out of metal slats about 3 inches wide with ridges. Just hearing all the women's high heeled shoes walking on it makes my head hurt. You ever hear what one of the pull along luggage cases sound like in an enclosed, cold, metal ridged floor? Take it from me, you don't want to. Think of a machine gun going off right next to your ear for 3 minutes straight.

My hope is that maybe this isn't finished. I noticed them installing lights last week. Maybe the metal floor is just a temporary subfloor and they'll finish it up later. Maybe heaters are coming. Maybe they'll expand the width of it. Maybe they'll add a jacuzzi and strippers to greet us when we use it, too.

Then again maybe, just like many things that are designed these days, nobody with common sense was in the room to provide an opinion.

Today's distraction: Check out some incredible pictures from the sky. I particularly like the one of LA's highway system. Don't take the wrong exit!

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