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Boston’s Copley Square

April 16, 2013 Featured, Travel 2 Comments

Watching the news yesterday I thought the block where the first bomb exploded in Boston looked familiar. I’d only been there once, just over 24 hours, in January 2008, just 2 weeks before my stroke.

I searched online for specifics on the location of the Boston Marathon finish line (see graphics from the Boston Globe’s here and NY Times here) and I quickly realized why I recognized the location, I had stayed the night at the finish line!

The Charlesmark Hotel at 555 Boylston St
The Charlesmark Hotel is basically the finish line point for the Boston Marathon.

My room in the Charlesmark Hotel (655 Boylston St) was in the front, facing Boylston St and the Boston Public Library.  That night I had dinner at the Globe Bar & Cafe at 565 Boylston, facing Copley Square.  The next morning I got up early to see as much Boston as I could before my late afternoon flight back to St. Louis.

Looking west up Copley St from my hotel room. The first bomb went off in this area (right).
Looking west up Copley St from my hotel room. The first bomb went off in this area (right).
From what I've seen online so far the first bomb went off within the left side of this view of Boylston St.
From what I’ve seen online so far the first bomb went off within the left side of this view of Boylston St.

 

Looking east from my hotel room with Copley Square (left) and the Boston Public Library (right)
Looking east from my hotel room with Copley Square (left) and the Boston Public Library (right)
Looking east at Copley Square and Trinity Church
Looking east at Copley Square and Trinity Church by H.H. Richardson
Looking west across Copley Square at the Boston Public Library
Looking west across Copley Square at the Boston Public Library by McKim, Mead and White

The Copley Square area was upscale and I felt safe walking around, the scale was very nice. The events of yesterday are not an indictment of the area, it was just a target because of the event.  I hope to return again!

My heart goes out to the victims and the people of Boston.

— Steve Patterson

 

Wayfinding In St. Louis

The St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission has been rolling out a new wayfinding system in the region for a couple of years now. From a January 2011 Post-Dispatch editorial:

The St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission has launched a $2.9 million initiative to design, build and install an attractive and comprehensive system of street, road and highway signs. The idea is to direct tourists and residents to a rich array of sites and attractions in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County.

The project has been in the works since 2008. So far, about 300 signs — highway, street-level and pedestrian — have been installed or are slated for installation. The signs aren’t cheap: Fabricating and installing a large highway “guide” sign costs more than $20,000. (stltoday.com)

For example:

cvcwayfinding7
Wayfinding sign on Arsenal just east of Grand

Lately these have begun to turn up downtown.

Large wayfinding sign (right) at the 14th Street exit from I-64
Large wayfinding sign (right) at the 14th Street exit from I-64
wayfinding olive
Wayfinding sign at Olive & 15th
wayfinding olive
Wayfinding sign at Olive & Tucker
Wayfinding
Wayfinding sign at Tucker & Washington
Wayfinding
Wayfinding sign at Washington between 13th & 14th

Until the other day all the signs I’d seen have been like the ones shown above, or larger highway exit signs. Them I finally spotted, at Citygarden, a sign to help pedestrians downtown.

wayfinding
Wayfinding sign at Citygarden

But it was placed in the middle of a planter bed so I wasn’t able to get close enough to evaluate its effectiveness. Great planning!

I get asked directions often and I enjoy helping others. Two common requests are for places very close to my loft: the Social Security office at  717 N 16th St and City Museum across the street at 701 N 15th St. The other day at 10th & Washington a woman asked where to find the “landmark Arch.” I pointed east on Washington Ave.  When she asked if she should then turn right I told her she’d see it.

The following describes the process that took place to establish the system:

The Missouri Department of Transportation, along with the CVC, St. Louis City, Laumier Place, Grand Center and Forest Park funded the research needed to implement the program. Three “attraction corridors” were created in determining the locations of the signs. The first corridor is Broadway, second is Grand, and third is Kingshighway, with all three connecting major attractions and districts in the city. The entire program, including the research to implement the program cost 1.5 million dollars. CVC did apply for grants but was not successful in receiving any funding. The CVC worked with MODOT to identify those organizations that would provide funding for the wayfinding program. An important goal of the program for MODOT was to reduce sign clutter on the interstates in order to comply with Federal Highway standards. (continue at Cherokee Street News)

Hopefully I’ll be able to locate another pedestrian-oriented wayfinding map to evaluate. I don’t have a clear picture of the overall system and the CVC website wasn’t helpful.

Searching the CVC website for "wayfinding" and "way-finding" produced the same results.
Searching the CVC website for “wayfinding” and “way-finding” produced the same results.

Have you seen any of these new wayfinding signs? If so, what do you think?

