Home » Featured »Planning & Design »St. Louis County »Transportation » Currently Reading:

Land Hogs: Urban Highways

September 12, 2014 Featured, Planning & Design, St. Louis County, Transportation 68 Comments

Urban interstate highways, especially their interchanges, a major land hogs. The other day on MetroLink heading to Lambert Airport the extent became very visible.

The EB I-70 ramp onto NB I-170
The EB I-70 ramp onto NB I-170
Traffic from I-170 merging with WB I-70
Traffic from I-170 merging with WB I-70
Using Google Maps I calculate this interchange consumes 154 acres, about 1/4 of a square mile
Using Google Maps I calculate this interchange consumes 154 acres, about 1/4 of a square mile

One quarter of a square mile isn’t much, is it?  At current density levels this would be enough to house:

  • 475 people (St. Louis County)
  • 1,200 (St. Louis City)
  • 2,845 (Chicago)
  • 17,000 (Manhattan, NYC)

Urban highways reduce overall density, place barriers that further separate us. I’m not saying we change this particular interchange, just recognize what highways do to urbanized areas (vs rural).

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "68 comments" on this Article:

  1. Mark says:

    Unfortunately, what was once a reasonable idea, tying different geographical areas together with safe and efficient highways has over expanded to the point of absurdity. Now highways are added to ease congestion which was a result of poor urban planning and the original highways in the first place. The system has gotten to large to maintain and afford, but we have yet to step back due to special interest groups and question what we are doing. It’s always more, more, more.

  2. JZ71 says:

    I’m confused by your closing words – “just recognize what highways do to urbanized areas (vs rural).” The impact is similar in any area – land gets shifted from one, presumably more-productive use(s) to another, presumably less-productive use(s). In dense, urban areas, a fundamental assumption is that the highway will be serving a bigger adjacent population. And you’re assuming that all density is good. Using that argument, we would be better served if our urban parks were sold off to developers, so more people could live in the city – Winghaven would work great in Forest Park, New Town would work great in Tower Grove!

    The real “crime” isn’t the land consumed by interchanges, it’s the whole idea of higher-speed highways, in concept. Doubling real travel speeds, even/especially at rush hours, effectively quadruples the land mass available for commuters to live in. And unless you’re seeing a huge increase in population, the tendency for most humans is to either seek more space and/or to drive to affordability, and that kills density way more than the land consumed by urban interchanges.

    St. Louis hasn’t lost 2/3 of its population because homes and businesses were lost to freeway construction, it lost 2/3 of its population because both the people displaced by highway construction AND everyone else in the surrounding neighborhoods had more choices than they used to have. They were no longer tied to the existing, robust, streetcar grid, they were able to get in their cars and make suburbia work for themselves. They left their urban flats for suburban single family tract homes . . . .

    • Once again you’re overthinking and leaping to irrational conclusions.

      • guest says:

        No kidding, sheesh! Someone needs to start their own blog.

        • JZ71 says:

          Our regional population has remained fairly constant, at around 2.5-3 million, for a hundred years, while our urbanized land area has expanded, exponentially, over the same time period. The two biggest drivers (pardon the pun) has been the evil pairing of freeways and the private automobile. And the problem is NOT that interchanges consume land area, the problem is that in 1920, travelling 20 minutes on a streetcar would move you 5 miles, while travelling 20 minutes, today, will move you 10 or 15 miles. Sprawl is the problem and freeways are only one component (and interchanges are a subset of that component).

          Density and transit go hand in hand. As a community and a region we have have decided that freeways are preferable to transit – just look at our funding priorities! You and I may not like it, but it’s apparently what most people, here, want. Twenty-five or thirty years ago, St. Louis was doing more for transit than it is today. Metrolink was ahead of the curve when it came to contemporary investments in rail transit. Now, other places are investing in transit and better managing sprawl than we are. As long as public transit remains a joke outside of 270/255, sprawl will continue. As long as we have Fergusons and rolling gun battles in the city, sprawl will continue. As long as city and north county schools remain well below average, sprawl will continue.

