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 …

Recent Articles:

New Book: ‘Gray to Green Communities: A Call to Action on the Housing and Climate Crisis’ by Dana L. Bourland

March 22, 2021 Books, Featured Comments Off on New Book: ‘Gray to Green Communities: A Call to Action on the Housing and Climate Crisis’ by Dana L. Bourland
 

Quality affordable housing is an issue coast to coast, in booming & stagnant markets alike. A new book looks at the subject:

US cities are faced with the joint challenge of our climate crisis and the lack of housing that is affordable and healthy. Our housing stock contributes significantly to the changing climate, with residential buildings accounting for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. US housing is not only unhealthy for the planet, it is putting the physical and financial health of residents at risk. Our housing system means that a renter working 40 hours a week and earning minimum wage cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment in any US county. 

In Gray to Green Communities, green affordable housing expert Dana Bourland argues that we need to move away from a gray housing model to a green model, which considers the health and well-being of residents, their communities, and the planet. She demonstrates that we do not have to choose between protecting our planet and providing housing affordable to all.

Bourland draws from her experience leading the Green Communities Program at Enterprise Community Partners, a national community development intermediary. Her work resulted in the first standard for green affordable housing which was designed to deliver measurable health, economic, and environmental benefits.

The book opens with the potential of green affordable housing, followed by the problems that it is helping to solve, challenges in the approach that need to be overcome, and recommendations for the future of green affordable housing. Gray to Green Communities brings together the stories of those who benefit from living in green affordable housing and examples of Green Communities’ developments from across the country. Bourland posits that over the next decade we can deliver on the human right to housing while reaching a level of carbon emissions reductions agreed upon by scientists and demanded by youth.

Gray to Green Communities will empower and inspire anyone interested in the future of housing and our planet. (Island Press)

Here’s how the book is organized:

Chapter 1: The Problem with Gray
Chapter 2: The Promise of Green
Chapter 3: Learning from the Green Communities Criteria
Chapter 4: The Challenges to Greening Affordable Housing for All
Chapter 5: A Just Future

I have the physical book, but I checked out the ebook from the St. Louis Library too.  You can view a preview on Google Books.

Anyone interested in the subject of housing should read this book.

— Steve Patterson

Metro’s New Battery Electric 60-Foot Articulated Buses Coming Soon To #70 (Grand) Route

March 15, 2021 Environment, Featured, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on Metro’s New Battery Electric 60-Foot Articulated Buses Coming Soon To #70 (Grand) Route
 

My previous post was on the subject of BEVs — battery electric vehicles —- was the realization the used car we will purchase in a couple of years can’t be a BEV because we rent and can’t charge at our apartment. Even though we won’t own a BEV I’ll still be able to ride in one…on the #70 bus route.

The North Broadway transit center reopened after adding infrastructure to charge electric buses.

From September 2020:

Metro Transit announced Tuesday a deal with Minnesota-based New Flyer of America to add 14 zero-emission buses to the city’s fleet.

The new buses stretch 60 feet long and come with a price tag of $1.33 million each. Eighty percent of the cost will be covered by grants from the Federal Transit Administration, said Jessica Mefford-Miller, executive director of Metro Transit.

The regional transit agency has been considering adding electric battery-powered vehicles to its fleet for more than a decade, Mefford-Miller said. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Here’s some additional detail:

The 60-foot battery electric buses have 320 kilowatts of battery storage on each bus. That is enough power to support about 10 2,000-square-foot houses for an entire day. They will operate exclusively on the #70 MetroBus route, which is Metro’s busiest route and carries about 10 percent of Metro’s customers on a daily basis. (Metro’s NextStop blog)

For comparison a Chevy Bolt EV has a 66kWh battery, the biggest Tesla battery is 100kWh.

After reading numerous articles about the new electric buses but I still had questions, so I asked Patti Beck, Metro’s director of communications, to answer them.

Much of the previously large open waiting area is now filled with electric equipment.

Q:   Why are the buses for use on Grand going to be stored/charged at Brentwood instead of Central?  My guess is not enough room at Central. Or was power supply better at Brentwood? Are the current articulated buses operated out of Central or Brentwood?

A: MetroBus operates out of three facilities- Brentwood, near Manchester and Brentwood; DeBaliviere, at Delmar and DeBaliviere; and our Illinois MetroBus Facility. Metro chose the Brentwood MetroBus Facility as our first battery electric operating facility because of its more advantageous location and power rate. Ameren Missouri, in partnership with Bi-State Development, constructed an electrical substation adjacent to the Brentwood facility that will provide power supply to Metro’s battery electric fleet, as well as the surrounding community.

