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Two Events Today: St. Louis Streetcar Open House & Free Screening of ‘ENVISIONING HOME’

1) A public open house to look at the initial plans for a modern St. Louis streetcar line will be held today from 4pm-7pm at the Moto Museum 3441 Olive. This is an open house so you can come anytime to see the materials. More information here and the draft study is here.

2) A free screening of ENVISIONING HOME: The Jean King and Richard Baron Story is tonight:

Two wildly different individuals come together in St. Louis in the tumultuous 1960s and bravely transform the world of public housing–and in the process take on poverty and racism throughout the country.

ENVISIONING HOME is a feature length documentary film exploring the dramatic world of two imaginative leaders, Jean King and Richard Baron, two agents of change in public housing. A remarkable, homegrown leader, Jean King meets Richard Baron, a legal aide-turned-visionary planner and developer during the St. Louis tenant strike in 1968-69. From that moment to the present day, they have together changed the face of inner city life in St. Louis and beyond. By inspiring resident and family empowerment while creating more humane places to live, their work invigorates the lives of residents and builds vibrant neighborhoods and communities from distressed central cities.

Drawing on Richard and Jean’s personal memories along with spontaneous conversations between the two—both in studio and along the streets and inside the homes of these new communities–we see how a dangerous, volatile moment in St. Louis public housing drew these two together into a shared passion for improving the lives of people in distressed and neglected inner city neighborhoods. Along the way, Jean and Richard forcefully remind us that despite stubborn matters of race and poverty, individuals with conviction and vision can make a difference.

Combining Richard’s unique “mixed income” approach that ends the ‘warehousing” of the poor isolated from the rest of the city, with Jean’s powerful vision of “building people for housing”—fostering job creation and better schools, child care and elder care programs in new public housing developments—their vision focuses on building new affordable housing communities grounded in safe, sustainable neighborhoods. What were once volatile, dangerous, crime-ridden areas of distressed central cities, now become an environment for turning peoples’ lives around. ENVISIONING HOME takes us into this new world of safe and productive urban communities in cities across the country (from St. Louis to Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco), where we meet some of the residents and their families who have transformed their lives thanks to more humane and livable neighborhoods and an affirming sense of resident empowerment. 

ENVISIONING HOME is a powerful and revealing exploration into what happens when two people—and all those who have joined forces with them—relentlessly follow their hearts in trying to make a difference.

You can watch the trailer on YouTube and Vimeo. I’ve not seen anything except the trailer so I don’t know if it is worth seeing.

ABOVE: Image from the film with tenement in front and a housing project behind
ABOVE: Image from the film with tenement in front and a housing project behind

The screening is at 7pm in the Lee Auditorium of the Missouri History Museum. “After the film, King and Baron are joined by filmmaker Daniel Smith, Will Jordan (Executive Director, Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council) and moderator Casey Nolen, KSDK and host of Nine Network’s Stay Tuned” for a panel discussion. Additional information here.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "17 comments" on this Article:

  1. Scott Jones says:

    YES. Downtown STL needs a streetcar system. It was built around street cars and suffers today due to their lack. It’s too far for most people to walk from one end of downtown to the other (Would you check out the Arch and walk to Schlaflys Tap Room? That’s quite a hike!) and buses are still too stigmatized for most people to use. Filling the gap has been the automobile which has hollowed-out downtown with a surplus of surface parking lots and garages.

    • JZ71 says:

      It would be a whole lot cheaper and a whole lot more effective to destigmatize our buses than to invest in streetcars. Want more people to choose public transit? Make it frequent – every 3-5 minutes – and make it “free”. If you had to drop a quarter (or three) every time you used an elevator, you’d be looking for the stairs. Most of us choose to drive because it’s direct (no transfers, no waiting), there’s no schedules to worry about and it takes way less time than trying to use Metro. Yes, it costs us more, but the tradeoffs are worth it. Just putting the bus on rails, without addressing the fare, frequency and transfer issues, in addition to any negative “stigmas” and perceptions, will do little to “spur development”.

      • Free is your solution to destigmatize the bus? Got anything else? As soon as you make the bus free or cheap you’ll not see any public support to fund operations because people aren’t paying their share. There are numerous examples of where streetcars, combined with urban land use regulations, have spurred development. Do you have an example in the US of a city that has successfully destigmatized the bus?

        • moe says:

          How about an example where a city has put in a trolly service and is pulling in a profit (or at least breaking even) without the help of federal and state megabucks? Or even with such seed money, was able to pay it back and then break even?

        • JZ71 says:

          The whole discussion of streetcars in St. Louis avoids discussing what fares they will charge when they start operating. If the streetcar is charging $3 or $4 a trip, and Metro is charging $2.50 AND runs more frequently, the bus will still attract more riders, leaving the streetcars dependent on local property taxes for the bulk of the operating funds. As for free, the most heavily used bus route in Denver is the 16th Mall Shuttle, which runs free buses as frequently as every 70 seconds AND attracts riders from every demographic.