          Pointing out that the I-70/I-170 interchange consumes a quarter of a square mile of land when it’s adjacent to other low density uses is a false argument, and I’m going to question it. Sure, IF this were Manhattan or the CWE or the Loft District, it “could” have a lot more people living on this piece of land – IT AIN’T! Lambert has acres and acres of unoccupied land – should it go away, as well? The Gateway Mall destroyed many buildings, back in the day. Should the Peabody Coal building go away? Or, should we get rid of the mall so we can have more density, downtown, “where it belongs”?!

          Random examples, taken out of context, are not useful. If someboby wanted to use the air rights, here, to do a dense urban project, I’m pretty sure that MoDOT would be more than willing to do the deal. There’s just one tiny, little detail – it’s in the freaking flight path for Lambert, you can’t build up and most people don’t want to be under a bunch of planes taking off and landing!!!!! This land would be vacant if there were no freeway or Metrolink line here! While it may suck, it’s actually the highest and best use. But if you want to argue waste and possibilities, let’s look south of downtown, to the I-55/I-44 interchange: https://www.google.com/maps/@38.6107686,-90.2106978,1224m/data=!3m1!1e3

          • dempster holland says:

            The point about traveling faster in cars than in streetcars is a
            good one. It means we can more easily get together with more
            people, which means an increase in inter-human communication,
            one of the classic virtues of cities. Yes’ we could achieve the
            same thing by all living in dense multifamily buildings, but
            nearly everyone in America who grew up in such areas has
            moved, when they could to less dense single family neighborhoods

          • GMichaud says:

            Actually transit can be nearly as fast, but what is more important is the positive impact on quality of life. As we have seen with the ticket scandals of the St Louis County muni’s there is a dark underbelly to the auto, and it doesn’t stop there,, global warming comes to mind.
            I have cited before cities like Stockholm that have accommodated both the auto and mass transit in new suburbs.
            In many cities around the world where mass transit is held on an equal footing with the auto the results in cities much different than in St.Louis. There are so many worldwide examples that it is clear it is not an accident, and the quality of life in higher for everyone.

            This means you don’t have whole segments of the population without transit. Or in the case of Ferguson, an unequal system of transit and roads that results in exploitation and discrimination by a government that is supposed to support them.
            St. Louis does not have inclusive transit opportunities, The whole system of highways is based on exclusion and it has never been balanced with transit.

            I also think you have it backwards, there aren’t any suburban environments that have encouraged an increase in human communication. In fact quite the opposite is true, urban density increases communication and more human interaction, the suburbanization of America has created isolated enclaves unrelated to the larger urban region.
            Another problem with these interchanges is the loss of farm land and green space. The example Steve gives above is a large piece of land.
            The auto is our master and the urban planning that is the St Louis region is the result.

          • JZ71 says:

            I pretty much agree. Transit is not one size fits all, it’s not just streetcars, just buses, just light rail, it’s an integrated system that runs frequently, offers a comprehensive route structure and is marketed to and embraced by many economic levels, not just the poor. Until we get past the local perception that only the poor / carless use Metro, it will be funded at poverty levels and primarily serve our poorer residential areas. And that creates a negative funding cycle in newer, wealthier, suburban areas, where poor service “justifies” the current low spending levels and lack of investment in new routes.

          • GMichaud says:

            Yes everyone should feel good about using transit. That is how it works in cities with successful transit. I think it is more than just perception, transit in the St. Louis region (or state for that matter) is poorly done and basically so undesirable that transit is left to only those who must use it for economic or other reasons.
            In a well developed situation transit will complement a surrounding urban environment in a way to enhance the experience of the rider. That is not done in St. Louis.
            A small example, cities with successful transit have squares, plazas and other visual and social collecting points for people and transit use.
            Instead, as the highway interchange shown above indicates, cars exclude human use, this is true of parking lots also. Thus the need for care in design.
            There seems to be no effort to explore other transit solutions in an effort to make transit more desirable.
            The disconnection of transit with the physical urban plan is a main fault. As you say, then the undesirable cycle of negative funding then further justifies poor service goes round and round.
            The transit planners are not the problem as much as East West Gateway Council. Who else is responsible for uniting transit with the physical city?
            In any case this region really needs to hit some reset buttons. I would dismantle East West Gateway and start over, the job is not getting done. There are far too many examples of successful integration of auto, transit and humanity in cities around the world to ignore. And when you add the system of ticket and citation corruption in the St. Louis region it should only heighten the concerns surrounding the development of a successful transit system.
            It just seems like the time for excuses is over, if government agencies cannot act, it is time for them to all resign.
            And we haven’t even talked about potential impacts transit usage can have on global warming.

