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Sunday Poll: How Do You Feel About The Loop Trolley Now That It Is Operating On The Full Route?

November 25, 2018 Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: How Do You Feel About The Loop Trolley Now That It Is Operating On The Full Route?
Please vote below

The ribbon was cut on the Loop Trolley on Thursday November 15, 2018 — the ceremony was held indoors due to the snowstorm. When it began rolling it couldn’t enter University City because of a bureaucratic snafu.  That has all been rectified and the vintage cars are now rolling on the full route.

The 2.2-mile line was a long time coming. First envisioned in 1997, various hiccups slowed St. Louis’ re-connection with its street car past. The line finally opened last week.

But opening day was thrown for a loop when University City barred the trolley cars from crossing the border from St. Louis because of permit requirements that had yet to be met.

As a result, the trolley operated only on part of the St. Louis segment of the route last weekend — between the history museum and the corner of Delmar Boulevard and Des Peres Avenue.

Gregory Rose, U. City city manager, said he gave the go-ahead to enter the city on Wednesday, after trolley officials approved a $300,000 bond to be paid to dismantle the line if the project fails. Crews also erected temporary barriers around an electric line tower. (Post-Dispatch)

I rode the Trolley yesterday — it was free for Small Business Saturday. I’ll talk about my experience on Wednesday. Today’s poll is about how you, the readers, feel about the Trolley now that’s it is finally operating.

This non-scientific poll will close at 8pm tonight. Again, on Wednesday I’ll share my experience as a passenger using a wheelchair, thoughts on the project, and these results.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — ‘Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places’ by Jeff Speck

November 23, 2018 Books, Featured, Walkability Comments Off on New Book — ‘Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places’ by Jeff Speck

I’m usually unbiased when publishers send me new books, but I’m a huge fan of Jeff Speck’s work as a New Urbanist planner. His latest book focuses on one of my favorite topics: walkability:

“Cities are the future of the human race, and Jeff Speck knows how to make them work.”
—David Owen, staff writer at the New Yorker

Nearly every US city would like to be more walkable—for reasons of health, wealth, and the environment—yet few are taking the proper steps to get there. The goals are often clear, but the path is seldom easy. Jeff Speck’s follow-up to his bestselling Walkable City is the resource that cities and citizens need to usher in an era of renewed street life. Walkable City Rules is a doer’s guide to making change in cities, and making it now.

The 101 rules are practical yet engaging—worded for arguments at the planning commission, illustrated for clarity, and packed with specifications as well as data. For ease of use, the rules are grouped into 19 chapters that cover everything from selling walkability, to getting the parking right, escaping automobilism, making comfortable spaces and interesting places, and doing it now!

Walkable City was written to inspire; Walkable City Rules was written to enable. It is the most comprehensive tool available for bringing the latest and most effective city-planning practices to bear in your community. The content and presentation make it a force multiplier for place-makers and change-makers everywhere. (Island Press)

I received my review copy last month

He’s done two Ted Talks — back to back 5 years ago:

This newest book suggests 101 rules to make cities more walkable, organized in the following 19 sections:

  1. Sell Walkability
  2. Mix the Uses
  3. Make Housing Attainable and Integrated
  4. Get the Parking Right
  5. Let Transit Work
  6. Escape Automobilism
  7. Start with Safety
  8. Optimize Your Driving Network
  9. Right-Size the Number of Lanes
  10. Right-Size the Lanes
  11. Sell Cycling
  12. Build Your Bike Network
  13. Park On Street
  14. Focus on Geometry
  15. Focus on Intersections
  16. Make Sidewalks Right
  17. Make Comfortable Spaces
  18. Make Interesting Places
  19. Do It Now

Streetsblog has been posting full text of some of the rules:

Some of the rules of interest to me are:

  • #6: Invest in Attainable Housing
  • #14: Fight Displacement
  • #20: Coordinate Transit and Land Use
  • #37: Keep Blocks Small
  • #75 Bag the Beg Buttons and Countdown Clocks

However, all are interesting. I’m planning to use the upcoming holidays to read through all 101 in detail.

