Opinion: Access To Birth Control, Abortion, Must Remain Legal

 

 In an ideal world there would be zero abortions, but reality is often less than ideal. Women get raped, sometimes by a relative. They can also find themselves pregnant at inopportune times. Pregnancies have been terminated for centuries, regardless of laws. Abortion bans, unsurprisingly, have always been about racism, controlling …

9th & 10th Streets Need To Be Two-Way North of Cole Street

 

 Five years ago I suggested 9th & 10th Streets through the Columbus Square neighborhood (Cole to Cass) be uncoupled so that both are two-way streets again. See Columbus Square: 9th & 10th Streets from May 19, 2014. In short, 9th & 10th have been a one-way couplet (opposite directions) to facilitate …

Sunday Poll: Should Roe v. Wade Be Overturned?

 

 On Friday the Missouri House passed a restrictive abortion bill. Gov. Parsons is expected to sign it into law. Missouri’s Republican-led House on Friday passed sweeping legislation designed to survive court challenges, which would ban abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy. If enacted, the ban would be among the most …

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 5 of 2019-2020 Session

 

 The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their  5th meeting of the 2019-2020 session. Today’s agenda includes seven (7) new bills: B.B.#40 – Green/Ingrassia/Rice/Guenther/Navarro/Narayan – An ordinance submitting to the qualified voters of the City, a proposal to amend the Charter of the City by adding a new Article, …

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Readers Split on Loop Trolley

November 28, 2018 Featured, Retail Comments Off on Readers Split on Loop Trolley
 
Loop Trolley 001

Regular readers over the last 14+ years know I’m a huge proponent of rail projects — largely as development tools. To catch you up, I’ve ridden rail lines in the following cities:

  1. Chicago (commuter rail)
  2. Cleveland (commuter rail)
  3. Dallas (light rail & modern streetcar)
  4. Kansas City (modern streetcar)
  5. Little Rock (heritage trolley)
  6. Memphis (heritage trolley)
  7. New Orleans (heritage trolley)
  8. New York (commuter rail)
  9. Portland (modern streetcar)
  10. San Francisco (heritage trolley, cable car, commuter rail)
  11. Seattle (modern streetcar)
  12. Toronto (heritage trolley)
  13. Washington D.C. (commuter rail)

Note:  For my purposes here heritage trolley includes existing vintage lines/vehicles, new lines using old vehicles, and new lines using reproduction vehicles. I was unable to ride Dallas’ heritage trolley because their vehicles don’t have wheelchair lifts. Some on the list above were ridden prior to my February 2008 stroke.

I want to return to Cincinnati to ride their modern streetcar that was nearly complete when I visited in 2015. see Cincinnati’s Modern Streetcar. The Oklahoma City Streetcar, a modern 4.6 mile line, is scheduled to begin service next month — a good excuse to visit to the city where I spent my first 23 years.

OK, I like rail projects. That said, I’m fully aware of differences among the types and how well they’re implemented, or not. When I was visiting Cincinnati the track was complete and testing was just started. They had a big PR campaign about how to park cars so the streetcar could pass. Restaurants/bars along the route had drink coasters with streetcar info. Kansas City also did a great job with communications before, during, and after testing. Communications from the Loop Trolley has been…lacking, by comparison.

The OKC Streetcar is another to compare to the Loop Trolley. It’s more than twice as long with ground-breaking in February 2017 — and it’s beginning service next month! Construction on the Loop Trolley began in March 2015 and just recently opened. Half the distance of OKC and twice as long from start to open….embarrassing!

Early on I was excited by the Loop Trolley because a consultant was working to make the line adaptable to modern streetcar vehicles for the future — this would’ve allowed expansion Eastbound on Delmar toward CWE/Midtown/Downtown. But that future-proofing got scrapped.

Looking out the front/read of 001

There’s been no shortage of criticism of the Loop Trolley: buses are cheaper, too expensive to build & maintain, Loop already served by light rail, limited service hours, too slow, etc. While all are valid, they miss the point: development. The Loop Trolley distinguishes The Loop from other shopping/restaurant/entertainment destinations in our region. In the next decade we’ll see gaps filled in with new high-density development. Some existing low-rise buildings will be razed for new development.

Two of the four corners at Delmar & Skinker are now vacant. These will get developed regardless.
Head East of the Delmar MetroLink station and urban development isn’t s given
Numerous low-density buildings are vacant
Without the Trolley the prospect of this former car wash at Delmar & Goodfellow getting developed was slim.

Along the route we’ll see an increasing presence of bigger retailers. With the bulk of the route located in the City of St. Louis it’ll help generate new sales/property taxes, the new businesses will provide needed employment. Hopefully some young residents will be able to start their own businesses along the route. Ideally, some affordable housing will get built in addition to apartments geared toward wealthy Washington University students.

A visitor staying downtown who wants to eat fondue isn’t going to take MetroLink to Delmar and then walk nearly a mile to the West end of the Loop, but they might include a Trolley ride there.  After dinner they might decide to walk at least part of the way back to the Delmar MetroLink station. The Trolley helps with the last mile problem.

