St. Louis Board of Aldermen Week 20 of 2017-2018 Session

 

 The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 20th week of the 2017-2018 session. TWO NEW BOARD BILLS ON THE AGENDA* FOR INTRODUCTION TODAY 10//20/17: *Note that just because a bill is on the agenda doesn’t mean it’ll be introduced, similarly, bills not on the agenda might be …

Opinion: Professional Lobbyists Shouldn’t Be Aldermen

 

 The 28 members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen are paid by taxpayers to pass legislation that hopefully is beneficial to the city. Lobbyists, on the other hand, are paid by clients to push for legislation that benefits their interests. Lobbyists don’t belong in a legislative body, even if …

Missouri Side of St. Louis Region Voting on November 7th

 

 Three weeks from tomorrow (11/7/17) voters on the Missouri side of the St. Louis region will go to the polls to vote on various issues and, in one case, fill a vacant seat. Missouri voters will need to Show It 2 Vote. City of St. Louis: 2nd Ward Voters in the 2nd …

Sunday Poll: Is It OK For An Alderman To Also Be A Lobbyist?

 

 The elected office of St. Louis Aldermen is considered a part0time position, most have jobs. The jobs they hold vary greatly. The job of one new alderman has been in the news recently: Last month, a company offered to outfit every St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officer with a camera for …

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Opinion: St. Louis Expects Lots of Lanes Because of Harland Bartholomew

October 11, 2017 Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on Opinion: St. Louis Expects Lots of Lanes Because of Harland Bartholomew
 

Before the automobile public right-of-ways (PROW), public-owned land that connects private property, was shared by pedestrians, people on horseback, horse-drawn carriages, trollies pulled by horses, etc.  PROW in cities were becoming increasingly crowded. Many roads were unpaved, those that were in cobblestones. Waste from horses & mules made the PROW filthy.

The new automobile made the PROW even more crowded. More than a century ago, a civil engineer in his late 20s arrived in St. Louis.

Harland Bartholomew (September 14, 1889 – December 2, 1989) was an American urban planner. Although a civil engineer by training and disposition, Harland’s career started just as the automobile production was about to take off, industrial development was booming and urban populations grew. The novel challenges and opportunities brought about by this new form of transport inspired the invention of new community concepts and required the development of new approaches to planning transportation in cities. These challenges called for the skills of an engineer to analyze transportation needs quantitiatively as well as those of a person passionate about urban design and social conditions. Harland was able to deliver these qualities. Starting in 1911 and continuing until 1930 Harland Bartholomew created new methodologies and new designs and concepts which made contributions that remain relevant to urban planning in North America today. This novel approach became known as comprehensive planning. His skills and experience were sought by many city planning commissions. Ultimately cities would develop their own in house technical staff to carry on with planning issues. Harland himself was the first full-time planner employed by an American city, and he remained a planner with St. Louis, Missouri for 37 years. During this period both the city of St. Louis and its surrounding areas were thriving and growing. Due to his groundbreaking work he can be described as the father of American and Canadian city planning in the age of the automobile. (Wikipedia)

Bartholomew, like his better-known contemporary, NYC’s Robert Moses, believed it was necessary to destroy the city to save it from itself. Everything prior to the 20th century was wrong for the modern world of the automobile.

Franklin Ave looking East from 9th, 1928. Nothing in this image remains. Collection of the Landmarks Association of St Louis

This make room for the automobile view is clear in Bartholomew’s 1947 plan, from the streets & trafficways section:

Since 1916 St. Louis has expended over $40,000,000 in opening, widening, connecting, and extending the system of major streets. Much has been accomplished in converting a horse and buggy street system to automobile needs. As the total volume of traffic increases, however, certain new needs arise. An example is the desirability of grade separations at extremely heavy intersections, such as at Grand and Market and at Kingshighway and Lindell. Likewise there is a need for complete separation of grade where traffic volume is sufficiently heavy to justify the cost involved. The Federal Government, which has helped finance our splendid system of national highways, has recently revised its policies and Congress has appropriated substantial funds to aid the cities in the construction of express highways and for facilitation of traffic flows from certain selected state highways through metropolitan areas to the central business districts of large cities. Past and present experience reveals the need for four types of major streets and trafficways as follows:

