Where Am I? Facebook Page Cover Image Contest

 

 I’ve often changed the cover image of the UrbanReviewSTL Facebook page, but now I’m asking “Where Am I?” for most images. In the above example, which will ne uploaded this morning, three buildings are visible. The best answer will identify all three. The reward for getting the first correct answer? …

Economic Impact of PGA Championship Won’t Be Felt Where Needed Most; St. Louis Looked Favorable To A Wide Audience

 

 When it comes to economic impact estimates I’m largely a skeptic. Such was the case with last week’s PGA Championship: The 100th PGA Championship Aug. 9-12 is expected to have an economic impact felt well beyond Bellerive Country Club’s picturesque course, up to $100 million, according to some estimates. Hotels …

Sunday Poll: What Impact Will The PGA Championship Have On Our Regional Economy?

 

 With the exception of Tuesday’s primary the news last week was dominated by the 100th PGA Championship held at Bellerive Country Club in suburban St. Louis County. I’m not a golf fan, so my thoughts turned to economics: The 100th PGA Championship Aug. 9-12 is expected to have an economic …

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St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 13 of 2018-2019 Session, Last Meeting Before Summer Break

July 13, 2018 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 13 of 2018-2019 Session, Last Meeting Before Summer Break
 
St. Louis City Hall

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 13th meeting of the 2018-2019 session. Today is their last meeting prior to Summer break.

Today’s agenda includes two new bills:

  • B.B.#98 – Davis – An Ordinance recommended and approved by the Airport Commission, the Board of Public Service, and the Board of Estimate and Apportionment authorizing a Third Amendment to Section One of the Airport Schedule F CIP Project Ordinance 67357 approved December 19, 2006, as amended by Ordinance 68650 approved June 2, 2010 and Ordinance 68852 approved February 14, 2011, which authorized a multi-year public work and improvement program at St. Louis Lambert International Airport,amending EXHIBIT A entitled “Schedule F CIP Project (MII Approved)” by adding a new project to the project list entitled “Replacing Accounting Systems”; and containingseverability clause and an emergency clause
  • B.B.#99 – Ogilvie – An Ordinance recommended by the Board of Public Service authorizing the Mayor and Comptroller of the City of St. Louis to execute an Easement Agreement, which shall give, grant, extend and confer in perpetuity on the City, its Agents, Successors and Assigns, the right to install, construct, maintain, repair, and upgrade a water Main for the purpose of delivering water; approving an Easement Agreement for a perpetual easement; authorizing certain actions by City officials, and containing a severability clause.

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 — the new bills listed above may not be online right away. The next full board meeting after today will be September 7, 2018.

— Steve Patterson

Readers Split On Northside Light Rail Alignment

July 11, 2018 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Readers Split On Northside Light Rail Alignment
 

In the recent non-scientiifc Sunday Poll readers were split on the twi competing alignments that’ll be recommended to East Wes. Planning approved a decade ago was to use 14th, North Florissant, and Natural Bridge. Since then a big chunk of the St. Louis Place neighborhood was razed for the new West headquarters of the National Geospatial Agency (NGA West), now under construction. So an alternative is to use Cars & Jefferson avenues to serve NGA West’s workforce.

The red represents North Florissant alignment, green the Cars/Jefferson alignment

Here are the results:

Q: Which of the two alternatives for the Northside light rail alignment do you prefer:

  • Unsure/no answer 9 [36%]
  • Florissant Ave 9 [36%]
  • Cass Ave 7 [28%]

The results are lower than typical weeks, and some selected Unsure/no answer because they oppose investing in additional rail transit — even though taxpayers approved taxes to build additional rail to serve North & South St. Louis.

Advantages of Florissant Ave alignment:

  • Serves 3 neighborhoods: Carr Square, St. Louis Place, & Old North St. Louis
  • Taking transit to/from Crown Candy would be easier than now
  • No 90-degree turns to slow down speeds

Advantages of Cars Ave alignment

  • Serves 2 neighborhoods: Carr Square & St. Louis Place
  • Serves more of Jeff Vanderlou neighborhood than Florissant Ave alignment
  • Serves NGA West
  • Could spur development of long-vacant Pruitt-Igoe site

It’s tough picking a favorite.  Would more NGA workers use transit if it stopped right out front? Would think significantly reduce auto traffic to/from NGA?

