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More Changes Coming To Central West End Light Rail Station

December 23, 2019 Central West End, Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on More Changes Coming To Central West End Light Rail Station

When our light rail line, MetroLink, opened in July 1993 the Central West End (CWE) station was one of the original.  This was prior to the city vacating Euclid Ave. for vehicular travel. For the next 13 years the station operated with two separate platforms — one for eastbound and one for westbound — with the tracks in the center,

In August 2006 the new Blue Line opened further west.  But the CWE station had been rebuilt from two platforms to one center platform. This reduced elevators from two to one.

July 2010 looking down on the station from what used to be Euclid Ave on the west.
Looking east toward Taylor from the CWE MetroLink platform, 2014

The station, the busiest in the system, remain largely unchanged until last year when the platform was extended in length. The trains aren’t any longer, but the eastbound trains now stop further east from the stair/elevator. This was done to reduce pedestrian congestion.

Construction on the platform extension, November 2018.

So what’s changing? From Metro’s December 20th press release:

Station Redesign Details:

  • New, monitored entrance/exit at the street level from Euclid Avenue on the west end of the station featuring a welcome center at the top of the stairs that lead down to the MetroLink platform
  • A new, wider staircase with a center handrail connecting the new Euclid Avenue entrance/exit to the platform to better accommodate passengers
  • Relocating the elevator on the station platform to relieve congestion
  • New, upgraded platform lighting
  • An expanded canopy to cover 70% of the MetroLink platform. The current canopy covers 30% of the MetroLink platform.
  • Safety improvements including a speed bump, stop sign, and new lighting at the entry to the MetroBus area of the garage which connects to the east entrance/exit of the platform.

Construction begins today, the elevator will be closed starting Thursday (12/26/19). When the station was reconfigured in 2006 they should’ve made the platform wider. Hopefully the new station will have a substantially larger elevator — and that a wheelchair user waiting for the elevator won’t block others.

Obviously during the construction those of us that need the elevator will have to use the east end of the platform and enter/exit via the CWE MetroBus Transit Center. Metro’s release indicates other closures may happen throughout the project but that advance notice will be given.  Unfortunately, they did not indicate how long this project will last.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Is ‘Die Hard’ A Christmas Movie?

December 22, 2019 Featured, Popular Culture, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Is ‘Die Hard’ A Christmas Movie?
Please vote below

There are many films out that are undisputed Christmas classics. Esquire recently published a list of the top 40 Christmas movies, here’s their top 10:

  • 10. A Christmas Carol, 1951
  • 9. The Muppets Christmas Carol, 1992
  • 8. Bad Santa, 2003
  • 7. Miracle on 34th St., 1947
  • 6. Scrooged, 1988
  • 5. Home Alone, 1990
  • 4. White Christmas, 1954
  • 3. A Christmas Story, 1983
  • 2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, 1989
  • 1. It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946

Further down the list is Meet Me In St. Louis, at #16:

Vincente Minnelli’s 1944 musical is comprised of vignettes set during a variety of seasons, but none are as famous as the one featuring star (and Minnelli’s future wife) Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” (Esquire)

You can watch Garland sing this here.

Today’s poll is about the movie at #25 on their list — Die Hard, 1988. Here’s an intro to the plot:

On Christmas Eve, NYPD detective John McClane arrives in Los Angeles, intending to reconcile with his estranged wife, Holly, at the Christmas party of her employer, the Nakatomi Corporation. McClane is driven to the party by Argyle, a limousine driver. While McClane changes clothes, the party is disrupted by the arrival of a German terrorist, Hans Gruber, and his team: computer hacker Theo, Karl and Tony Vreski, Franco, Alexander, Marco, Kristoff, Eddie, Uli, Heinrich, Fritz, and James. The group seizes the tower and secures those inside as hostages except for McClane, who slips away, and Argyle, who gets stranded in the garage. (Wikipedia)

And this is the trailer:

I can’t think of a movie that has been debated more about being a Christmas movie or not.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

 

Design: Automotive Taillights Need Separate Amber Turnsignals

December 20, 2019 Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on Design: Automotive Taillights Need Separate Amber Turnsignals

Today’s blog post is one of those I’ve been wanting to do for a few years now. The subject is been a pet peeve of mine for at least four decades now.

