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Safety Expert Killed Crossing 4th Street 15 Years Ago Today.

March 20, 2017 Downtown, Featured, Walkability Comments Off on Safety Expert Killed Crossing 4th Street 15 Years Ago Today.

I post often about the poor pedestrian conditions in downtown St. Louis — such as these from last year:

Fifteen years ago this morning a safety expert was killed while walking across 4th street.

ST. LOUIS — A Washington state woman who was one of the country’s top experts on bicycle and pedestrian safety was killed yesterday morning when she was struck by a tour bus while crossing a downtown intersection here.

Susie Stephens, 36, of Winthrop, Wash., was struck shortly after 8:30 a.m. 

The driver of the Vandalia Bus Lines vehicle told police he did not see Stephens as he made a left turn.

Stephens, a consultant, was in St. Louis to help stage a conference on innovative approaches to transportation sponsored by the Forest Service, said William “Bill” Wilkinson of the National Center for Bicycling and Walking in Washington.

Stevens was just a year older than me.

This intersection has been improved, the crosswalk length shortened. However, pedestrians don’t get an advance signal to give them a head start.

There have been numerous events remembering her since she was killed here, this one from 2015 is touching:

The 2015 Stihl Tour des Trees began in Orlando Oct. 25. From there the group cycled 103 miles to Ruskin. Then 70 miles to Sarasota and 93 miles to Punta Gorda. Wednesday morning the group left for the 70 mile ride to Matlacha Park where they planned to plant a Live Oak Tree.

“In the course of this tour we will plant 13 new trees,” DiCarlo said. “Today’s tree is dedicated to Susie Stevens and The Susie Forest. Sadly Susie Stevens was struck and killed by a bus crossing the street in St. Louis in 2002. Her mother, Nancy McCarrow, has been volunteering for many years with the Stihl Tour des Trees planting trees in remembrance of her daughter. We call this collection of trees ‘The Susie Forest’. (Source)

Hopefully the next mayor will take pedestrian experience & safety seriously.

— Steve Patterson

 

Accessibility To Food Trucks Is Often Lacking Due To Location Issues

January 30, 2017 Accessibility, Featured, Planning & Design, Popular Culture Comments Off on Accessibility To Food Trucks Is Often Lacking Due To Location Issues

More than two decades after the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed, the ongoing food truck revolution remains largely inaccessible to those of us who use wheelchairs. Not because of the tricks themselves, but because of where they park.

From a 2013 post — Foods trucks at Third Degree’s open house require lining up on grass — a challenge for some.

In early September a proposed food truck park was in the news:

St. Louis may soon get its first food truck park — a regular gathering spot for some of the area’s best-regarded mobile kitchens. The proposed site is on a stretch of South Vandeventer Avenue — not far from the popular Grove entertainment district — that officials hope to regenerate with new businesses.

Some planning remains, and the park’s developers have yet to choose the project’s name. But they have a site and hope to conduct a food truck pop-up event there this fall.

If plans work out, next spring a rotating assemblage of food trucks will begin to operate daily on what is now an overgrown lot next to the long-ago home of Liberty Bell Oil Co. The vacant building at 1430 South Vandeventer will be redone as the joint commissary for the food trucks. (Post-Dispatch)

My hope is if this moves forward it’ll be designed so everyone can patronize the food trucks. Often I can’t reach the trucks parked downtown at one of my favorite spots: Citygarden.

Even downtown many access problems exist. Just walk up right?
Even downtown many access problems exist. Just walk up right?
No, in this case the window isn't lined up with the walk shown in the previous picture.
No, in this case the window isn’t lined up with the walk shown in the previous picture.
Market next to Citygarden is a very narrow strip of concrete. Enough to stand on but not enough for a wheelchair.
Even when the window is lined up it can still be a challenge if there are others in line.

When I started blogging 12+ years ago I argued for more food carts to activate streets — food trucks weren’t a thing yet. I still wish food carts were more common because they trend to be easier to access in a wheelchair. But trucks have replaced carts so now we need to ensure the public can access them.