  1. Secondary Streets (4 Lanes)
    Most St. Louis streets were laid out with a width of 60 feet. A considerable volume of traffic can be accommodated in a 60-foot street with a 40-foot roadway, especially if curb parking is restricted at times of heavy traffic flow. Such streets as Nebraska, Compton, and Goodfellow can pr6bably continue for many years to accommodate a considerable volume of traffic flow without widening. All local residential areas require access and must be served either by wide major streets or by these secondary streets which thereby become important integral parts of the major street plan.
  2. Major Streets (6 Lanes)
    Grand Avenue, Chippewa Street, and Easton Avenue are examples of important cross-town routes which accommo date a considerable volume of traffic including mass trans portation facilities (i.e., streetcars or buses). Their general width of 80 feet permits a 54 or 56 foot roadway to accom modate six lanes of traffic. There is need for quite a number of such routes where traffic volume is insufficient to warrantgreater width of the street except by expensive widening of the street.
  3. Major Streets (8 Lanes)
    These are the main traffic ways, as for example Gravois Avenue, Market Street, Natural Bridge Road, Lindell Boulevard and Kingshighway. They are the dominant structural elements of the street plan. Their traffic capacity is unusually high since they permit three or four lanes of moving traffic in each direction. It is impractical to provide for streets with wider roadways because of weaving and complications encountered in traffic control.
  4. Express Highways
    When traffic volume becomes so great that it cannot be accommodated even on eight lane surface highways it becomes necessary to provide for uninterrupted traffic flows through grade separations in the form of depressed roadways in wide right-of-ways or by roadway elevation. An overall right-of-way width of 200 feet is generally considered a minimum standard. This is far more costly than street widening but a limited mileage can be justified where there is sufficient traffic volume.

In today’s money that’s nearby a billion dollars! I’m uncertain if any city carried out the costly widening of the PROW the way St. Louis did. Based solely on my personal observations in other cities, I’d say St. Louis was the most aggressive. It’s no wonder that more than a quarter of those of voted in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll have a problem with road diets.

Q: Agree or disagree: ‘Road Diet’ projects slow traffic too much, cause congestion; should be reversed.

  • Strongly agree 7 [18.42%]
  • Agree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat agree 3 [7.89%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 3 [7.89%]
  • Somewhat disagree 1 [2.63%]
  • Disagree 8 [21.05%]
  • Strongly disagree 14 [36.84%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 2 [5.26%]

Sadly, our road diets have been designed to appease critics, so sidewalks new still too narrow — barely wide enough for existing for traffic.  Motorists usually drive on typically wide Set. Louis area streets then encounter the “Great Streets” section for a brief period before returning to the more common Awful Streets of our region. We’re too timid to do more, so it can have a ater impact on population density, pedestrian/transit rates, etc.

Bartholomew also thought St. Louis’ population in 1970 would increase to 900,000 — it had dropped to 622k. Fingers are crossed we don’t drop below 300k in 2020. If St. Louis wants to grow again the entire region needs to reject the many ways Bartholomew screwed up our region.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis Should Celebrate Indigenous People, Not Columbus

October 9, 2017 Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Should Celebrate Indigenous People, Not Columbus
 
Bocce is one of many long-standing traditions on The Hill. January 2011 photo

One hundred fifty years ago the the fist Columbus Day parade was held in St.Louis — 70 years before becoming a federal holiday.

The Italian American Heritage Corporation is one of the oldest Italian American organization in the United States. It was organized on November 11, 1866 and was incorporated on December 6, 1866 it is composed of many St. Louis Italian-American Organizations, who joined together a number of years ago to ensure that there will always be a Columbus Day Parade.

