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Parking in Former CPI Corp Lot Now $5/Day or $65/Month

It was a year ago that CPI Corp shuttered all of its US portrait studios, leaving most of the downtown workforce without a job.  I’ve kept an eye on the company since moving downtown, as I look up from my screen as I type this post I can see the former CPI HQ building outside my window.

In December 2008 the lot was generally full, as seen from our balcony
In December 2008 the lot was generally full, as seen from our balcony
The view from a neighbors balcony at 4:30pm in November 2009
The view from a neighbors balcony at 4:30pm in November 2009
2012 Entire block of surface parking east of CPI's building shown in the background
In 2012 their surface parking east of CPI’s building, shown in the background, was still pretty full each day
Tuesday April 14, 2013 @1:45pm is was nearly vacant
Tuesday April 14, 2013 @1:45pm is was nearly vacant

The lot was vacant for a while but over the last year more and more area residents began parking there, a nearby restaurant valet used the lot on weekends, etc. It got used, but nobody collected any revenue. CPI Corp had sold their building & lot prior to shutting down so I knew it had to be just a matter of time until the owner decided to collect from everyone using the parking lot.

A a couple of weeks ago St. Louis Parking began putting this flyer on cars, effective Monday April 28th they’d be charging $5/day.

An honor box was installed on the NW corner near 17th & Washington Ave
An honor box was installed on the NW corner near 17th & Washington Ave
A sign placed in one spot along St. Charles St., few paying customers so far
A sign placed in one spot along St. Charles St., few paying customers so far
And naturally, a sign blocking the narrow sidewalk I use along the west side of 16th St.
And naturally, a sign blocking the narrow sidewalk I use along the west side of 16th St.

It would’ve been easy to go around the sign, but not if someone parked in the adjacent space. Using my power wheelchair I pushed the sign into the adjacent space then I sent this pic to a few officials, and posted on Twitter & Facebook. Hopefully St. Louis Parking  won’t place this sign on the sidewalk again. One response brought up a very good question:

Off topic, but isn’t there now a rule requiring pay lots to supply an attendant or have a locked fence to prevent car break-ins? Does that not invalidate honor boxes? http://www.stltoday.com/…/article_a546ebc4-a261-11e0…

The link was to a June 2011 Post-Dispatch article: St. Louis to require parking lot attendants, curb downtown break-ins. Three months later the following press release was issued:

Released: 09-19-2011

To reduce car break ins, the City of St. Louis has implemented common-sense regulations for parking lots. These rules are designed to make parking lots safer and more secure.

“Our City –especially Downtown –is the hub of our region’s activity,” said Mayor Francis G. Slay. “Hundreds of thousands of people come to our City for festivals, sporting events, concerts, and other events. They should know that their car will be secure while they are having fun.”

The City of St. Louis and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD), worked together to create new public parking lot rules. The highlights are:
• Parking lots shall be attended by an employee when in operation; and
• Parking lot attendants shall be educated by the SLMPD; and
• Parking lots shall be secured when not in operation.

The City of St. Louis Building Division will grant waivers to parking lots that have demonstrated they are safe and secure. These waivers will be reviewed periodically.

“Waivers will only be given to specific lots that historically have been safe places to leave a vehicle,” said Frank Oswald, Building Commissioner. “My staff will work with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to ensure that we are giving waivers to only those lots without problems.”

The SLMPD will coach parking lot attendants on how to spot suspicious activity, and has vowed to be available to quickly respond to parking lot calls for service.

“These attendants will act as an extra pair of eyes for the SLMPD,” said Mayor Slay. “And our hope is that their watchfulness will give the SLMPD a greater chance to catch car clouters in the act, and to make our City even safer.”
The City of St. Louis has implemented new parking lot regulations to reduce break-ins per Building Commissioner’s Order #1001. The Building Division will grant waivers to parking lots that have proven to be safe and secure.

For more information or to apply for a waiver please call the Office of the Building Commissioner at (314) 622-3318.

Since this lot lacks an attendant or any fencing to restrict use to the daytime, I assume it was granted a waiver. Which is interesting because this lot, and the one at 16th & Locust, are well known spots for car break-ins and/or robberies/assaults. I’ve emailed the building commissioner asking about waivers, I haven’t heard back yet.