          • dempster holland says:

            I realize that suburban enviornments do decrease human
            connection between neighbors. because with decreased
            density there are fewer neighbors, and with automobiles
            there no longer is walking past neighbors houses. But
            as for friends living elsewhere, the auto over the streetcar
            does substantially reduce travel time. Think back sixty years
            and imagine the time for a south st louis resident to visit
            a friend in Florissant–pre expressway. Then compare it to today.
            AS I mentioned, the alternative would be to return to the density
            of the 1950s city. But that did not mean living in neat old
            townhouses for most people; it meant living in four-room
            houses or crowded multi-family buildings.–something
            people nearly universally rejected when given the chance.

          • GMichaud says:

            And I think the idea of people universally have rejected living in a transit friendly environment over auto use is where the misconception lies. St. Louis has designed, evolved let’s say, an auto only preferred environment, so when there is not a clear choice, as in many other cities, then there is no advantage to living in a transit orientated situation. And when all of the benefits of living in such a situation have been removed or undermined, then yes, people will almost always choose the 4 bedroom suburban home.
            Again, there are many cities around the world that manage to balance transit and auto movement systems, and those cities are more successful and vibrant and far more people choose to do without an auto for their daily tasks.
            This destruction of the human environment extends to walking. Take downtown St. Louis for instance instead of walking past shop after shop, your walk will be shop, parking lot, shop, parking lot and so on. You can extend this to many other areas of the city and find the same results, thus undermining the usefulness of transit and density that is needed.
            A walking environment is the foundation of a good transit system. This is only a small portion of the policy failures in the region.

          • dempster holland says:

            I often wonder how many people who praise public transit have
            waited in cold, rainy weather for the streetcar; have just missed the
            transfer by a few minutes, or have been tired after a long work day
            and have to stand on a crowded car for half an hour.
            Or who have lived in a four room apartment with two kids and loud
            Then finally have a chance to get a single family house and a car, only
            to be told they have not chosen wisely and should go back to
            their old apartment and streetcar–because then they will be in a
            walkable neighborhoood

          • John R says:

            How many people have lost their job b/c they couldn’t afford to maintain their old car and had no back-up system to get to work such as viable public transportation? Or found themselves in jail b/c they couldn’t afford to pay for the ticket or show proof of insurance? Truth be told, car ownership is one heck of a financial burden on the working class.
            I think it is hard to deny that our region’s single biggest policy mistake is not building out a strong rapid transit system…it gives people choice and mobility and strengthens urban cores. It should have been done decades ago and we seem to be making no progress to build upon our modest starter line.

          • JZ71 says:

            You’re assuming that if we build it, “they” will came and use it.

            Yes, a personal vehicle is a large “financial burden”, but public transit is not without cost, either. EVERY ride on public transit is heavily subsidized with tax dollars. More service and more riders will require a much bigger subsidy than Metro currently receives. Show me the money – where are the additional taxes going to come from? Can we convince voters to support a dedicated, full 1% (or higher) sales tax? Like other regions? Can we convince our state legislature to dedicate substantial state tax dollars to public transit?

            You assume that most local residents actually want a strong urban core. I’d argue that the evidence suggests the opposite, given how the region has grown over the past decade, the past 25 years and the past century. If there were interest in a strong urban core, merger would be a no brainer and St. Charles County would not continue to be attracting new residents and businesses.

            You also argue that “our region’s single biggest policy mistake is not building out a strong rapid transit system”. That’s simply not the case – in the 1920’s, we, like most othet cities, had a very strong streetcar system. The “policy decision” was to neither maintain nor expand the system as they city’s urban form evolved to what it is today. Having it and deciding that it was no longer what most people wanted or would use is a different construct than saying that we are somehow making a mistake in not investing in a more robust and comprehensive transit system than we presently have.

            Finally, you seem to equate public transit with rail transit, “our modest starter line”. True public transit integrates multiple modes of moving people into an integrated, cohesive system, with rail transit being just one part of a larger system. If you want to see more people embrace public transit in St. Louis, we need to eliminate the current stigma most people have with buses.

