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Readers Support St. Louis County’s New Minimum Police Standards

December 23, 2015 Crime, St. Louis County Comments Off on Readers Support St. Louis County’s New Minimum Police Standards

I’ll start this post with opinion from the Post-Dispatch’s Tony Messenger: Cities look foolish fighting against higher police standards:

It’s amazing, when you think about it, that 12 cities in St. Louis County are seeking to stop the ordinance. If they win, lower standards win out, too. If you live in Webster Groves or Clayton or Florissant or Hazelwood, or Kirkwood or Edmundson, your city is spending your tax money defending their right to have sub-standard police departments.

Why would they do this?

It goes back to the passage of Senate Bill 5 (also being challenged in court by multiple municipalities), which reduced the amount of traffic revenue cities could depend upon to fund their coffers. If you haven’t been hibernating since Aug. 9, 2014, you recognize this has been the strongest, and most unified across the political spectrum, response to the protests and unrest in Ferguson after the death of Michael Brown.

Messenger is right, these municipalities don’t want change from the status quo. They know change could lead to them no longer existing. St. Louis County isn’t big enough in land area or population for 90 municipalities and 57 police departments.

More than 70% of those who voted in the unscientific Sunday Poll support the new standards:

Q: St. Louis County has issued new minimum police standards, but some of the 57 police departments object. Do you support or oppose county-wide minimum standards?

  • Strongly support 12 [44.44%]
  • Support 5 [18.52%]
  • Somewhat support 2 [7.41%]
  • Neither support or oppose 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat oppose 1 [3.7%]
  • Oppose 1 [3.7%]
  • Strongly oppose 2 [7.41%]
  • Unsure/no answer 4 [14.81%]

Change isn’t going to come easily, quickly, or quietly.

— Steve Patterson

 

Lemay Ferry (MO-267) Is A Pedestrian Nightmare

Yesterday I posted about the horrible pedestrian environment along the #12 MetroBus route in St. Clair County. I took that bus on Wednesday the 16th. That night, Fox2 ran a related story (Disabled man hit 3 times on Lemay Ferry, due to lack of sidewalks):

Tony Berding says he’s been hit 3 times by vehicles on Lemay Ferry.  Berding is disabled, and lives in a senior apartment complex in the 3600 block Lemay Ferry Road in South St. Louis County.  He uses a motorized wheelchair to travel to a nearby Quick Trip and Kmart.

Berding was struck last Thursday while traveling on a narrow shoulder along northbound Lemay Ferry.

That evening a reader messaged me about the story, but I didn’t have time to watch. The next morning I got a message from Berding’s sister, so I watched — horrified watching her brother use the narrow shoulder to get to the store. We messaged via Facebook, then text, and finally on the phone. This is about real people at risk because of how we have chosen to build our physical environment.

Lemay Ferry in South St. Louis County is far more urban than the area I traveled through in St. Clair County, I’ve taken the #73 MetroBus numerous times, most recently the morning of August 25, 2015:

A passenger got on at the SB stop across from Dierbergs
A passenger got on at the SB stop across from Dierbergs
I took a pic of a vintage convertible in front of the QT mentioned in the Fox2 story
I took a pic of a vintage convertible in front of the QT mentioned in the Fox2 story
I got off past Lindbergh, I met my husband for lunch at IHOP
I got off past Lindbergh, I met my husband for lunch at IHOP

What I hadn’t done is roll along the part of Lemay Ferry mention in the Fox2 story. After looking at it on Google Street View I saw just how physically impossible the West side of Lemay Ferry was, the East side isn’t great — but it’s passable. I decided I’d have to drive to photograph. Before doing so I did some research.

Fox2 said St. Louis County indicated they couldn’t afford to buy land for the right-of-way to build a sidewalk on the East side. Two problems here: Lemay Ferry is also known as MO-267 — it’s maintained by MoDOT, not the county.  Secondly, the right-of-way is 80 feet wide — more than enough width for four travel lanes, a center turn lane, and sidewalks on each side! More on this later, let’s take a look at the problem.

