We Saved Money On Our Electric Bill By Switching Rate Plans

 

 For years there was no financial incentive to reduce electricity use during peak periods. Running the dryer &  air conditioning while cooking dinner at 5pm weekdays cost the same as doing them at other times.  With Ameren Missouri’s new smart meters and Tine of Use (TOU) rate plans reducing electric …

Mid-70s Downtown Office Tower Getting Needed 21st Century Update

 

 Office vacancy rates are high now, especially in downtown St. Louis. Office vacancy is up across the metro area, averaging 16.9% in the second quarter of 2021 compared with 11.8% in 2020. Rents for offices outside of downtown declined nearly 4% from the end of 2020 through the second quarter …

Jamestown Mall Site Part 2: Laying Groundwork For New Development Over The Coming 10+ Years

 

 Last week I outlined the problems with the vacant Jamestown Mall, its massive 144.51 acre site, and the surroundings. See Jamestown Mall Site Part 1: Analyzing the Site, Problems, and Options. When you look at the problems the solution becomes obvious. Problems > solutions include: Vacant 422,533 square feet enclosed …

Jamestown Mall Site Part 1: Analyzing the Site, Problems, and Options

 

 My blog posts about Jamestown Mall are few. In 2011 a poll followed by the poll results with a few thoughts. In 2016 I posted that it had been two years sine the mall permanently closed. My 2011 visit was done while the mall was open, I arrived via MetroBus …

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Thinking of Marti Frumhoff While Accepting My Own Mortality

May 16, 2021 Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Thinking of Marti Frumhoff While Accepting My Own Mortality
 
Marti Frumhoff, 1957-2007

Fourteen years ago today St  louis booster Marti Frumhoff died unexpectedly. Three months earlier we’d celebrated our birthdays at the sushi restaurant that used to be at Grand & Arsenal. Our birthdays were ten years and 5 days apart — she turned 50 just five days before I turned 40.

Ms. Frumhoff also became an advocate for the revitalization of St. Louis. She organized and founded several groups that educate agents and prospective home buyers about city living.

She founded the St. Louis Rehabbers Club in 2000. The organization helps people network and share information about renovations and remodeling in the city.

Ms. Frumhoff was also a member of the “We Love the City” Realtors Breakfast Club. The “Big, Big Tour,” an annual tour of city neighborhoods highlighting homes for sale in various price ranges, grew out of that group.

Ms. Frumhoff was a board member of Metropolis St. Louis and a member of Save the Century, an effort to prevent the demolition of the Century Building downtown. (Findagrave)

Marti was home alone, likely had a heart attack. I’m not a fan of death rituals, but I liked how the huge crowd at the Jewish cemetary took turns shoveling dirt onto the casket.

A month before my 41st birthday I had a massive stroke, also while home along. At the time I was certain I’d die. It was 15-16 hours before a worried friend found me, but at least I was still alive.  I came back home from the 3rd therapy hospital three months later, barely able to walk.

I’d think about Marti as I wrote about issues facing St. Louis, asking myself “what would Marti do?” Had she lived no doubt she’d be involved in fighting to improve the city, and region.

In the Fall of 2019 I was diagnosed with stage IV renal cell carcinoma (aka kidney cancer). Stage IV means the cancer has metastasized — spread to other parts of the body. I’ve had twenty immunotherapy treatments so far, my scans still show the tumors as “stable”, though there’s now evidence it has spread to my bones. Another drug will be injected along with my regular intravenous drug to stop the spread in my bones, the downside is a high risk of osteoporosis.

For a while now I’ve been working on getting my affairs in order while also trying to enjoy the present. It’s a very weird balance. When my husband and I recently visited the Missouri Botanical Gardens it was a lovely day but I was thinking it could well be my last time there, same with other non-daily activities.

A few days ago a friend of more than two decades had a second stroke in a week, only a few knew about the first mini-stroke. He died at home, alone.

Hopefully I still have a few more years left before my time is up. Although it’s weird to know I’ll die sooner rather than later I’m very grateful to have time with my husband until then. Not a day goes by I don’t think about the luxury of having time to keep enjoying life, too many don’t get any advance notice.

