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Pedestrian Signal Activation Button At Chouteau & Compton Now Reachable

Last month riding on the bus I noticed a pedestrian problem and managed to get a good picture. I emailed the pic to Director of Streets Todd Waeltermann and Board of Public Service (BPS) President Rich Bradley to show them the problem. They quickly saw the problem but told me this was MoDOT, not the city’s doing.  Thankfully they contacted the appropriate person at MoDOT and got it fixed within a week.

ABOVE: Picture of impossible to reach pedestrian signal buttons taken on a passing MetroBus on August 6th, 2012. Click the image to view Compton & Chouteau in Google Maps.
ABOVE: The two buttons can now be reached easily. The second arrow shows the previous location.

At the end of August I was in the area so I stopped by and checked it out. Yes, I’m now able to reach the buttons to cross both Compton & Chouteau. Thanks Todd & Rich for alerting MoDOT about their error!

At some point I need to devote a whole post to how these islands are being designed now. Used to be a ramp got you up to the curb-high surface,  you crossed, then down another ramp. These had flaws and the new way creates a nice level surface. It hasn’t happened to me yet but I can see problems when I encounter someone else in a wheelchair/scooter or even just pushing a baby stroller. Despite having room, there’s never a place for one to move out of the way for another to pass.

Before you dismiss this concern know that I often see other users of mobility devices when I’m out and about. As Baby Boomers age I’ll see more and more.  Food for thought.

— Steve Patterson


Retrofitting A Pedestrian Access Route To The Former Schnucks In Des Peres, MO

Based on comments on Monday’s post (Walking To The “Flagship” Dierbergs & Schnucks Locations In Des Peres, MO) many of you think the auto-centric suburbs will never be walkable. Well, you’re wrong. They’ll likely never  be ideal urban settings but they can be retrofitted to enable people to function without having to drive. This is important because we need to walk more:

There is a growing recognition that Americans must increase physical activity, including walking or bicycling, if we are to nudge the needle on ballooning health care costs, reducing obesity and overweight, cardiovascular and other chronic illnesses linked to a lack of exercise. Over the last decade, a growing number of communities have gotten the message, and begun to retrofit their more dangerous roadways to be safer for people on foot, on bicycles and in cars.

Still, most Americans continue to live in places where walking is risky business for their health and safety, where roads are designed solely to move speeding traffic and where pedestrians are viewed as an obstacle.

This has left us with a dilemma: Public health officials encourage Americans of all ages to walk and bike more to stem the costly and deadly obesity epidemic – yet many of our streets are simply not safe. Americans get to pick their poison: less exercise and poor health, or walking on roads where more than 47,000 people have died in the last ten years. (Dangerous by Design 2011)

Des Peres and other St. Louis suburbs have had sidewalks along major roads for years, yet few pedestrians.  The lack of connection from the public sidewalk to the businesses set back behind parking lots has been a major hurdle. When these older commercial buildings are retrofitted or replaced we have the opportunity to make incremental improvements to improve the walkability.  For example, the location of the old Schnucks grocery in Des Peres.

Schnucks was there for over 40 years but, like the new location, it didn’t have any pedestrian route to the store. Now the building has a new facade and two new retailers and a pedestrian access route.

ABOVE: An auto entrance to the former Schnucks in Des Peres
ABOVE: In the reuse of the vacant grocery store, a sidewalk was added to so pedestrians had an access route.
ABOVE: The new pedestrian access route gives pedestrians a safe way to get from the public sidewalk to the businesses.
ABOVE: A crosswalk is provided where the access route crosses the auto drive.
ABOVE: The view looking south toward Manchester Rd. at Lindeman Rd.
ABOVE: Pedestrians have a route to the new free-standing fast food restaurant on the property.

This is not great urbanism, nor is it my idea of walkable. But, I was able to easily get to the businesses without feeling like I might get hit by a careless motorist. It’s incrementally more walkable than it’s been for the over four decades. Walkability doesn’t happen overnight. Des Peres will not become a great walkable community by 2014, but it might by 2032.

I’ve posted the following video before but it’s worth watching over and over.  Ellen Dunham-Jones shows us ways to retrofit the suburban sprawl few like but that many call home. Well worth 20 minutes of your time.


Continuing with a laissez-faire development strategy will, however, guarantee Des Peres and similar suburbs won’t be much different in 20 years. In 20 years the marketplace will pass up suburbs that require an automobile to function.  Within the next two decades those communities where various modes of mobility are embraced will be the desirable “location, location, location” places. This includes walking, biking transit and yes, driving.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: Thoughts On The City Closing The Sidewalks Around Larry Rice’s Homeless Shelter

The city’s efforts to address concerns raised by neighbors of Larry Rice’s New Life Evangelistic Center (NLEC), a homeless shelter, took a new twist recently.

Thursday morning [9/6], the city cleaned the streets and sidewalks and set up barricades on sidewalks, where large groups of homeless people have been camping. (KMOV: City moves up clean-up schedule downtown)

Below are a couple of pics I took that afternoon:

ABOVE: A person is walking on Locust St because the city has closed off the sidewalks around Larry Rice’s New Life Evangelistic Center (NLEC) to prevent the homeless from sleeping on the public sidewalks overnight.
ABOVE: The city cites “health and safety reasons” for closing the sidewalks.

I posted the second pic to the UrbanReviewSTL Facebook page (link) and many comments came in — some glad the city finally took action and others defending Larry Rice and asking where the homeless are supposed to sleep with Lucas Park closed for renovations and now the sidewalks outside Rice’s shelter closed.