Comment: The Central facility is very close to Grand, but it’s small. This is the location for Call-A-Ride buses, but not 40 foot or larger buses.

Q: As I recall the current articulated buses are from Gillig. Will having new articulated buses from New Flyer be a problem in terms of maintenance, parts, etc?  Does Gillig not offer an electric articulated bus?

A: The existing 60’ articulated buses will all be retired in 2021. Gillig does not yet offer a battery electric 60’ bus. They do produce battery electric 40’ buses, and we have purchased four Gillig 40’ electric buses that will become part of our battery electric fleet.

Comment: the existing articulated buses were bought used and refurbished, began operation in June 2014.

Q: I see buses will recharge at Broadway & Taylor. How many will recharge at a time? How long will they need to recharge?

There will be 3 active 450kWh chargers at Broadway & Taylor. A pantograph from the charger lowers to rails on top of the bus to deliver the charge. To maintain continuous operation of the #70 Grand, two chargers must be used to maintain an effective charge throughout the day. The third charger is a backup when one charger needs maintenance or if there is a component failure.

4.    What type of charging connector do buses use?

There are 22 150 kWh charging dispensers at the Brentwood MetroBus facility. These use a heavy duty plug type CCS type 1 built to the SAE J1772 standard. The depot chargers will “top” off the articulated buses at night and be the sole source of charge for the 40’ Gillig buses stationed there.

Comment: this is faster than even Tesla’s superchargers.

Two diesel 40-foot buses. The existing driver restroom in the back corner remains.

The North Broadway transit center will be an important part of the hopeful success of battery electric bus service.  Some other cities have had problems, Albuquerque returned 13 electric buses to the Chinese manufacturer and ordered diesel replacements for a BRT line.  Other cities didn’t build field charging locations like the North Broadway transit center.

My follow up questions were not answered. I’m still curious how different it’ll be from diesel buses. Will electric buses in service need to wait longer at North Broadway, or will the existing wait/break times give them enough charge? Do & will buses stay in service from begging to end of service, or do they serve part of the day with others taking over later?

I don’t normally have a reason to ride the 70/Grand, but I will at least once when the new electric articulated buses begin service.

— Steve Patterson

Electric Vehicles Aren’t An Option For Many Renters, Condo Owners

March 11, 2021 Environment, Featured, Transportation Comments Off on Electric Vehicles Aren’t An Option For Many Renters, Condo Owners
 

Hybrid vehicles have been for sale in the US for two decades now, thankfully recent hybrids are very different than the first Honda Insight. While I prefer the greener solution of using public transit, my husband has to have a vehicle for his job.

A friend’s 1st generation 2000 Toyota Prius hybrid that she bought new. October 2020 photo.

We bought our current 2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited used in March 2018. It has been a good car, but the fuel mileage from the 2.5 liter four cylinder gasoline engine has been disappointing.

Our Hyundai Sonata in front of Broadway Oyster Bar, April 2018

When it’s paid off in two years I want our next car to be as green as possible. But what?

Now’s a good time to define some acronyms I’ll be using throughout this post.

  • Internal Combustion Engine (ICE):  An internal combustion engine (ICE) is a heat engine in which the combustion of a fuel occurs with an oxidizer (usually air) in a combustion chamber that is an integral part of the working fluid flow circuit. In an internal combustion engine, the expansion of the high-temperature and high-pressure gases produced by combustion applies direct force to some component of the engine. The force is applied typically to pistons, turbine blades, rotor or a nozzle. This force moves the component over a distance, transforming chemical energy into useful work.
    Examples
  • Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV): A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) is a type of hybrid vehicle that combines a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) system with an electric propulsion system (hybrid vehicle drivetrain). The presence of the electric powertrain is intended to achieve either better fuel economy than a conventional vehicle or better performance. There is a variety of HEV types and the degree to which each function as an electric vehicle (EV) also varies. The most common form of HEV is the hybrid electric car, although hybrid electric trucks (pickups and tractors) and buses also exist.
    Examples: Toyota Prius
  • Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PHEV): A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a hybrid electric vehicle whose battery can be recharged by plugging it into an external source of electric power, as well as by its on-board engine and generator.
    Examples:
  • Range-Extended Battery Electric Vehicle (BEVx): A range extender is a fuel-based auxiliary power unit (APU) that extends the range of a battery electric vehicle by driving an electric generator that charges the vehicle’s battery. This arrangement is known as a series hybrid drivetrain. The most commonly used range extenders are internal combustion engines, but fuel-cells or other engine types can be used.
    Examples: Chevrolet Volt, BMW i3 with range extender.
  • Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV):  battery electric vehicle (BEV), pure electric vehicle, only-electric vehicle or all-electric vehicle is a type of electric vehicle(EV) that exclusively uses chemical energy stored in rechargeable battery packs, with no secondary source of propulsion (e.g. hydrogen fuel cell, internal combustion engine, etc.). BEVs use electric motors and motor controllers instead of internal combustion engines (ICEs) for propulsion. They derive all power from battery packs and thus have no internal combustion engine, fuel cell, or fuel tank. Examples: Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt, all Tesla models.

