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Watch For Motorcycles, Park On Sidewalk

A lot of space in St. Louis is designated for vehicles, with a little for pedestrians. As a result, I get upset when a vehicle reduces the sidewalk space further.

Van parked part way on the  Olive sidewalk at 9:40am on a Tuesday morning
Van parked part way on the Olive sidewalk at 9:40am on a Tuesday morning
Close-up of sticker on back window
Close-up of sticker on back window
Side
Side view of van, unsure if it’s still associated with Southwest Christian Church in Fenton

If your vehicle can’t be parked without being part way on the sidewalk I suggest you find a different parking spot. If you’re a motorist do please watch for motorcycles, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

— Steve Patterson

 

Crossing Gravois Ave At McNair Ave

I believe the design of our physical environment plays a role in our decisions, just as other factors, like time & money, might. When the route between point A and B is a pleasant walk, many will opt to walk. But those same people who’ll opt to walk in ideal conditions will decide not to walk if the route isn’t pleasant. I also think the design of our pedestrian network is lagging, motorists would never accept equivalent conditions. For example, crossing Gravois at McNair.

The design says you should cross only on the west side of McNair. Those traveling on the east side of McNair need to use the west side to cross Gravois, per the roadway design. Because of how Gravois cuts through the orthogonal street grid, setting up the proper crossing on the east side would be complicated. With only one side of McNair available as a crossing point you’d think it would be correct.

gravoismcnair01
The woman at right just pressed the button to get a walk signal, but what’s missing? Crosswalk stripes & curb ramp. The sewer inlet prevents a ramp on this side of the poll.
If we change the camera angle we can see a ramp does exist on the other side of the traffic signal base, opposite of the button
If we change the camera angle we can see a ramp does exist on the other side of the traffic signal base, opposite of the button.

The button and ramp are supposed to be on the same side…basic common sense.  It’s also common sense to stripe a crosswalk to guide pedestrians crossing 8 lanes (6 traffic, 2 parking).

Looking back from across Gravois it isn't clear the ramp is to the left of the post. It's not clear to motorists this is a pedestrian crossing.
Looking back from across Gravois it isn’t clear the ramp is to the left of the post. It’s not clear to motorists this is a pedestrian crossing. Also, this ramp was built too high so asphalt was used to make it usable for some, though not ADA-compliant.

Just don’t blame the City of St. Louis for this, Gravois is a state road maintained by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT). I accept that crosswalks can’t/shouldn’t be striped at every street that intersects with Gravois, but if pedestrian signals are in place so should a visible crosswalk.

Can you imagine roads designed with so little thought for the users? I can’t. I’ll send a link to this post to MoDOT & city officials to alert them of the problems at this intersection.

— Steve Patterson

 

Chesterfield Valley May Add Shelters At Inaccessible MetroBus Stops

June 9, 2014 Accessibility, Featured, Planning & Design, Public Transit, Retail, St. Louis County, THF Realty Watch, Walkability Comments Off on Chesterfield Valley May Add Shelters At Inaccessible MetroBus Stops

I applaud Chesterfield’s continued support of pubic transportation. Last week I read about more potentially good news:

Chesterfield’s City Council on Monday night gave initial approval an cooperation agreement between the city, Metro, and the Chesterfield Valley Transportation Development District for of bus stop shelters in Chesterfield valley and in other areas of the city in which there are Metro bus routes. A final vote on the legislation is set for June 16. (stltoday)

Bus shelters are an improvement, but what about getting to/from the shelters?

One of five MetroBus stops along Chesterfield Airport Rd serving retail in the Chesterfield Valley, just a sign on the shoulder
One of five MetroBus stops along Chesterfield Airport Rd serving retail in the Chesterfield Valley, just a sign on the shoulder (below highway 40 sign). Click image for map.
The other side of the same stop shows the grass that must be crossed to/from the stop. A sidewalk exists at this spot but not all stops have a sidewalk nearby.
The other side of the same stop shows the grass that must be crossed to/from the stop. A sidewalk exists at this spot but not all stops have a sidewalk nearby.

I took these images in October when I checked out the area in a rental car. My conclusion was Chesterfield Valley is an ADA nightmare, taking MetroBus to shop wouldn’t be possible in a wheelchair. Given that everything was built since the big flood of 1993, it should be ADA-compliant.  I checked Chesterfield’s ADA Transition Plan, there’s no mention of their responsibility in the public right-of-way.

I’d love to meet former Chesterfield Mayor & Metro President John Nations and current mayor Bob Nation at one of these MetroBus stops to have them see the challenges the transit-using public, including the able-bodied, face in navigating this area on foot.