— Steve Patterson

 

Springfield IL & Niemann Foods Don’t Understand Pedestrian-Friendly Design

Recently a reader in Springfield IL, the Illinois state capital 90 miles from St. Louis, alerted me to a new County Market grocery store about to open on the NW edge of their downtown. A local newspaper article  talked about the 11,000+ residents within a mile of downtown Springfield and 68,000+ within 5 miles. Tom Moore, director of the new store, was quoted:

“All day long, they come in and say, ‘When are you going to open?’” said Moore. “With the hospitals close by and the apartments close by, we’re expecting quite a bit of foot traffic here. “We’re targeting the whole downtown area, whether it’s the medical community or the neighborhoods.” (State Journal-Register)

Great, they recognize there are many people in the area and they expected lots of foot traffic. Memorial Medical is 2/10th of a mile to the north and St. John’s Hospital is a half mile directly east. County Market is a 100-store chain operated by Niemann Foods based in Quincy IL, an affiliate of Supervalu.  Supervalu is the parent company of St. Louis-based chains Save-A-Lot and Shop ‘N Save. More on the new market later. Springfield’s Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team (R\UDAT)  report from 2002 speaks briefly to making downtown pedestrian-friendly:

As a neighborhood, downtown Springfield should offer a pedestrian friendly environment with pleasant streetscapes, welcoming crosswalks, green space, or other “softscape” areas, parallel or diagonal parking as a buffer from vehicular traffic, adequate signage and easy to understand “way-finding” systems for visitors. The “way-finding” system should be easy to use, but should be somewhat unobtrusive in keeping with the neighborhood environment. Although the linkages are not yet established, the contiguous districts of commercial and historical importance in Springfield – the Lincoln home, the Capitol District – are very walkable from the central downtown core. A visitor will find it convenient to park in downtown Springfield and walk to these and other nearby attractions. Such programs as Lincoln Walks to Work and Looking for Lincoln will reinforce this walk-ability and contribute to the linkages between the downtown and the Lincoln home neighborhood. (Downtown as a Neighborhood)

In that same section they recognized the need to for additional retail to serve local needs, including a grocery store:

The retail mix should meet the needs of the downtown residents, the downtown employees, the residents in the neighborhoods surrounding downtown and downtown visitors and tourists. This mix should include coffee shops, gourmet retail and take out, bookstores, general grocery and merchandise, dry cleaners that offer bundle service, souvenir and general gift shops, ice cream, bakery and other service based businesses for residents. Bringing these uses into the downtown depends on achieving a larger resident population and the resulting greater purchasing power.

The Springfield Strategy 2020 report, completed in 2010, certainly says all the right things speaks more to making Springfield pedestrian-friendly:

“The Springfield of 2020 has preserved residential neighborhoods surrounding the downtown, which boosts pedestrian traffic in the downtown historic district and acts as a buffer to protect the downtown core.” (p23) “We believe that an effective transportation system must also include facilities to encourage biking and pedestrian traffic.” (p27) “The Springfield of 2020 will be pedestrian friendly with sidewalks being maintained, constructed and reconstructed when necessary throughout the city. This is but one way that the Springfield of 2020 will be know as a city that stresses better accessibility for all of its citizens. In addition, requirements for new subdivisions will be developed to encourage the development of amenities for walking and bicycling, as well as additional green space in all new subdivisions.” (p27) “The Springfield of 2020 will include bike paths downtown that have been sponsored and built by the city to encourage biking to area businesses and work places. The city will also develop new pedestrian walkways to encourage pedestrian traffic to historic and government sites so as to reduce downtown vehicular traffic and increase tourist use of area businesses.” (p27)

Great, Springfield seemed to know what was needed to achieve their objectives. Or not… The new County Market that’s expecting lots of pedestrians opened on March 8th, I visited on the 21st.

The main entrance faces west, with a surface parking lot between the 2nd Street public sidewalk and the door. No ADA accessible  route is provided.
The main entrance faces west, with a surface parking lot between the 2nd Street public sidewalk and the door. No ADA accessible route is provided.

Remember, they’re expecting lots of foot traffic to this store. But 2nd Street is a minor road, Carpenter Street is a main arterial. But access is no better from that new public sidewalk.

Looking east on Carpenter St from the County Market auto driveway
Looking east on Carpenter St from the County Market auto driveway
A second entrance to County Market is located on the corner, facing Carpenter St.
A second entrance to County Market is located on the corner, facing Carpenter St. Seeing the marking on the pavement you might think that was to guide pedestrians safely to the public sidewalk.
But it leads to disabled parking, not the sidewalk.
But it leads to disabled parking, not the sidewalk.

Again, they’re expecting lots of foot traffic yet they’ve made zero provisions for all these pedestrians to reach the store. Like so many places, the pedestrians will be forced to compete with the cars.

A customer in a manual wheelchair leaves the County Market via the auto exit on 3/8/2013, opening day. Photo by Steven Simpson-Black

Springfield wants to be pedestrian-friendly by 2020, but they allow this to happen? They also assembled the land and did a $2 million dollar TIF!