On Monday I’ll propose an alternative to the Case Ave alignment.

— Steve Patterson.

First To Test Metro’s Reduced Fare Gateway Card

July 9, 2018 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on First To Test Metro’s Reduced Fare Gateway Card
 

In February 2014, on a trip to Chicago, I used my first contactless transit card. It took a few times to get used to it but it was far easier than paying cash and deciding if I needed ro pay up front for a 2-hour transfer. If I bought a transfer, I had to keep track of it. With a contactless card there’s no problem paying the bus fare while wearing gloves. No fumbling with bills & coins. Just tap & go. My post from February 2014: Contactless Transit Smart Cards. I’d already contacted Metro St. Louis about being a reduced fare tester.

Metro was supposed to have such a system in place in St. Louis by then, but other cities, including Chicago, experienced huge problems when launching their contactless cards.  Other delays happened tooo, but Metro has been cautiously slow.

From April:

Metro has been working on the smart card system for more than eight years.

It’s part of a $31 million project that also included replacing fareboxes on all 400 of Metro’s buses, replacing or modifying ticket vending machines and validators and technical upgrades.

Metro in 2011 had said the card system would be launched by 2013. Later the targeted launch date was changed to 2015. That also wasn’t met.
Officials blamed the delays on the complexity of integrating disparate systems on moving buses and trains and with bus fareboxes. (Post-Dispatch)

I’ve been pretty patient as the months & years passed by. In November 2015 I applied for a reduced fare Ventra card for use in Chicago. It arrived in the mail the next month, prompt9ing me to write Reduced Fare Smart Card For Chicago, Still Waiting On St. Louis.

In late 2017 I saw Metro’s now-retired Executive Director, Ray Friem, at an event at North Hanley.  He explained the many pages of problems they’ve worked through and the few that remained. One issue was different vendors for bus fareboxes  and a different one for MetroLink fare gates.

Earlier this year testing was opened up from a limited number of riders to sort of a public beta test — but still only full fare. I was getting inpatient. In March Friem promised me I’d be the first reduced fare tester. He was right, 3 months later I got my card!

Standard fare cards are blue (top), reduced fare cards are red.
The back of my husband’s full fare card includes tow card number and where to call Metro. The back of my card includes my name & photo as well as card number — only the person assigned the card can use a reduced fare card, I’ve blurred both card numbers.

I’ve now used the card 7 times — on both MetroBus and MetroLink (Light rail). My very first time using the card was on a #10 bus as I headed to an appointment with an ophthalmologist. It didn’t work. I tapped again, still didn’t work. The 3rd time it didn’t work the bus driver indicated to just wheel back to my spot so she could get going. I emailed the time, bus route, and bus numbers to the person at Metro I’d been working with for months to get this card.

I managed to board the one bus, out of 400, that had a defective reader. Since then it has worked flawlessly, including a bus to MetroLink transfer last week!  As these cards are still in testing mode, all the bells & whistles aren’t yet up & running. I can’t open an app on my phone to check transactions, balance remaining, or add funds. Can’t logon from my home computer either. I can check the by calling the number on the back of the card; I can also check the balance or add funds by visiting the Metro Store at 8th & Pine, or at a Metro ticket machine.

The Metro Store in the Arcade Bldg, as seen from the SW corner of 8th & Pine
The machines at MetroBus centers & MetroLink stations have a reader you can tap your card to add funds, passes. or just check your balance.
This day I checked my balance, $10.75 matched my spreadsheet.

A Spreadsheet? Yes, I thought this was the best way to track my use and confirm the card is working.

Because no app is available, I created a spreadsheet on my phone using Apple’s Numbers app. This allows me to track the balance of my card.

This also helps me when I’m using Metro because the time will let me know the window in which I can use again at the transfer rate — exactly 2 hours.

The other way to check the balance is to call the number on the back of the card. At first I’d call and thought something wasn’t working. Unlike Chicago, the bus data isn’t sent in instantaneously. it’s downloaded from each bus when it returns each night. The call-in system may not know my card balance at any moment because of this, but the card itself knows. Don’t think you can exceed your balance because the bus hasn’t downloaded yet — it doesn’t work that way.

I’m told in a few months myself and others can begin testing the online portion. This will allow the autoload of passes or funds. I don’t use passes, but I love the idea of having it automatically charge a credit card I have on file whenever my balance reaches a minimum threshold.