The first parade was organized by the Fratellanza Society in 1867 through the effort of an Italian settlement in downtown St Louis. The parade route started downtown and terminated at the statue of Chistopher Columbus ( donated by Henry Shaw ) in Tower Park. For many years it has been held on ” The Hill” .

The parade is always the highlight of the Columbus Day celebration by many Italian Organizations to promote the philosophy and culture of their heritage by participating in a Festa after the parade. The Festa is traditionally held in Berra Park. (Facebook page

The Civil War ended two years prior to this first parade. It was now illegal to own other humans as slaves, so why not celebrate another dark path of our history?

Columbus Day has been criticized for celebrating the discovery of a place that was already inhabited and because Columbus himself is considered responsible for the rape and murder of those indigenous people.

“One of the biggest misconceptions about Columbus is that he was righteous,” Leo Killsback, a citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Nation and assistant professor of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University, told CNN. Killsback also noted that Columbus never actually landed in what in the now the United States.

Berkeley Loni Hancock, who was the Mayor of Berkeley in 1992, told TIME Magazine in 2014 that they opted for the alternative to Columbus Day because the existing celebrations were “Eurocentric and [have] ignored the brutal realities of the colonization of indigenous peoples.” (Time) 

I love the Italian neighborhood known as The Hill, but celebrating Columbus needs to stop. Have a festival with lots of food to celebrate Italian-American history in St. Louis.Even keep a parade. Just change the name.

Local governments, however, need to pass legislation to change the name of the holiday. This is important since we ran off Native-Americans and leveled their mounds.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Should Vehicle Lanes Lost During Road Diet Projects Be Put Back?

October 8, 2017 Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Vehicle Lanes Lost During Road Diet Projects Be Put Back?
 
Please vote below

For more than a decade the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, our Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), has been working on a road diet project it calls  The Great Streets Initiative:

East-West Gateway launched the St. Louis Great Streets Initiative in early 2006 to expand the way communities think of their streets. Rather than viewing a roadway project as solely a way to move more cars and trucks faster, the goal of the St. Louis Great Streets Initiative is to trigger economic and social benefits by centering communities around interesting, lively and attractive streets that serve all modes of transportation. (Great Streets)

Communities all over the country have been doing the same thing for the same reasons, but in the Los Angeles area one community is putting lanes back:

The move eliminated traffic lanes and added a bike lane, reducing parts of Venice Boulevard, Pershing Drive, Jefferson Boulevard, Vista del Mar and Culver Street to one lane in each direction in order to slow cars and make streets safer for bike riders.

The plan, however, left area residents in an uproar.

An online petition calling for an end to the project gathered thousands of signatures and an online campaign has raised tens of thousands of dollars for its supporters to take legal action against the city and organize opposition.

The anger over the elimination of lanes prompted an effort to recall Bonin.

The changes announced Wednesday include the restoration of lanes to Vista del Mar while still allowing transportation officials to continue to address the city’s liability issues while maintaining coastal access, Bonin said. (CBS LA)

Today’s poll is about road diet projects like South Grand and Natural Bridge here in St. Louis.

This non-scientific poll will close at 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: Board Bills #133-140

October 6, 2017 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: Board Bills #133-140
 
St. Louis City Hall

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 18h week of the 2017-2018 session. One bill was introduced last week that wasn’t on the published agenda:

Board Bill No. 133 | Vacation of Primm St. from Reilly westwardly

BOARD BILL # 133 INTRODUCED BY: ALDERWOMAN SARAH MARTIN An ordinance recommended by the Board of Public Service to conditionally vacate above surface, surface and sub-surface rights for vehicle, equestrian and pedestrian travel in Primm Street from Reilly Avenue westwardly 96.45′ to a point in City Blocks 3126 and 3150 in the City of St. Louis, Missouri, as hereinafter described, in accordance with Charter authority, and in conformity with Section l4 of Article XXI of the Charter and imposing certain conditions on such vacation.