— Steve Patterson

 

Water Main Break Underscores Need To Update Century Old Water System

May 13, 2021 Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Water Main Break Underscores Need To Update Century Old Water System
 

You may have heard about a press conference last week at St. Louis’ Chain of Rocks water treatment  facility.

The 1913-1914 Chain of Rocks filters, left, and 1914 head house, right.

St. Louis and Environmental Protection Agency officials are calling for the passage of President Joe Biden’s jobs plan to help update the city’s water treatment system to continue to provide safe drinking water.

EPA officials and regional leaders toured the Chain of Rocks water treatment facility Wednesday. Officials have identified more than $400 million in upgrades necessary to renovate the city’s water treatment system to maintain clean drinking water. Biden’s American Jobs Plan includes $111 billion in water infrastructure upgrades across the country. (St. Louis Public Radio).

Other sources on the event:

Inside the very long filters building they had information explaining the filtration process.
A view of the filters without any signs.

This is where I’d planned to go off on some tangents, but since I started this post something related happened. A water main break in Downtown West that impacted the following neighborhoods: Downtown (central business district), Downtown West, Columbus Square, Carr Square, St. Louis Place (and NGA West site), and Old North St. Louis.

A 36-inch water main burst just west of downtown Tuesday, sending water gushing along Lucas Avenue and North Tucker Boulevard. The flooding swamped basements, shut down businesses and triggered a boil advisory. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

We were just slightly inconvenienced, but many lost work, customers, had serious property damage. St. Louis needs the American Jobs Plan to update our water system.

Ok, back to where I was in my post before Tuesday’s water main break.

The four speakers with St. Louis Water employees behind them, L to R: US Rep Cori Bush, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, and Water Commissioner Curtis B. Skouby.

Like all of Biden’s cabinet/cabinet-level they’re all fairly new to their positions. The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has great credentials, Michael Regan’s nomination was supported by environmental activists.

“Regan, who will be the first black man to run the EPA, tells Rolling Stone that rebuilding the agency is his first priority. “We have world-renowned experts at EPA,” he says. “We should be listening to them, and we will.” With the Biden administration vowing to use every bit of executive power to tackle climate change, a revitalized EPA will be at the center of its ambitious targets to reduce emissions. “I will be laser-focused on how we limit methane emissions,” Regan says of the potent greenhouse gas released in natural-gas operations. He lists environmental justice and water quality as his other priorities, but guiding his approach on all of these ambitions is the belief that what’s good for the planet can also be good for workers and for business — a conviction Biden shares. “All of those priorities that I just laid out will be good for people, the planet, and profit,” Regan says. His personal philosophy is one “of trying to meet people where they are, understand everyone’s challenges, whether it’s an individual or a company, and then think through, ‘How do you get to the solution in a way that can possibly work?’?”” (Rolling Stone)

In addition to hearing Regan I hadn’t seen Mayor Tishaura Jones or Rep Cori Bush since their election victories.  I’ve also known Jones’ public information officer, Nick Dunne, for years. Finally, I was very curious just to see the water treatment facility.

I got on the North Riverfront Trail right after it makes a hard right and crosses over a creek.

Initially I told the EPA person in DC I wouldn’t be able to attend because it was too far from public transit. The night before I thought perhaps I could take the bus up north and then use the North Riverfront Trail to reach the Chain of Rocks Water Treatment facility on Riverview. I knew the biggest challenge would be trying to cross Riverview. After studying Google street view I was able to find a route that might work, I wouldn’t know until I got there.

On the return trip I took this photo to show where I had to cross Riverview Blvd in my power wheelchair — rough gravel, no crosswalk, no light, big trucks. Thankfully only one lane per direction.
After making it across Riverview I turned left to head toward Metro’s bus transit center. A short distance without a sidewalk. Off roading in my chair!

I traveled by wheelchair roughly 5.5 miles round trip, mostly on the trail. It was gorgeous out Wednesday last week so I enjoyed the time, reminded me of when I used to bike the trail before my 2008 stroke.

I was so glad to see the water treatment facility and hear officials talk about investing in needed maintenance and environmental justice.

