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The Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center Reopens Today…Smoke-Free!

August 14, 2017 Downtown, Featured, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on The Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center Reopens Today…Smoke-Free!

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A look back at the original Civic Center MetroBus Center. The block North of Spruce had many trees.

In October 2011 many brown areas could be spotted on the evergreen trees
To prep for a new Civic Center bus transfer facility, all the trees were cut down. The Feds will require Metro to plant new trees
The official route from 14th to the MetroLink platform involves steps or two switchback ramps

The new design is substantially different, it has 3 times as many bus bays. First we have to get to it. For both the ribbon cutting (8/10) and open house (8/11) I arrived from the North on the West side of 14th Street (next to Peabody Opera/Scottrade Center). Both times I had to take a detour, hopefully this morning this is open.

AS I arrived for the open house I saw Fredbird walking on 14th because the sidewalk at the corner was closed.
Moments later Fredbird made it around the corner
Later I made it around to the other side, it appears done so hopefully the fencing is pulled back today. The North plaza area, left, is still being finished.
To accèss Civic Center I usd ri go West along Clark, almost to 16th. I couldn’t get to 14th & Spruce because the sidewalks don’t connect on the East side of 14th, which surprised some Metro officials.
On Thursday holes were being dug for a new fence along Clark.
Since opening in 1993 this sidewalk has been too narrow. now the added fence is close leaving no room for people to step side on the South
Heading up the West ramp to the building
Looking back to where I’d been.
Once the corner st 14th & Clark is open pedestrians will use a 14th Street sidewalk not filled with bus stops. Trees will be planted, providing separation from the traffic lane.
Those pedestrians who approach from the South will likely take a shortcut, those of us in mobility devices don’t have that option because bio ramp is provided on the South end
There are several very long crosswalks, the able-bodied will take less risky short-cuts
Some will enter any 14th & Spruce, facing the new building. The MetroLink platform ids beyond, with Amshack 3 beyond that.
Inside the building are restrooms, concessions, security, etc
Each bank of seating has an outlet, carry your phone charger
Like North County TC, the bathrooms don’t have doors . Great for those of us who use a mobility device
From the building you can look down at the MetroLink platform
View of the building from the platform
View north from the steps next to the building
Trees, plants, and art will be installed at the North this full .

At the ribbon cutting on Thursday Metro Transit Exec Dir Ray Friem was adamant Civic Center would open allowing smoking, like their other bus centers. I argued this was the perfect time to make Civic Center smoke-free. Metro staff told me their inconsistent policy of no-smoking on train platforms but smoking at bus shelters on their private property had been the subject of many internal debates over the years. Friem said Metro would go smoke0-free, he just didn’t know how or when.  I rallied others to talk to Friem. It worked.

Metro has announced Civic Center is opening smoke-free, other bus transit centers will go smoke0-free  next month. Finally I can change buses at a transit center without having my eyes water or throat close because of smokers around me.

Four bus routes are being split up:

  • The #30 is being split into the #19 St. Louis Ave and #30 Arsenal
  • The #32 M.L. King-Chouteau is being split into the #31 Chouteau and #32 M.L. King.
  • The #40 Broadway route becomes the #20 S. Broadway and #40 N. Broadway  — yes, both are being routes through Civic Center.
  • The #99 Downtown Trolley is having a West portion split off into the #96 Market Street Shuttle.

You can read all the changes here.

— Steve Patterson

 

Pine @ Tucker Treated Different Than Locust @ Tucker

July 24, 2017 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on Pine @ Tucker Treated Different Than Locust @ Tucker

In April I wrote how some drivers get confused on one-way Locust approaching Tucker — some turn left from either lane because it’s not properly marked. Two blocks directly South, on Tine St, is the identical situation but properly marked.  Pine is also a 2-lane street one-way Westbound.  But the city treats Locust very different than it does Locust.

Locust has no pavement markings or signs to indicate where drivers should be.

Locust approaching Tucker, from April post

Pine, however, has both pavement markings and at least one sign.

Pine looking West toward Tucker. Pavement markings and sign indicate the left lane must turn left at Tucker.

Maybe AT&T got the city to make this intersection less confusing? Two blocks away is the same type of intersection treated very differently — untreated. I favor having traffic that wants to continue Westbound being in the right lane. with the left lane for left-turn only traffic. When I drive Westbound on Locust I stay in the right lane to cross Tucker, allowing me to get through the intersection and not be caught behind cars waiting on pedestrians to cross Tucker.

