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Readers Mixed on Road Conditions Following Snow Storm

January 16, 2019 Featured, Transportation Comments Off on Readers Mixed on Road Conditions Following Snow Storm

I left our new apartment briefly Friday morning, before the snow arrived, using power wheelchair. I didn’t leave again until Sunday morning, driving our car this time.

Looking West Toward Tucker on O’Fallon Street, Sunday morning

On Sunday we went to Creve Coeur, Brentwood, and a few other places. By then roads were generally acceptable, but I can imagine how bad they were Friday night. I saw the news reports of motorists in traffic for hours/overnight.

Not experiencing the worst conditions, I was a “slight disagree” on the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Given the amount of heavy wet snow we received, state/county/local road crews did the best they could.

  • Strongly agree: 7 [24.14%]
  • Agree: 7 [24.14%]
  • Somewhat agree: 1 [3.45%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 7 [24.14%]
  • Disagree: 1 [3.45%]
  • Strongly disagree: 4 [13.79%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 2 [6.9%]

A little more than half think the crews did a good job considering. Agreed, in general I think the people behind the wheels of the snow plows do a great job at a thankless job. It’s their bosses that don’t always get it right.

Yesterday we drove to IKEA and leaving I noticed they hadn’t cleared the public sidewalk, nor their accessible routes from the public sidewalk to the entrance — they’d piled snow on them!

More snow expected this weekend.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

My Remaining Bike Brings Back Great Memories

December 28, 2018 Bicycling, Featured Comments Off on My Remaining Bike Brings Back Great Memories

Prior to my February 2008 stroke, I’d bought numerous bicycles while living in St. Louis.   With two exceptions, all came from A & M Bicycles — at Arsenal & Morganford Rd. I bought my first bike from A & M back in the mid/late 90s, it was still owned by a descendant of the original founder. It wasn’t long after when the owner sold the shop to his employee, Karl Becker.

Numerous bikes, new & used, were bought from Karl. A couple of times I needed a used beater bike, we’d go down to the basement and come up with exactly the bike I needed.

The two bikes I bought elsewhere since 1990 were a used 50s Huffy fat tire at an antique store in the Kansas City River Market area, and a new Swedish Kronan bought sight unseen from a bike shop in San Diego. They disassembled it and shipped to Karl @ A & M, who assembled it. That was in 2004.

My bright orange Kronan bike in front of the former UMA store at 11th & Locust in December 2007 — this was in that short period after I moved downtown but before my stroke. After UMA moved to Chicago Rooster expanded into this space.
Following my stroke, the Kronan became art in our home office

Last month Karl Becker died, a huge loss to the St. Louis cycling community:

Becker, Karl Joseph born April 7th, 1963 to Joseph H. and Mary Ann, passed away suddenly November 18, 2018 while surrounded by family and friends. Karl enjoyed life fully by engaging everyone he met as a friend. His passion for cycling started early in life by following in the footsteps of his father. He was enthusiastic about cycling, both participating and promoting the sport. His love of cycling culminated in owning and operating A&M Bicycle, the oldest bike shop in the city of St. Louis. Karl is survived by his mother, Mary Ann, sisters Mary Jane, Lisa Evans (Brice), Mary Margaret Hendrix (Bill), Amy Becker (Steve), brother Paul (Cyndi), loving friend Mary Ann Hoopes, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, cousins and countless friends. Karl had a zest for life and passions included reading, music, art, Jeopardy, good beer, fireworks and above all his cat, PK. Karl was a kind soul who gladly helped those less fortunate. Even in death, his generous spirit is a gift of life to others. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Mid-America Transplant Foundation. www.midamericatransplant.org

Published in St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Nov. 21, 2018 (Legacy)

This month we took the bike down from the shelves, yet something wasn’t right. The pedal would turn, but the wheel wouldn’t move.

The coaster brake rear hub was the problem.

I knew A & M was still open, but we have no bike rack for our car. Friends suggested Big Shark’s downtown location. A week later we walked it five blocks East to Big Shark. A few days later we returned to pick it up — the rear hub was freed up for less than $30.

Repaired in from of Big Shark’s Urban Shark location on Locust.

I haven’t ridden this bike in over a decade, but I just can’t part with it.  Lots of great memories on this bike. It also reminds me of Karl.

