Potential North-South & County Light Rail Line Should Include ‘Green Track’

 

 No, I don’t want the rails to be painted green. Instead I want the space between the rails to be green with vegetation, where possible. Why? Aesthetics, cooler temperatures, management of stormwater runoff, etc. Green track isn’t limited to only historic lines, it’s increasingly common in Europe with some limited …

Baer Plaza Now More A Dishonor Than An Honor, 25th Anniversary of Dedication Quickly Approaching

 

 I never met Robert J. Baer, but I see the plaza named for him all the time. Baer Plaza, across Broadway from The Dome (map), was named in his honor a little more than 20 years before his death in 2017. The 25th anniversary of the dedication is just 7 …

Glad the Illinois Primary is Tuesday, June 28th

 

 I’ve lived in two states my entire life, Illinois isn’t one of them. But as a St. Louis Missouri resident for nearly 32 years I’ve seen plenty of Illinois campaign television advertisements. Of course, Illinois residents in the St. Louis metro area have seen more than their share of Missouri …

New Residential Building Will Replace Short 1968 Bank Building at 620 Market in Downtown St. Louis

 

 The 2-story building at 620 Market Street, at 7th, was built in 1968. Most recently it was Mike Shannon’s restaurant, originally it was a bank with drive-through tellers. My first time in this building was in the early 1990s when the offices for the East-West Gateway Council of Governments — …

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Potential North-South & County Light Rail Line Should Include ‘Green Track’

June 30, 2022 Environment, Featured, North City, Planning & Design, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on Potential North-South & County Light Rail Line Should Include ‘Green Track’
 

No, I don’t want the rails to be painted green. Instead I want the space between the rails to be green with vegetation, where possible.

Why? Aesthetics, cooler temperatures, management of stormwater runoff, etc.

Pre-Katrina you could see natural green track in New Orleans LA, April 2004

Green track isn’t limited to only historic lines, it’s increasingly common in Europe with some limited use in North America.

Over more than 6 (six) decades Green Tracks are popular through out Europe in dense urban areas. They are a fantastic tool to mitigate stormwater issues, to reduce noise and certainly to beautify their integration. Green light rail tracks demonstrate environmental responsibility and they value their customers by making things nice, green and beautiful. Today there are over 500 miles of Green light-rail tracks in Europe.

The living green layers within and around the tracks reduces the noiseand absorbs stormwater. Thus, reducing combined sewer overflow. Modern track systems are typically Ballastless Tracks or Slab Track systems. Basically, a traditional elastic combination of ties/sleepers and ballast is replaced by a rigid construction of concrete or asphalt. Because such systems are ideal for greenery, it is even possible to create additional stormwater retention and detention from surrounding impervious areas with the system.

Already, in 1995 Green Roof Technology filed patents for greening systems on Ballastless Track systems. Currently there are around 300 miles of green tracks in Germany alone. As a result, these tracks eliminate at least 150,000 gallons of water per years from entering the combined sewer system.

In North America, Baltimore started with some experimental Green Light-rail Tracks in 2011 insisting on Sedum mats. The testing was less promising because Sedum mono-cultures are not a good choice for most green light-rail track system. Unfortunately the advice from Green Roof Technology using a smart mixtures of grasses, herbs and wildflowers was not heard. Some call it learning by doing – well – they just don’t do it. (Green Roof Technology).

Typically rails are supported by ballasts, treated wood or concrete pieces set into the ground perpendicular to the rail. Our original 1993 light rail line used wood ballast, the 2006 Shrewsbury extension (aka Blue) line was constructed with longer-lasting concrete ballasts.

Our current lines are Red & Blue so naturally I’d like this new line to be the Green Line. Green track for the Green Line!

It can’t be everywhere, but in many places it can be. A lot of the new line would be in the center of Natural Bridge, which recently went through a quick traffic calming project that reduced vehicle travel lanes to one per direction. Adjacent to Fairgrounds Park the center is green — would be greener if not on top of asphalt.

Looking east toward Grand
Looking west from the same location.

I think the green looks nice, helps keep the area slightly cooler.