Locust should be treated just like Pine.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers: Money Spent Improving Arch Grounds Not A Waste

May 31, 2017 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on Readers: Money Spent Improving Arch Grounds Not A Waste

Over half those who voted in Sunday’s non-scientific poll don’t think it’s a waste to invest in the Arch ground improvements.

ver Q:  Agree or disagree: the millions being spent on changes in & around the Gateway Arch are a waste of taxpayer dollars.

  • Strongly agree 2 [6.06%]
  • Agree 2 [6.06%]
  • Somewhat agree 3 [9.09%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 3 [9.09%]
  • Somewhat disagree 6 [18.18%]
  • Disagree 6 [18.18%]
  • Strongly disagree 11 [33.33%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

I tend to agree with the majority despite many other pressing needs in the region.More than a century ago local leaders got the idea to erase the original 1764 street grid and raze all buildings. Demolition began in 1939. When the Arch opened for visitors in 1968 the surroundings had been decimated by urban renewal, highways. surface parking, etc. In the 1980s (70s?) a parking garage was built at the North end of the grounds so visitors wouldn’t have to experience the awful surroundings.

So we’re spending more money to correct psst mistakes. Why bother? Tourism.

From 2015:

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 2 million visitors to Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in 2014 spent $173 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 3000 jobs in the local area, and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $270 million. (NPS)

More visitors from outside the region means more money is injected into the local economy. Getting them to enter the museum from the new West-facing entrance means they may stay longer, spend more money. Locals will also enjoy the experience more.

One of the new ramps connecting the top of the Arch grounds to the riverfront
Looking forward the Old Courthouse
The mew Kiener Plaza

Will all this make a difference? That’s the hope.

In a 2012  CBS News/Vanity Fair poll the Arch was voted the least impressive of five national landmarks listed (see slide).   A significantly better experience may change perceptions.

So no, I don’t think the investment is a waste. I do think about all the other mistakes in the region and the billions (trillions?) it will take to fix them.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

A Look At The New Kiener Plaza (Photos & Videos)

May 22, 2017 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on A Look At The New Kiener Plaza (Photos & Videos)

A week ago I posted many photos of the old Kiener Plaza, see Remembering The Old Kiener Plaza. Today we take a close look at the new Kiener Plaza that opened over the weekend.

The first three images were taken the afternoon of May 8, 2017 from the SE corner of the Kiener West parking garage.

The Eastern half
The central portion, occupied by 6th Street until the West block was added in the early 1980s
The Western half

Also taken on the 8th

With the old median removed from Market St, there is now room for back-in diagonal parking. Unlike Citygarden, some parking for us disabled folks was planned from the beginning.

These next images were taken Monday 5/15 during a media preview.

The “hallway” along the South side
Looking South from 6th & Chestnut.
Looking SE from the center
Olympic Runner by William Zorach (1887-1966) was completed in 1965 It was funded by a stipulation in the will of businessmen Henry J. Kiener. Click image for more information
The new fountain basin is smaller than the original 1960s version, LED lighting will be used to change colors of the water — replacing dyes used in the past.
Looking East toward the Old Courthouse and Arch
Looking toward 6th & Chestnut. These parking garages desperately need new facades.
Looking toward the NW corner, Louis Sullivan’s Wainwright bolding is in the background
Looking West
Looking East
Looking East. some of the many movable tables & chairs
A drinking fountain is located near the center. It’s frost free so you have to hols down the button fir a little bit before water will make it above the frost line. Be patient.
There’s also a frost-free bottle filler faucet.
There is lots of seating all over the 2-block park
In the NE corner is a spot for something arriving in a couple of months. Presumably a sculpture…
The East of the playground is for the youngest kids. The bright surface is rubberized for safety.
AS you move West the activities change
This timber jungle gym should be popular
Ans finally a …bungee/swing?

The next group of images were taken before and after the ribbon cutting on Friday May 19, 2017:

On the 15th I asked if the Downtown Trolley stop would return to Broadway @ Market. By opening day it had.
Sadly, St. Louis’ anti-pedestrian habits are on full display at 6th & Chestnut. The pedestrian signal to cross 6th switches tp a countdown and then to a stop based on some traffic engineer’s standard — long before vehicle traffic on EB Chestnut get a yellow/red light. Pedestrian-friemdly cities give the walk signal until it’s time for the vehicle signals to change.
A few spots of bright green illustrate St. Louis’ only protected bike lane. Cyclists get a signal too, so they know to stop when pedestrians have a walk signal yo cross Chestnut. A person leaving TGI Friday’s is supposed to cross 6th on the limited signal, then cross Chestnut, to reach Kiener Plaza — because a direct pedestrian crossing would slow down motorists turning left from 6th into Chestnut — this is how this intersection has been since 6th was closed in the early 80s. Motorists are more important than pedestrians in St. Louis.
Another view, the one crosswalk to cross Chestnut at 6th in the background.
Like Citygarden, a 20-block long “hallway” runs parallel to Market. Also like Citygarden, there is no public restroom.
In another similarity to Citygarden, if the food truck window lines up correctly then access isn’t too bad — but when not lined up those of using mobility devices can forget about access.
Ons of my favorite areas is paved in crushed granite, allowing storm water to be absorbed. There are also moveable tables & chairs in this area and “festival lighting” at night — evening photo below.
As before, the money shot is the runner statue with Old Courthouse and Arch in the background. A very popular spot on the first day.
Slowly the crowd for the ribbon cutting began to thin out.
The new fountain was turned on just as the ribbon was cut. LED lights under the water can change color so dye won’t be used in the future. to color the water.
The planting areas all act to collect water from the impervious patterned paving. Here another stye of bench is provided.
Kids enjoying the nee splash fountain that encloses four squares. Night photo later.
East end with people.While on the ground I got one of the free frisbees being handed out, stood from my chair, and tossed it onto the expansive lawn. Loved it.
The center not long after the ribbon was cut. Compared to the old Kiener Plaza, the space is much better suited to large crowds & festivals.
The West end.

This next batch of images were taken the evening of opening day, May 18th.

When I arrived just before 8pm this was the only artificial lighting that was on. I felt a few sprinkles so I quickly snapped this shot in case it began raining harder.
Later I got closet and focused on the water.
The “festival lights” over the crushed granite area is nice. Unfortunately the cafe tables & chairs were folded up — not inviting. I didn’t check to see if they were locked to the polls — hopefully not.
When I first heard there would be a splash fountain I thought we already have one just two blocks West in Citygarden. More compact, this one is very different. They’re complimentary.
Besides the fountain lighting, I also like the tree lighting and the fixtures in the center. Very nice glow without any glare. The taller spots, seem in the upper right, are obnoxious, however.
A couple strolls through Kiener Plaza
A woman was photographing her dogs all over the park while I was there.
One thing often mentioned by City-ArchRiver folks is the “moonlighting” of the lawn and East end. I had early cataracts so I get annoying glare from most lighting. Still. I liked this area better when the lighting was off. I could see just fine because of so much other artificial lighting downtown.
The moonlighting is located way on top of the Met Square building.
Unlike the actual moon, this produces lots pf glare and consumes enormous amounts of electricity. I save lean pff the spots and moonlighting — save those for use during special evening events only. If ever.

Yesterday my husband and I had a picnic at Kiener Plaza — I moved the table and chairs several times to stay in the shade.

Having a table to use made this possible, much harder on a bench

Here’s a great time-lapse video included on the media’s thumb drive. I uploaded it to my channel because it wasn’t on CityArchRiver’s.

And a video I made from clips from opening day.

 

Overall I think they’ve done an outstanding job, but the previous space was so awful it was hard to not do better. Accessibly is excellent, as is the amount of seating. The trees are a good size and will provide good shade within just a few years. Very glad to have the Olympic Runner statue back –the original plan for the new Kiener Plaza didn’t include it.

The misses are few:

  • No good place for accessible food truck lines
  • No power supply for food trucks, so each must run noisy & polluting generators.
  • No public restrooms.
  • Excessive artificial lighting.
  • Same mistake as Citygarden — no plan to extend “hallway” East & West of borders. Shortsighted.
  • City’s auto-centric pedestrian crossing time limit regardless of time vehicle signal is green.

 

 

Remembering The Old Kiener Plaza

May 15, 2017 Downtown, Featured, History/Preservation, Parks Comments Off on Remembering The Old Kiener Plaza

The ribbon will be cut on the new Kiener Plaza at noon on Friday, May 19, 2017. Kiener Plaza is a 2-block urban park, part of the Gateway Mall, bounded by Broadway (5th) on the East, Market on the South, 7th on the West, and Chestnut on the North.

Originally Kiener Plaza was just one block — Broadway to 6th. The 2nd block was added in the 80s with the Morton May Amphitheater replacing a surface parking lot on the West block.  Sixth Street was closed between Chestnut and Market — just one block. This forced the one-way Southbound traffic on 6th to turn onto one-way Eastbound Chestnut.

The land outlined in white is privately owned. Source: GEO St. Louis

I went through my photos of Kiener Plaza — I’d used a few on the blog before, but added 20+ to this post.

The two blocks were never a cohesive design, from different decades. The new design starts from a clean slate, we’ll see Friday how well it turned out.   See cityarchriver.org/visit/kiener for more information on Friday & Saturday’s activities.

A week from today I’ll have my thoughts on the new Kiener Plaza.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

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