— Steve Patterson

 

Possible Development at Forest Park-DeBaliviere MetroLink Station Will Include Lots of Parking

November 26, 2018 Featured, Planning & Design, Public Transit Comments Off on Possible Development at Forest Park-DeBaliviere MetroLink Station Will Include Lots of Parking

After 25 years the Forest Park-DeBaliviere MetroLink (light rail) station may finally be getting new higher-density development. From last week:

An Indianapolis developer plans to transform the block around the Forest Park-DeBaliviere MetroLink station with a $70 million development adding 265 apartments and 34,000 square feet of retail.

The Bi-State Development Board of Commissioners on Friday voted to proceed with the project. The Bi-State-owned parking lot at the northwest corner of Forest Park Parkway and DeBaliviere Avenue along with the drop-off lot on the east side of DeBaliviere Avenue are targeted for new apartment and retail buildings.
The privately owned strip mall to the north of the Bi-State parking lot is also part of the project, slated for a four-story, 106-apartment building with 16,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.
 
The Bi-State parking lot will be turned into a six-story building with 108 apartments and almost 13,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. Metro’s drop-off lot across the street would become a five-story, 51-apartment building with 5,000 square feet of street-level retail. Plans also call for public art and streetscape improvements. (Post-Dispatch)

Over the last quarter century other developers have also talked about developing around the station. Maybe it’ll finally happen. Over the last few years we have seen high-end high-density housing filling in gaps along Pershing Ave, to the East of DeBaliviere. Yet, five houses West on De Giverville, facing the parking lot to be developed. are two houses in poor condition.

The house missing the roof is 5727 De Giverville.

Across from a light rail transit station for 25 years. Part of the problem with this area is a lack of retail/services — namely a grocery store:

5727 De Giverville Avenue has a Walk Score of 64 out of 100. This location is Somewhat Walkable so some errands can be accomplished on foot.

5727 De Giverville Avenue is a three minute walk from the MLB MetroLink Blue Line and the MLR MetroLink Red Line at the FOREST PARK METROLINK STATION stop. (WalkScore)

Hopefully the new development will substantially increase the WalkScore for this area.  Certainly couldn’t lower it!

Metro’s free park & ride lot was redone in 2006 when the Blue line was added. This structure is also from 2006. The houses on De Giverville can be seen in the background.
Full on weekdays, the free parking at the station is usually empty on the weekends
The old kiss & ride space on the East side of DeBaliviere will also be developed.

I’ve previously posted about how awful the strip retail building at DeGiverville & DeBaliviere is — especially need to a light rail station.

Low-density suburban style strip center isn’t an asset for the area, tenants include Metro’s Transit Access Center where Call-A-Ride operations are and where disabled riders. like myself, go to get a reduced=fare card. Very low volume.

Can’t wait to see that building demolished!

Hopefully a developer will snap up the former Talayna’s on the NE corner of DeBaliviere & Pershing.

While I’m happy a new developer is interested in this area, I’m not thrilled Metro will still have 100 parking spaces (per Wikipedia).  This just increases the cost of housing & commercial rents in the new development — meaning those of us on the low end of the income scale who use transit won’t be able to afford to live here.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers Want the Impossible: Amtrak Trains at St. Louis Union Station

November 21, 2018 Featured, History/Preservation, Planning & Design, Transportation, Travel Comments Off on Readers Want the Impossible: Amtrak Trains at St. Louis Union Station
Grand Hall in St. Louis Union Station

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll readers overwhelmingly indicated they’d consider using Amtrak if trains departed/arrived at St. Louis Union Station.

Q: Agree or disagree: I’d consider taking Amtrak if trains arrived/departed at St. Louis Union Station

  • Strongly agree: 22 [53.66%]
  • Agree: 6 [14.63%]
  • Somewhat agree: 2 [4.88%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 5 [12.2%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Disagree: 3 [7.32%]
  • Strongly disagree: 3 [7.32%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

Well, to the nearly 75% who agreed I have some bad news for you. Amtrak trains will never use Union Station again. Ever.

For more than 28 years I’ve lived in St. Louis I’ve heard people suggesting the return of Amtrak to Union Station and for 28 years I’ve just been struck by a complete lack of understanding about rail service and station design.