You can see a preview at Google Books.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Readers Want the Impossible: Amtrak Trains at St. Louis Union Station

November 21, 2018 Featured, History/Preservation, Planning & Design, Transportation, Travel Comments Off on Readers Want the Impossible: Amtrak Trains at St. Louis Union Station
Grand Hall in St. Louis Union Station

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll readers overwhelmingly indicated they’d consider using Amtrak if trains departed/arrived at St. Louis Union Station.

Q: Agree or disagree: I’d consider taking Amtrak if trains arrived/departed at St. Louis Union Station

  • Strongly agree: 22 [53.66%]
  • Agree: 6 [14.63%]
  • Somewhat agree: 2 [4.88%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 5 [12.2%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Disagree: 3 [7.32%]
  • Strongly disagree: 3 [7.32%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

Well, to the nearly 75% who agreed I have some bad news for you. Amtrak trains will never use Union Station again. Ever.

For more than 28 years I’ve lived in St. Louis I’ve heard people suggesting the return of Amtrak to Union Station and for 28 years I’ve just been struck by a complete lack of understanding about rail service and station design.

The decline of trail [rail] travel began following World War II, as traffic dropped significantly, even while railroads began to update their passenger fleets with new equipment in the 1950s hoping to retain passengers and ward off ever increasing competition from the automobile and airplane (the development of jet propulsion only worsened the situation).  Technically, passenger rail travel peaked in this country during the first two decades of the 20th century and slowly declined thereafter, particularly with the onset of the Great Depression.  However, it also did not help that President Dwight Eisenhower enacted the Interstate Highway System in 1956 (also known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act).  By that time railroads were beginning to see the writing on the wall and cutback their services, with most giving it up altogether by the start of Amtrak in 1971. (American-Rail.com)

By the time the stock market crashed in 1929 St. Louis Union Station had been open for 35 years. This was a poor time to be the largest U.S. railroad station. The last train pulled out from the huge train shed 49 years later.  The main building (from “Headhouse”) hadn’t been used for nearly a decade. With only a few trains per day having such a huge facility made no sense. It would’ve happened sooner if another option existed.

Under the big shed in 2012

You might point out the Kansas City still uses their Union Station for Amtrak service. Yes, yes they do.  It’s a through-station, not an end-station.

Through-stations and end-stations are completely different design and planning problems.  They generate completely different kinds of space and completely different sensations of arrival and departure.  It’s pointless, for example, to compare New York’s dreary Penn Station, a through-station, with magnificent Grand Central, an end-station.  They are apples and radishes. (Human Transit)

In the 19th century when 22 railroads built Union Station they correctly saw St. Louis’ population computing to grow. They wanted a facility they wouldn’t outgrow like the original St. Louis Union Station on 12th (Tucker).  They decided their station would be an end-station, not a through-station.  Half a century later the decline of rail passengers, the failure of passenger rail companies, and the fact Chicago beat St. Louis as the midwest end city meant St. Louis Union Station, a beautiful design, was incredibly obsolete for rail travel.

Kansas City’s Union Station has been able to reutilize most of the building to other uses, with Amtrak using a small part for ticketing and waiting, It’s a short distance out to the platform at the through tracks. From the back of the shed at St. Louis Union Station it’s still a very long distance to the tracks — plus office buildings and the closed movie theater block the path.

In the 70s Amshack was built at the tracks. I recall using this in the 90s. Then a slightly nicer Amshack 2 was built, I used this in the aughts. The station I’ve used the most opened a decade ago…today. Yes, it took until November 21, 2008 to open a proper station. I was there for the ribbon cutting ten years ago, and I’ve been back many times since as a traveling customer.

Comptroller Darlene Green speaking at the opening ten years ago

Over the last decade the maintenance was allowed to get behind, prompting me to label it Amshack 3 in 2017.  Thankfully it was improved on my last train trip, in February 2018.

Please understand Union Station is a magnificent asset to St. Louis — but it was last useful as a train station about 75 years ago.  Embrace the current station, or use the new Alton Station if you’re headed North on Amtrak. The rail improvements started during the Obama administration have greatly improved the St. Louis to Chicago experience.  Stop waiting for trains at Union Station — use the station we’ve had for the last decade.