— Steve Patterson

 

Senior Apartments To Be Built Adjacent To Swansea MetroLink Station Parking Lot

January 9, 2017 Featured, Metro East, Planning & Design, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on Senior Apartments To Be Built Adjacent To Swansea MetroLink Station Parking Lot

Back in September 2016, on the 20th,  I received a press release from our transit agency Metro — aka Bi-State Development:

SWANSEA, IL, SEPT. 20, 2016…  Southwestern Illinois Development Authority (SWIDA), in partnership with Bywater Development Group and Bi-State Development (BSD), is pleased to announce a new, $10.5 million development that will bring senior apartment living adjacent to the Swansea MetroLink Station in Swansea, Ill. The transit-oriented development (TOD) project, which will be developed by SWIDA and Bywater, was approved by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) in Chicago on September 16. 

This new development, called Metro Landing of Swansea, will feature a handsome three-story building with 62 affordable one- and two-bedroom apartments for older adults seeking an independent lifestyle. Located adjacent to the Swansea MetroLink Station, residents will have car-free transportation options via MetroLink and MetroBus to conveniently access restaurants, retail, entertainment venues, recreational locations, employment centers, and medical facilities around the bi-state region. The Swansea Station is located on the Metro East Park and Recreation District BikeLink trail system, so seniors will be able to utilize the trail for exercise and recreation.

This development would not have occurred without the collaboration of a number of groups including IHDA, the St. Clair County Transit District and the Village of Swansea.  The Village has been a vital asset in the predevelopment planning process.  “It is truly an example of how public and private partnerships can lead to an important community investment,” James Nations, SWIDA’s Chairman said. “This is an excellent opportunity for SWIDA and Bywater Development Group to contribute to active senior housing as this segment of the population continues to grow.” The SWIDA Board of Directors is seeking other markets in the region in need of comparable developments.

Mike Lundy, Executive Director of SWIDA said, “It has been great working with Bi-State Development. We are very pleased with the new senior housing development and worked extremely hard to move this development forward.”

“This new development to be positioned next to the Swansea MetroLink Station reflects other successful transit-oriented projects in our area, and is a testament to the positive benefits the Metro transit system brings to the region,” said John Nations, President and CEO of Bi- State Development (BSD). BSD operates the metro public transportation system for the St. Louis region. 

“Metro Landing of Swansea is reflective of a very strong and effective public/private partnership and stands to serve as a model for transit oriented senior housing. It will create both a positive impact on the community and an ideal living environment for its residents.  Our organization is highly honored to be a part of this collective effort,” said Aaron Burnett, President of Bywater Development Group.

Metro Landing of Swansea is scheduled for construction commencement in the summer of 2017 with full completion by late summer of 2018. 

 

About SWIDA

The Southwestern Illinois Development Authority is a special-purpose, municipal corporation and local governmental unit whose purpose is to promote and enhance economic development within the counties of Bond, Clinton, Madison and St. Clair Ill. To learn more, visit www.swida.org. 

About Bi-State Development

Bi-State Development (BSD) operates the St. Louis Regional Freightway, the region’s freight district, and the Bi-State Development Research Institute. BSD is the operator of the Metro public transportation system for the St. Louis region, which includes the 87 vehicle, 46-mile MetroLink light rail system; 391 MetroBus vehicle fleet that serves 77 MetroBus routes; and Metro Call-A-Ride, a paratransit fleet of 120 vans. BSD owns and operates St. Louis Downtown Airport and the Gateway Arch Riverboats, as well as operates the Gateway Arch Revenue Collections Center and Gateway Arch trams. 

Within 90 minutes of receiving the press release I emailed Mike Lundy of SWIDA and Aaron Burnett of Bywater Development volunteering to help with accessibility, pedestrian issues, etc. I wanted to make sure they avoided common problems I’ve found throughout the region.Unfortunately, I’ve yet to hear back from either.