Not far into the County there are good sidewalks, but no pads for accessing the bus or routes to buildings set back behind parking.
Not far into the County there are good sidewalks, but no pads for accessing the bus or routes to buildings set back behind parking.
There are spots on both sides where there is no pretense of a sidewalk, such as this cemetery stop
There are spots on both sides where there is no pretense of a sidewalk, such as this cemetery stop
Even spots where sidewalks exist they don't always connect to buds stops/ The curb here makes this inaccessible.
Even spots where sidewalks exist they don’t always connect to buds stops/ The curb here makes this inaccessible.
Here's a spot where a wheelchair user has no choice but to use the shoulder. What about an able-bodied parent walking with a small child or pushing a stroller?
Here’s a spot where a wheelchair user has no choice but to use the shoulder. What about an able-bodied parent walking with a small child or pushing a stroller?
Just before Reevis Barracks the sidewalk & bus stop are excellent
Just before Reevis Barracks the sidewalk & bus stop are excellent
I was delighted to see a good connection to the adjacent bank!
I was delighted to see a good connection to the adjacent bank!
But pulling back out to Lemay Ferry I noticed the curb to the North
But pulling back out to Lemay Ferry I noticed the curb to the North
Many spots where you see a sidewalk on the West side they're located on private property, don't connect to adjacent property -- the drive where the car is exiting has a curb.
Many spots where you see a sidewalk on the West side they’re located on private property, don’t connect to adjacent property — the drive where the car is exiting has a curb.
Looking South we have the same situation. A private sidewalk not usable by those who need it. Decoration adding to water runoff issues.
Looking South we have the same situation. A private sidewalk not usable by those who need it. Decoration adding to water runoff issues.
We stopped to fill up the tank at the QT mentioned in the Fox2 story. For many convenience stores are their primary grocery store.
We stopped to fill up the tank at the QT mentioned in the Fox2 story. For many convenience stores are their primary grocery store.
Looking back North you can see what appears to be a sidewalk -- but it isn't accessible. It is, however, located in the PROW.
Looking back North you can see what appears to be a sidewalk — but it isn’t accessible. It is, however, located in the PROW.
How does a pedestrian get to the QT from the sidewalk? Up these steps from the side street!
How does a pedestrian get to the QT from the sidewalk? Up these steps from the side street!
From the next property to the South we see how the shoulder is the only option for anyone in a wheelchair.
From the next property to the South we see how the shoulder is the only option for anyone in a wheelchair.
A little further South we see a bus stop sign on a curbed island -- located in the PROW.
A little further South we see a bus stop sign on a curbed island — located in the PROW.
Looking South toward the apartments where Tony Berding has lived since 2001
Looking South toward the apartments where Tony Berding has lived since 2001
From the entrance drive looking back North. The QT is less than a 10th of a mile. Click image for map
From the entrance drive looking back North. The QT is less than a 10th of a mile. Click image for map
The Kmart is to the South
The Kmart is to the South
Pretty much the same thing heading South to Kmart. Curb after curb...
Pretty much the same thing heading South to Kmart. Curb after curb…
At the Kmart parking lot you see the only way in is the auto driveway
At the Kmart parking lot you see the only way in is the auto driveway

So why not just move? When you’re disabled and low-income housing options are very limited.  It has been 25 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act became law — St. Louis County & the Missouri Dept of Transportation need to prioritize this.

Below are two examples of dividing the existing 80′ right-of-way so still have four drives lanes & a center turn lane.

Two scenarios for the 80' right-of-way. The top version has the overly wide lanes currently in use and the lower has better 10' wide lanes. The ROW is wide enough! Click image to view larger version.
Two scenarios for the 80′ right-of-way. The top version has the overly wide lanes currently in use and the lower has better 10′ wide lanes. The ROW is wide enough! Click image to view larger version.

My guess is decades ago Lemay Ferry was a 2-lane road that got widened after people & businesses began moving to south county from south city. It went from a rural 2-lane to a 4-lane with center turn without any consideration for pedestrians. The 80′ right-of-way might have been in anticipation on more lanes of traffic — the land was subdivided before I-55 was even a dream.But MO-267, aka Lemay Ferry, is used by pedestrians. People use transit. Not all residents own cars.

It hasn’t kept up, but it needs to change.    Before someone gets killed!

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Support or Oppose New St. Louis County Minimum Police Standards?

Twelve of the 90 municipalities in St. Louis County don’t like the county’s new minimum police standards, see Dozen municipalities file formal challenge to St. Louis County police standards ordinance. There are 57 police departments in St. Louis County. A good topic for today’s poll.

Please vote below
Please vote below

Usually I randomize the poll but someone suggested on polls with a logical order that they be presented as such, so this week everyone will see the answers in the same order. As always, the poll closes at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

 

The Future of Grant’s Farm is Uncertain

The future of Grant’s Farm is coming between siblings — children of the late August Anheuser “Gussie” Busch, Jr. (1899-1989). I find it unsettling to see wealthy siblings, in their 50s & 60s, disagreeing m public.