Previously I’ve posted about automotive headlights, so today is about taillights. Specifically the varied design of automotive taillights, and how ours differ from the rest of the world.

First we need to review the four components that make up rear light assemblies:

  • Tail light — the red light that is on when your lights are on.
  • Brake light — the red light that comes on when you hit the brakes.
  • Turn signal/indicator — the flashing light to indicate your turn. In combination these are the emergency flashers.
  • Backup lights — the white lights that come on when you put the car into reverse gear.

Government regulations on these four vary widely in different parts of the world. North America, as you might expect, is out of step with the rest of the world.

To explain my views on taillights I’ve assigned A-F grades to the various types:

Grade: A

Tail light assembly from the 80s Volvo 740/760 sedans. Clockwise staring in the  upper left is the amber turn signs, backup light, and four separate red sections — I no longer recall which did what. One is brake only, one is taillight, and one was a rear fog light, and one was just a reflector.
  • Separate taillight & brake light — the brake light is dark even when the lights are on, when the brakes are pressed a dark space becomes lighted.
  • Amber turn signal lens — not just an amber bulb behind a clear lens, but an amber lens.
  • An A+ also has a rear fog light.
  • Examples I’ve owned: 1987 Volvo 740 Turbo, 1986 Saab 900S, 1986 Saab 900 Turbo
  • New:  no new cars have A-grade taillights.

Grade: B

My 2004 Toyota Corolla had an amber turn signal lens.
  • Combined taillight & brake light
  • Amber turn signal lens
  • Examples I’ve owned: 1974 Ford Mustang II, 1975 Mercury Monarch, 1984 Dodge Colt, 1988 Mitsubishi Mirage, 2004 Toyota Corolla, 2000 Volkswagen Golf,
  • New: none that I can think of

Grade: C

Our current Sonata has LED taillight & brake lights, the amber incandescent turn signal bulb is behind the clear lens on the left.
  • combined taillight & brake light
  • Clear turn signal lens, amber bulb
  • Examples I’ve owned: 2006 Scion xA, 2015 Hyundai Sonata
  • New: Numerous, but dwindling quickly.

Grade: D

This is like the 2007 Civic we had, the small red section in the bottom is a separate turn signal. The 2009-10 models of the 8th generation had a slight change — the turn signal lens became clear with an amber bulb. Those models get a C grade.
  • combined taillight & brake light
  • Separate turn signal, red lens
  • Examples I’ve owned:  1999 Audi A4 Avant, 2007 Honda Civic
  • New: Many

Grade: F

Ford’s Fusion is one of the most frustrating. In some years of this generation the red is simply reflector. The clear part on the left is combined taillight/brake light/turn signal — all in red LEDs
This is just a pic I had of a Cadillac. It may in fact have a separate red turn signal, but so many cars just have a big red blob only capable of doing one function at a time.
  • combined taillight, brake light & turn signal
  • Example: 1979 Ford Fairmont Futura, 1971 Dodge Demon,
  • New: Most sold today, including Tesla!

As you can see my grading scale gives a higher priority to taillights that give each function its own light independent of the others. Amber for turn signals because a different color next to red brake lights has greater visibility. And we all want our brake lights and turn signals to be seen, right?

Also infuriating are aftermarket taillight assemblies that have less visibility than the factory units. Also, dark smoke taillight covers significantly reduce visibility. Individuals changing their lights say they’re doing an “amber delete” on their vehicles. Time & money to make their cars less visible to others — crazy!

One reason I long preferred European cars was their taillights. Very…European. Not anymore, even Volvo & Mercedes are selling new vehicles in North America with D-grade taillights. These same vehicles sold in the rest of the world have significantly better taillights — because regulations in other countries require it!