While we’re on the subject of alternatives to impervious concrete, another would be water — yes, wet track! Rail going through a fountain…

Not sure if or where this might work, but I think it’s very interesting. Perhaps on Jefferson near the stop near Olive or Market? Guests in new hotels could look down from their rooms and see transit & water converge.

I’d just like us to consider something other than boring ordinary impervious paving.

— Steve Patterson

Baer Plaza Now More A Dishonor Than An Honor, 25th Anniversary of Dedication Quickly Approaching

June 25, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on Baer Plaza Now More A Dishonor Than An Honor, 25th Anniversary of Dedication Quickly Approaching
 

I never met Robert J. Baer, but I see the plaza named for him all the time. Baer Plaza, across Broadway from The Dome (map), was named in his honor a little more than 20 years before his death in 2017.

Every year annuals are placed around the marker, at the base of the flag poles. This spot, visible when driving by on Broadway, always looks nice.
The large lawn area is always very attractive.

The 25th anniversary of the dedication is just 7 weeks from today, on Saturday August 13, 2022. I think it calls for recognition…and a little effort beforehand to improve the condition.

Improve condition? It looks nice, right?

First, read more about the man the plaza is named to honor.

 Mr. Baer retired in 2002 as president and chief operating officer of UniGroup, and its operating subsidiaries, which include household goods transportation companies United Van Lines, LLC and Mayflower Transit, LLC. He was a past chairman of the St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District and a past president of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, in addition to serving twice in area mass transit leadership positions. In the 1990s, he chaired the agency responsible for coordinating the expansion to America’s Center which included the domed stadium. Mr. Baer was born and raised in south St. Louis. He attended St. Francis de Sales High School, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Beginning his career working for the City of St. Louis Division of Recreation in 1957, he served as deputy director of the Metropolitan St. Louis Human Development Corporation from 1964 to 1970. He was then employed for four years as chief of staff for Lawrence K. Roos, the County Executive of St. Louis County. In 1974, he was named executive director of Bi-State Development (which now operates the Metro public transportation system), a position he held for three years.

        In 1977, Mr. Baer joined United Van Lines as vice president and general manager. He was named United’s president in 1982 and, in 1988, was appointed president and chief operating officer of UniGroup, a newly formed holding company with United its largest operating entity. During Mr. Baer’s 25 years with United and UniGroup, the enterprise grew into one of the largest transportation corporations in the United States with consolidated annual revenues of $2 billion. In 1995, UniGroup acquired a second household goods mover, Mayflower Transit of Carmel, Ind. Mr. Baer served as chief operating officer of United, Mayflower, and sister UniGroup companies Vanliner (Insurance) Group, Inc., Total Transportation Services, and UniGroup Worldwide, Inc.

        Following his retirement from UniGroup, Mr. Baer continued to serve UniGroup for several years as a member of the Vanliner board of directors. He also was on the boards of Stifel Financial Corp., U.S. Bank, and Drury Hotels.

        In addition to his UniGroup corporate responsibilities, Mr. Baer contributed his time and leadership abilities to a variety of community service organizations and agencies over a period of more than 20 years. From 1985 to 1989, he was president of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, overseeing the activities of the Metropolitan St. Louis Police Department which included the construction of the first new police stations in decades. In 1990, he accepted the chairmanship of the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, which was responsible for a $300 million expansion of the city’s convention center and construction of the domed stadium. A park on Broadway east of the dome was designated “Baer Plaza” in recognition of Mr. Baer’s role in the project.

        Mr. Baer was chairman of the board of trustees of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District from March 2003 until March 2005, and he remained on that board until April 2006. His previous experience leading Bi-State Development was instrumental in his appointment, in December 2007, as acting head of Metro Transit. The “temporary” job grew into a three-year assignment, concluding in 2010 after voter approval of a ballot proposition to ensure the ongoing financial sustainability of public transit in St. Louis.

      Among his other civic activities, Mr. Baer was founder of the Thomas Dunn Memorial Adult Education Program in the mid-1950s. He was an emeritus member of Civic Progress. He was the recipient of numerous awards for many achievements throughout his career. (Kutis Funeral Home)

Again, I never met him. I can’t speak to how he was personally, as a boss, as a civic leader.  I imagine getting the city, county, and state to work together to build a stadium in the hope of getting an expansion team takes a lot of skill.