Before I go any further, I have a confession: I’ve never been inside the gates of Grant’s Farm or the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site located across…Grant Rd. I’ve certainly driven past on Gravois many times, even exploring the perimeter like Pardee Rd. On Sunday we drove around the site completely. Though the site contains many buildings, it’s still very much unspoiled nature.

The Gravois Rd entry gates to Grant's Farm
The Gravois Rd entry gates to Grant’s Farm

One comment on the Sunday Poll post was:

FYI your 3rd choice isn’t an option. Do a little research on what municipality Grant’s Farm lies in and what it’s zoning laws and ordinances are. Also look up what part lies in a flood plain. Not going to have to worry about any commercial or residential development here!

While poll answers are presented in random order, this was a reference to the poll answer: “Sell to a developer for houses &/or retail”  Not only is it possible, this is the concern of the four Busch siblings that would like to sell the animal preserve to the St. Louis Zoo.

Four Anheuser-Busch heirs worry that their brother, Billy Busch, will turn Grant’s Farm into a subdivision.

No one man can finance and maintain the sprawling South St. Louis County animal park, said Trudy Busch Valentine and Andy Busch. It’s just too expensive.

They have seen housing plat maps already drafted for the Grant’s Farm land, they both said, and know it’s an option for any owner if times get tough.

Billy Busch responded, saying he wouldn’t sell off land. St. Louis County classifies the land as single family, Grantwood Village has it zoned “Animal Preserve.” The Lindbergh School District would likely object to a loss of tax revenue if it went to the Zoo.

County records show the site as 214 acres, though news reports say 198 acres
County records show the site as 214 acres, though news reports say 198 acres
Parking & farm land on the East side of Grant Rd is a different ownership from the trust.
Parking & farm land on the East side of Grant Rd is a different ownership from the trust.
Pedestrian entrance from Grant Rd parking lot
Pedestrian entrance from Grant Rd parking lot
The National site is less than 9 acres
The National site is less than 9 acres

Here are the results of the Sunday Poll:

Q: Six Busch siblings can’t agree on Grant’s Farm, what would you like to see happen?

  1. William “Billy” Busch buys it, builds Kräftig Brewery on part, allows Zoo to use part. 31 [58.49%]
  2. St. Louis Zoo buys it, the region fund a new sales tax to cover annual operating expenses. 12 [22.64%]
  3. Stay as is, owned by the family trust & operated at an annual loss by AB InBev 9 [16.98%]
  4. Other — county buys, becomes affordable housing: 1 [1.89%]
  5. Sell to a developer for houses &/or retail 0 [0%]

A century ago such a family would’ve donated the land to the Zoo, along with an endowment to help cover upkeep. Are taxpayers willing to pay to keep this land as an animal preserve? Doubtful. The future seems uncertain.

— Steve Patterson

 

The St. Louis Region Should’ve Planned For Commuter Rail A Century Ago

In thinking about transit in other regions compared to ours, it is clear to me that natural geography and historic development patterns play a role in transportation planning in the 21st century. Decisions made a century ago, good & bad, still affect us today.

One hundred years ago St. Louis hired a 26 year-old civil engineer, Harland Bartholomew, to be its first planner. During the previous 151 years it developed organically, without planning, He quickly proposed widening many public rights-of-way (PROW) to make room for more cars.

Franklin Ave looking East from 9th, 1928. Collection of the Landmarks Association of St Louis
Franklin Ave looking East from 9th, 1928. Collection of the Landmarks Association of St Louis

St. Louis city invested heavily in widening streets like Natural Bridge, Jefferson, Gravois.

More than three decades after arriving in St. Louis, Bartholomew got a Comprehensive Plan officially adopted (1947). His plan was all about remaking St. Louis because it would have a million residents by 1960 — or so he thought!

Here’s the intro to the Mass Transportation section:

St. Louis’ early mass transportation facilities consisted of street car lines operated by a considerable number of independent companies having separate franchises. Gradually these were consolidated into a single operating company shortly after the turn of the century. In 1923 an independent system of bus lines was established but later consolidated with the street car company. Despite receivership, re-organization and several changes of ownership the mass transportation facilities have been kept fairly well abreast of the city’s needs. Numerous street openings and widenings provided by the first City Plan have made possible numerous more direct routings and reduced travel time.

Approximately 88 per cent of the total area of the city and 99 per cent of the total population is now served directly by streetcar lines or bus lines, i.e., being not more than one quarter mile walking distance therefrom. Streetcar lines or bus lines operate directly from the central business district to all parts of the city’s area. There are also numerous cross-town streetcar lines or bus lines, operating both in an east-west and north-south direction. 

