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Opinion: Financial Literacy Critical as World Goes Cashless

November 7, 2018 Crime, Featured, Politics/Policy, Retail Comments Off on Opinion: Financial Literacy Critical as World Goes Cashless
Shake Shack is one of the places mentioned as going/being cashless. Since we use plastic I have no clue if they accept cash or not.

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was about cashless businesses — establishments where you need plastic (debit/credit) to purchase goods/services. I current live essentially a cashless life — save for one $2 PowerBall ticket per month. After having paid off mountains of credit card debt the 2nd time I vowed to never have credit cards again. Then, in 2012, I sold my car. For a few years prior I didn’t use bills & coins, just my debit card. Once I sold my car I knew I needed a dreaded credit card again to be able to rent a card at times.

My parents, both now deceased, were raised in Oklahoma during the Great Depression/Dust Bowl. They tried very hard to instill good money management habits in me. I listed…then did all the wrong things over and over. I was never a fan of cash, though I still remember going with my dad as a kid when he bought a used van from an individual. They haggled on the price and when they agreed on a number my dad pulls out his wallet from the bib in his work overalls. He then proceeded to count out the $5,o00-$6,000 amount in $100 bills. Today people would think they were counterfeit, but it was like 1981 and people were more trusting. The seller had a shocked look on his face because my dad never looked like he had much to his name — but he usually had a few thousand in cash on him. I rarely have more than $5 on me.

Since my stroke and father’s passing in 2008, and selling my car & meeting my husband in 2012, I’ve applied all the financial advice my parents gave me. I do things differently than they did, however. We pay for everything we can on credit cards. This allows me to do a monthly cash flow spreadsheet for the next month. I know when each payment is due and when we each get paid. By paying off all cards on the due date we don’t pay any interest. In fact, we basically borrow a couple of thousand dollars each month interest free.

I know a person who received a small amount from social security every month. The government stopped mailing checks long ago, and she can’t manage a checking account with or without a debit card. She got her benefits through a checking cashing place that charged high fees to receive her money electronically and convert it into cash for her. For those like her  they can receive benefits on a government debit card — no checking account required.  Still, it’s hard for people who’re used to carrying cash to adjust to non-cash on a debit-only or checking account. I’ve been trying to educate my brother-in-law for a few years now.

Which brings me to cashless businesses. I got on this topic because of the homeless asking me for change. I barely have a $5, and certainly don’t have any coins. I recognize it’s unlikely they realize the world is going cashless. Think of all the things that require plastic: renting scooters/bikes, parking apps, transit fare machines?, Redbox/Netflix.  There are non-attended gas stations, like the one at Broadway & Chouteau, that only accepts credit cards.

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I worked retail for about 6 years when I was in high school & college, thankfully never encountered a robbery. For a few years I was one of the people that went to the registers at Toys “R” Us to remove excess cash during the holidays.

Last week one local retail clerk wasn’t so lucky.

An armed robber opened fire inside a Dollar General store in St. Louis Thursday afternoon, hitting and killing a store clerk, police said. (Post-Dispatch)

Going cashless can reduce crime.

In Sweden, which is leading the race toward a cashless society, negative attitudes toward the decline in cash usage has increased as the country progresses toward a cashless society. Although cash is still used extensively in several countries, such as Austria and Germany, the use of physical cash is diminishing across the board.

Even the U.S., where cash accounts for one-third of all purchases, the use of cash is declining. But at the same time, the amount of cash being issued is growing. Forty years ago there was approximately $80 billion of cash in circulation. Today, this number has increased nearly 20 times, to roughly $1.5 trillion in circulation. In the same period, the amount of $100 bills has increased from 25 percent in the mid-1970s to around 80 percent today.