The stories online that day from the Post-Dispatch & other media outlets was a rephrasing of the press release along with the image provided.  Rather than do the same as others, I visited the Swansea MetroLink station and surrounding area a few days later  — on the morning of September 23rd. I was in the area nearly 2 hours — taking 158 photos in that time.

Go back up and read the press release again, you’ll see buzz words/phrases like ‘car-free’, ‘transit-oriented senior housing’, and ‘ideal living environment.’ Yeah…not so much.

The main thing these independent seniors will be buying is groceries. The nearest grocery store is al Aldi about a half a mile walk to the South, a Schnucks just over a half mile to the North. Before we go to the grocery stores let’s take a look at the station.

From the station looking out we see a drive for buses, a drive for cars, and surface parking for cars.
From the station looking out we see a drive for buses, a drive for cars, and surface parking for cars.
Out looking back we see the main parking lot -- another is to the left out of frame. Most likely the new building will be built on the grassy area to the right.
Out looking back we see the main parking lot — another is to the left out of frame. Most likely the new building will be built on the grassy area to the right.
A more direct look at the likely spot where the building whirl be built. Other than the parking lots, this is the largest land owned by Metro at this station.
A more direct look at the likely spot where the building whirl be built. Other than the parking lots, this is the largest land owned by Metro at this station.
Further away firom the station we see the secondary parking lot on the left
Further away firom the station we see the secondary parking lot on the left

Let’s go to the Aldi first since it is slightly closer and we’re almost out to the main road, IL-159/N. Illinois St.

Looking back from near the main road.
Looking back from near the main road.
Looking South at IL-159, but no sidewalk on this side. Metro also owns owns this land and building, so perhaps they plan to build senior housing here?
Looking South at IL-159, but no sidewalk on this side. Metro also owns owns this land and building, so perhaps they plan to build senior housing here?
I went back to the station and used the circuitous trail to head South. The trail goes under Belt (left), a spur comes up (right)
I went back to the station and used the circuitous trail to head South. The trail goes under Belt (left), a spur comes up (right)
Heading toward the side of the Aldi
Heading toward the side of the Aldi
Getting closer
Getting closer
At this point you're dumped into the parking lot where you risk getting hit by cars. The store entry is to the left out of the frame.
At this point you’re dumped into the parking lot where you risk getting hit by cars. The store entry is to the left out of the frame.

Let’s return to the station entrance and go North to try to access the Schnucks. Though the Schnucks is also on the West side of IL-159, there’s no sidewalk so we must cross to the West to head North.

Not exactly friendly
Not exactly friendly
Looking back West we see an office park that includes medical offices -- not reachable as a pedestrian though
Looking back West we see an office park that includes medical offices — not reachable as a pedestrian though
Catching a bus at the station would save some distance, the Schnucks is behind the Mcdonald's
Catching a bus at the station would save some distance, the Schnucks is behind the Mcdonald’s
On the NW corner of 159 & Fullerton Rd we see the bus stop needed if we wanted to catch the bus back to the station. There's no sidewalk here, how do we reach the store?
On the NW corner of 159 & Fullerton Rd we see the bus stop needed if we wanted to catch the bus back to the station. There’s no sidewalk here, how do we reach the store?
The North side of Fullerton Rd has a sidewalk, but theres no connection to the Schnucks or other businesses.
The North side of Fullerton Rd has a sidewalk, but theres no connection to the Schnucks or other businesses.

Seniors living here might not be able to carry a bag or two of groceries, so an inexpensive folding shopping cart is a good option. But traversing parking lots are dangerous and trying to get the cart up & over many curbs is a challenge at any age/ability. My experience confirms the WalkScore of 33 out of 100 for the MetroLink light rail station — car dependent.

Metro and its partners want everyone to believe seniors will be able to live here car-free. I realize pedestrian-friendly development doesn’t happen around transit immediacy — it takes time. This station has only been open since…May 5th…2001 — over 15 years!

