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Lack of Curb Ramps in Just Two Spots Ruins Otherwise Accessible Tower Grove Ave

One of the most frustrating things about using a wheelchair in the public right-of-way (ROW) is how many routes are 99% accessible — the 1% inaccessible part can be a bigger obstacle than you might think. Today’s example shows the lack of thought put into making an entire corridor accessible — it’s done piecemeal.

Saturday morning my husband and I took the bus to the Missouri Botanical Gardens, we spent a few hours there. Afterwards we decided to have lunch at OLIO  — just a short walk (map). Turning North on the East side of Tower Grove Ave I encountered a problem after crossing De Tonty St.

Tower Grove & De Tonty St
Tower Grove @ De Tonty St

The curb was lower to the right, but not enough that I could get up onto the sidewalk. Thankfully the bike lane exists, I used that on high speed to reach the next street as quickly as possible. At Lafayette Ave I looked back South and the same problem exists on this end!

Tower Grove Ave @ Lafayette Ave., that's my husband in the background catching up
Tower Grove Ave @ Lafayette Ave., that’s my husband in the background catching up

Good thing I couldn’t get onto the sidewalk at the other end — I couldn’t have gotten off on this end!

I crossed Lafayette Ave and got back on the sidewalk without any issues. I had no other problems after lunch, catching our bus a couple of blocks further North. So why hasn’t this small section been updated in the 25 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law? Fragmentation is my best guess. This sidewalk runs under I-44, so MoDOT is likely responsible instead of the city.

Another possibility is gerrymandering, both ends of this sidewalk are in the 19th ward. Yes…seriously!

This area is in the very bottom left area pf the 2011 ward boundaries.
This area is in the very bottom left area pf the 2011 ward boundaries. Click image to see a larger ward map.

To be fair, most likely this was in a different ward(s) before 2011. Still, the 19th Ward is probably the worst in the city for curb ramps.

My experiences have shown over and over again that nobody is concerned about making corridors accessible from end to end. A person examining Tower Grove Ave would’ve caught this issue. Maybe someone has but they can’t get funding from the 19th ward budget to correct it? Maybe MoDOT is aware but it too busy avoiding tolling I-70 to worry about two ramps.

The West side of Tower Grove is better — only one end is missing a ramp, at Lafayette.

— Steve Patterson

 

The Public Sidewalk Is Not Your Private Driveway

Over the years St. Louis has vacated both streets & alleys, this means land previously part of the public right-of-way (PROW) is now private. Usually the phrase “vacate public surface rights for vehicle, equestrian and pedestrian travel” is used in the ordinance (from a block west), typically splitting the surface rights between the adjacent properties. The description of the vacated surface rights are very precise, also from the block to the West:

Beginning at the point of intersection of the western line of 11th Street, 60 feet wide, with the northern line of said alley; thence south 14 degrees 58 minutes 30 seconds west 15.00 feet along the western line of said 11th Street, to the southern line of said alley; thence north 75 degrees 05 minutes west 176.75 feet along the southern line of said alley; thence north 14 degrees 58 minutes 30 seconds east 15.00 feet to the northern line of said alley; thence south 75 degrees 05 minutes east 176.75 feet along the northern line of said alley, to the western line of said 11th street and the point of beginning, and containing 2651 square feet. are, upon the conditions hereinafter set out, vacated. 

The alley that is the subject today must have been vacated prior to the library putting ordinances online.

February 1909 Sunburn map shows city block 280 bounded by Olive, 10th, 11th & Locust. I've circled the vacated alley that is the subject of this post. Click image to view full page.
February 1909 Sunburn map shows city block 280 bounded by Olive, 10th, 11th & Locust. I’ve circled the vacated alley that is the subject of this post. Click image to view full page.

This section of alley was extra, the vacation still allowed access to all buildings and 10th & 11th Street — note that the number & configuration of buildings has changed since 1909.

Looking south from the Locust St sidewalk into the vacated alley
Looking south from the Locust St sidewalk into the vacated alley

Ok, so we’ve established the surface rights are now private — but this changes where? The building line — not the curb. From the 1909 Sunburn map we know the Locust PROW is 60 feet wide — from building face to the opposite building face. The roadway and sidewalks on both sides are within this 60 foot wide PROW. Unfortunately, one tenant/owner thinks the alley surface rights extend past the building line to the curb line.  Ever since the former Bride’s House building  at 1008-10 Locust was renovated people have  been partially parking in the PROW. I finally began photographing to document the ongoing problem.

November 28, 2014
November 28, 2014
December 19, 2014
December 19, 2014

Finally last month, on May 7th, I went into the adjacent business, asking if the SUV belonged to them. When they said yes I told them they can’t park blocking the public sidewalk. We had a big argument outside which continued via text after I left my business card.

May 7, 2015 -- this owner of this SUV had received "7 tickets this year and between 40-50 tickets in the last two years at that same address."
May 7, 2015 — this owner of this SUV had received “7 tickets this year and between 40-50 tickets in the last two years at that same address.”
On May 29, 2015 at 10:01am it was back, I emailed the Director of Streets Steve Runde, a patient of the business, and the city parking enforcement dept that keeps ticketing vehicles that park here. I also texted the business.
On May 29, 2015 at 10:01am it was back, I emailed the Director of Streets Steve Runde, a patient of the business, and the city parking enforcement dept that keeps ticketing vehicles that park here. I also texted the business.
May 29, 2015 at 10:58am: An hour later the SUV had moved to a metered parking space (circled in red), but a white sedan took its place
May 29, 2015 at 10:58am: An hour later the SUV had moved to a metered parking space (circled in red), but a white sedan took its place

I don’t know the total number of tickets the city has issued for vehicles here, likely in the hundreds. The business even got another patient involved — an elected official. I returned her phone call explaining where the line is between private property and the PROW, I also emailed her the pictures through May 7th. Hopefully she got back to more important business in Jefferson City.