No mention of a regional need for commuter rail. Some might point out this was the city’s plan, not the region’s. That would be a valid point if it weren’t for the regional nature of the next section: Air Transportation:

It is reasonable to assume that the developments in air transportation during the next few decades will parallel that of automobile transportation, which really started about three decades ago. St. Louis must be prepared to accept and make the most of conditions that will arise. Provision of the several types of airfields required must be on a metropolitan basis. The recently prepared Metropolitan Airport Plan proposes thirty-five airfields. See Plate Number 27. These are classified as follows:

  • Major Airports – for major transport 3
  • Secondary Airports – for feeder transport 1
  • Minor Fields – for non-scheduled traffic, commercial uses and for training 15
  • Local Personal Fields – for private planes 13
  • Congested Area Airports – for service to congested business centers 3
     
    [Total] 35

Of these, two major, eight minor, twelve personal and three congested area airports would be in Missouri. Lack of available land in the City of St. Louis limited the number within the corporate limits to two minor, one personal and two congested area airports. The selection of sites for the latter involves great cost and should await further technological developments in design and operation of various types of aircraft, including the small high powered airplane, the autogyro and the helicopter.

The three airports within the city are:

  • A Minor Field at the southern city limits east of Morganford Road.
  • A Minor Field in the northern section of the city between Broadway and the Mississippi River. (Since the publishing of the above report this field has been placed in operation by the city.)
  • A Local Personal Field in the western section of the city on Hampton Boulevard north of Columbia Avenue.

The latter is of special significance because of the great concentration of potential private plane owners in fairly close proximity. The northern minor field is adjacent to a large industrial area. The southern minor field would also serve a large industrial area as well as a considerable number of potential private plane owners.

So the region should have 35 airports but no commuter rail service? It should have numerous new highways but no commuter rail? Here’s the visual of the region with 35 airports:

Bartholomew's 1947 plan called for 35 airports un the St, Louis region!
Bartholomew’s 1947 plan called for 35 airports un the St, Louis region!

Thirty-five airports but no plan for mass transit beyond bus service?

Bartholomew left St. Louis in 1953 to chair the National Capital Planning Commission, where he created the 1956 plan for 450 miles of highway in the capital region.

During the 1960s, plans were laid for a massive freeway system in Washington. Harland Bartholomew, who chaired the National Capital Planning Commission, thought that a rail transit system would never be self-sufficient because of low density land uses and general transit ridership decline. But the plan met fierce opposition, and was altered to include a Capital Beltway system plus rail line radials. The Beltway received full funding; funding for the ambitious Inner Loop Freeway system was partially reallocated toward construction of the Metro system. (Wikipedia)

A book written by a partner of Bartholomew revises history to suggest he pushed for Washington’s Metro — see Chapter 10.

https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/archive/harland-bartholomew/HBaACh10.pdf

Washington has fewer miles of freeways within its borders than any other major city on the East Coast.” Thirty-eight of the planned 450 miles would have routed through D.C. proper; today, there are just 10. Instead, after a wrenching and protracted political battle, they write, “the Washington area got Metro—all $5 billion and 103 miles of it.” (Slate)

In 1945, as a paid consultant, Bartholomew said “the density of population of the Washington area would never be sufficient to warrant a regional rail system.” (Lovelace P141, chapter 10 p3). Most likely he felt that way about the St. Louis region. Though the city was quite dense during his decades here, the surrounding suburbs were low-density, still are.

But what if he had guided the region to develop boulevards to the North, West, & South of downtown with streetcars in the median? Today that right-of-way could be used for light rail. Cleveland, for example, is fortunate that Shaker Blvd & Van Aken Blvd  were planned as such, providing room for their Green Line & Blue Line, respectively.

Bartholomew was highly influential — the one person in the region that might have been able to lay the ground work for better mass transit in the 21st century. It wasn’t feasible like lots of highways & airports.

My point is when we think about future transportation infrastructure, and we look at other regions, we must keep in mind their planning & development decisions a century ago. Many still think we should’ve put light rail down the center of I-64 during the big rebuild — failing to realize there wasn’t a way to get a line into the center and it wouldn’t work well if we could since the housing along the route wasn’t developed around transit.

We were able to leverage rail tunnels under downtown and a rail corridor to get light rail to the airport. Other former rail corridors exist for new light rail lines, such as North along I-170 out of Clayton into North County. We do have excessively wide boulevards in the city & county, but cutting up the street pattern after the fact by putting light rail down the center and significantly reducing crossing points is similar to building a highway — it separates.

Moving forward with plans for new regional transportation infrastructure we must recognize we simply don’t have the advantages many other regions enjoy.  We can’t go back and undo decisions Bartholomew & others made a century ago.

— Steve Patterson

 

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