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: One Hundred Should Do Better To Receive TIF Financing

December 21, 2016 Central West End, Featured, Planning & Design Comments Off on Opinion: One Hundred Should Do Better To Receive TIF Financing

Some are opposed to the proposed 36-story glass apartment building, called One Hundred, because it’s too tall and/or too modern. Sorry, neither are a valid reason to outright reject the project. Besides, there are many valid reasons to demand be changed.

The surface parking in the foreground is for the Chase. Across the alley is the site where the proposed One Hundred is to be built. May 2013 photo
The surface parking in the foreground is for the Chase. Across the alley is the site where the proposed One Hundred is to be built. May 2013 photo

First, the results of the non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: The proposed 36-story apartment building at Kingshighway & Pine, called One Hundred, should be approved without changes.

  • Strongly agree 17 [33.33%]
  • Agree 10 [19.61%]
  • Somewhat agree 3 [5.88%]
  • Neither agree or disagreeii 3 [5.88%]
  • Somewhat disagree 5 [9.8%]
  • Disagree 4 [7.84%]
  • Strongly disagree 8 [15.69%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 1 [1.96%]

Tax increment financing is a great tool to help pay for public infrastructure such as roads, utilities, sidewalks, traffic signals, etc. A TIF for rebuilding public infrastructure where the 22nd interchange is now, for example, makes sense. Millions on TIF financing for this privately-owned site in a high-end dense neighborhood makes zero sense. If development of this site impossible without a TIF? Unlikely.

A 5-story base with parking isn’t good for fostering pedestrian life. It’s boring to look at, and those are the floors where residents could keep an eye on the sidewalk for added safety. The one storefront is under 1,000 share feet. A tiny closet of a space. There should be thousands of square feet of retail space at this location. Parking shouldn’t be included in the rent, it should be unbundled so residents can see how expensive parking is. Enterprise CarShare has a vehicle nearby at the Argyle garage, but there should be one here that can be accessed by the public.

There should also be some affordable units — 10% for low-income people. That’s just 3 units. The area has a lot to offer, it shouldn’t be limited to the wealthy. Doesn’t surprise me that most would approve the project without change, but this attitude is why St. Louis will never recover.

 

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Building Division Ignores 1968 Surface Parking Lot Regulation Meant To Ensure Proper Maintenance

December 19, 2016 Downtown, Featured, Parking, Planning & Design, Politics/Policy Comments Off on St. Louis Building Division Ignores 1968 Surface Parking Lot Regulation Meant To Ensure Proper Maintenance

After posting about the deteriorated condition of the surface parking lot next door at the end of August, see Generic Form Letters Mailed To Owners Of Poorly Maintained Surface Parking Lot Notifying Them Of Code Violations, the building department was very defensive about their complete lack of results. An inspector told me they couldn’t do anything about the poor condition of the for-profit parking lot — just send more letters.

Photo of 1601 Locust from April 29, 2016 -- a close up at one of the pothole ponds
Photo of 1601 Locust from April 29, 2016 — a close up at one of the pothole ponds

“You can’t block off access?”, I asked. “No, that would be illegal”, he replied. I decided to research the law myself.

Naturally, I started with the St. Louis, Missouri – Code of Ordinances and Chapter 8.70 — Parking Stations.

The 2nd subsection defines a parking station as a parking lot. the 3rd discusses a permit:

No person, firm or corporation shall operate, maintain or conduct a parking station in the City without first obtaining a parking station permit from the Building Commissioner. A permit must be obtained for each parking station and no permit shall be transferable from one person to another nor transferable from one lot to another. 

The Building Commissioner may order barricades for any or all parking stations not in full compliance within one hundred and eighty days from the date of original notification.

