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Poll: Regulating Noise From Motorcycles

In January one Illinois town took steps to keep the town quiet:

ALTON – A motorcycle rights and safety promotion group plans to pay for signs to “quiet” motorcycles in Alton, as city officials begin the process to strengthen the city’s anti-noise ordinance.

“We are going to be leaders in this,” said Alton Mayor Tom Hoechst, who campaigned on quieting down motorcycles traveling on city streets and loud car stereos. Telegraph

This week KMOV reporter noted “To date, police have issued 37 tickets to bikers in violation of the ordinance and 133 to motor vehicle drivers.”

The poll this week asks for your thoughts on enforcing noise ordinances.

– Steve Patterson


A trip to Belleville Illinois

On Monday I was on our MetroLink light rail system heading eastbound into downtown St. Louis to return home.  I had bought a 2-hour pass to give me the freedom to stop along the way to explore, as a I done the week before when I stopped at Grand. But then it hit me, I should visit Belleville, IL.

I’d been to Belleville only a few times in the last 20 years, always as a motorist. I’d only gone into the downtown once and that was probably 15 years ago.  It was a nice day and I knew from others that the light rail station was close to their downtown.  When I arrived it was unclear which way I should head so I boarded the “Main Street” bus after confirming with the driver it would get me to their Public Square. Fares paid on the Metro system are good in St. Clair County where Belleville is located. Metro East cities like Granite City, Collinsville and Edwardsville are served by Madison Country Transit and require additional fees.

The sidewalks along Main Street and around the large traffic circle in the center of the Public Square have been redone recently. Folks from other municipalities in our region should visit Belleville to see first hand.  Even better, visit in a wheelchair to see how the ramps and crosswalks work compared to most — which don’t work well.

Aligning ramps opposite each other seems obvious but to often engineers miss this.  The width of the ramp is nice too because it prevents a conflict when meeting others that need the ramp (wheelchair, stroller, etc).

In the City of St. Louis, for example, ramps are often placed at the apex of the corner.  In the above picture that would be the area between the two black bollards.   The problem with that is pedestrian traffic in both directions are squeezed into the apex.  Often when I cross a street I must go outside the crosswalk area to line up with the ramp and then ask people who are waiting to go the other direction to move aside. I’ve found the able-bodied like to use the ramps rather than stepping down from a curb.

Belleville’s solution solves those issues. Not every intersection had the above full corner ramp — others had a ramp for each crosswalk. Navigating the sidewalks of Beleville was much easier as a result.

I didn’t see any spectacular individual buildings but that was fine with me, the sum of the ordinary buildings along Main Street was greater than the parts.  The scale was pleasing and I saw many pedestrians — I was there at lunchtime.  I stopped in a Quizno’s and there was a neighbor of mine from two floors down.  Small world.

Like every Main Street Belleville has some bad buildings from the second half of the last century as well as a gap or two. Hopefully the corner spot shown above will get new construction soon.

One of the best things they did was bring out the curb at some corners to block the end of the on-street parking.  This reduces the length of crosswalks and slows down motorists.

In other cases this extra sidewalk was put to good use as a place for outdoor seating for the adjacent restaurant.

From my short bus ride to downtown I knew Charles Street would take me directly to the station. On the bus ride I was looking to see if I thought it would be accessible for me — it was indeed.

The above ramp is a type that St. Louis should have in many places. I was able to stay in line with the crosswalk and just continue on my path.  In St. Louis the ramp would have been directed at a 45° angle to the curb/crosswalk, requiring me to leave the crosswalk to get onto the ramp.  St. Louis does ramps that way because those can serve two directions at once.  But in the above case there is no where to cross the street in the other direction — there is only one way anyone would approach this ramp.  Belleville made sure the ramp faced that one direction, St. Louis has had a habit of doing the same treatment for ramps regardless of different conditions.

Approaching the station, a little less than a mile later, the pedestrian sidewalk continues.

Pedestrians don’t have to walk through a parking lot behind cars.  Crossing drive areas are minimized and marked.  Even those who drive to this station can use the central sidewalk to walk into the station rather than just in the parking area.

I bought enough bus & MetroLink passes in May & June that I went ahead and bought a monthly pass for July. So look for more posts from throughout the region as I explore via transit.

– Steve Patterson


1917: Race riot erupts in East St. Louis

July 2, 2010 Metro East 2 Comments
ABOVE: "Mob Stopping Street Car, East St. Louis Riot, July 2, 1917" Image: BlackPast.com

Ninety-three years ago today was a horrible day in our region:

The city of East St. Louis was the scene of one of the bloodiest race riots in the 20th century. Racial tensions began to increase in February, 1917 when 470 African American workers were hired to replace white workers who had gone on strike against the Aluminum Ore Company.

The violence started on May 28th, 1917, shortly after a city council meeting was called. Angry white workers lodged formal complaints against black migrations to the Mayor of East St. Louis. After the meeting had ended, news of an attempted robbery of a white man by an armed black man began to circulate through the city. As a result of this news, white mobs formed and rampaged through downtown, beating all African Americans who were found. The mobs also stopped trolleys and streetcars, pulling black passengers out and beating them on the streets and sidewalks. Illinois Governor Frank O. Lowden eventually called in the National Guard to quell the violence, and the mobs slowly dispersed. The May 28th disturbances were only a prelude to the violence that erupted on July 2, 1917.

After the May 28th riots, little was done to prevent any further problems. No precautions were taken to ensure white job security or to grant union recognition. This further increased the already-high level of hostilities towards African Americans. No reforms were made in police force which did little to quell the violence in May. Governor Lowden ordered the National Guard out of the city on June 10th, leaving residents of East St. Louis in an uneasy state of high racial tension.