Plaque denoting the dedication on August 13, 1997 — 7 weeks from today.

Even if an event doesn’t acknowledge the 25th anniversary, or Baer’s contributions, the plaza should be cleaned up.

The paved portion of the plaza is where most of the cleaning needs to happen. You can kinda see how the center is darker than the perimeter.
The paved center has several drains — but all have been clogged for years.
Another clogged drain, with plenty of caked dirt around each.
With the drains clogged a good rain turns the plaza into a shallow pond. June 2021. This means groups can’t plan to use this space for events in case it rains just prior.
At the base of the trees there’s a collection of twigs & small branches.
There’s also a few areas with more compostable material.

The biggest project is getting the drains cleared. This means hiring a company to provide this service. Once the drains are cleaned out, the entire circular plaza needs to be power washed. It’s all filthy and looks it. The concrete and bricks are in good condition, they just need a good cleaning. Again, this is a project to hire out, maybe the downtown Clean Team?

The sports commission that operates the Dome and this plaza recently came into a bit of money, I think unclogging drains and cleaning the hard materials would be a good investment. Especially since the XFL will be returning in 2023.

All the hard surfaces along Broadway north toward Cole Street also need cleaning. Additionally toward the north end a few tree wells need a little sprucing up.

This is the worst tree well. It needs more dirt to fill in the low areas (left) — there’s dirt in the ADA ramp on Cole @ 6th that might do the trick.

Some of these northern tree wells could benefit from more liriope & lillies, like the others.

That’s it: unclog a few drains, power wash all pervious materials, a little dirt and a few plants.  If not done before the anniversary, perhaps the anniversary date is the day for a big project with volunteers.

— Steve Patterson

Glad the Illinois Primary is Tuesday, June 28th

June 23, 2022 Featured, Metro East, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Glad the Illinois Primary is Tuesday, June 28th
 
The old Illinois capital building in downtown Springfield IL

I’ve lived in two states my entire life, Illinois isn’t one of them. But as a St. Louis Missouri resident for nearly 32 years I’ve seen plenty of Illinois campaign television advertisements. Of course, Illinois residents in the St. Louis metro area have seen more than their share of Missouri political ads.

The Illinois primary is Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

While there are many races on ballots in Illinois it is ads for two that are the ones we’ve all been seeing. A lot. Governor & 15th congressional district.

Let’s begin with the race for congress, both GOP candidates are incumbents!

U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis and Mary Miller are running in the Republican primary for Illinois’ 15th Congressional District on June 28, 2022. This race is one of six U.S. House incumbent-vs.-incumbent primaries occurring in 2022 as a result of congressional redistricting after the 2020 census. (Ballotpedia)

Illinois lost one seat in congress as a result of population loss in the 2020 census, so two Republican colleagues are now in a bitter campaign against each other. Each is trying to paint themselves as the most pro-Trump and the other as being less conservative than themselves.

The head-to-head contest is an offshoot of new congressional boundaries drawn by state lawmakers in Springfield following the federal census and Illinois’ loss of one of its current 18 U.S. House seats. Miller’s home was narrowly drawn into a district with another Republican, U.S. Rep. Mike Bost of Murphysboro, but she opted instead to challenge Davis. Members of Congress do not have to live in the district they represent. (Chicago Tribune)

The 15th is the most conservative district in Illinois, which means the democratic nominee won’t stand a chance. Either Davis or Miller will be out of office in January 2023, a week from now we should know who will be sworn in again and who will pack up their D.C. apartment.

In the Illinois race for governor the situation is very different. Democrat J. B. Pritzker is seeking a second term, he’ll easily win his primary. Half a dozen Republicans are running to become the GOP nominee to challenge Prizker in November.

Six candidates are running in the Republican primary for governor of Illinois on June 28, 2022. Darren Bailey and Richard Irvin have led the field in fundraising and media coverage.