In the future I’m not going to text the business, I’m just going to email Streets & Parking Enforcement and hope the vehicle’s owner must negotiate with a tow truck operator. I don’t know the total number of tickets the city has issued for vehicles here, likely in the hundreds.

Parking is allowed in the PROW — we have meters placed to know where it is ok to do so.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

‘Bridge Bash’ To Start Removal Of St. Louis Centre Bridge Was 5 Years Ago Today

Five years ago today work began on reversing a mistake that had been in place for 25 years. The “Bridge Bash” event started with comments from numerous white men, followed by Mayor Slay operation the wrecking ball, pyrotechnics made breaking glass a little more exciting.  Here’s the video I uploaded from the scene — the action starts at 8:45.

St. Louis Centre was part of the ‘bring the suburbs to the city’ movement. The inwardly focused mall was a killer to the sidewalks downtown — especially under the Washington & Locust wide bridges connecting to Dillard’s & Famous-Barr, respectively.

Looking west from 6th Street on May 22, 2010
Looking west from 6th Street May 2010
Looking east along Washington Ave from 7th, February 2006
Looking east along Washington Ave from 7th, February 2006
Same view yesterday
Same view after the bridge was removed

Removal of this oppressive bridge and facing the ground level retail of the MX (formerly St. Louis Centre) has done wonders for this part of downtown. If only we hadn’t wasted decades trying to be like the burbs.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Switchback Ramp Between Civic Center MetroLink & Gateway Transportation Center Should Reduce Accidents

To reduce pedestrians being hit by light rail trains they’ve been making changes to conflict points, this is about the access to the Civic Center MetroLink Station from the Gateway Transportation Center, which opened in late 2008.

When the Gateway Transportation Center (Amtrak & Greyhound) opened in the Fall of 2008 the access to the adjacent Civic Center MetroLink Station was a straight shot. November 2010 photo
When the Gateway Transportation Center (Amtrak & Greyhound) opened in the Fall of 2008 the access to the adjacent Civic Center MetroLink Station was a straight shot. November 2010 photo
In May 2014 work was underway
In May 2014 work was underway
View looking the opposite direction
View looking the opposite direction
By March 2015 the change was complete
By March 2015 the change was complete
Now it isn't a straight shot across the tracks.
Now it isn’t a straight shot across the tracks.
Everyone must go through a wide switchback
Everyone must go through a wide switchback

This change may also be related to the coming smart card technology, a reader is shown above. The question I have is will I have a problem passing through the Civic Center MetroLink to reach the Gateway Transportation Center?

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Readers Have Positive Impression of South Grand Road Diet

A few years ago a few blocks of South Grand underwent a road diet:

In 2009, South Grand Boulevard was selected as one of four Great Streets Initiative pilot projects in the St. Louis region. Since 2006, East-West Gateway Council of Governments (EWG) has been helping communities in the St. Louis region expand the way they think about streets. Local leaders and citizens are encouraged to think beyond the curb to understand how transportation decisions affect the total built environment.

EWG recognizes the importance of streets as community resources and through the St. Louis Great Streets Initiative intends to make them more than just a conduit for cars. Great Streets in St. Louis will emphasize all modes of travel, especially walking. Great Streets will address and reconsider the auto- centric approach that has dominated design over the years in order to transform these streets into great community resources.

Considering how street design choices affect the pedestrian realm and abutting land uses is central to the St. Louis Great Streets Initiative. Connecting communities requires more than just installing a sidewalk along the edge of a busy street. It requires the careful and intentional creation of an environment that suits walking, bicycling and transit. It requires taming traffic in a way that still allows for mobility, but at speeds that are safe and undamaging. Streets traverse through communities and should do so in a way that enhances the community. (PDF — large file)

Now that the project has been completed I wanted to know how readers felt about it.

grand south grand
Generously wide amenity zone on the new Grand South Grand, September 2013
Looking North on Grand from Arsenal as construction began, May 2011
Looking North on Grand from Arsenal as construction began, May 2011

Here are the results from the Sunday Poll:

Q: Now that it has been in place a few years, what is your opinion of the South Grand ‘Great Streets’ road diet:

  1. Highly favorable 18 [45%]
  2. Favorable 12 [30%]
  3. Neutral 4 [10%]
  4. Tie 3 [7.5%]
    1. Unfavorable
    2. Highly unfavorable
  5. Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

As you can see, 75% have a positive view with only 15% a negative. I voted for “favorable”, some design decisions kept me from voting “highly favorable.” The pedestrian path still seems too narrow, for example.

Franklin Ave looking East from 9th, 1928. Collection of the Landmarks Association of St Louis
Fronts of buildings cut off to make room to widen Franklin Ave, looking East from 9th, 1928. Collection of the Landmarks Association of St Louis

We need more of these road diets to counter the massive road widening projects of the early 20th century! We have nowhere near the population that existed in those days, the road widening that took place is part of the reason for our population decline. We must remake our streets on the scale of a century ago — making them suitable for all modes (pedestrian, cyclist, motorist).

— Steve Patterson

 

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