        • JZ71 says:

          One, “people aren’t paying their share” NOW. EVERY Metro ride and rider is already subsidized to the tune of 75%-80%, with farebox revenues generating only 20%-25% of total operating costs. Two, most cities rely way more on buses than on fixed rail transit to move more people more effectively simply because rail costs so much more. Three, most western cities (Calgary, Vancouver, LA, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake City. Phoenix, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, etc.) and many eastern ones (Toronto, Boston, New York, DC, Philadelphia, etc.) all have transit systems that carry much less negative baggage / stigma / racism than does Metro. Part of it is marketing, part of it is providing more/better targeted products and routes, but most of it has to do with more integrated metro areas / less overt racism / less de facto segregation. Four, the corollary to greater acceptance of public transit is denser employment centers than we find around here, which increases the cost of personal parking as well as creating more market-driven, natural density.

          While streetcar advocates love to trot out Portland’s streetcar line as THE catalyst for the redevelopment of the Pearl District, I’d argue that the combination of a stringent urban growth boundary and significant in-migration from California created the fundamental market demand for dense, infill developments in Portland. Is the streetcar an amenity? Absolutely! But if “throwing money at the problem” were the only requirement for economic success, we should be seeing much more success at Lambert (new runway), Mid-America Airport in Mascoutah, TOD at every Metrolink stop and sales taxes rolling in from every commercial TIF.

          I have no objections to streetcars done right. I do object to investing significant dollars in rail transit that is not intended to work any better than the current bus routes that they would allegedly “replace”, just in hopes of creating more demand for new development. You can get a lot of people to try something “cute” for a few days – that’s what keeps Disneyworld in business – the trick is sustaining demand beyond the cute stage. St. Louis does not not need more pie-in-the-sky plans for miles of new, denser infill development; we need to focus on filling in the existing, fragmented nodes (downtown, CWE, S. Grand, Cherokee Street) that we already have and we first need to focus on getting the truly negative perception issues (racism, crime, poor schools, earnings tax, government regulations) resolved that are scaring businesses away from doing business in St. Louis. Streetcars are just one small part of any potential “solution”.

          • The census tracks that saw growth in St. Louis in 2010 were those that are more walkable, urban, and with easy access to transit (bus & rail). A streetcar opening in 2016/17 will help the 2020 census.

      • Scott Jones says:

        I’m not saying this is impossible but you’ll have to overcome the racial and economic stigmatization of buses as “welfare-transportation-for-poor-black-people-who-have-no-other-choice”. Don’t get me wrong, I rode the #96 bus from Delmar to Downtown for years and had no problems but I was fascinated by the reactions of people who found out I rode the bus: “but…. don’t you have a CAR???”

        Here’s what you could do:
        * buy new buses that look more modern and mimic streetcars

        * install nicer bus stops with shelter possibly with electronic, real-time information
        * run buses more often
        * give buses preference at traffic lights

        * clearly delineate the bus route via road markings (one of the benefits of streetcars is that people instantly know where they run because they can see the tracks)

        I wonder how much money you’d really save by doing this though?

        • Metro is planning to convert the #70 Grand bus line to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

          • Scott Jones says:

            That’s great news. However, I think that BRT is more an inexpensive alternative to light-rail/subways rather than regular buses/streetcars. It’s all about frequency of stops. I guess what I was describing was very similar to BRT but I was talking about buses imitating trolleys (frequent stops, oriented to local service).

          • shabadoooo says:

            obviously you have never taken the grand bus. it comes between every 4 and 8 min during rush hour. every 12 min after that. if it was all about frequency there would be no stigma of the # 70.

          • Scott Jones says:

            You misunderstood what I said. I was saying that BRT is equivalent to light-rail/subways because it’s stops are infrequent (every mile or so) whereas streetcars and regular buses are equivalent because their stops are frequent (every quarter mile or so).

  2. moe says:

    I’m going to be the anti-street car position. I understand the city being built on them but then again, there were no busses back then. But times have changed. Some say for the better, others the worse. However to spend hundreds of Millions in today’s govermental economic climate which will persist for at least the next 5 to 10 years makes no sense. Not to just have some ‘un-stigmatized’ or ‘antique’ feeling. To me streetcars add to the skyline clutter, are fixed which makes traffic for both cyclist and motorist more difficult, impossible to flex due to demand, etc. To me it would be more economical, if busses are looked down upon (and I think there is some truth to that), then to use trolleys like they do in Forest Park. Then, in 5 or 10 years, if the demand is there, the main lines can be converted and then move the trollies to the spurs. And I hate the argument that ‘well it’s only going to cost us x % because the Feds will pick up the bulk. Even as a liberal, this arguement just plain s____s. We have a duty to all of us not to waste money just because ‘it’s there’.
    So trolleys = yes, streetcars = no.

  3. RyleyinSTL says:

    The thing about streetcars is that they add value along their routes. Spin off benefits include things like….infrastructure improvements (required for track) are generally accompanied with streetscape improvements, route permanence attracts development, modern cars have virtually no step-in….and on and on.

    Plus the storied history of the introduction of buses in STL is hardly a matter of “the best method won out.”


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