Bailey is a farmer who serves in the Illinois State Senate. He was first elected to office in 2020. In his campaign ads, Bailey has highlighted his support for reducing taxes and government spending while serving in the state senate, his support for law enforcement, his support for Donald Trump (R), and his opposition to Governor J.B. Pritzker (D). A campaign ad said, “In Springfield, Darren stood up for working families and fought against every single tax increase. When Governor Pritzker tried to close Illinois, Darren sued him and won to keep our state open. Now, Darren is running for governor with a plan to cut our taxes, fund our police, and impose term limits on politicians.”[4]

Irvin is an attorney who has served as mayor of Aurora, Illinois since he was elected in 2017. Irvin’s campaign ads have highlighted his work as a prosecutor and his support for increasing police department budgets, his experience as a veteran, his opposition to J.B. Pritzker, and his economic record as mayor of Aurora. A campaign ad said, “Running our second-largest city, crime’s come down because the police budget has gone up. I hired more cops each year. We’ve recruited new companies […] and we’ve controlled spending, balanced budgets, so residents got property tax relief. My city is now stronger, safer, and full of opportunity. I want that for Illinois.” (Ballotpedia)

I’ve seen ads for only [two] three of the six. Like the 15th congressional district ads, the spots from the top two challengers have been vicious. I’ve also seen a few ads for Paul Schimpf. Nothing from the other three candidates. If Bailey loses either the primary or general he’ll no longer be in public office because his term as state senator ends. However, Irvin was just re-elected to a second term as Aurora’s mayor last year. If he doesn’t become governor he’ll still be mayor.

Past Illinois Democratic governors have been vulnerable at election time, but Prizker appears to be in a better position than his predecessors.

Illinois U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth is seeking another 6-year term. I’ve not seen a single ad for the seven (7) Republicans on Tuesday’s primary ballot who want to go against her in November.

It’ll just be nice having a break from divisive political ads for a bit, though I know Missouri’s primary is only 5 weeks later, on August 2, 2022.

— Steve Patterson

 

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New Residential Building Will Replace Short 1968 Bank Building at 620 Market in Downtown St. Louis

June 20, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Real Estate Comments Off on New Residential Building Will Replace Short 1968 Bank Building at 620 Market in Downtown St. Louis
 

The 2-story building at 620 Market Street, at 7th, was built in 1968. Most recently it was Mike Shannon’s restaurant, originally it was a bank with drive-through tellers. My first time in this building was in the early 1990s when the offices for the East-West Gateway Council of Governments — the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The building faces 3 streets: Market, 7th, and Walnut.

620 Market is located on the SE corner of Market & 7th. March 2022.
Alley between 620 Market (left) and the back of the Hilton parking garage (right). This alley may be privately owned by the hotel, not sure. March 2022.
Original bank night deposit box facing the alley on the east side.
The bank’s drive through tellers were accessed from Market Street. The access to the new building’s garage parking will be on this side. March 2022

Soon the building will be razed so a new building can be constructed on the site. Good riddance. Seriously, it’s awful for a central business district, but it’s exactly what to expect from the 1960s. Here’s more photos from years past.

Seventh Street faced of 620 Market, at Walnut. May 2012
The Walnut side, facing south toward Busch Stadium II when new. This was taken in April 2013 during phase 1 construction for Ballpark Village.
This May 2015 view from the Railway Exchange shows the context before phase 2 of Ballpark Village was built. Click image to see larger version.
620 Market top center in March 2016, during the removal of the old Kiener Plaza. Looking at 7th & Market.
The Market Street entrance to 620 Market, February 2016.

 

The new building won’t be an office building, but rental units over parking — exactly what you’d expect in today’s current development climate.

The construction will be a 3-story garage with 5 stories of wood-frame units above. There will be both street and paid garage parking. Public dog park areas abound and a 3rd floor courtyard facing the east will provide residents with an outdoor pool and yoga. A roof top viewing deck of the Arch and the Stadium and the skyline will be a great amenity. An on-site leasing office, cyber cafe and a community/fitness area will be placed on the ground floor along with 4955 square feet of retail/restaurant space. (Garrison Companies)

The developer’s website mentions the Ballpark MetroLink station only a couple of blocks away, and the new residential building over a new Target under construction at the Grand MetroLink station. Though they think Grand is “only a light rail stop away.” These light rail references combined with the “paid garage parking” tells me a parking spot won’t be included in the rent — such unbundled parking is ideal. Hopefully I’m reading this correctly.

While all the downtown condos I’m aware of all have an assigned space, many rental buildings don’t include a parking spot. Less “free” parking means fewer cars, greater use of public transit.