Aside from the one faulty bus reader, everything has worked fine. I’m looking forward to helping test online functions. I’m really glad I no longer need to carry a coin purse with $1 bill & quarters! As a result of the new convenience I find myself using transit more than I would have if I still had ro use cash or 2-hour passes.

— Steve Patterson

Sunday Poll: Which Northside Light Rail Alternative Alignment Is Your Favorite?

July 8, 2018 Featured, Public Transit, Sunday Poll, Transportation Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Which Northside Light Rail Alternative Alignment Is Your Favorite?
 
Please vote below

Today’sSunday Poll is a little different than most, instead of agreeing or disagreeing with a statement you’ll be asked your favorite of two alternative routes for the Northside alignment of  proposed new light rail line.

Below is the email I received last week: about the Northside-Southside light rail project:

After a year and a half of data analysis, study and public feedback from over 60 presentations, meetings and open houses, the Northside-Southside Study team is releasing our recommended first phase project alignment for the City of St. Louis. We knew the best route for Northside-Southside should align with community investment strategies, serve area neighborhoods and residents, and provide pedestrian access to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) West campus.

Thus, the study team is recommending to the Board of East-West Gateway Council of Governments, our metropolitan planning organization, a $667 million street-running light rail investment that would run from Chippewa Boulevard in the South through downtown to Grand Boulevard in the North via one of the two North St. Louis alignment options. See map below.

  • The first phase would:Serve approximately47,000 people;
  • Carry an estimated 9,200 transit riders per day(4,200 of which are transit-dependent riders);
  • Access 65,000 jobs within a half-mile of the route; and
  • Spur possibly millions of dollars in economic development throughout our neighborhoods.

The North St. Louis Alignment
From public feedback gathered during the study, we knew any Northside-Southside route should align with community investment strategies and serve area neighborhoods and residents. Additionally on the Northside, the route should provide pedestrian access to the NGA West campus.

Both the Florissant Avenue and the newly proposed Cass Avenue routes align with community investment strategies, including the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. These options also serve the pedestrian entrances to the new NGA West campus, Carr Square and Old North neighborhoods. Although both options fulfill project needs and provide access to jobs, redevelopment and neighborhoods, the final north St. Louis route will be chosen during the next project phase, following additional technical work and community input. The map below shows the two Northside alignment options.

East-West Gateway Council of Governments Board to Receive Final Project Recommendation Later This Summer
The study team will submit its final project recommendation to the East-West Gateway Board at its August 29th board meeting. The next step is to secure funding for an environmental study and project development, expected to take place during the environmental review process. At this time, a preferred alignment through North St. Louis will be chosen.

Overall, we have seen and heard great community support for this project. We know it will transform the City of St. Louis and St. Louis’ regional public transit system.

So the study team is recommending two a;ltermatoves North of downtown. Lots of pros & cons to each. The number of stations is the same for each. Either way Carr Square and what’s left of St. Louis Place neighborhood are served by either. So think about it and vote in the poll below.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight..

Wednesday I’ll share the results, what I see as the pros & cons of each, and if I’ve made up my mind — my preferred alternative.

— Steve Patterson

St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 12 of 2018-2019 Session

July 6, 2018 Board of Aldermen, Featured Comments Off on St. Louis Board of Aldermen: New Board Bills Week 12 of 2018-2019 Session
 
St. Louis City Hall

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen will meet at 10am today, their 12th meeting of the 2018-2019 session.

Today’s agenda includes two new bills:

  • B.B.#94 – Williamson – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for the 1420-22 Union Blvd.
  • B.B.#95 – Kennedy – An ordinance approving a Redevelopment Plan for the 4213 Maryland 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 — the new bills listed above may not be online right away.

The Board will meet again next Friday, then their Summer break begins. They’ll return the Friday after Labor Day — September 7th.

— Steve Patterson

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FACEBOOK POSTS

Where am I? Name the intersection and the 3 buildings that are visible.

ANSWER: Jefferson Hotel/Arms at Tucker @ Locust. Christ Church cathedral can be seen through the opening. At left you can see a little of the Park Pacific Apartments (Union Pacific bldg)
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8 hours ago  ·  

Where am I?

ANSWER: Looking northbound at the Tucker median from the Locust Street crosswalk.
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