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What the passage of Proposition “A” can mean for the St. Louis region

ABOVE: St. Louis County Executive Charlie A Dooley
ABOVE: St. Louis County Executive Charlie "A" Dooley, August 2006

Tuesday April 6, 2010 voters in St. Louis County will decide the fate of Proposition A — a 1/2 cent sales tax to match the same tax previously approved by voters in the City of St. Louis.  Revenues would be used to fund existing operations and expand service of our regional public transit.

I decided to put together list of what “A” can do for the region:

  1. Accelerate: strong transit will accelerate the trend toward filling in the core rather than pushing outward at the edges.  This helps ensure those folks who moved to the edge won’t be surrounded by new construction.
  2. Accessible: public transit makes going from home to work accessible to many.  This applies to those of us with disabilities as well as those without access to an automobile. Getting our citizens to work, school is important for a strong region.
  3. Accomplish: dedicated funding is critical to a healthy  transit transit system.  Prop. A will accomplish the goal of creating a dedicated funding source for operations.
  4. Achieve: St. Louis will be closer to achieving the type of transit system a strong region needs to have to compete in the 21st century.
  5. Activate: transit helps create activity.  Transit riders are often pedestrians on part of their total trip.  Their activity creates a buzz around stations & stops.  More transit and more riders that will activate our sidewalks.
  6. Adjust: we will adjust our ideas about transit and what it means to the region, even if we don’t use the system ourselves (or just rarely).
  7. Affirm: passage will affirm our commitment to a regional transit network.  This affirmation will send a strong message to companies and people considering the St. Louis region as a future location.
  8. Affordable: as we saw when service was cut back people couldn’t get to work.  Employers need their employees at work.  Our region can’t afford to not have a functioning transit system.  We can’t afford to not pass this tax.
  9. Attainable: with dedicated funding Metro can attain a decent level of service for the region through both rail & bus transit.
  10. Augment: we will be able to augment the current system to better serve the core of the region, including St. Louis County.

For more information the on Proposition A see the Yes on A website at moremetrolink.com.

– Steve Patterson

 

Local restaurants getting head start on competition, going smoke-free before required by new laws

January 30, 2010 Smoke Free, STL Region 26 Comments

Some food & drink establishments are holding out until the very last minute, January 2, 2011, to go smoke-free.  In the City of St. Louis non-food bars under a certain size have until January 2, 2016.   Smart money, however, is on local establishments that are going smoke-free prior to the start dates of the smoke-free laws in St. Louis City & County.  By doing so they will have time to attract a non-smoking clientele before other places go smoke-free.

Two such recently smoke-free places are:

ABOVE: Hodaks Restaurant is now smoke-free
ABOVE: Hodak's Restaurant is now smoke-free

A year from now all food establishments in the city & county will be smoke-free.   Addicted chain smokers will likely resort to the drive-thru because not smoking for a meal is just too difficult for them.  Non-smokers will likely stick to places they always go to while trying out a few newly smoke-free establishments.

Recently Mangia Italiano on South Grand put out an online  survey to get a sense if they too should go smoke-free prior to before required to by law.  The response must have been very positive because on Wednesday (Jan/27) they will be smoke-free starting March 1st:

IMPORTANT NEWS: We are proud to announce that our restaurant will go Smoke Free on March 1! Thanks to all of our fans for your comments!”

If you own or manage an establishment that allows smoking understand that by waiting until the last minute to go smoke-free you may well have a hard time finding new customers.

– Steve Patterson

 

Recovery Act high-speed rail announcement in St. Louis

ABOVE: Dr. Ed Montgomery (center) at press cponference in St. Louis on 1/28/2010.
ABOVE: Dr. Ed Montgomery (center) at press cponference in St. Louis on 1/28/2010.

Yesterday, across the country, announcements were being made regarding $8 billion in federal grants from the Recovery Act.  One of those announcements took place in St. Louis.   I was there for the announcement and captured the entire press conference on video so you can view the entire event.

#1 – Opening with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Dept Admin Karen Rae (Dept Admin Transportation Dept):

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bv-_Ol3yVtA

#2 – Dr. Ed Montgomery (White House Exec Dir for Auto Communities and Workers):

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nPtfGJw9hg

#3 – U.S. Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-3rd):

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4Pml8wxnmo

#4 – Question  & Answer:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_lqGfRz0RM

#5 – Missouri Senator Joan Bray (D-24):

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqdKuMR8BPI

Another press conference will be held today (Friday 1/29/2010) at the Amtrak station in Alton IL.  It will be years before the St. Louis-Chicago connection is complete but as was said this $8 billion is only a down payment.  The federal government subsidized the interstate highway system for decades while ignoring passenger rail. Chicago will be the center of a network of high-speed rail lines, our proximity is good.