Here are three later sections:

8.70.070 – Permit—Suspension or revocation—Hearing.
The building commissioner may refer any permit heretofore issued to the board of public service with the recommendation that a hearing be held to determine whether the permit should be suspended or revoked. The board shall designate a day for the hearing, and after considering the evidence and arguments submitted, may suspend or revoke the permit and license heretofore issued, upon proof of any of the following: 

A. The operator has knowingly made any false or materially incorrect statement in his application; 

B. The operator has made any charge for parking in excess of the rate posted on the required sign; 

C. The operator fails to keep an attendant on duty during the times specified in his application; and 

D. The operator has knowingly violated or knowingly permitted or countenanced the violation of any provision of this chapter. 

(Ord. 55061 § 1 (part), 1968: 1960 C. § 388.150 (part).)

See also §§ 8.70.090, 8.70.110
8.70.080 – Permit—Suspension or revocation—Barricading lot.
 
Upon suspension or revocation by the board of public service the police department shall upon notice by the building commissioner barricade the parking lot until further notice. No lot barricaded as herein provided shall be used for the purposes of a parking station. 

(Ord. 55061 § 1 (part), 1968: 1960 C. § 388.150 (part).)
8.70.090 – Annual inspection fee.
 
The building commissioner shall make or cause to be made an inspection at least once a year of every parking station within the city to ascertain whether the station is operated within the provisions of this chapter. An annual inspection fee shall be payable on the first day of January each year in accordance with the capacity of the parking station as follows: 

A. Under ten cars, seven dollars;

B. Ten to fifty cars, fifteen dollars;

C. All over fifty cars, twenty dollars;

Except these fees shall not be deemed to apply or be applicable to parking lots or parking stations operated by a church solely and exclusively for church parking. 

All inspection fees shall be paid within thirty days of billing date after which time they shall become delinquent, which shall because for revocation of the parking station permit. 

(Ord. 55932 § 2, 1971: prior Ord. 55080 § 2, 1968: Ord. 55061 § 1 (part), 1968: 1960 C. § 388.040.)

So I did a Sunshine Request asking for a copy of the most recent permit. The response?  “We don’t do that anymore.” Really? Can a city department just decide not to follow city ordinances?

All the ordinances listed in the various subsections of 8.70 were enacted prior to them being online, 1963-1979. So I went to the 3rd floor of the central library and looked up each and every ordinance. Fascinating documents up there! Anyway, in 1968 the original 1963 section was repealed & replaced. After changes were minor, dealing with the amount of the permit fee. The first such change came months after being enacted.

In another sunshine request I asked who made the decision to ignore this law, and when. The city didn’t have an answer. I suspect it was in the 1980s, which would explain how the owner of the parking lot at 1101 Locust got away with using public right-of-way (PROW) for years.

The URL for this section includes the word PAST after the chapter number (https://www.municode.com/library/mo/st._louis/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=TIT8BUTALIRE_CH8.70PAST), but it’s still listed. I wasn’t able to locate an ordinance repealing it. It looks like a valid regulation that has simply been ignored by the building division for years, possibly longer than anyone currently working there. Did a past administration direct the building division to ignore this ordinance to make St. Louis more friendly to parking lot businesses?

I just don’t know. What I do know is that my inquires finally got long-needed action next door. Again, on August 30th, I published the awful generic letters the city sent the out of town owners for the last couple of years.

Overview from April 2015, the center pavement was in poor condition. The disabled spaces were no longer marked.
Overview from April 2015, the center pavement was in poor condition. The disabled spaces were no longer marked.

 

Cars were able to park on the public sidewalk because nothing physically prevented it, from April 4, 2016
Cars were able to park on the public sidewalk because nothing physically prevented it, from April 4, 2016

Again, on August 30th I published the awful generic letters the city sent the out of town owners for the last couple of years. Right after that I had phone conversations & emails with a defensive building department. I began digging and submitting sunshine requests.