Thankfully I’m not the only person who feels this way. Here’s an excellent 13-minute video of a guy explaining the differences.

Here’s more:

Here’s the fundamental issue: the US (and Canada, but they’re just piggybacking on our regs) is the only place in the world where the rear turn indicator may be red, instead of orange/yellow/amber. Up front, indicators need to cast an amber light to differentiate from the white headlamps, but out rear you can actually just use one red-shining bulb for stop/tail/turn functions, as many cars do — especially trucks and jeeps and other vehicles that use off-the-shelf cheap trailer-type lights. (Jalopnik)

The above cites a couple of the many studies showing separate amber turn signals are best: 1977 Volkswagen & 2009 National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

U.S. regulations have minimum lit area requirements for turn signals, brake lights, etc. But these standards are from the 1950s!

The minimum size was adopted in the mid-1950s when a Society of Automotive Engineers lighting committee met in Arizona and evaluated cars with different rear lighting configurations. The engineers peered at the cars as they were driven away, then voted on which systems they thought looked okay. There were two reasons for specifying minimum lit area: the lens plastics available in the 1950s weren’t very colorfast or heatproof, and requiring a minimum lit area was a way to ensure, without design-restrictive explicit requirements, that the lens would be a minimum distance away from the hot bulb, to stave off fading and cracking. (A Car Place)

Gee, lighting has changed a little in 60+ years.

The U.S. needs to modernize our automotive lighting regulations so closely resemble those in the rest of the world.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Split On Eliminating Personal Property Tax

December 18, 2019 Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy, Taxes Comments Off on Readers Split On Eliminating Personal Property Tax
Missouri Capital, Jefferson City, MO, April 2011

A Missouri State Senator is going to try to eliminate personal property taxes by allowing citizens to vote on a constitutional amendment:

State Senator Bill Eigel says it’s time to end the payments. He sponsored the bill, SJR 44, which would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment prohibiting counties and other political subdivisions from levying or collecting a tax on personal property. (KMOV)

In the recent Sunday Poll readers were split on the idea of eliminating the tax.

Q: Agree or disagree: Missouri should eliminate personal property taxes on vehicles.

  • Strongly agree: 8 [26.67%]
  • Agree: 5 [16.67%]
  • Somewhat agree: 1 [3.33%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [3.33%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 1 [3.33%]
  • Disagree: 6 [20%]
  • Strongly disagree: 6 [20%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 2 [6.67%]

Sen. Eigel’s bill, SJR44, is the same as SJR5 introduced a year earlier. It never got out of committee.  Eigel represents part of St. Charles County.

I think most realize the folly of the state taking away a source of revenue for Missouri’s counties. Not all counties are equal, some likely depend much more than others on this revenue. Taking it away might mean a reduction in services provided, or an increase in some other tax.

I favor evaluating government services and revenue sources to ensure they’re fair, but I don’t favor constitutionally starving counties to the point they’ve got to substantially reduces services.

Hopefully this new bill also won’t get out of committee.

— Steve Patterson

 

Highway On-Ramp Over Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center Reopened

December 16, 2019 Featured, Transportation Comments Off on Highway On-Ramp Over Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center Reopened

Westbound ramps onto I-64, aka highway 40, are now reopened after being closed since late September:

Starting next Monday, drivers heading west from downtown will need to avoid the ramp from 14th Street to westbound I-64, as crews will close the ramp for two months to remove, repair and replace the driving surface.

Crews will close the ramp after 7 a.m. Monday, September 23. It is expected to reopen in mid-November. (MoDOT)

The ramp from 14th Street didn’t open in November, as originally planned. It reopened earlier this month.

The underside of the ramp in early August.
Same ramp on December 2nd

This ramp was interesting as it goes over Metro’s Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center. It’ll be nice not having to go around all the barricades when going from bus to light rail, and vice versa.

New infrastructure is sexier, but it is far more efficient to maintain what we’ve already got — we can’t afford neglect and total replacement.

— Steve Patterson

 

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