620 Market is on the left side. some units in the new building will have great views of Kiemer Plaza and parades on Market Street. May 2017 photo.

 

North-South MetroLink Study Update Looking To Stay On Jefferson Avenue, Avoid Previously Planned Circuitous Route

June 16, 2022 Environment, Featured, Planning & Design, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on North-South MetroLink Study Update Looking To Stay On Jefferson Avenue, Avoid Previously Planned Circuitous Route
 

The idea of a North-South MetroLink light rail line has been discussed for many years — too many. We’ve had a couple of studies and locally preferred alternatives over the 15+ year period. Currently Metro is looking at the most recent and “tweaking” it to make it work financially with the city funds from our transit tax. So when I heard this would be included in the Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT) June “Talking Transit” online event I immediately registered. It took place a week ago, but it’s online — link in a moment.

The last alternative was eastbound on Natural Bridge, coming south on Parnell/Jefferson to Cass (to include the large NGA workforce), east to 14th, eventually to 10th, back over to 14th, west on Chouteau, south on Jefferson.

2018 detail map showing the North-South MetroLink in orange. This is no longer possible because of the convention center expansion project closing 9th street.

So basically on Jefferson north of Cass and south of Chouteau, but taking a highly circuitous detour to go through downtown — and briefly east of Tucker.  The distance between those two points on Jefferson is 1.6 miles — in basically a straight line that would require no left or right turns.m

In a 2006 post I suggested a modern tram route on Jefferson, with a new MetroLink station where Jefferson crosses over the existing light rail line, so riders could transfer between lines. Well 16 years later they’re looking at doing basically just that — run in-street light rail on Jefferson with the addition of a MetroLink station at Jefferson. This was disclosed by Bi-State Development President & CEO Taulby Roach at 3:23 in CMT’s event a week ago (watch 0n YouTube).

Bi-State graphic, the orange-yellow mostly vertical line in the center shows the initial phase being evaluated now.  The pink sections are “areas of persistent poverty.”

 

With the NGA, Centene Stadium (MLS) and planned new hotels (Jefferson & Market) this a hot corridor.

The rail wouldn’t be a tram in mixed traffic, it would be in a separate dedicated center section, still low-floor though. The vehicles for both are nearly identical. In-street light rail vs tram basically means dedicated right-of-way and fewer stops, to improve overall speed.

Obviously I’ve long thought a stop at Jefferson on the original MetroLink was a good idea — the distance between the Union Station & Grand stations is just so excessive. I often talk about focusing on corridors, not circuitous routes, and Jefferson is an obvious corridor for a transit project.  It’s not a perfectly straight line, but it would eliminate a huge amount of turns.

Like previous North-South studies, the idea of going out west on Natural Bridge allows a future phase to connect into North County. This could help get county residents to employment opportunities at NGA, and in Downtown West/Midtown.

The American-made Brookville Liberty vehicle can go off-wire for short distances. Dallas TX April 2015

The study update is looking at the latest low-floor vehicles to use. Because of some tight points they’re looking at vehicles that could run for short distances on battery, with the usual catenary most of the distance. This is called off-wire. An example is the Brookville Liberty, in use in cities like Dallas, Milwaukee, and Oklahoma City.  I have no idea which specific vehicles Metro is considering, but the technology to go without a catenary for a short distance is proven.

Interior of Brookville Liberty with low center section and step up seating at each end. Dallas TX, April 2015.
Brookville Liberty at a stop in Milwaukee WI, June 2021
Low-floor center section of Brookville Liberty makes boarding easy. June 2021.

I’d hoped to have visited Oklahoma City by now and ride their Brookville Liberty vehicles., but rental cars & flights have just been too expensive. Again, I’m not sure what vehicles Metro is considering, this is the only off-grid vehicle I’ve ever ridden before.

In the CMT event on Zoom Taulby Roach indicated they’re planning on closed platforms  — having to pass through a fare gate to reach the platform.  This coincides with Metro’s platform project to install fare gates at all MetroLink stations in Missouri & Illinois.

Hopefully Metro’s latest look at North-South rail will result in actual construction, eventual operations.

Steve Patterson

 

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