— Steve Patterson

 

Goodbye City Block 1404

November 19, 2018 Featured, History/Preservation, North City Comments Off on Goodbye City Block 1404

When I decided to move to St. Louis in August 1990 the street grid was a big factor in that decision. In fact, it’s better to say street grids — plural. Rather than a monotonous grid for miles we get many grids at odd angles to each other. The resulting odd-shaped parcels means we have some very unique building shapes — built to fill the lot up to the sidewalk.

One such group made the top of my April 2015 Buildings I’d Like To See Rehabbed post.

Collection of buildings on North Florissant at Ferry/Gore/Carter. Click image to view in Google Maps.

Every time I’d pass by on the #74 MetroBus, or drive past, I’d admire the fine proportions. I’d usually take a pic or two.

August 2017
September 2018
September 2018

And then a couple of weeks ago…

November 11, 2018

This has been unbelievably depressing. I’m not shocked, I’ve watched it deteriorate and in September I could see one building had a fire. Others hadn’t had a decent roof in years.

Aerial from Google Maps shows poor roof conditions

These all appear on the October 1909 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps:

Sheet 088, volume three

These buildings were all built in 1900-01, with the last in 1908:

  • 4301 Grove Street: 1901
  • 4303 Grove Street/4305-09 N. Florissant Ave: 1900
  • 4311-13 N. Florissant Ave: 1908
  • 4315-17 N. Florissant Ave: 1901

In 2015 I thought there were owned by the City’s Land Reutilization Authority (LRA), but that was incorrect. The owner is Citibrook II, L.L.C., formed in January 1998.   It’s not clear how long this limited liability corporation has owned these buildings. I still fail to see how tearing down buildings improves neighborhoods.

Hopefully the former Eliot School, across Grove St, will get rehabbed.

Eliot School, built in 1898, at 4242 Grove St

At least this property is for sale:

One of W.B. Ittner’s original designs, this building is listed on the National Register and would be ideal for housing, assisted living or a medical facility. The school was named for William Greenleaf Eliot, founder of Washington University. (Saint Louis Public Schools)

Asking price is $256,000. Maybe with the nearby group gone a developer will be interested? For more on Eliot School see St. Louis Patina.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Would You Take Amtrak If St. Louis Union Station Was Still Used For Trains?

November 18, 2018 Featured, Sunday Poll, Transportation Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Would You Take Amtrak If St. Louis Union Station Was Still Used For Trains?
Please vote below

It has been over four decades since Amtrak stopped using St. Louis Union Station for passenger rail.  When it opened in 1894, replacing the original St. Louis Union Station, it had 42 tracks.

At its height, the station combined the St. Louis passenger services of 22 railroads, the most of any single terminal in the world. In the 1940s, it handled 100,000 passengers a day. The famous photograph of Harry S. Truman holding aloft the erroneous Chicago Tribune headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman”, was shot at the station as Truman headed back to Washington, D.C., from Independence, Missouri, after the 1948 Presidential election. (Wikipedia)

Amtrak, formed in 1971, used the station until a “temporary” station could be built along the tracks to the East. That began in 1978. There was a period where the Union Station’s main “headhouse” wasn’t used but trains still used the shed — the design allowed access to tracks without going through the main building.

I first came to St. Louis just 12 years after passenger rail service ended at Union Station. I had just traveled by train from Union Station in Washington DC though Union Station in Chicago to a tiny station in Kansas. There I caught a Greyhound bus back to Oklahoma City where I got my car and drove to St. Louis to take up permanent residence. However, passenger rail service had been in decline since before I was born. Interstate highways & air travel made rail service seem obsolete — hence the government’s consolidation of numerous rail companies to create Amtrak.

For 40 years rail service has been at locations other than St. Louis Union Station.  Does this make a difference when deciding how to travel?

Today’s non-scientific poll will close automatically at 8pm tonight. Wednesday I’ll have more on this topic.

— Steve Patterson

 

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