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St. Louis Lambert International Airport Needs An Open Regional Approach, Not Private Shareholders

January 15, 2020 Featured, Politics/Policy, STL Region, Transportation Comments Off on St. Louis Lambert International Airport Needs An Open Regional Approach, Not Private Shareholders

Recently St. Louis Mayor  Lyda Krewson announced the process to consider bids to privatize St. Louis Lambert International Airport, which began with her predecessor, was dead. To many of us this was a good thing.

This dawn photograph of the Lambert Main Terminal was taken in June 1956, less than 4 months after its opening. Photograph by Ralph D’Oench, Missouri Historical Society Collections

Whenever I’d post about airport privatization a reader would post a comment like this:

What the vast majority of people who oppose privatization don’t know is that — in spite of the airport bringing in significantly more revenue than expenses — the City of St. Louis only gets roughly $6 million towards general revenue.

The 1994 FAA reauthorization bill banned airports from taking airport revenue and using it for non-airport uses. St. Louis is one of about a dozen airports which were grandfathered in, but are limited to the amount of money they took at that time, adjusted for inflation.

If the airport were privatized, all revenues from the lessor would be able to go towards general revenue — which would be significantly more than the $6 million a year today.

So basically this is preventing St. Louis from pulling too much money out of the airport, requiring most revenue to service airport debt and to reinvest.

Privatization would enable more money to be siphoned out of the airport — money the winning bidder would cheerfully send to their shareholders, out of state/country home office, donate to friendly politicians, and pay former politicians working as consultants. The city would also get more revenue for new trash trucks, etc.  Would private management at the airport enable it to generate more revenue than it currently does to offset the money leaving the airport? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Airports are important to the region they serve. The City of St. Louis is a small part of the region — both population and land area. Decisions made about the airport should place the interests of the region ahead of shareholders.

Airports, it seems, are the new convention centers — pressure to keep up with others. A recent story on this:

The average airport in the U.S. is now 40 years old, and experts estimate $128 billion in new investment is needed over the next five years just to keep up with the growing number of flyers.

Van Cleave asked Barnes, “Things stay the way they are now, will a traveler’s experience at U.S. airports get better or worse in the years to come?”

“Quite frankly, we think it’ll get worse,” she replied.

That fear has led to a nationwide building boom, with major overhauls in progress at nearly 50 airports – including Orlando, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake City. (CBS News)

Our airport an important asset for the city & region. Rather than go down the privatization route, the city & region need to have open dialog about what we want from our airport, set goals. Then we need brainstorming on ways to achieve these goals.

Not a backdoor process designed to enrich the few players. We need to reach a consensus on the problems and possible solutions. Not sure this is even possible in our city/region.

Here are the non-scientific results of the recent Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Mayor Krewson should not have abruptly ended the privatization process without first reviewing some bids.

  • Strongly agree: 2 [9.52%]
  • Agree: 1 [4.76%]
  • Somewhat agree: 0 [0%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [4.76%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 1 [4.76%]
  • Disagree: 5 [23.81%]
  • Strongly disagree: 11 [52.38%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

I’m glad the process stopped when it did because I can hear elected officials saying “It’s too late to stop now” has it continued. Remember, always follow the money.

— Steve Patterson

 

More Changes Coming To Central West End Light Rail Station

December 23, 2019 Central West End, Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on More Changes Coming To Central West End Light Rail Station

When our light rail line, MetroLink, opened in July 1993 the Central West End (CWE) station was one of the original.  This was prior to the city vacating Euclid Ave. for vehicular travel. For the next 13 years the station operated with two separate platforms — one for eastbound and one for westbound — with the tracks in the center,

In August 2006 the new Blue Line opened further west.  But the CWE station had been rebuilt from two platforms to one center platform. This reduced elevators from two to one.

July 2010 looking down on the station from what used to be Euclid Ave on the west.
Looking east toward Taylor from the CWE MetroLink platform, 2014

The station, the busiest in the system, remain largely unchanged until last year when the platform was extended in length. The trains aren’t any longer, but the eastbound trains now stop further east from the stair/elevator. This was done to reduce pedestrian congestion.

Construction on the platform extension, November 2018.

So what’s changing? From Metro’s December 20th press release:

Station Redesign Details:

  • New, monitored entrance/exit at the street level from Euclid Avenue on the west end of the station featuring a welcome center at the top of the stairs that lead down to the MetroLink platform
  • A new, wider staircase with a center handrail connecting the new Euclid Avenue entrance/exit to the platform to better accommodate passengers
  • Relocating the elevator on the station platform to relieve congestion
  • New, upgraded platform lighting
  • An expanded canopy to cover 70% of the MetroLink platform. The current canopy covers 30% of the MetroLink platform.
  • Safety improvements including a speed bump, stop sign, and new lighting at the entry to the MetroBus area of the garage which connects to the east entrance/exit of the platform.

Construction begins today, the elevator will be closed starting Thursday (12/26/19). When the station was reconfigured in 2006 they should’ve made the platform wider. Hopefully the new station will have a substantially larger elevator — and that a wheelchair user waiting for the elevator won’t block others.