— Steve Patterson

 

Balancing Sidewalk Seating & Walkability at Culinaria

I love outdoor seating, see Lunch Al Fresco from last month, but I also think public sidewalks should remain passable. Achieving both requires effort to create an ideal balance. When the downtown grocery store Culinaria first opened in August 2009 there was a good balance, but over time the walkability was sacrificed in favor of twice as many tables & chairs. Take a look:

When Culinaria opened in August 2009 bikes were the biggest obstacle on the sidewalk
When Culinaria opened in August 2009 bikes were the biggest obstacle on the sidewalk
There was even enough room for a nice planter.
There was even a nice planter.
july 2013
Over the years the number of tables & chairs doubled! The remaining sidewalk was so narrow people had to walk single file the entire city block. Photo from June 2013
In November 2013 the tables & chairs were pushed aside for winter, not done in prior winters. The sidewalk was again clear.
In November 2013 the tables & chairs were pushed aside for winter, not done in prior winters. The sidewalk was again clear. except for the occasional bike perpendicular to the curb.
On the afternoon of March 18, 2014 I spotted the chairs pulled back out like they'd been in prior years. Thirty minutes later I emailed this plc to the new store manager, starting a dialog.
On the afternoon of March 18, 2014 I spotted the chairs pulled back out like they’d been in prior years. Thirty minutes later I emailed this plc to the new store manager, starting a dialog.
On April 4th they still had too many tables
On April 4th the many tables were still being pulled out too far
April 10th
April 10th, our dialog continued
By April 16th nearly half the tables & chairs were removed and placed on pallets along the Locust Street side
By April 16th nearly half the tables & chairs were removed and placed on pallets along the Locust Street side
April 24th there were fewer tables & chairs but they were still using the same amount of sidewalk
April 24th there were fewer tables & chairs but they were still using the same amount of sidewalk
This May 2nd photo shows the tables & chairs still taking up as much space as a bike
This May 2nd photo shows the tables & chairs still taking up nearly as much space as a bike
May 6th no improvement in the sidewalk, but the manager says they've received compliments for reducing the number of tables & chairs
May 6th no improvement in the sidewalk, but the manager says they’ve received compliments for reducing the number of tables & chairs

I was glad to see fewer tables, but I knew they could be arranged better. Also, the remaining tables were the larger round tables that seat four, the smaller rectangle tables for two were gone. I think I’ve convinced them to remove a couple more round tables and bring back four of the rectangular tables. This will give another option for customers while maintaining the same seat count.  The seating area, and sidewalk, are now more generous and comfortable for everyone.

Yesterday the round tables were positioned as we discussed. The 4 rectangular tables weren't yet  added back as of yesterday.
Yesterday the round tables were positioned as we discussed. The 4 rectangular tables weren’t yet added back as of yesterday.

Working on better bike parking now.

— Steve Patterson

 

An Urbanist Look at the Lewis & Clark Branch Library

For quite a while now I’ve seen the posts about saving St. Louis County’s  1963 Lewis & Clark Branch, located at 9909 Lewis & Clark Blvd.

The east facade of the branch of the St. Louis County Library
The east facade of the branch of the St. Louis County Library features decorative windows

Here are some examples of the posts:

I hadn’t written about this subject before because I’d never been to the Lewis & Clark branch, but that changed Friday. I took the #40 (Broadway) MetroBus to the Riverview Transit Center, then the #27 (No County Shuttle) directly to the library. I spent some time inside both levels, and outside.

Here is an incomplete list of arguments for both sides:

Arguments in support of replacement:

  • Over 50 years old, old plumbing & electrical. etc.
  • Poor relationship to neighborhood, main street
  • Windows are inefficient
  • Doesn’t meet ADA guidelines
  •  Can remain open while new building is built

Arguments in support of renovating/adding on

  • Only branch in St. Louis County considered architecturally significant
  • Designed by Frederick Dunn
  • Design still looks good, fresh
  • Reusing the existing structure more sustainable than dumping it into a landfill
  • This part of St. Louis County has few structures on which residents can take pride.
The library seemed very busy during my Friday morning visit.
The interior of the main room.
The drinking fountains on the lower level don't meet the ADA, still not a reason to discard the rest.
The drinking fountains on the lower level don’t meet the ADA, still not a reason to discard the rest.
Looking back toward the bus stop we need more ADA issues. Site issues, however, don't require  new building to be addressed.
Looking back toward the bus stop we need more ADA issues. Site issues, however, don’t require new building to be addressed.

Based on my observations, the library is too small by today’s standards. It seemed busy during my morning visit, much more space is needed.  ModernSTL proposed a pretty predictable addition, which copies the original design. Good additions to historic buildings don’t mimic or repeat the original. That said, the idea is right. New entry connecting old & new wings.

Concept from ModernSTL with original on the left and addition on the right.  Click to view their post
Concept from ModernSTL with original on the left and addition on the right. Click image to view their original post

I do like the idea of turning the entry toward Lewis & Clark Blvd(367), and getting St. Louis County/MoDOT to put a public sidewalk along the west side of 367 from Chambers Rd to Berwyn Dr, roughly 3/10 of a mile. This would connect users of the #61 MetroBus route on Chambers Rd to the library site. Currently only a shoulder exists.  Better pedestrian connection in the area should be considered and planned for regardless if a new building is built or the existing structure gets a needed addition.

I don’t think the St. Louis County Library board has given any thought toward renovating this historic structure, which is a real pity.  We need leadership that considers retention of historic structures, especially when it is their only one!

— Steve Patterson

 

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