Maybe if we give away all the public right-of-way our city will be great again…

ON THE AGENDA* FOR INTRODUCTION TODAY 10/6/17:

*Note that just because a bill is on the agenda doesn’t mean it’ll be introduced, similarly, bills not on the agenda might be introduced if they suspend the rules to do so. This information is based on the published agenda as of yesterday @ 8am:

  • B.B.#134 – Green –An ordinance concerning the protection of First Amendment rights of protesters, repealing ordinance 15.52.010, and enacting in lieu of it clarifying policies relating to improving police community relations with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and limiting the use of chemical agents.
  • B.B.#135 – Davis –An Ordinance recommended and approved by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment authorizing and directing the Director of Airports and the Comptroller, owner and operator of St. Louis Lambert International Airport to enter into and execute, the First Amendment to Professional Service Agreement for Fleet Vehicles and Special Equipment Maintenance /Repairs Services to the Professional Service Agreement for Fleet Vehicles & Special Equipment Maintenance/Repair Services, between the City and Complete Auto Body & Repair; containing a severability clause; and containing an emergency clause.
  • B.B.#136 – Davis –An ordinance pertaining to leases on the unimproved wharf repealing Ordinance 66275 and enacting a new ordinance authorizing the Port Authority Commission, within six months prior to the expiration, extension, execution, or renewal of any lease on the unimproved wharf, to negotiate the rates and other terms of conditions of a lease; and if such fails, to advertise for proposals in newspapers of general circulation, the city journal and trade journals of national publications, and containing a severability clause.
  • B.B.#137 – Green –An ordinance to revise Section 17.76.020 of the Revised Code of the City, Ordinance 67757 Section One approved November 5, 2007, pertaining to Residential Disabled Parking, to allow an eligible person whose vehicle is owned by another to apply for a residential disabled parking space permit.
  • B.B.#138 – Roddy –An ordinance authorizing and directing the Mayor and the Comptroller to execute and deliver the Fifth Supplemental Trust Indenture; authorizing and directing the taking of other actions and approval and execution of other documents as necessary or desirable to carry out and comply with the intent hereof; superseding provisions of prior ordinances of the City to the extent inconsistent with the terms hereof; and containing a severability clause.
  • B.B.#139 – Moore –Pursuant to Ordinance 68937, an ordinance authorizing the honorary street name, Norma Leggette Lane, will begin at the intersection of Bishop P.L. Scott and Garfield and run southeast on Garfield to North Vandeventer.
  • B.B.#140 – Howard –An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for the 5335 Gilson Ave.

The meeting begins at 10am, past meetings and a live broadcast can be watched online here. See list of all board bills for the 2017-2018 session.

— Steve Patterson

Opinion: Our Gas Prices Are Way Too Low

October 4, 2017 Economy, Featured, Transportation Comments Off on Opinion: Our Gas Prices Are Way Too Low
 

Gasoline here in the U.S.is cheap compared to much of the world.

The average price of gasoline around the world is 4.09 U.S. Dollar per us gallon. However, there is substantial difference in these prices among countries. As a general rule, richer countries have higher prices while poorer countries and the countries that produce and export oil have significantly lower prices. One notable exception is the U.S. which is an economically advanced country but has low gas prices. The differences in prices across countries are due to the various taxes and subsidies for gasoline. All countries have access to the same petroleum prices of international markets but then decide to impose different taxes. As a result, the retail price of gasoline is different. (GlobalPetrolPrices)

Comparing gas prices alone doesn’t tell the full picture. For that I turned to a handy Bloomberg site,

Global gas prices are on the decline—about 2.3 percent, on average, in the past three months. Behind that modest decrease is a wide range of price swings felt differently around the world. We ranked 61 countries by three economic measures to see which has the most affordable gas and which feels the most pain at the pump.