Because I rode on a free special event day (Small Business Saturday) I didn’t experience buying a ticket and validating it inside the trolley car. I tried to find & download the app to buy a ticket that way. After searching, then asking, I learned the apps have been submitted to Google & Apple, but they’re not yet approved. I plan to ride again on a normal day so I’ll be able to test ticket sales/validation. I’ll also be able to see how it goes with the wheelchair lift on a day when it isn’t standing room only.

A ticket machine is at each station.
Ticket validator on the Trolley

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll the respondents were mixed:

Q: Agree or disagree: Now that the Loop Trolley is operating on the full 2.2 mile route I feel more positive about it.

  • Strongly agree: 8 [19.51%]
  • Agree: 4 [9.76%]
  • Somewhat agree: 7 [17.07%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 5 [12.2%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [7.32%]
  • Disagree: 7 [17.07%]
  • Strongly disagree: 6 [14.63%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 1 [2.44%]

Despite the endless number of hiccups I still believe, as I did in March 2017, the Loop Trolley Will Surprise Naysayers.  Of course, many will cling to their first impressions and talk bad about the Trolley even if it succeeds in filling in vacant lots along the route. I may have to eat my words…but it will be many years before we’ll know.

— 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

Sunday Poll: How Do You Feel About The Loop Trolley Now That It Is Operating On The Full Route?

November 25, 2018 Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: How Do You Feel About The Loop Trolley Now That It Is Operating On The Full Route?
 
Please vote below

The ribbon was cut on the Loop Trolley on Thursday November 15, 2018 — the ceremony was held indoors due to the snowstorm. When it began rolling it couldn’t enter University City because of a bureaucratic snafu.  That has all been rectified and the vintage cars are now rolling on the full route.

The 2.2-mile line was a long time coming. First envisioned in 1997, various hiccups slowed St. Louis’ re-connection with its street car past. The line finally opened last week.

But opening day was thrown for a loop when University City barred the trolley cars from crossing the border from St. Louis because of permit requirements that had yet to be met.

As a result, the trolley operated only on part of the St. Louis segment of the route last weekend — between the history museum and the corner of Delmar Boulevard and Des Peres Avenue.

Gregory Rose, U. City city manager, said he gave the go-ahead to enter the city on Wednesday, after trolley officials approved a $300,000 bond to be paid to dismantle the line if the project fails. Crews also erected temporary barriers around an electric line tower. (Post-Dispatch)

I rode the Trolley yesterday — it was free for Small Business Saturday. I’ll talk about my experience on Wednesday. Today’s poll is about how you, the readers, feel about the Trolley now that’s it is finally operating.

This non-scientific poll will close at 8pm tonight. Again, on Wednesday I’ll share my experience as a passenger using a wheelchair, thoughts on the project, and these results.

— Steve Patterson

New Book — ‘Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places’ by Jeff Speck

November 23, 2018 Books, Featured, Walkability Comments Off on New Book — ‘Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places’ by Jeff Speck
 

I’m usually unbiased when publishers send me new books, but I’m a huge fan of Jeff Speck’s work as a New Urbanist planner. His latest book focuses on one of my favorite topics: walkability:

“Cities are the future of the human race, and Jeff Speck knows how to make them work.”
—David Owen, staff writer at the New Yorker

Nearly every US city would like to be more walkable—for reasons of health, wealth, and the environment—yet few are taking the proper steps to get there. The goals are often clear, but the path is seldom easy. Jeff Speck’s follow-up to his bestselling Walkable City is the resource that cities and citizens need to usher in an era of renewed street life. Walkable City Rules is a doer’s guide to making change in cities, and making it now.

The 101 rules are practical yet engaging—worded for arguments at the planning commission, illustrated for clarity, and packed with specifications as well as data. For ease of use, the rules are grouped into 19 chapters that cover everything from selling walkability, to getting the parking right, escaping automobilism, making comfortable spaces and interesting places, and doing it now!

Walkable City was written to inspire; Walkable City Rules was written to enable. It is the most comprehensive tool available for bringing the latest and most effective city-planning practices to bear in your community. The content and presentation make it a force multiplier for place-makers and change-makers everywhere. (Island Press)

I received my review copy last month

He’s done two Ted Talks — back to back 5 years ago:

This newest book suggests 101 rules to make cities more walkable, organized in the following 19 sections:

  1. Sell Walkability
  2. Mix the Uses
  3. Make Housing Attainable and Integrated
  4. Get the Parking Right
  5. Let Transit Work
  6. Escape Automobilism
  7. Start with Safety
  8. Optimize Your Driving Network
  9. Right-Size the Number of Lanes
  10. Right-Size the Lanes
  11. Sell Cycling
  12. Build Your Bike Network
  13. Park On Street
  14. Focus on Geometry
  15. Focus on Intersections
  16. Make Sidewalks Right
  17. Make Comfortable Spaces
  18. Make Interesting Places
  19. Do It Now

Streetsblog has been posting full text of some of the rules:

Some of the rules of interest to me are:

  • #6: Invest in Attainable Housing
  • #14: Fight Displacement
  • #20: Coordinate Transit and Land Use
  • #37: Keep Blocks Small
  • #75 Bag the Beg Buttons and Countdown Clocks

However, all are interesting. I’m planning to use the upcoming holidays to read through all 101 in detail.

You can see a preview at Google Books.

— 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

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