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Happy Holidays

December 25, 2012 Steve Patterson Comments Off on Happy Holidays

This afternoon I’ll be with a close friend and her daughter’s family. I’ll eat too much and be shocked at how many toys the little ones receive. I hope you have a pleasant holiday.

Best wishes!

– Steve Patterson


Happy Thanksgiving Day!

November 22, 2012 Featured, Steve Patterson 5 Comments

It’s Thanksgiving so I thought I’d share some personal thoughts.  I’m thankful to have been living downtown in my loft for five years now, the 2nd longest of anyplace I’ve lived in St. Louis. The longest was a decade in the two-family I bought in 1994 in Dutchtown.

ABOVE: Interior view of my downtown loft, my first minimalist living space.

I don’t see myself ever moving again, what I have is too perfect for me: zero steps, few interior doors, easy access to transit, etc.

Today I’m hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my friends I spend the holiday with every year, hopefully you’re spending time with family/friends.

— Steve Patterson


Six Months Without A Car

It’s now been six months since I sold my car. Once before I didn’t have a car (2007) but I had a 49cc Honda scooter, so I got around pretty well on my own schedule. Now I have a power wheelchair and a bus pass, not as convenient.

ABOVE: The 30-day pass is different than the monthly pass in that it can span into two months, just depends on start date.

Don’t get me wrong, I love public transit (bus & rail) but I also love cars. I have numerous books on European cars, auto magazines from the early 1970s, etc. I read articles on the Motor Trend iPhone app daily. I’m a car guy without a car!

What I’ve noticed over these last six months is I think differently about time than I ever have since I got my driver’s license nearly 30 years ago (gulp). Just a couple of years ago I would compare how long a trip would take me on the bus to how long it would take me to drive. It doesn’t take long to get most places driving in the St. Louis region and the car was always faster, much faster just a few more miles away. A week ago I visited friends living near Loughborhough and Hampton and it took an hour to get there from downtown. Yes, an hour!

But that’s my new normal, surprisingly so it didn’t seem long. A trip to the Target at Hampton & Chippewa takes 40-45 minutes just on the bus, plus additional time getting to the stop and back home. Same for my doctor’s office, also on Hampton.

I’ve learned to make productive use of my time, often taking pics out the bus window, returning emails, making notes, keeping up on Facebook, etc.  I feel I’m just as productive as with a car, I just schedule things differently. Granted, I’m single and on disability so I’m not dropping kids off at school before going to work. I’m not trying to convince you to give up your vehicle, just note that.

In July I went on an 8-day vacation that included Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Oklahoma City. Amtrak got me to  my destinations and Greyhound got me home, I was able to see so much more on the trip because I wasn’t driving.

I’ve gotten a couple of rides with friends these last six months but I’ve not had to get a taxi to get somewhere, as I thought I’d have to.

Once you don’t have a car for a while your view of time and mobility changes.

— Steve Patterson


What’s In Store For My Next 22 Years In St. Louis?

Will the next 22 years be just as interesting as the first 22?

It was 22 years ago today that I first saw the City of St. Louis, it was truly love at first sight. The city had seen better days long before I was born, but the potential sparked my imagination about what this place could become. Problems were everywhere.

ABOVE: The Darst-Webbe towers on the near south side circa 1990-91, razed

Much was in the very recent past or even still to come:

  • The former St. Louis Centre downtown mall was just five years old.
  • Union Station had only been reopened as a “festival marketplace” for 5 years.
  • The Gateway Arch parking garage was only 4 years old. Current plans call for it to be razed.
  • The Gateway One office building, now known as Peabody Plaza, was also just 4 years old.
  • The 14th Street Pedestrian Mall opened 13 years earlier in 1977, but had already failed. It would take the next two decades to remove the failed experiment.
  • The Kiel Opera House was still open, although it closed months later.
  • Hockey was played in the Arena on Oakland.
  • Getting to/from the airport required a vehicle because we didn’t have light rail.
  • Boatman’s & Mercantile were the biggest banks in town, both local with histories dating back to the 19th century.
  • St. Louis was down about not having an NFL football franchise, the Cardinals had moved to Arizona 3 years earlier.
  • Vince Schoemehl was elected to his third term as St. Louis mayor the year before (1989).
  • The 1990 Census, taken months before I arrived, would show a population of  396,685.  By 2010 I’d witnessed a population decline of 77,391.  Not a small number in 20 years time, but the decade between 1970 and 1980 saw more than twice as many people leave: 169,435.
  • Famous-Barr was the big local department store chain, part of Federated May Department Stores bought by Federated (Macy’s) in 2006. The Famous-Barr at Chippewa & Kingshighway had wonderful urban massing & form. It was razed to build a Home Quarters big box store. The HQ chain closed in 1999 before the store would be built.  Central Hardware was the local home improvement chain, it closed in 1997.