— Steve Patterson

 

Utilized For Turning Movements

April 14, 2014 Downtown, Featured, Parking, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on Utilized For Turning Movements

In 2009 I was part of a Partnership for Downtown St. Louis committee looking at parking downtown, including areas where on-street would be beneficial for helping retail businesses and their customers.   On November 12, 2009 @ 6:34am I emailed the following to Director of Streets Todd Waelterman, copied to 7th ward alderman Phyllis Young:

Todd,
I was delighted to see the addition of on-street parking on 10th & Olive recently. I emailed Patrice but I haven’t heard back from her yet.

Another area where there is an immediate need for on-street parking is the North side of Washington Ave between 11th and Tucker. The curb lane is hardly used for traffic. In this block there are now more businesses than ever. Copia is expected to reopen so when they resume valet that will take away spaces used by the general public.

The East side of Tucker between St. Charles and Wash Ave is very wide. There is room for on street parking here as well.

On 11th at Wash Ave there are two polls from what used to be metered spaces. For some reason they are no parking now. I see no logistical reason for these not to have parking.

These three spots could add 12-15 more spots in this area. The parking would help all the businesses in the area and have no real impact on traffic flow.

Please ask your staff to look into allowing meters to be added to these areas.

Thanks,
Steve

To my surprise he replied less than an hour later @ 7:18am:

Thanks for your ideas.  These areas will be utilized for turn movements when tucker is complete.

Todd Waelterman
City of St Louis
Director of Streets
314-647-3111

Young never replied. I dropped the subject, waiting for the rebuild of Tucker to be completed and the new I-70 bridge to open.   Since the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge opened to traffic on February 9th, 2014 I think it’s time to revisit these areas as candidates for on-street parking. Let’s take a look at these three separate areas, all located within a block of each other:

The three areas where on-street parking would help businesses and improve walkability by creating a fixed barrier between traffic and pedestrians.
The three areas where on-street parking would help businesses and improve walkability by creating a fixed barrier between traffic and pedestrians. Original aerial from Apple Maps.

A) North Side of Washington Ave from 11th to Tucker (12th)

This block of westbound traffic is very odd. Both of the blocks before and after have one westbound travel lane and one parking lane. Yes, city staff seem to think the entire right lane for the full length of the block needs to be a right turn only lane.

This view is from Saturday, but the weekday rush hour is similar, the through lane has 5-6 vehicles each cycle but the right turn lane  has few if any cars.
This view is from Saturday, but the weekday rush hour is similar, the through lane has 5-6 vehicles each cycle but the right turn lane has few if any cars.
Occasionally a car or two will park illegally in the block-long turn lane.
Occasionally a car or two will park illegally in the block-long turn lane. This isn’t really a problem because not many going west on Washington Ave want to turn right to go north on Tucker

Sure, leave room before the crosswalk for a couple of cars to get into the right lane to turn northbound on Tucker, but park cars from the Flamingo Bowl to Empire Deli.

B) East Side of Tucker from St. Charles to Washington Ave

The short distance from St. Charles (a named alley) to Washington Ave is far more complicated, not easily resolved.

b

Looking south from the crosswalk crossing Tucker at Washington Ave we see space crossed out between the left turn land and two through lanes
Looking south from the crosswalk crossing Tucker at Washington Ave we see space crossed out between the left turn land and two through lanes. The Meridian bldg (left) has a vacant storefront space facing Tucker, all facing Washington Ave are leased.
Looking north from St. Charles we see the vast amount of asphalt
Looking north from St. Charles we see the vast amount of asphalt, the bus stop should remain
Briefly in May 2013 this was to be a valet stand instead of on Washington Ave. The experiment lasted a week or two but the signs are still up nearly a year later.
Briefly in May 2013 this was to be a valet stand instead of on Washington Ave. The experiment lasted a week or two but the signs are still up nearly a year later.