Given the divergent views on Facebook I knew this would make a good poll topic. The poll is in the right sidebar, the provided  answers are presented in a random order.

— Steve Patterson


Follow Up: St. Louis Bread (Panera) Builds New ADA Ramp

September 4, 2012 Accessibility, Featured, South City, Walkability Comments Off on Follow Up: St. Louis Bread (Panera) Builds New ADA Ramp

On February 20th I posted out the lack of an ADA Accessible Route in South St. Louis  (see: Poor Pedestrian Accessibly at Saint Louis (Panera) Bread Co on Chippewa St. at Lansdowne Ave). Today I’m happy to report Panera has stepped up and corrected the situation. Here’s the before:

ABOVE: In February 2012 access to the St. Louis Bread Co. at 6607 Chippewa from the public sidewalk required going up steps.

I contacted and company and met with District Manager Chris Harre onsite on my birthday, February 28th. On May 1st a building permit application was filed with the city to build an accessible ramp at an estimated cost of $5,000.

When I visited the site late last month workers were still finishing up final details.

ABOVE: A switchback ramp was fitted into an area previously planted
ABOVE: The view of the ramp from the west
ABOVE: View from the top of the ramp. The triangular wedge between the upper & lower sections of the ramp will contain plants.
ABOVE: The new ramp is highly visible, says all pedestrians welcome here.

I appreciate that Panera acted quickly once I pointed out the accessibility problem, if only other companies would do the same. Special thanks to District Manager Chris Harre.

— Steve Patterson



Metro’s Disconnect With Riders, Pedestrians

On Monday August 20, 2012 the Grand MetroBus stop and Grand MetroLink stations reopened. On the overhead speakers in all stations Metro, speaking in transit jargon, announced the Grand station was open for “revenue service.” Really Metro, revenue service?

From dictionary.com:

jar·gon [jahr-guhn, -gon] noun

1. the language, especially the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group: medical jargon.

2. unintelligible or meaningless talk or writing; gibberish.

3. any talk or writing that one does not understand.

4. pidgin.

5. language that is characterized by uncommon or pretentious vocabulary and convoluted syntax and is often vague in meaning.

What’s the big deal, so they used transit agency speak? The use of technical jargon by any business shows it doesn’t know how to communicate with its customers. If they announcement had been that Grand was “open for service” nobody would’ve  thought they didn’t have to pay since they didn’t say “revenue” before service. Metro has problems relating to those of us that use transit, largely because Metro employes drive instead of use transit.

From the joint City/Metro press release:

On Saturday the ribbon cutting was held for the Grand viaduct (bridge). 

WHERE: South end (Chouteau side) of Grand Bridge.

(VIP and media parking will be available off Papin Street.)

The public is encouraged to take the #70 Grand MetroBus or MetroLink to the Grand Station. Parking at the new Grand MetroLink Station Park-Ride lot is also an option. The lot is located at Scott Avenue and Theresa Avenue at the northeast end of the bridge.

At least they mentioned transit after parking. I took transit to the event, but not the #70 MetroBus or MetroLink. I caught the #32 just two blocks east of my loft downtown and it dropped my off right at Grand & Chouteau, much closer than the MetroLink or rerouted #70.

ABOVE: The westbound #32 MetroBus on Chouteau just barely west of Grand. The Pevely bldg is to the left, for now.

But the real problem is how Metro didn’t connect their new work to the city. I’ve already shared this concern with folks from Metro, some who were in agreement with me and others with the attitude that created the disconnect. Let me show you what I’m talking about.

ABOVE: Metro built a small parking lot for the Grand station which included a new sidewalk for the south side of Scott Ave. The other side of Scott Ave doesn’t have a sidewalk at all.
ABOVE: But Metro assumed the only folks that would walk on this sidewalk are going to their car in their parking lot. They changed the grade and didn’t bother to connect the sidewalk so that people, like myself, can cross Scott or Theresa Avenues. One Metro employee said it’s just an employee entrance at the business across the street. WTF!?! If they use transit they’ll be a pedestrian!
ABOVE: The little bit of sidewalk along Theresa next to Metro’s new parking lot is useless anyway. Why wasn’t it removed?

What is there to connect to east of here? Lots actually, including a Metro facility. I doubt those who designed the station, parking lot and sidewalk ever bothered to walk around the area before starting the design. Designers must literally put themselves in the shoes of those that’ll use what they design.

ABOVE: Businesses exist directly east of the station, Metro could’ve helped provide a place for pedestrians rather than force them into the street or walk on grass.
ABOVE: Some buildings are vacant but being so close to a major transit hub should be helpful in getting them occupied.
ABOVE: And 4/10th of a mile east is a Metro facility.

I continued on Spruce to Compton. This would be a good route for people going to the Chaifetz Arena, Harris-Stowe and Sigma-Aldrich.

I took lots of pictures and some video at the Grand viaduct/bridge ribbon cutting but I’m not going to show you those. The speakers  all talked about how great it’ll be for pedestrians. True, it’s a massive improvement as I acknowledged here. I’m just furious the most basic/obvious pedestrian connection wasn’t planned for yet again.

To Metro engineers/planners/designers: Transit users are pedestrians when arriving & leaving transit stations. We come from and go in all directions. Able bodied pedestrians take the shortest route — a straight line. This isn’t complicated stuff.

— Steve Patterson