Obviously during the construction those of us that need the elevator will have to use the east end of the platform and enter/exit via the CWE MetroBus Transit Center. Metro’s release indicates other closures may happen throughout the project but that advance notice will be given.  Unfortunately, they did not indicate how long this project will last.

— Steve Patterson

 

Highway On-Ramp Over Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center Reopened

December 16, 2019 Featured, Transportation Comments Off on Highway On-Ramp Over Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center Reopened

Westbound ramps onto I-64, aka highway 40, are now reopened after being closed since late September:

Starting next Monday, drivers heading west from downtown will need to avoid the ramp from 14th Street to westbound I-64, as crews will close the ramp for two months to remove, repair and replace the driving surface.

Crews will close the ramp after 7 a.m. Monday, September 23. It is expected to reopen in mid-November. (MoDOT)

The ramp from 14th Street didn’t open in November, as originally planned. It reopened earlier this month.

The underside of the ramp in early August.
Same ramp on December 2nd

This ramp was interesting as it goes over Metro’s Civic Center MetroBus Transit Center. It’ll be nice not having to go around all the barricades when going from bus to light rail, and vice versa.

New infrastructure is sexier, but it is far more efficient to maintain what we’ve already got — we can’t afford neglect and total replacement.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Should Red-Light Cameras Return To St. Louis?

November 24, 2019 Crime, Featured, Politics/Policy, Sunday Poll, Transportation Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Red-Light Cameras Return To St. Louis?
Please vote below

Last week we heard the city is interested in bringing back red-light cameras:

We haven’t seen red-light cameras in St. Louis for a few years, but now the city is considering bringing them back — and the tickets that come with them.

“We’re looking for a tool that can help us save lives,” Director of Operations Todd Waelterman said.

He said police are short-staffed and have too much on their plate, so they’re exploring other options to make the streets safer. (KSDK)

This is the subject of today’s poll.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight. More information, my thoughts, and results Wednesday morning.

— Steve Patterson

 

Charging Electric Vehicles Part 1: Charging Stations

October 21, 2019 Featured, Transportation Comments Off on Charging Electric Vehicles Part 1: Charging Stations

Though I’ve had a couple of car-free periods, I’ve owned a car most of the nearly 37 years since I got my driver’s license. All my 17 vehicles have had an internal combustion engine (ICE).

I’ve wanted a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or electric vehicle (EV) for a while now. We even had a Tesla Model S at our 2014 wedding.  Eventually we’ll have a more more fuel efficient vehicle.

A friend’s new Tesla Model 3 on South Grand

More and more friends now have EVs. Recently a friend picked me up for lunch in her new Tesla Model 3 (shown above). Another friend and his wife are new owners of a Chevy Bolt. As an apartment dweller the idea of home charging seems challenging, if not impossible.

Last month I shared the following on this blog’s Facebook page:

Would be nice to see a former/current gas station in St. Louis go this direction…“The first gas station in the U.S….

Posted by UrbanReview ST LOUIS on Friday, September 27, 2019

Here’s a direct link to the CNBC article.

The St. Louis region has hundreds of current and former gas stations, it would be nice to see just one make the switch. But where? With most EV owners charging at home at night, with some able to  at work during the day, is there a need for such a charging station?

I remember when this former BP gas station was built at Lackland & Midland, it closed sometime between 2008 & 2012.

One thing is certain, as society switches from ICE vehicles to EVs many more gas stations will close. There just won’t be the need for some much of our metropolitan area devoted to refueling ICE vehicles.  Perhaps as we transition from ownership to autonomous vehicles, that we just summon as needed, current gas stations will become places for these vehicles to wait for the next customer.

The St. Louis region does have EV charges spread around, but many are hit or miss. If everyone is charging at home and their EV gets over 200 miles on a charge why bother with public charging stations? Well, an owner might drive more miles than originally planned. Others might be visiting St. Louis and want to add to their available distance.

A Chevy Bolt EV charging at 620 Lucas in downtown St. Louis.
Google Maps & PlugShare.org list this auto body shop at St. Charles Rock Rd & Hanley as a place to charge your EV. Perhaps when they’re open…

With EV prices now within reach of Millennial and Gen-Z buyers they’ll become more common. More manufacturers are releasing EVs, or will within the new few years. These include a second Porsche EV, the first of five Volvo EVs, and future ID models from Volkswagen. Ford is planning several EVs, including a Mustang-inspired crossover.

To facilitate sales when EVs arrive in Ford showrooms, they recently announced access to a charger network:

Ford doesn’t currently offer any electric vehicles, but it announced Thursday that, once it does, it will offer the largest North American network of electric vehicle chargers of any automaker — including Tesla.

Unlike Tesla, though, Ford didn’t build this charging network on its own. Working with EV charging companies Greenlots and Electrify America, Ford has created what it calls the FordPass Charging Network. When needed, users will be directed to one of the network’s chargers using an app or in the vehicle’s central touch screen. (CNN)

It’ll be interesting to see if two years of free charging helps move Ford EVs. In a future post I’ll look at issues & solutions regarding home charging, including at apartments and on street. I’d also like to do a post on redeveloping former gas stations.

— Steve Patterson

 

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