What’s complicated about this block is northbound Tucker traffic goes from three through lanes down to just two on the new section north of Washington Ave. As I’ve said last August, the new Tucker Blvd streetscape needs to be continued from Washington Avenue to Spruce Street.  In the meantime Tucker could get a restripe road diet. But a left turn lane is needed onto Washington Ave., the current concrete median is getting in the way of aligning lanes better. The easy short-term solution is to remove the median from Locust to Washington Ave.

C) 11th Street at Washington Ave

This is the easiest of all three, just put meters back on the two poles where they once were.

Throughout downtown 11th is an annoying one-way street, parking is allowed on both sides much of the way, including between St. Charles and Washington Ave.
Throughout downtown 11th Street is an annoying one-way street, at least parking is allowed on both sides much of the way, including between St. Charles and Washington Ave.
But for some reason two meters were removed long ago, the polls remain.
But for some reason two meters were removed long ago, the polls remain.

As you can see the left lane is a left-turn lane. I can’t think of any reason why these two spots should not be returned to use as on-street parking.

I’ll be emailing this post to various official in the hope of getting some quick action on two out of three of these (A & C).

— Steve Patterson

 

Notice of Change of Date of a Monthly Public Meeting

Entrance to the Treasurer's office in city hall, though the main office is a block away,
Entrance to the Treasurer’s office in city hall, though the main office is a block away,

Yesterday I went to city hall to attend the monthly Parking Commission meeting, held every 2nd Thursday, but was told it took place the day before. Really?  I’d checked the Treasurer’s Twitter account before leaving home, no mention at all. I tweeted about the change from the hallway, mentioning @stltreasurer.  The response was “@urbanreviewstl It was on our website: https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/events/eventdetails.cfm?Event_ID=8145”   I guess I should’ve checked the website every day since April 1st on the off chance the meeting date will be moved a day early? If only there was a way for me to subscribe to get notices of interest, like RSS.

The city only offers four (4) RSS feeds on its subscriptions page:

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds allow you to get the latest news from your favorite sources, all in one place. The City of St. Louis offers the following feeds:

City of St. Louis – All News [feeds.feedburner.com]

Latest news and press releases posted by the City of St. Louis.

City of St. Louis – Board Bills [feeds.feedburner.com]

City of St. Louis – Board Bills

City of St. Louis – Calendar [feeds.feedburner.com]

Upcoming events and meetings in the City of St. Louis

City of St. Louis – Jobs [feeds.feedburner.com]

Latest City of St. Louis job postings.

RSS allows subscribers to be notified of new content. But with only four feeds another way is needed to let people know, enter Twitter & Facebook. The subscription page  the Twitter profiles and Facebook pages of numerous city departments/officials, including the Treasurer’s office, below the four RSS feeds are. No RSS, follow on Twitter &/or Facebook. The Treasurer’s twitter account currently has 782 followers, the Facebook page has 125 likes. The Facebook page is updated via Twitter.

The city relies on Twitter & Facebook instead of having hundreds of RSS feed, but the departments need to use these tools for them to effectively keep the public informed. It’s one thing to not tweet about a meeting being held a day later than usual, but it’s very important when moving up the meeting a day. Not using social media in this instance makes me suspicious of the goings on. The agenda listed only two items, but potentially controversial ones:

  • ICM/Summer Rocks Parking Agreement
  • Review and Approval of FY 2015 Budget

I usually attend meetings, tweeting discussions during. It appears the meeting was moved up a day so I wouldn’t be present. There may well be another reason for the change, but the appearance remains the same in my eyes.  Since the prepared minutes aren’t shared online I’ll only know what took place if I make it to the next meeting on May 8th when I can get a copy. I’ll have to make a note to start checking the website starting on May 1st in case it’s decided to move the date again.  So much for transparency….