“A White House official visited St. Louis today to announce $1.1 billion in stimulus money for high-speed rail between St. Louis and Chicago and another $31 million to upgrade passenger rail service between St. Louis and Kansas City.” (St. Louis-Chicago high-speed rail gets $1.1B in stimulus)

Improving city-to-city rail transit will increase the ability for someone living in the St. Louis region to go car-free.  Residents on both sides of the Mississippi River can take MetroLink to the St. Louis Amtrak station and travel to Chicago and beyond.  I look forward to taking a high-speed train to Chicago.

– Steve Patterson

 

Poll: Readers not keen on open enrollment in public schools

A majority of readers in the poll last week were not keen on the idea of open enrollment for Missouri schools (Post: State Senator pushing legislation for open enrollment in Missouri’s public schools).

Q: MO State Senator Jane Cunningham wants “open enrollment” for Missouri’s public schools. For St. Louis this would be

  1. a bad idea: 41 [41%]
  2. a good idea 35 [35%]
  3. unsure 16 [16%]
  4. a neutral idea: 6 [6%]
  5. Other answer… 3 [3%] 1) Didnt this fail with deseg?  2) Something worth exploring.  3) A good idea IF school funding was only from the state. But its not.

The last “other” response may have hit on the key — the source of funding.  But many see open enrollment as removing students from the St. Louis Public Schools.  Parents chimed in via the comments:

  • Wouldn’t such a thing help attract suburban families to city living, since their children could attend schools in the county?
  • Having open enrollment will not get the right parents involved in their children’s education.
  • The city is totally unsustainable without schools that middle class, educated people will send their kids to.
  • Any changes should only include a regionally unified district not the ability to pick and chose districts.
  • I doubt I am long for the city for the schooling reason.
  • Children are not to be used for “social experiments”.
  • My children attend a racially & economically balanced school with high academic achievement, and I live in the only neighborhood in the St. Louis area that offers the walkable, urbane lifestyle I want to have. I believe by virtue of this choice, my children will have a better understanding of the realities of the world than they would if I lived in a typical suburb.

I think the last comment is one of the best on the schools issue.  Middle-class white kids need to learn from an early age how to interact with non-white kids and those from different economic classes.  Their future is one where they will be a minority.  Those who grow up in diverse neighborhoods and attend diverse schools will be better prepared for the future.  I don’t know that open enrollment is the best solution but I know our region needs to have some serious discussions about how better educate all our children.

– Steve Patterson

 

Transit-oriented development finally coming to St. Louis?

St. Louis’ original light rail line, MetroLink, opened in 1993.  I was a young man back then (26).  I was so excited about the future of the city I had called home for only 3 years at that point.

The total system has been expanded several times since then but my hope of new construction clustering around the growing number of stations never appeared.  Some existing buildings around some stations were renovated but for the most part stations are surrounded by Park-n-Ride lots.

One such lot is in an older dense area, adjacent to the Forest Park Station (above, map).  Developer McCormack Baron Salazar wants to develop the surface parking lot into retail, housing and commuter parking.  Last week I attended a meeting hosted by McCormack Baron to introduce the concept to the area residents.

Richard Baron led the meeting.  McCormack Baron Associate Project Manager Cady Scott, a Saint Louis University urban planning graduate, is working on the project and was there to answer questions as was local architect Andy Trivers.

There are no fancy architectural drawings to show because this project is at the very beginning stages.  What I do know is they want street-level retail facing DeBaliviere (approximately 10,000sf), one and two-bedroom apartments above (approx 80 units) and parking for residents and commuters.  Parking was, as you might expect, one of the areas with lots of questions from those at the meeting.  Also not surprising was the opposite viewpoints raised.  Some favored little to zero commuter parking while others wanted more than the current 100+ spaces.  Scott & Baron also indicated resident parking would be segregated from commuter/retail parking.  They seek to have less than one space per unit.  All of the units would have universal design and they expect a number of residents to be car-free.  They are planning for two WeCars (car sharing from Enterprise).

Richard Baron referenced their 6 North project throughout the meeting (my 2005 review here).

2005
2005

Located near Saint Louis University at Laclede & Sarah (map), 6 North features retail and office space facing the street and universal design living units.  The units are rented at both market and subsidized affordable rates. Residents include the disabled and able-bodied.  To use this same model next to a transit station is ideal.

But some neighbors thought it best to wait for the market to rebound to support all market rate for-sale housing.  I disagree.  Besides the fact the site has been vacant for half a century, the disabled need more housing options near transit.  Those receiving housing subsidies are not deadbeat welfare parents with tons of kids.  They might be staff at nearby Washington University or a school teacher.  They must pay rent, just less than the market.  The 6 North project has a waiting list of people seeking a unit.

Now is the best time to develop this site.  It provides housing oriented to transit, needed for those who don’t/can’t drive, and desired by many that can drive but would rather take public transit.

– Steve Patterson

 

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