The obvious explanation is inflation. However, the increase has exceeded inflation — with a good margin. According to economist and author Kenneth Rogoff, the world is drowning in cash, and it is making us poorer and less safe. He argues in his book The Curse of Cash that this phenomenon is not an American phenomenon, but also the case for every other widely used currency — and the primary explanation is that cash is the preferred means of value exchange in the black-market economy. His solution? Phase out the larger bills. (Techcrunch)

Of course cash is also the currency for legal medical & recreational marijuana — because retailers can’t get back accounts because of outdated federal drug laws.

I don’t want cash-only people to be excluded from society, but increasingly being cash-only means they’re not part of the mainstream. I want to help find ways to ease them into new habits. So do the credit card companies. They make their money from fees charged on every transaction. Those of us with excellent credit scores can get rewards cards to offset fees but most don’t qualify for these cards.

This is a long way of saying I have no clue about banning cashless businesses. Would have zero impact on my life either way, but would keep many from being excluded. In the non-scientific poll most didn’t think we should ban cashless businesses:

Q: Agree or disagree: St. Louis should ban cashless businesses & discounts for paying with cash

  • Strongly agree: 2 [8%]
  • Agree: 2 [8%]
  • Somewhat agree: 3 [12%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [4%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [12%]
  • Disagree: 6 [24%]
  • Strongly disagree: 7 [28%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 1 [4%]

As more commerce moves online/apps the number of legal cash transactions will decline. As cash transactions decline and store robberies increase, we’ll see more businesses make the decision to go cashless.  Now is the time to increase financial literacy to help others adjust.

— Steve Patterson

 

Evaluating Mobile Transit Directions in St. Louis

November 5, 2018 Featured, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on Evaluating Mobile Transit Directions in St. Louis

I do recall using public transit in St. Louis (and a few other cities) before the age of modern smartphones. Compared to today’s technology, it was primitive. Even since I’ve been a regular smartphone-carrying transit user the technology has advanced substantially.

The vast majority of Americans – 95% – now own a cellphone of some kind. The share of Americans that own smartphones is now 77%, up from just 35% in Pew Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011.

A substantial majority of Americans are cellphone owners across a wide range of demographic groups. By contrast, smartphone ownership exhibits greater variation based on age, household income and educational attainment. (Pew Internet Mobile)

Even though a majority have a smartphone now, it doesn’t mean they all have lots of storage space for various transit apps or enough data to get information on them. Before we get into smartphone apps, here’s a graphic that shows you phone, text, and email options from our transit agency, Metro:

Call, text, or email to find out real time transit information. Click image for more information from Metro.

I’ve used the texting feature several times — works great. Even MetroLink platforms have stop IDs so I can text to see if the next train is the Red or Blue line. For this post I tested the phone & email options, both also worked fine.

Since my cataracts surgery (left eye) in August, I can actually read my phone while outside — including small print! As a result of being able to see again, I’ve been looking into other options besides the familiarity of Google Maps for local transit directions.

While driving I prefer Apple Maps, first released 6 years ago. Transit directions didn’t come to the app for quite a while, then only in bigger cities. I tried using it when we’ve visited Chicago, but I don’t know their system/routes well enough to trust a new app, so I stuck with Google Maps. In late March St. Louis was added to Apple Maps and I’ve been testing it off & on since.

The smartphone market consists of only two platforms now — Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS (iPhone). Google Maps is available on both, but Apple Maps isn’t on Android. I’ve also been testing Metro’s ‘Metro On The Go’ app which is available for both platforms. For this post I downloaded two other apps that are also available on both platforms: Transit & Citymapper. The latter doesn’t have St. Louis mapped, but it has some very nice functionality — more on it later.

I tested all, except the one that doesn’t have St. Louis map info, by trying to go from home at 16th & Locust to Solae/DuPont at 4300 Duncan Ave. — I go there frequently for taste tests.  This is in the Cortex District and across Boyle from Cortex Commons & the Cortex MetroLink station that opened on July 31, 2018.