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Prefer Individual Parking Meters

March 26, 2014 Featured, Parking 4 Comments

It’s been a very long time since a poll got as few votes as last week’s, which makes it hard to draw any conclusions. Anyway, here’s the data:

Q: Please pick the answer that represents your preferred order for on-street paid parking:

  1. 1) Individual meters 2) Pay-per-space stations 3) Pay-and-display stations 17 [33.33%]
  2. 1) Pay-and-display stations 2) Pay-per-space stations 3) Individual meters 10 [19.61%]
  3. 1) Pay-and-display stations 2) Individual meters 3) Pay-per-space stations 6 [11.76%]
  4. 1) Pay-per-space stations 2) Pay-and-display stations 3) Individual meters 6 [11.76%]
  5. 1) Pay-per-space stations 2) Individual meters 3) Pay-and-display stations 6 [11.76%]
  6. 1) Individual meters 2) Pay-and-display stations 3) Pay-per-space stations 5 [9.8%]
  7. Unsure/no answer 1 [1.96%]

In terns of first choice answers the numbers look like:

  1. Individual meters: 22
  2. Pay-and-display: 16
  3. Pay-per-space: 12

All very close, but again the numbers are low.

This driver managed to center their car on the meter, halfway in two parking spaces.
One argument in favor of Pay-and-display is parking spaces aren’t defined so they can’t park incorrectly like this.
The Treasurer's office have been testing these individual meters for months, but credit card use is below industry averages.
The Treasurer’s office have been testing these individual meters for months, but credit card use is below industry averages. Is it because they look too much like coin-only meters?
These individual meters are being tested on Laclede at Euclid, payments by credit card are much higher so far.
These individual meters are being tested on Laclede at Euclid, payments by credit card are much higher so far.

I’ve long been a fan of pay-and-display because they eliminate the need to pre-define each space, potentially getting another car to fit on the block, but walking back to the car is more challenging for me now. Remembering a 5-digit space number to use a pay-per-space station is also difficult for me now, I’d need to save the number on my phone, or take a photo of the space number.

Currently the Treasurer’s Office isn’t testing a pay-and-display system because no companies with such systems responded the RFP last fall. The two types of individual meters are being tested in the CWE, two types of pay-per-space stations are being tested downtown.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Zoning Needs Maximum Parking Requirements Instead of Minimums

A few months ago a reader sent me an article about a trend toward new residential buildings constructed without parking:

A wave of new residential construction projects in places like Seattle, Boston, and Miami are showing that, yes, modern American cities can build housing without any car parking on site. (Real Estate Trend: Parking-Free Apartment Buildings)

It wasn’t surprising to me to see this in cities that value the pedestrian and support public transit by actually using it. Here only a few of us value pedestrians, use public transit. Bankers wanted condos/apartments to have more than one parking space per unit, requiring a minimum of a 1:1 ratio. For example, a 100-unit project couldn’t have 80-90 spaces, it needed at least 100 to get financing.

In Dcember Boston approved a new project with zero resident parking, raising eyebrows even there:

Recall that in September developer Related Beal asked for the BRA to approve a revised plan for the residential component of Lovejoy Wharf: 175 condos instead of a few hundred apartments; and, please, let us eliminate the 315-space garage. The developers’ logic? There’s so much public transit nearby and the project’s smackdab in one of the nation’s most walkable (and bikable) cities that it’s sheer cloud cuckoo land to follow the Boston regs of at least one parking spot for every two housing units. (No Parking: Boston Green-Lights Car-Less Condo)

One space for every two units? St. Louis doesn’t have any parking requirements downtown, but lenders mandate one space per unit. Outside of downtown at least one space per unit is required. What we need to do in places like downtown, around near light rail stations & bus transfer centers, is have maximum parking requirements, rather than minimums. I’d set the maximum pretty high initially, like 0.8/0.9 spaces per unit.  It could be set to automatically lower over the next 20-25 years, ending up at say one parking space for every two units.

Currently when most people rent an apartment, or buy a condo, they get a parking space included. Of course, parking isn’t free, but the cost isn’t clear to the consumer when it is bundled. Just the act of charging a separate fee will cause the end user to begin to evaluate/question car ownership. Instead of $800/month the apartment might be $750/mo with parking at $50/mo.

A few downtown buildings do this, one just reopened. CityParc is one of six 1950s buildings originally part of the urban renewal project called Plaza Square.

This outdoor space is built on top of a parking garage attached to CityParc, click image for website.
This outdoor space is built on top of a parking garage attached to CityParc, click image for website.

This is the only one of the six with garage parking, but even that isn’t enough for one space per unit. Public policy has an impact on outcomes, require minimum parking you’ll get more than necessary and fewer pedestrians.

— Steve Patterson

 

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