Planning and Economic Development Director Mike Farmer hopes it will act as a catalyst for further business growth near the city’s downtown and medical district.

Niemann Foods says 110 full and part-time staff have been hired from the area. The store’s floor plan and design has been called more “urban” than most County Market locations.

The smaller store features a coffee shop with drive-through window and upstairs lounge/dining area with free wireless internet access. A similar store has been built in the heart of the University of Illinois’ Champaign-Urbana campus. (WUIS)

The County Market location at 331 E Stoughton St, Champaign, IL (Google Maps) has the same look, two entrances, and an upstairs — unfortunately that’s where the similarities end. Champaign’s corner entrance is on a different corner and placed at the intersection, while the main entrance faces a surface parking lot.

The secondary entrance to the County Market in Champaign IL helps define the street and welcomes pedestrians.  Source: Google Maps/Streetvew
The secondary entrance to the County Market in Champaign IL helps define the street and welcomes pedestrians. Source: Google Maps/Streetvew
The main entrance in Champaign fronts onto another street with the parking lot on the opposite side.
The main entrance in Champaign fronts onto another street with the parking lot on the opposite side. Source: Google Maps/Streetvew

The Champaign County Foods store lacks the two drive-through windows of Springfield — one for coffee and one for pharmacy. I’m pretty sure drive-through service windows decrease pedestrian traffic, not increase it.

Springfield & Niemann Foods had a chance to build a good urban prototype that would’ve been equally accessible by pedestrians and motorists, but they blew it big time. They need to at least provide an ADA Pedestrian Route from both Carpenter and 2nd Streets to each entrance.

Municipalities and businesses in the St. Louis region make the same mistakes too often.

– Steve Patterson

 

Poll: How Often Do You Rent A Car?

Rental cars have been around for decades, especially serving business travelers. Enterprise began in St. Louis serving the needs of others needing a car temporarily. It is a huge industry:

In 2011, the U.S. car rental industry achieved record rental revenue of $22.4 billion, an 8.1% increase over 2010. (Auto Rental News)

I hadn’t rented a car in nearly a decade but last week I had to pick up my brother in Oklahoma City,OK and get to Amarillo, TX on short notice. The only mode possible was drive — but I sold my car last April.

Chevy Impala rental in Elk City, OK
Chevy Impala rental in Elk City, OK
ABOVE: Returning Chevy Impala after a 1,500 mile trip
ABOVE: Returning Chevy Impala after a 1,500 mile trip

I requested an economy car but Budget’s disability person thought I needed hand controls instead of just a spinner knob, but I ended up with a full0-size Impala. I’d talked to the folks at the Enterprise location on Washington Ave near Jefferson a month ago but I had to go with Budget because Enterprise locations weren’t open on Tuesday. Seriously!?!

Turns out insurance at Budget is significantly than Enterprise.  Still, the cost was nearly $300. I don’t think I’ve spent that much on the total of all prior rentals I’ve had over the years. In the past I’ve rented cars when mine was in the shop as well as on trips.

The poll question this week asks how often you rent a car: never, rarely, occasionally or never. I’d say I’m in the rarely camp. Vote in the right sidebar and share your thoughts below.

— Steve Patterson

 

No Ethanol

I haven’t written about the gasoline vs ethanol debate since 2008 (100% Gas Sold Here) but I was reminded again in Oklahoma last week. My brother wanted to make sure we could get gasoline instead of “alcohol.” He was buying the fuel for the rental car so I didn’t question it.

ABOVEL; No ethanol pumps are very clearly marked in Oklsahoma
ABOVEL; No ethanol pumps are very clearly marked in Oklahoma

Pure gasoline advocates say the vehicle runs better and goes farther on a gallon. Gasoline in St. Louis is actually E10 or E15, a blend of mostly gasoline with some ethanol, aka gasohol.

Ethanol is an alcohol-based fuel made by fermenting and distilling starch crops, such as corn. It can also be made from “cellulosic biomass” such as trees and grasses. The use of ethanol can reduce our dependence upon foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

E10 (gasohol)

E10 (also called “gasohol”) is a blend of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline sold in many parts of the country. All auto manufacturers approve the use of blends of 10% ethanol or less in their gasoline vehicles. However, vehicles will typically go 3–4% fewer miles per gallon on E10 than on straight gasoline. (fueleconomy.gov)

The rental car was actually a GM flex fuel vehicle so we could’ve filled up with E85.

ABOVE: Three of the 6-8 pumps at this 7-11 were ethanol-free
ABOVE: Three of the 6-8 two-sided pumps at this 7-11 were ethanol-free

Ethanol is touted as a reducing pollution as well as being domestically produced, reducing dependance on foreign oil. The 100% gasoline costs a bit more per gallon, but again you can go farther on each gallon. Thoughts?

— Steve Patterson

 

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