— Steve Patterson

 

Rampant COVID violations at Fast Eddie’s Bon Air freaked me out Saturday

May 4, 2021 Featured, Local Business, Metro East, St. Charles County, Travel Comments Off on Rampant COVID violations at Fast Eddie’s Bon Air freaked me out Saturday
 

We knew Saturday would be a gorgeous day so we decided to drive up the Great River Road along the Mississippi River north of Alton IL. Our first stop would be a favorite, Fast Eddie’s Bon Air. We knew it had been cited for Covid violations in October 2020:

A longtime and popular restaurant in Alton was recently cited for not complying with COVID-19 restrictions in the area.

Illinois State Police said based on a complaint, they did a COVID-19 compliance check on Fast Eddie’s Bon Air. Officers issued a notice of non-compliance to the manager on duty and advised them on a time frame to get into compliance, police said.

After about an hour, Illinois State Police officers returned and issued a dispersal order and then after another 30 minutes, officers returned and issued a Madison County non-traffic complaint. Police said the manager signed and accepted the written complaint on behalf of Fast Eddie’s. (KSDK)

That was over six months ago, they likely learned how to comply. Or so I thought. I was thinking maybe tables wouldn’t be spaced as far apart as they should be for proper social distancing. We’re both fully vaccinated so I thought we could take a chance.

We arrived before they opened so we’d be among the first to enter. This photo was taken at 10:55am, 5 minutes before the door was unlocked.

We were the third group in the door, but our order number was 2nd. A long line of bikers was behind us. Inside I got us a table while my husband ordered.

As I waited I began noticing how different this was than every other restaurant we’d patronized during the pandemic:

  • No employees are wearing masks. Not our drink server, not the manager walking around, not anyone behind the counter.
  • Customers are walking around inside without masks. No mask while ordering, finding a table, going to the bathroom, picking up their order.
  • Only a few other customers wore a mask.

I told my husband we had to eat quickly and leave. Had we not left quickly I’d have likely confronted the manager, which would have ruined the day we had planned.

Here’s a few pics from the rest of the beautiful day.

Downtown Alton IL is so charming, wonderful scale and the hills create interesting views. Click image for Downtown Alton website.
Next we drove through the historic village of Elsah IL– one of our favorites. Click image for Elsah tourism info.
We stopped at the Elsah General Store and got some baked goods for dessert, ate them outside. The shop owner wore a mask. They even accepted payment via ApplePay! Yes, click the image to view their website & hours.
When we reached the free Brussels Ferry we crossed the Illinois River. This ferry is operated by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Click image for more information.
I’ve done this trip numerous times over the last 30 years, but this was the first time I went a few miles out of our way to see Brussels IL. This is the village hall. Click the image to see the Wikipedia page, learn things like it was founded in 1822!
We continued driving through Calhoun County IL until we reached the Golden Eagle Ferry to cross the Mississippi River into St. Charles County MO. Click image for more information.
New Town at St. Charles was an easy stop as we headed for I-370. As predicted, it looks much better now that the trees have matured. Click the image for the official New Town website.

At the end of our day we stopped at a convenience store near New Town. The employee and some fellow customers were wearing masks, but customers came & went without any masks.

The pandemic is still going on, people are still getting sick & dying.

— Steve Patterson

Smart Electric Meters & Time Of Use (TOU) Rate Plans Coming To Ameren Missouri Customers

April 28, 2021 Environment, Featured, STL Region Comments Off on Smart Electric Meters & Time Of Use (TOU) Rate Plans Coming To Ameren Missouri Customers
 

Recently we received a flyer from electric utility Ameren Missouri notifying us that our meter will be changed to a smart meter within the coming months.

I soon began digging into Ameren’s website to learn more detail:

Smart meters enable wireless, two-way communication that will allow us to pinpoint and solve outages sooner and provide near-real-time energy usage information to help customers better manage their energy habits and potentially save on their bill. The meters also enable us to offer a suite of new time of use rate options that give customers the power to choose a rate that fits their lifestyle. Customers will have more convenience, choice and control. (Ameren)

Watch brief Ameren video here.

In my 30+ years in St. Louis my electric rates have always been the same regardless of when I/we used electricity, but I’m looking forward to having the option to pick a plan to potentially save money:

Customers with an upgraded smart meter can choose from a suite of rate options including our new time of use (TOU) rates. TOU rates offer the opportunity to save on your bill if you can shift your energy usage to off-peak hours.

This meter change applies to all Ameren Missouri customers, the rollout is apparently about 20% complete. The following map shows when customers can expect their meter to be changed.