On July 2, 1917, the violence resumed. Men, women, and children were beaten and shot to death. Around six o’ clock that evening, white mobs began to set fire to the homes of black residents. Residents had to choose between burning alive in their homes, or run out of the burning houses, only to be met by gunfire. In other parts of the city, white mobs began to lynch African Americans against the backdrop of burning buildings. As darkness came and the National Guard returned, the violence began to wane, but did not come to a complete stop….

A year after the riot, a Special Committee formed by the United States House of Representatives launched an investigation into police actions during the East St. Louis Riot.  Investigators found that the National Guard and also the East St. Louis police force had not acted adequately during the riots, revealing that the police often fled from the scenes of murder and arson.  Some even fled from stationhouses and refused to answer calls for help.  The investigation resulted in the indictment of several members of the East St. Louis police force. (Source: BlackPast.com)

In the decades since the riot, East St. Louis has gone from having a white population of nearly 100% (1920) to 50% (1960) to  5-10% (1980) to less than 5% (2000).  The 1920 population was 66,585 with a 1950 peak of 82,366.  In 2000 the population totaled only 31,542.

The devastation from the loss of population (and work) can be seen throughout most of East St. Louis.

ABOVE: Murphy Building, East St. Louis IL 2009 Photo by Chris Andoe
ABOVE: Murphy Building, East St. Louis IL 2009 Photo by Chris Andoe
ABOVE: East St. Louis, 2007
ABOVE: East St. Louis, 2007

When I moved to St. Louis from Oklahoma I was shocked when I heard their garbage collection had ended.  The Casino Queen has helped provide some revenue to the city for basic services. But efforts have been underway to improve conditions.

ABOVE: Parsons Place, East St. Louis
ABOVE: Parsons Place, East St. Louis, 2007

Parsons Place has been a positive addition to East St. Louis:

Parsons Place is a multi-family rental mixed income community in the City of East St. Louis’ Emerson Park neighborhood. This important project has been embraced by the regional efforts of St. Louis 2004 and represents a key initiative in the redevelopment of this distressed community. It is sited just blocks from the new 15th Street Emerson Park MetroLink Station and the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Boys and Girls Club. Phase I consists of 174 units of affordable rental apartments. Phase II was completed in summer 2005 and consists of 102 units. (Source: McCormack Barron Salazar)

Much work remains to be done to improve the city.  Like St. Louis, getting past the issue of race will be key.

– Steve Patterson


A nice surprise on the east bank of the Mississippi River

June 22, 2010 Metro East, Parks 7 Comments

One task facing the selected teams in The City * The Arch * The  River Competition to incorporate the Illinois side of the Mississippi River into their solutions. Last month I took my wheelchair across the Eads Bridge to check out the situation.

ABOVE: pedestrian sidewalk on the Eads Bridge

I was pleasantly surprised by the number of pedestrians crossing the river on foot. Granted, it was a very nice afternoon.

ABOVE: East St. Louis rverfront May 2010
ABOVE: East St. Louis riverfront May 2010

From the bridge you can see the casino and the grain elevator on the east bank of the river.

ABOVE: Cargil grain elevator, East St. Louis IL
ABOVE: Cargil grain elevator, East St. Louis IL

Up close the industrial nature of the working facility is pleasing but just as you pass the view changes dramatically.

You come upon the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park.  The park contains two elements that can be seen from Missouri.  First is the overlook:

Statue of Malcolm W. Martin at the top of the overlook.

The other feature is the geyser.  Four times per day the geyser shoots water into the air, provided it is not too windy.

Most of the time the water is still.
Four small foutains around the edge start before the main jet of water.
The geyser is very impressive but it only runs for 10-15 minutes at a time
Unfortunately getting to and from the Eads Bridge on foot (or wheelchair) is less than ideal

I suggest visiting the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park on the next nice day we have. I hope the design teams come up with a good way to get from the Eads Bridge to the park.

– Steve Patterson


Pro Sports Teams in St. Louis

St. Louis has a long history with professional sports teams, but, except for the Blues and the Cardinals, there’s also been a lot of changes over the years. The Browns, the Hawks and the football Cardinals have all left town. We invested heavily to get the Rams. We were once the epicenter for professional wrestling, and we currently support, among other sports, roller derby (ArchRivalRollerGirls.com).

Supporters of pro sports view them as being critical to a major city’s identity and for attracting new businesses. This is backed up with public investments like those in the Jones Dome, Busch III and Scottrade Center. But there are always groups advocating for more and different. One thing St. Louis lacks, in the traditional sense, is a pro basketball team. The Hawks were here from 1955 to 1968, but they were sold and moved to Atlanta. There are also “newer” pro sports leagues that are growing around the country, in sports that appeal more to the younger generations, sports like soccer and lacrosse.

With some regularity, we’ll see proposals, many times in Illinois, to build a new pro sports facility to support one of these new leagues. The Rams continue to make noises about the need to improve or replace the Jones Dome.  We just had a successful weekend of bike racing and the possibility of bringing the Olympics back to St. Louis is always a remote one.  There are those of us who would like to see a bigger investment in expanding our trail system, and there are others who value motorsports like NHRA and NASCAR.  Heck, there are even people willing to spend money watching monster trucks or lawnmower racing.

This all boils down to priorities.  We can’t be everything to everybody, so choices have to be made.  The Cardinals and the Blues seem to be relatively satisfied, for the time being, which leaves everyone else.  Should we focus our efforts on keeping the Rams or should we try to get an Arena Football team?  Would pro soccer be a better investment than pro lacrosse?  And should St. Louis work to keep any new facility in or near downtown, ar should we let other cities in the region share in both the glory and the headaches any pro team brings?

– Jim Zavist