The above types are listed in order, getting greener as you move down the list. Now every manufacturer is promoting BEVs, General Motors and other vehicle manufacturers have pledged to go full BEV within this decade.  Numerous more affordable models are on the new & used markets.

When we got married in June 2014 a friend drove us to our reception in her new BEV, a Tesla Model S — a rarity at the time.

We just exited the Tesla Model S that drove us to Bevo Mill, June 8 2014

Before our wedding we even took a test drive of one, I told the Tesla rep we couldn’t afford one but they said to go out anyway.

Test driving a 2014 Tesla Model S, May 2014. I’m in the passenger seat because I need a spinner knob to safely steer a vehicle on public roads.

For this post I searched Auto Trader for a used Model S. Of the 1,621 results the cheapest is a 2013 with 124,459 miles for $21,000. Within 50 miles of our zip code there are 14 Tesla Model S, the cheapest is another 2013 with 71,609 miles, an asking price of $28,990.

Both are thousands more than what we paid for our current car, that was only 3 years old with less than 47,000 miles. Our credit union would finance such a purchase, but the interest rate is higher and the length of loan not as long. A well-used Tesla Model S still isn’t affordable to us.

A friend’s Tesla Model 3 on South Grand, October 2019

Maybe a Model 3? Of the 11 within 50 miles a 2019 with 26k miles is the cheapest at $34,990 Nationally 875 are for sale, a 2018 with 33k mile is the cheapest at $28, 492. No Tesla is affordable for us, but there are other BEV options.

Nissan Leaf BEV at the 2011 St. Louis Auto Show
Chevy Bolt BEV, 2016 Chicago Auto Show
A Chevy Bolt BEV charging at 620 Lucas in downtown St. Louis.

The Nissan Leaf came out a decade ago, the Chevy Bolt began with the 2017 model year. As the original purchaser enjoyed the tax incentives offered the used prices are well within our budget. Additional 4+ passenger used BEVs include the Kia Soul EV, VW e-Golf, Hyundai Ioniq, BMW i3, and Mercedes B-class.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV, 2014 Chicago Auto Show
BMW i3, 2015 Chicago Auto Show

The number of used BEVs in the St. Louis region is limited, but I’d be open to buying a California car and driving it home or having it delivered. The problem now with a BEV is charging it.

Most BEV owners charge at home, overnight. If you’ve got a garage this isn’t an issue, but for many out there it’s a huge obstacle. We rent and our car gets parked in a parking lot. We have a reserved space only because I’m physically disabled. At our previous loft we had an assigned space but the cost to get a charger to our spot would’ve been exorbitant. I doubt the condo has sufficient power to have chargers for even 20% of the cars.

I’ve owned properties before, but I usually parked on the street. At this point a BEV at any price just won’t work for us.  The next best thing is a PHEV— plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. As BEVs have decreased in price and range extended, PHEV sales have declined. The true benefits of a PHEV are only realized when you can change at home and drive 15-30 miles purely on battery power.

That leaves a HEV (hybrid) as my only choice. There are many hybrid choices these days, though I’m inclined to get a newer hybrid version of our car because the 2-position memory seat & mirrors feature is very nice when sharing a vehicle with a driver who’s significantly taller.

The issue of how renters & condo owners in the St. Louis region will charge BEVs/PHEVs in the coming years remains. High-end buildings in the central corridor may have difficulty getting enough power into owner’s assigned spaces. With 50-150 units/cars per association they’ll have major challenges as more and more residents want to plug in their BEVs overnight. At existing apartment complexes with surface parking lots the challenge will be the cost to set up chargers. Paying retail to charge at BEV at your apartment rather than adding the current to your existing electric bill could made operating a BEV very costly.

And before anyone mentions coal is dirty, BEVs charged with electricity generated by fossil fuels is still cleaner than ICE vehicles (source). Part of Ameren’s electric is generated by wind & solar. Additionally, half our electricity is generated by wind through Arcadia (referral link). Combined less than half our electricity is from fossil fuels. If we could get a BEV/PHEV and charge at our apartment I’d gladly pay the 1.5¢ extra per kWh for 100% wind power.