Google Maps (Android & iOS)

The majority of smartphone owners use navigation apps and most prefer Google Maps, according to new survey data from The Manifest. It has 67% of the market compared to 12% for Waze, 11% for Apple Maps, and 8% for MapQuest. (Apple World)

Google Maps, launched in 2005, is the dominant mapping service for both driving & transit. It shows me the most transit options and gives me the option to reduce transfers, reduce walking, etc.

Google Maps on iPad

Google Maps defaulted to the #10 bus, which I often take. For train only it wanted me to go to Union Station, not Civic Center, an easier route of the same distance, no elevator to deal with. I was able to use options to have it give me bus directions to Civic Center where I could catch a Westbound train. Interestingly, it wanted me to pass through the new Cortex station and get off at the Central West End station and walk back 2/10ths of a mile. D’oh!

I do like that when I open Google Maps, and search for a location, it defaults to the mode last used, usually transit on my phone. Having used it for transit in many cities, I’m most familiar with this interface. Other than wanting me to pass the Cortex station and walk back it does a good job. Earlier this year it did want me to transfer from one bus to another, not at the Civic Center MetroBus Center, but at 14th & Chouteau. I can’t recall where I was going when it did that, I reported it to Metro.

Apple Maps (iOS only)

Apple Maps rightly got skewered when it first came out, but like I said now I prefer it for driving directions. I tried using it for transit a few times in Chicago, but I don’t know their bus routes well enough to trust it.

Once St. Louis was added I felt comfortable giving it a try.

Apple Maps on iPad

Apple Maps defaulted to driving…it always defaults to driving. Very frustrating! On transit mode it defaulted to train from Union Station. No option to catch a bus to Civic Center to catch a train. However, it knows the Cortex MetroLink station is open and closer to my destination than CWE Station. For my simple routes Apple Maps works fine.

Metro On The Go (Android & iOS)

Metro’s app is basically their web format in a handy spot. The next departure feature from favorite or nearby stops is now my go to for quick departure times.  For example, when I finish at the doctor I can quickly find when the next Northbound bus is leaving from the nearby stop.

Metro On The Go app on iPad

For the test it also knew to direct me from the Cortex Station. It defaulted to taking a bus to Civic Center to catch a train — what I do since the Cortex station opened 3+ months ago. The app is still a little crude compared to the more polished apps from Google & Apple.

Transit app (Android & iOS)

This app has good ratings and a fresh interface. I like at the bottom it shows you times to walk, bike, or the an UberX — with estimated cost.

Like Google Maps, it directed me to the CWE station rather than the closer Cortex station. I’m not going to delete it yet, will continue to use occasionally to compare to others.

Citymapper (Android & iOS)

Like I said above, this app doesn’t include St. Louis at this time. Still, I like the interface and options presented.

Options for the journey between the Chicago condo where we stay when visiting the Windy City and Union Station to return home. The #151 bus is the most common method we use.

Showing walking & biking first is excellent, in my view.

Final thoughts

With 95% owning a cellphone, 77% a smartphone, the explosion of mapping apps, text services, etc really benefits the transit rider — both the daily & occasional rider. The trick is finding the right app for your particular needs. Being open to trying new apps is also a good idea.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Should St. Louis Require Businesses To Accept Cash?

November 4, 2018 Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should St. Louis Require Businesses To Accept Cash?
Please vote below

I often get asked for change by homeless downtown, which doesn’t bother me. The thing is, I don’t use coins. The exception is I make sure I have a quarter on me for my monthly shopping trip to ALDI — to get a shopping cart. When I get home the quarter goes back into our change bowl. So when a homeless person asks me for change I’m being totally honest when I say I don’t have any on me.

This got me thinking about how I live basically a cashless life, the opposite of my brother-in-law.  Groceries is the main thing I purchase. At ALDI, Trader Joe’s, & Culinaria I use ApplePay with a rewards Visa.  At Target I show the cashier a bar code on the Target app linked to our Target MasterCard. And at Costco our membership card is our Costco Visa.  Our monthly Costco trip is the one time shopping I need to get my wallet out of my pocket and get a card out.  I usually have $5-$10 in my wallet for emergency use, but I don’t carry change.