Click on map to open on Ameren’s website, you can search for your address to see the appropriate day your meter is scheduled to be changed. Ours is June 3, 2021.

I put in a few addresses like previous residences, friends, etc. One friend in St. Charles already has a new smart meter, but no new time of use reporting yet.  I had a video meeting with Steve Willis, Ameren Missouri Director of Rates and Analysis,  to learn more about this. Next month they’ll have a portal for smart meter customers to view detailed usage information. After a few months of use they’ll suggest which plan is best.

The following are the new Time of Use rate plans, based on currently approved rates. Summer rates are four months June-September, winter is the other 8 months. Generally the mid-peak & peak rates apply only to Monday-Friday, except major holidays.

Anytime is what we’ve always had, the rate is unchanged regardless of the time of day used.

So now here are the plans that can potentially save money compared to Anytime. I say potentially because if you use air conditioning, dryer, etc during peak rates your bill could be higher than on the Anytime plan.

The Evening/Morning Savers plan is only a slight variation from the Anytime plan. A slight reward for shifting some use from day to night.

The above plan is to begin to get customers to reduce their energy use during peak periods.

 

Now we see a greater difference between peak and off-peak, but the peak period is very long.

Now we get 3 tiers weekdays, 2 tiers on weekends.

And finally the biggest potential savings, but with a catch. Both summer & winter include a demand charge per billing cycle, based on the highest use 6am-10pm any day in the period.

For years I’ve been working to reduce our carbon footprint, including a reduction in energy use. We signed up for Arcadia a couple of years ago so 50% of our electric is wind credits.  Since we keep our air conditioning at 77° in the summer I never worried about using power during peak demand times. For over a year we’ve been on Ameren’s Peak Time Savings plan — this allows Ameren and our thermostat provider to briefly take control of our thermostat to reduce demand at critical times. They’ve never had to adjust our settings.

I’ve started prepping for the change to Time of Use rates by adjusting the schedule on our smart thermostat (Ecobee 3), my goal is for the Ultimate Savers plan to be our best bet. Since we’re still in the winter rate months until June 1st our HVAC is set so it’s unlikely to come on between 6am-8am and 6pm-8pm Monday-Friday. I lowered the lowest setting from 66° to 45°, and increased the maximum from 77° to 80°. It has been very mild so it hasn’t been an issue, not sure how well it would’ve gone in January & February when we had single digit temperatures outside.

In the summer rate months (June-September) I’ll adjust our air conditioning to come on less frequently during the 3pm-7pm peak period. This four hour period will be harder than the four hours in the winter, split into morning and evening. I’m going to contact Ecobee to ask them to add the ability to have summer & winter schedules to save having to make changes twice per year.

We’ve been using the dishwasher delay or just starting ours after 10pm. I’ve avoided using the dryer in the 6am-8am peak period, though one morning I forgot and started it during the peak period. My power wheelchair charger has been on a smart plug for years, coming on after midnight.

Part of me wants to change to a saver plan immediately after our smart meter is installed in early June, but intellectually I know I should wait until I can see my actual use before making the billing change.

— Steve Patterson

New Book: ‘Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges’ by June Williamson & Ellen Dunham-Jones

April 12, 2021 Books, Featured Comments Off on New Book: ‘Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges’ by June Williamson & Ellen Dunham-Jones
 

One of the most important issues facing regions in the coming decades will be the enormous amount of land around the inner core that was developed in a manner that exacerbates current & future problems. Suburbia everywhere will need to be retrofitted.

In 2009 I posted about a new book addressing this topic, see: Book Review; Retrofitting Suburbia, Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs.

Now June Williamson & Ellen Dunham-Jones are back with 32 case studies where the retrofitting principles have been applied.

This amply-illustrated book, second in a series, documents how defunct shopping malls, parking lots, and the past century’s other obsolete suburban development patterns are being retrofitted to address current urgent challenges they weren’t designed for: improving public health, increasing resilience in the face of climate change, leveraging social capital for equity, supporting an aging society, competing for jobs, and disrupting automobile dependence.

Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges provides summaries, data, and references on how these challenges manifest in suburbia and discussion of successful urban design strategies to address them in Part I. Part
II documents how innovative design strategies are implemented in a range of northern American contexts and market conditions. From modest interventions with big ripple effects to ambitious do-overs, examples of redevelopment, reinhabitation, and regreening of changing suburban places from coast to coast are described in depth in 32 brand new case studies.
• Written by the authors of the highly influential Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs
• Demonstrates changes that can and already have been realized in suburbia by focusing on case studies of retrofitted suburban
places
• Illustrated in full-color with photos, maps, plans, and diagrams

Full of replicable lessons and creative responses to ongoing problems and potentials with conventional suburban form, Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges is an important book for students and professionals involved in urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, development, civil engineering, public health, public policy, and governance. Most of all, it is intended as a useful guide for anyone who seeks to inspire revitalization, justice, and shared prosperity in places they know and care about. (Wiley)

University City’s plan to replace a strip shopping center and modest houses with a big box Costco isn’t what the authors are advocating.

Here are the 32 case studies examined in this book:

  1. Case Study II.1   Aurora Avenue North, Shoreline, Washington
  2. Case Study II.2   Hassalo on Eighth and Lloyd, Portland, Oregon
  3. Case Study II.3   Lake Grove Village, Lake Oswego, Oregon
  4. Case Study II.4   Phoenix Park Apartments, Sacramento, California
  5. Case Study II.5   Parkmerced, San Francisco, California
  6. Case Study II.6   The BLVD, Lancaster, California
  7. Case Study II.7   TAXI, Denver, Colorado
  8. Case Study II.8   Guthrie Green, Tulsa, Oklahoma
  9. Case Study II.9   La Gran Plaza, Fort Worth, Texas
  10. Case Study II.10 The Domain, Austin, Texas
  11. Case Study II.11 ACC Highland, Austin, Texas
  12. Case Study II.12 Mueller, east Austin, Texas
  13. Case Study II.13 Promenade of Wayzata, Wayzata, Minnesota
  14. Case Study II.14 Maplewood Mall and Living Streets, Maplewood, Minnesota
  15. Case Study II.15 Baton Rouge Health District, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  16. Case Study II.16 Uptown Circle, Normal, Illinois
  17. Case Study II.17 One Hundred Oaks, Nashville, Tennessee
  18. Case Study II.18 Historic Fourth Ward Park, Atlanta, Georgia
  19. Case Study II.19 Technology Park, Peachtree Corners, Georgia
  20. Case Study II.20 Walker’s Bend, Covington, Georgia
  21. Case Study II.21 Downtown Doral, Doral, Florida
  22. Case Study II.22 Collinwood Recreation Center, Cleveland, Ohio
  23. Case Study II.23 The Mosaic District, Merrifield, Virginia
  24. Case Study II.24 South Dakota Ave and Riggs Road, Fort Totten, Washington, DC
  25. Case Study II.25 White Flint / The Pike District, Montgomery County, Maryland
  26. Case Study II.26 The Blairs, Silver Spring, Maryland
  27. Case Study II.27 La Station – Centre Intergénérationnel, Nuns’ Island, Verdun, Quebec
  28. Case Study II.28 Bell Works, Holmdel, New Jersey
  29. Case Study II.29 Wyandanch Rising, Town of Babylon, New York
  30. Case Study II.30 Meriden Green, Meriden, Connecticut
  31. Case Study II.31 Cottages on Greene, East Greenwich, Rhode Island
  32. Case Study II.32 Assembly Square, Somerville, Massachusetts

I’m familiar with two of these, I experienced the “before” of #1 years ago, and #16 in 2012. Aurora Avenue in Seattle and the suburb of Shoreline is like arterial roads everywhere: awful. When I last saw it we drove to a Home Depot. From reading the case study I know the portion of Aurora Ave in Seattle is unchanged, but a stretch north from the city line has been improved. To a motorist driving by you might not notice the physical changes, but pedestrians will immediately tell it is less hostile. Motorists will notice more humans actually walking.

When I drive back to Oklahoma City to visit family & friends, hopefully later this year, I’ll stop in Tulsa to visit an aunt and see #8 and sites in adjacent Greenwood (site of the Tulsa race riot). I’d love to visit each of these case studies.

If I hadn’t had a stroke in 2008 I would’ve enjoyed working on retrofitting suburbia.

— Steve Patterson

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