In the past BEVs were very expensive, but the electric vehicle has gone mainstream. GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, and other legacy vehicle manufacturers have pledged to go fully electric before the end of the decade. Toyota, whose Prius is synonymous with hybrid, will announce its first BEV next week.

Eventually battery technology will get to the point where charging won’t take overnight, but in the meantime someone needs to figure out how the masses without a private garage will charge their vehicle at home.

— Steve Patterson

Is Gentrification Encroaching on the O’Fallon Neighborhood?

March 2, 2021 Featured, North City Comments Off on Is Gentrification Encroaching on the O’Fallon Neighborhood?
 

Today is Election Day in St. Louis, odd-numbered wards will vote aldermen, plus mayor and comptroller.  In the 21st ward six candidates are running for alderman. The top two in today’s nonpartisan primary will face each other in the April general election.

Different visions for the future of the O’Fallon Neighborhood will potentially play a role in the minds of voters in the 3rd & 21st wards. In the 21st ward there are six candidates — the highest number of any race today.

In early January I posted about a development proposal supported by the incumbent, see Initial Thoughts On Proposed ‘City District’ In North St. Louis. Since then I drove the area again to get better photographs. It was then I got to see actual results of another development effort in the same area.

Led by Ona Zené Yeshitela, President of the African People’s Education and Defense Fund (APEDF) and Black Star Industries (BSI), the Black Power Blueprint was launched in 2017 on the North Side of St. Louis, the most impoverished area of the city. 

The Black Power Blueprint is buying abandoned, dilapidated buildings, initiating a rapid process of restoration or demolition and re-allocation of land to create community-generated, self-reliance programs that uplift the residents and engage them socially, politically and economically in the future of our community. 

In three years APEDF and BSI have raised more than $300,000 in funds primarily from crowd-funding, webinars, Uhuru Pies and Uhuru Furniture sales, countless donors and in-kind services and contributions. 

This outpouring of support has enabled the Black Power Blueprint to transform a community—not just with land and buildings, but with a sense of pride and a vision for a prosperous future once again. (Black Power Blueprint)

Two buildings and the community space, the Uhuru House is at 4101 W Florissant Ave.

I missed a news story about this effort last November:

According to city property records, the groups have purchased half a dozen properties along West Florissant Avenue between Grand Boulevard and O’Fallon Park and applied for more than $269,000 in building and demolition permits. Home base is the 9,000-square-foot Uhuru House, an event space named after the word “freedom” in Swahili. There are two other houses like it, one in Oakland, California, and St. Petersburg, Florida, all part of the international Uhuru Movement, which strives to unite Africans from the diaspora caused by the global slave trade. (Post-Dispatch)

I very happy to see such an effort, so I went through their entire website. On one page the group lists the grim reality many blacks face in St. Louis, but one stood out to me as a good issue to explore:

Black residents of North St. Louis face rapidly encroaching gentrification, with higher rents and property taxes, that is forcing thousands further out into the county and beyond.

I don’t doubt rents are increasing, and we know blacks have been leaving north St. Louis for years. But “rapidly encroaching gentrification”?

First, we need to define gentrification. In 2017 one expert broke down gentrification into four types: expansive, concentrated, limited, and nascent.

Across the street from the Uhuru House the handsome building at 4102 W. Florissant Ave is getting attention. The ownership is different.

St. Louis is considered concentrated:

Concentrated Gentrification
Best examples: Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Here, the cities share the same type of older layout as the cities above, but have had larger (relative) black populations. This is where you see that larger parts of such cities have been “written off” by many residents. In each case, gentrification sprouted usually from one area that was a last bastion of white affluent residents (Chicago’s North Side, Northwest D.C. or the area around the University of Pennsylvania in Philly) and spread outward from there. Although most large cities have vast inequality, it’s most evident in these cities because they tend to be racially, economically and socially divided. (
Huffington Post)

The argument is larger 1970 black populations meant whites had written off areas considered black. In St. Louis that generally means north of Delmar.  Concentrated gentrification occurs as affluent white areas get so expensive buyers look to adjacent areas.

In St. Louis we’ve seen this along the central corridor— that wide swath of the region westward from the central business district. McRee Town was razed for Botanical Heights. Forest Park Southeast has changed dramatically over the last 30 years with the The Grove district.