In researching this topic I found out an increasing number of places don’t accept cash, some cities are proposing laws to force businesses to accept cash and cease cash discounts.

From July 2018:

Mobile payments. Credit cards. Digital currencies. Going cashless seems to be a worldwide trend. In Belgium, it is illegal to buy real estate with cash. Some banks in Australia have eliminated cash from their branches. Sweden has seen its use of cash drop to less than 2% of all transactions, and the number could be heading even lower in the next few years.

However, one city in the US is resisting that trend: Washington DC. In the nation’s capital cash is still king, and a new bill introduced this week wants to keep it that way. The Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018 would make it illegal for restaurants and retailers not to accept cash or charge a different price to customers depending on the type of payment they use.

City councilmember David Grosso, and five other councilmembers who co-introduced the bill, are responding to the recent tide of retailers in their city and around the country – like the salad chain Sweetgreen – who are no longer accepting cash. These retailers, which mostly serve upscale customers, say that going cashless speeds up transactions, improves customer service and makes for more accurate accounting. They also argue that having less cash lying around also minimizes the risk of crime and contributes to a safer environment for both their customers and employees. (The Guardian)

There are a couple of restaurants in town I’ve stopped patronizing because one charges more when paying with plastic, the other has a minimum charge I don’t reach when eating alone.

I usually know my position before you see a poll, but I’m very torn on this subject. I love living cashless but know the struggle for those with cash, even managing a debit card is difficult for many.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight, hopefully I’ve got the settings right to adjust to the time change. Wednesday I’ll talk about my past problems managing credit, going all cash, and finally going cashless without going into debt.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 22 of 2018-2019 Session

November 2, 2018 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 22 of 2018-2019 Session
St. Louis City Hall

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 22nd meeting of the 2018-2019 session.

Today’s agenda includes four(4) new bills:

  • B.B.#153 – Pres. Reed – An ordinance outlining the priorities of funding for any potential revenue derived from a possible lease of St. Louis Lambert International Airport as may be permitted by theFAA’s Airport Privatization Pilot Program (49 U.S.C. §47134;Section 149), or any successor program thereof, and containing a severability clause.
  • B.B.#154 – Kennedy – An ordinance establishing the North Central Special Business District pursuant to Sections 71.790 through 71.808 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, setting its boundaries, tax rate, initial rate of levy subject to the approval of the qualified voters, bonding authority, and uses to which tax revenue may be put; creating a board of commissioners; and containing severability, effectiveness, and emergency clauses.
  • B.B.#155 – Kennedy – An ordinance repealing Section One of Ordinance 63915, and in lieu thereof enacting a new Section One authorizing and directing the Director of Streets to permanently close, barricade, or otherwise impede the flow of traffic on Enright by blocking said flow seventy (70) feet east of the curb line of Newstead; and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#156 – Kennedy – An ordinance authorizing and directing the Director of Streets to permanently close, barricade, or otherwise impede the flow of traffic on Washington by blocking said flow at the west curb line of Newstead; and containing an emergency clause.

The meeting begins at 10am, past meetings and a live broadcast can be watched online here. See list of all board bills for the 2017-2018 session — the new bills listed above may not be online right away.

— Steve Patterson

 

Looking Back on 14 Years of Blogging, Starting the 15th Year

October 31, 2018 Featured, Site Info, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Looking Back on 14 Years of Blogging, Starting the 15th Year

Here we are at another blog anniversary, the completion of 14 years and the start of the 15th year. I was 37 when my dad had a heart attack on October 1, 2004. I needed a mental distraction. I began blogging in the year it entered the mainstream:

In 2004, the role of blogs became increasingly mainstream, as political consultants, news services and candidates began using them as tools for outreach and opinion forming. Even politicians not actively campaigning, such as the UK’s Labour Party’s MP Tom Watson, began to blog to bond with constituents.