It listed the US is the third most affordable — behind Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Initially I decided to limit myself to the G7 countries:

Canada

Canada is seeking to restore its image as a leader on global warming with a nationwide tax on carbon pollution. The country has a lot to lose: Vast reserves of difficult-to-extract oil will mean either an environmental toll to produce it or an economic toll to keep in the ground. Cheap gasoline in Canada goes hand in hand with high consumption—only Americans use more per person.

France

The French can afford to pay for their expensive gasoline, but they’re increasingly turning to electric cars instead. French automakers Peugeot and Renault are both competing in the expanding market for EVs. France has one of the world’s highest EV sales rates and one of the densest charging networks.

Germany

German gas isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s little bother for the average driver in Europe’s largest economy. Gas consumption is average and is likely to decrease as the country commits to battery-powered cars. Incentives were introduced for car buyers in 2016, and BMW and Volkswagen are now working to electrify their fleets.

Italy

Car ownership in the home country of Ferrari and Maserati is among the highest in the world. However, the prolonged slump in global oil prices offered less relief to Italian drivers than in most countries, largely because of the country’s high taxes on fuel.

Japan

Japan’s long-standing national gasoline tax helped its carmakers take an early lead in developing fuel-efficient vehicles. Toyota and Honda invested big in fuel-cell technology, while the Nissan Leaf became the world’s best-selling electric vehicle. Japan now has more public battery chargers than gas stations.

United Kingdom

Sales of electric vehicles are accelerating in the U.K.—one of the biggest markets for battery-powered transportation. EVs make a lot of sense in a region defined by short driving distances and one of the highest gasoline prices in the world.

United States

President Donald Trump has scrapped environmental regulations and supported fossil-fuel production in the first months of his presidency. But if success is judged by the price of gasoline, there isn’t much room left for improvement. U.S. gasoline prices tumbled under his predecessor, Barack Obama, while oil production soared and cars became more efficient. Americans still guzzle more gas than any other country, so even with low prices, a thirst for the open road takes a bite out of the average paycheck.

I then decided I needed to also look at the country with the most expensive gas and the two where gasoline is more affordable than here:

Norway

Norway’s high gas prices and high incomes are an electric car maker’s dream. The country has the biggest share of electric vehicles in the world. That may seem strange for an economy built on oil, but Norway is one producer that doesn’t subsidize gasoline at the pump. Instead, the country uses its oil riches to fund national services, such as free college education and savings for infrastructure improvements.

Saudia Arabia

The Saudis sit atop two enormously valuable bodies of liquid: oil and water. Both are being pumped to the surface at unsustainable rates. Saudis rank among the greatest gas guzzlers in the world, but they devote a below-average share of their incomes to buying it. That’s because the government heavily subsidizes the price at the pump.

Venezuela

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Countries have different ideas as to which rights are inalienable, and Venezuela stands alone in considering nearly free gasoline a birthright. In 2016, President Nicolas Maduro raised pump prices 6,000 percent, but filling up a tank of gas still costs less than a cup of coffee. Venezuela isn’t a rich country but consumes gas like one.

I complied some of the information into a chart — looking at price per gallon, affordability relative to wages, gallons used per driver, and how each compares to the highest user of gasoline.

As you can see four other G7 countries (France, Germany, Italy, UK) have gas prices that are at least twice ours. Twice. We use far more gasoline than everyone else — even the two countries with more affordable gasoline.

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll had fewer responses than usual:

Q: Current gas prices in St. Louis, at around $2.27/gal, are…

  • Extremely high 0 [0%]
  • High 1 [5%]
  • Somewhat high 1 [5%]
  • Neither low or high 7 [35%]
  • Somewhat low 4 [20%]
  • Low 3 [15%]
  • Extremely low 4 [20%]
  • Unsure/no opinion 0 [0%]

Still, more than half said our gas prices are on the low side of the scale. Decades of low taxes enabled us to build a non-sustainable auto-centric built environment. We can’t just raise taxes to where they should be, at least not too quickly. But we can’t continue to neglect our massive amount of crumbling infrastructure.

— Steve Patterson

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