So yes, gentrification does happen in St. Louis. However, Delmar has remained a formidable barrier separating the central corridor from north St. Louis. The O’Fallon neighborhood is a long way from the central corridor. I can’t see it gentrifying unless the neighborhoods in between gentrify first.

When census numbers are released I think we’ll continue to see population declines in north St. Louis neighborhoods. Lots of problems to address, gentrification isn’t one of them.

— Steve Patterson

Where They Lived: Page, Hathaway, and Spinks

February 25, 2021 Featured, History/Preservation, North City Comments Off on Where They Lived: Page, Hathaway, and Spinks
 

February is Black History Month and two recent celebrity deaths prompted me to do this post.

I’ll begin with the opening lines to RuPaul’s 1992 dance hit Supermodel (You Better Work):

[Spoken Intro: LaWanda Page and RuPaul]
Once upon a time, there was a little black girl, in the Brewster Projects of Detroit, Michigan. At fifteen, she was spotted by an Ebony Fashion Fair talent scout and her modeling career took off
You better work.

These initial lines weren’t sung by RuPaul, they were spoken by the very recognizable voice of Lawanda Page (1920-2002). Though Page was born in Cleveland, Ohio she was raised in St. Louis. According to Wikipedia she attended Banneker Elementary School at 2840 Samuel Shepard Dr. This school closed in 2005. This is just north of what was the Mill Creek Valley neighborhood, where she likely lived.

LaWanda Page, born Alberta Peal, is best known for her roll as Aunt Esther on the sitcom Sanford and Son, starring her friend St. Louis-born Redd Foxx (1922-1991). Born John Elroy Sanford, his father was indeed named Fred Sanford.  While Foxx was born in St. Louis he was actually raised in Chicago.

Back to the song lyrics and that little black girl. None of the three male songwriters were from Detroit, much less the Brewster projects. However, three little black girls from the Brewster projects in Detroit Michigan founded the group that became Motown’s The Supremes. Supreme Mary Wilson (1944-2021) recently died.

Like so many housing projects, Brewster began as low rise buildings but later buildings were high rises.

The Brewster Project and Frederick Douglass Apartments were built between 1935 and 1955, and were designed by Harley, Ellington & Day of Detroit. The Brewster Project began construction in 1935, when First LadyEleanor Roosevelt broke ground for the 701-unit development; the first phase, consisting of low-rise apartment blocks, was completed in 1938. An expansion of the project completed in 1941 brought the total number of housing units to 941. The Frederick Douglass Apartments, built immediately to the south of the Brewster Project, began construction in 1942 with the completion of apartment rows, two 6-story low-rises, and finally six 14-story high rises completed between 1952 and 1955. The combined Brewster-Douglass Project was five city blocks long, and three city blocks wide, and housed anywhere between 8,000 and 10,000 residents, at its peak capacity.

St. Louis followed the same pattern of low rise initially, followed later by massive high rise projects. Today’s Carr Square neighborhood included numerous public housing projects, both low & high rise: Carr Square Village is low rise, followed by high rise Vaughn Housing & Pruitt-Igoe.

Donny Hathaway (1945-1979) was born in Chicago but raised in the Carr Square neighborhood. My favorite Donny Hathaway song is his 1972 duet with Roberta Flack, Where Is The Love? He lived with his grandmother and attended Franklin Elementary & Vashon high school. I wasn’t able to find a specific address so I’m not sure where they lived. I do know another song he’s known for is The Ghetto.

Franklin school is now senior housing, October 2007

The Spinks family, including boxer Leon Spinks Jr. (1953-2021), also lived in the Carr Square neighborhood. Early on it would’ve been called Kerry Patch, and later DeSoto-Carr. Unlike Donny Hathaway, I do know exactly where the Spinks family lived.

 

Leon Spinks Sr was born in 1937. In the 1940 census he was the youngest of 8 kids living with Lewis & Ava Spinks at 1409 N 14th Street.  The house they lived in was on the 1909 Sanborn map, but was torn down prior to the 1980s construction of the existing apartments at that addresses. The 53 year old Lewis Spinks Sr. listed the 14th Street address on a war registration card but marked it out, writing in 1024 N 21st. As a reference he listed Lewis Spinks Jr, now living separately at 1423 Biddle.

Leon Spinks Jr was born in 1953. In 1965 his father was living in the 2800 block of Biddle, in or near Pruitt-Igoe. By 1969 the senior Leon Spinks was living at 2210 Cass — definitely Pruitt-Igoe.

Not sure why I enjoy looking up where people lived, but I do.

— Steve Patterson

Advertisement



[custom-facebook-feed]

Archives

Categories

Advertisement


Subscribe