Minnesota Public Radio broadcast a program by Christopher Lydon and Matt Stoller called “The blogging of the President,” which covered a transformation in politics that blogging seemed to presage. The Columbia Journalism Review began regular coverage of blogs and blogging. Anthologies of blog pieces reached print, and blogging personalities began appearing on radio and television. In the summer of 2004, both United States Democratic and Republican Parties’ conventions credentialed bloggers, and blogs became a standard part of the publicity arsenal. Mainstream television programs, such as Chris Matthews’ Hardball, formed their own blogs. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary declared “blog” as the word of the year in 2004.[19]

Blogs were among the driving forces behind the “Rathergate” scandal, to wit: (television journalist) Dan Rather presented documents (on the CBS show 60 Minutes) that conflicted with accepted accounts of President Bush’s military service record. Bloggers declared the documents to be forgeries and presented evidence and arguments in support of that view, and CBS apologized for what it said were inadequate reporting techniques (see Little Green Footballs). Many bloggers view this scandal as the advent of blogs’ acceptance by the mass media, both as a news source and opinion and as means of applying political pressure.

Some bloggers have moved over to other media. The following bloggers (and others) have appeared on radio and television: Duncan Black (known widely by his pseudonym, Atrios), Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit), Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (Daily Kos), Alex Steffen (Worldchanging) and Ana Marie Cox(Wonkette). In counterpoint, Hugh Hewitt exemplifies a mass media personality who has moved in the other direction, adding to his reach in “old media” by being an influential blogger. Music blog publisher Jeff Davidson, Earvolution.com, now produces Sun Studio Sessions airing on PBS stations across the U.S.

Some blogs were an important news source during the December 2004 Tsunami such as Médecins Sans Frontières, which used SMS text messaging to report from affected areas in Sri Lanka and Southern India. Similarly, during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and the aftermath a few blogs which were located in New Orleans, including the Interdictor and Gulfsails were able to maintain power and an Internet connection and disseminate information that was not covered by the mainstream media. (Wikipedia)

In the early years I wasn’t taken seriously, I recall planner Rollin Stanley, dismissively telling me he doesn’t read blogs. A few years after he left St. Louis he emailed me asking me to check out his work blog!

This blog peaked in popularity in 2006. St. Louis magazine named me the 50th most powerful person in St. Louis in their December 2006 issue. That month I met a young man named Alex Ihnen. I attended at 2-day event downtown on “accessible streets” reviewing ADA/accessibility issues — I wasn’t yet disabled. After the 2nd day, December 15th, I agreed to meet Alex at 6 North Cafe to discuss blogging. At this point I only had a little over 2 years of experience, though in January 2006 I switched to WordPress 2.0 on my own leased server space.

Outside 6 North Cafe on December 15, 2006

Alex went on to do great things here with UrbanSTL, and later with NextSTL, before moving to Cincinnati. My only time in Cincinnati was at a Streetsblog event, also attended by Alex prior to his move.

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll most indicated they found value in local blogs:

Q: Agree or disagree: Local blogs, including this one, provide insights not gained via mainstream media.

  • Strongly agree: 10 [43.48%]
  • Agree: 9 [39.13%]
  • Somewhat agree: 2 [8.7%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [4.35%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 1 [4.35%]
  • Disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Strongly disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

I still enjoy sharing my thoughts. There’s no shortage of material to write about. Occasionally I get some little things accomplished, like getting an obstacle removed from the 6th Street sidewalk earlier this year, see: Sidewalk Obstruction Removed After Annoying Pedestrians For 7+ Years.  I can easily see reaching the 15 year mark — only one more year.

Not sure if 20 will be reached.

— Steve Patterson

 

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