I took this pic on September 17th after curbs had finally been installed to prevent cars from parking on the sidewalk. The blue Mustang had been parked on the sidewalk for weeks, once it was moved a curb was placed there too
I took this pic on September 17th after curbs had finally been installed to prevent cars from parking on the sidewalk. The blue Mustang had been parked on the sidewalk for weeks, once it was moved a curb was placed there too
On Tuesday September 27th equipment was on site and the lot marked as closed
On Tuesday September 27th equipment was on site and the lot marked as closed
The smaller signs indicate the work will be done September 27th & 28th.
The smaller signs indicate the work will be done September 27th & 28th.

Meanwhile, I continued emailing with the building department because no permit was listed online. Permit isn’t required for maintenance, they say.  I email David Newburger, commissioner on the disabled, to make sure he’s reviewed the plan, disabled spaces, signs, etc. He has nothing to review.

The morning of the 28th the equipment is gone and the lot is full.
The morning of the 28th the equipment is gone and the lot is full.
Posted on September 28th
Posted on September 28th
The morning of Sunday October 1st I noticed they planned to work on the lot the next two days, October 3rd & 4th.
The morning of Sunday October 1st I noticed they planned to work on the lot the next two days, October 3rd & 4th.
Monday morning October 2nd they were adding a new layer of asphalt one the deteriorated center section
Monday morning October 2nd they were adding a new layer of asphalt one the deteriorated center section
The new layer over the old on the afternoon of October 3, 2016.
The new layer over the old on the afternoon of October 3, 2016.
By the afternoon of Wednesday October 5th the balance had receive a sealer.
By the afternoon of Wednesday October 5th the balance had receive a sealer.
By the afternoon of October 6th the stripping had been done and cars returned
By the afternoon of October 6th the stripping had been done and cars returned
One thing I'd pointed out to the city with the old lot was not al the spaces were long enough for a car.
One thing I’d pointed out to the city with the old lot was not al the spaces were long enough for a car.
From above we can see these were marked again as five spaces, you can see from the car at the bottom how short the spaces are. I complained to the building dept for not requiring spaces as defined by code.
From above we can see these were marked again as five spaces, you can see from the car at the bottom how short the spaces are. I complained to the building dept for not requiring spaces as defined by code.
On October 10th I replied to various building dept officials because required vertical signs still weren't in place at the three disabled spots.
On October 10th I replied to various building dept officials because required vertical signs still weren’t in place at the three disabled spots.
By October 18th I noticed the five too-short spaces had been blacked out.
By October 18th I noticed the five too-short spaces had been blacked out.
By October 28th the parking stops had been moved forward and the space s were back.
By October 28th the parking stops had been moved forward and the space s were back.
A vertical sign at one disabled spot had also ben installed, as required by code and the ADA
A vertical sign at one disabled spot had also ben installed, as required by code and the ADA
But the other two spaces didn't yet have the required signs three weeks after cars returned to the lot.
But the other two spaces didn’t yet have the required signs three weeks after cars returned to the lot.
By the afternoon of November 4th they'd finally been installed. Now if the pavement marking fades drivers will still know these require a disabled placard/plate
By the afternoon of November 4th they’d finally been installed. Now if the pavement marking fades drivers will still know these require a disabled placard/plate
Also on November 4th I noticed two czars parking in the short spaces, and sticking out into the drive.
Also on November 4th I noticed two czars parking in the short spaces, and sticking out into the drive.
So I went inside and got my tape measure. only 12 feet 2 inches.
So I went inside and got my tape measure. only 12 feet 2 inches.

I complained again and the short spaces were removed…again. The last few years trying to get this parking lot maintained has been eye opening. I naively thought reporting it to the Citizen’s Service Bureau a few years ago would get it resolved fairly quickly — boy was I wrong! I thought the main obstacle was the owner and/or operator. Turned out it was the Building Division,, who seem to defend the operators and fight tax paying property owners.

The city has many departments/divisions. I assume some are worse, most better. The next mayor needs to clean it up, fixing the existing culture. Unless repealed, the permit process for parking lots needs to be upheld.

— Steve Patterson

 

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