The decline of trail [rail] travel began following World War II, as traffic dropped significantly, even while railroads began to update their passenger fleets with new equipment in the 1950s hoping to retain passengers and ward off ever increasing competition from the automobile and airplane (the development of jet propulsion only worsened the situation).  Technically, passenger rail travel peaked in this country during the first two decades of the 20th century and slowly declined thereafter, particularly with the onset of the Great Depression.  However, it also did not help that President Dwight Eisenhower enacted the Interstate Highway System in 1956 (also known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act).  By that time railroads were beginning to see the writing on the wall and cutback their services, with most giving it up altogether by the start of Amtrak in 1971. (American-Rail.com)

By the time the stock market crashed in 1929 St. Louis Union Station had been open for 35 years. This was a poor time to be the largest U.S. railroad station. The last train pulled out from the huge train shed 49 years later.  The main building (from “Headhouse”) hadn’t been used for nearly a decade. With only a few trains per day having such a huge facility made no sense. It would’ve happened sooner if another option existed.

Under the big shed in 2012

You might point out the Kansas City still uses their Union Station for Amtrak service. Yes, yes they do.  It’s a through-station, not an end-station.

Through-stations and end-stations are completely different design and planning problems.  They generate completely different kinds of space and completely different sensations of arrival and departure.  It’s pointless, for example, to compare New York’s dreary Penn Station, a through-station, with magnificent Grand Central, an end-station.  They are apples and radishes. (Human Transit)

In the 19th century when 22 railroads built Union Station they correctly saw St. Louis’ population computing to grow. They wanted a facility they wouldn’t outgrow like the original St. Louis Union Station on 12th (Tucker).  They decided their station would be an end-station, not a through-station.  Half a century later the decline of rail passengers, the failure of passenger rail companies, and the fact Chicago beat St. Louis as the midwest end city meant St. Louis Union Station, a beautiful design, was incredibly obsolete for rail travel.

Kansas City’s Union Station has been able to reutilize most of the building to other uses, with Amtrak using a small part for ticketing and waiting, It’s a short distance out to the platform at the through tracks. From the back of the shed at St. Louis Union Station it’s still a very long distance to the tracks — plus office buildings and the closed movie theater block the path.

In the 70s Amshack was built at the tracks. I recall using this in the 90s. Then a slightly nicer Amshack 2 was built, I used this in the aughts. The station I’ve used the most opened a decade ago…today. Yes, it took until November 21, 2008 to open a proper station. I was there for the ribbon cutting ten years ago, and I’ve been back many times since as a traveling customer.

Comptroller Darlene Green speaking at the opening ten years ago

Over the last decade the maintenance was allowed to get behind, prompting me to label it Amshack 3 in 2017.  Thankfully it was improved on my last train trip, in February 2018.

Please understand Union Station is a magnificent asset to St. Louis — but it was last useful as a train station about 75 years ago.  Embrace the current station, or use the new Alton Station if you’re headed North on Amtrak. The rail improvements started during the Obama administration have greatly improved the St. Louis to Chicago experience.  Stop waiting for trains at Union Station — use the station we’ve had for the last decade.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Would You Take Amtrak If St. Louis Union Station Was Still Used For Trains?

November 18, 2018 Featured, Sunday Poll, Transportation Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Would You Take Amtrak If St. Louis Union Station Was Still Used For Trains?
Please vote below

It has been over four decades since Amtrak stopped using St. Louis Union Station for passenger rail.  When it opened in 1894, replacing the original St. Louis Union Station, it had 42 tracks.

At its height, the station combined the St. Louis passenger services of 22 railroads, the most of any single terminal in the world. In the 1940s, it handled 100,000 passengers a day. The famous photograph of Harry S. Truman holding aloft the erroneous Chicago Tribune headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman”, was shot at the station as Truman headed back to Washington, D.C., from Independence, Missouri, after the 1948 Presidential election. (Wikipedia)

Amtrak, formed in 1971, used the station until a “temporary” station could be built along the tracks to the East. That began in 1978. There was a period where the Union Station’s main “headhouse” wasn’t used but trains still used the shed — the design allowed access to tracks without going through the main building.

I first came to St. Louis just 12 years after passenger rail service ended at Union Station. I had just traveled by train from Union Station in Washington DC though Union Station in Chicago to a tiny station in Kansas. There I caught a Greyhound bus back to Oklahoma City where I got my car and drove to St. Louis to take up permanent residence. However, passenger rail service had been in decline since before I was born. Interstate highways & air travel made rail service seem obsolete — hence the government’s consolidation of numerous rail companies to create Amtrak.

For 40 years rail service has been at locations other than St. Louis Union Station.  Does this make a difference when deciding how to travel?

Today’s non-scientific poll will close automatically at 8pm tonight. Wednesday I’ll have more on this topic.

— Steve Patterson

 

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