Yes I’m feeling nostalgic, I usually do on anniversaries.  But the real lesson here is people, and the places where they live, aren’t static. Change is a constant.  This isn’t inherently good or bad — it just is.

ABOVE: Showing my love for St. Louis on the wheelchair I use when I need go more than a block from my downtown loft.

What changes will I be able to write about 22 years from now?

  •  Continued population losses? Increases?
  • St. Louis elected first female mayor?
  • Several expansions of the local modern streetcar system connected the city (north, central, south) and the older inner-ring suburbs.
  • Board of Aldermen reduced in size?
  • St. Louis razed the old I-70 (elevated & depressed sections) downtown?
  • City rejoined St. Louis County as one of many municipalities? City, County and municipalities merged into a unified regional government?
  • Daily physical newspaper no longer printed?
  • Earthquake hit St. Louis?
  • Bill Haas elected to an office higher than the school board?
  • St. Louis adopted a city-wide urban form-based zoning code?
  • Tired & outdated Loughborhough Commons replaced with a dense mixed-use development?

I’m as excited about the future of St. Louis as I was 22 years ago. I’m less naive I was then but I’m forever an optimist, albeit a critical one.

— Steve Patterson


I’m Car-Free…Again!

ABOVE: Steve Patterson in his vehicle of choice

On July 5th 2007 I was so excited that I was car-free (First Time in 25 Years, I Don’t Own A Car!), having only a 49cc Honda Metropolitan scooter and a bicycle. A year later I bought a car again — I could no longer ride the scooter & bike due to a stroke (I Drove My Car Today). I had to have a car in St. Louis, right?

I felt guilty though:

So now my trick will be to see how seldom I can drive the car. I feel like a failed environmentalist selling the scooter and getting a car. As I start to buy gas I know I will quickly be reminded of just how efficient the scooter was. 

The scooter was very efficient (90+ mpg) and I did a good job of not driving my car often (5k/year).  In July 2010 I bought a monthly transit pass and began to use and learn our public transit system. After nearly two years as a regular rider I knew I was ready to ditch the car. Why you ask? To improve my standard of living!

You’re probably confused how NOT having a car will improve my standard of living, most view car ownership as increasing one’s standard of living. As a low-income person the cost of insurance, maintenance, taxes, and fuel were too much even though my car was paid for. In addition to the expenses the car’s value was dropping. The car was a burden rather than the key to freedom.

I’ll save money by not having to pay for auto insurance every six months as well as annual personal properly taxes. Based on my annual driving and MPG I’ll save about $750 a year in gas.  I’ll also be able to rent my parking space to a neighbor. I’ll be able to increase my available cash by 15%!

After the couple test drove my car they made an offer and I accepted, then it hit me — this will very likely be the last time I own a car. Ever. I’ve been driving for 29 years and all but one year I’ve owned a car, sometimes 2-3. Before when I went car-free I had the scooter and thought that yes I might have a car again but with my income and my inability to work in a paying job the only way I’d ever have a car again is if I won the lottery.

In addition to taking MetroBus I’ll be getting rides from friends and taking cabs. I’ve downloaded the Taxi Magic app to my phone and set up account with debit card. Two St. Louis taxi firms, St. Louis County & Yellow Cab and Laclede Cab Co. use this service. This will allow me to schedule and pay for a cab from my phone without having to call someone. It stores my home address and I can easily type in the other address. Even if I spend $20/month average on cab fare  I’ll still be way ahead of where I’ve been.

I’ve also, reluctantly, gotten a credit card so I can rent a car on occasion, mostly when traveling. I can’t use car sharing services like WeCar because I require a spinner knob to steer the wheel and a crossover bar to operate turn signals with only my right hand.

I understand that my situation is rather unique, I don’t have to drive 15 miles to a job five days per week. It will be a challenge to not have the convenience of a car but I’m looking forward to facing  and overcoming them.

– Steve Patterson