          • GMichaud says:

            JZ you have said you have been involved in government in Denver, so I would think that you above all should understand how policy choices by government can influence how things turn out.
            Also I don’t think it is as simple as the previously successful mass transit system in St. Louis was abandoned, surely you are aware of General Motors, Firestone and Standard Oil went around the country and bought up streetcar lines, including St. Louis and shut them down. It is not unlike how global warming denial is being orchestrated by insiders.
            In any case corporate greed and their influence on policy has been around for awhile. I don’t feel like the use of the car is evolutionary nor completely market driven, instead there is a significant policy driven component that has made mass transit undesirable
            Cities around the world that have not had the negative impacts of American style capitalism have transit systems and urban cores that have thrived through the decades until today. Surely as an architect you know this.

          • JZ71 says:

            I agree that poicy choices influence outcomes. But I’ve also seen policies put in place that were simply unobtainable, and eventually ignored or heavily modified. You can believe your conspiracy theories about the demise of streetcars, but I’m sticking with people prefer the freedom of their own vehicles. Government policies reflect that strong, general (but not universal) preference – government tries to manage it, but few governments try to change the preferences. And as an architect, I “know” that many urban cores have remained viable for decades, while they’ve been, simutaneously, surrounded by ever-increasing suburban sprawl. The only places where this doesn’t happen is where geography intervenes – San Francisco, Vancouver, Manahattan, Hong Kong, etc. – and those places see astronomical increases in real estate prices – basic supply and demand. In contrast, metro Chicago, Phoenix, Atlanta and DC have all kept their downtowns viable while gobbling up surrounding farmland.

            Every mechanical system has a useful, design life. The PCC streetcars of the 1930’s were “modern” replacements for the original ones from the turn of the century. By the 1950’s and the early 1960’s, the PCC’s were in need of replacement, and buses, with improvements in diesel engines and synthetic rubber, were (and continue to be) more cost-effective and more flexible than streetcars for many existing routes and for nearly every new route. Streetcar technology was more advanced in the 1920’s and 1930’s than bus technology – that all changed after WW II. Even today, you can put out 3 or 4 bus routes out for ths cost of one streetcar line. Transit is all about moving people, not about buying the shiniest, most-expensive new toy!


          • John R says:

            Condescending much? Anyway, I specifically said rapid transit and of course this would be part of an integrated system that includes the bus workhorse. Surely you agree that our region would have been much further along had we built out a decent rapid system decades ago. If we had transportation planners beginning to look at a system in the City and County in the 50s and begun to build in say the 70s, I suspect we’d be more like Chicago or Philadelphia in that our population would have been off our high but the decline would have been much more modest and we likely would be growing again by now.
            It is true that we can’t afford public investment infrastructure as easily in the past — in part due to the flight accelerated by our overbuilding of highways — but we need to figure it out.

          • JZ71 says:

            I agree that “we need to figure it out”. I also believe that public transit plays, has played, and will play, in the future, a relatively minor part in the equation. The problems in this region, if they need repeating, include a fractured governmental system, with multiple governmental entities all protecting their own turf and trying to figure out how to tax everyone but their own residents, a public school system, in certain parts, that is defined as failing, a tectonic shift in the economy from manufacturing to services (with a corresponding drop in relative personal wealth), cheap land that results in sprawl, an underlying current of racism, on both sides of the racial divide, and, for better or for worse, a strong presence of organized labor. As long as we’re willing to essentially write off most of north city and much of north county, we’re not going to get consensus on improving transit. As long as our major employers choose to locate on sprawling suburban campuses (Express Scripts, Monsanto, Masrecard, GM in Wentzville, etc, etc.) instead of in dense, urban-scale, walkable areas, we’re not going to have the densities needed to support a viable transit system. As long as we focus on building random rail investments (two new streetcar lines, the Blue line on Metrolink) without a comprehensive plan or logical routing, we’ll continue to spend money on pet projects that don’t improve transit options for most current and potential riders. And until we get past viewing the Metro system as buses and as trains (two separate operations), the bus side of the equation will continue to be screwed. Buses ain’t sexy, but they’re the workhorses of the system. But try talking to most county residents, ask them the last time they’ve ridden on a Metro bus? When’s the last time, they’ve even thought about riding the bus? If you get a positive response from even 5%, I’d be amazed. The perception, whether you want to accept it (or not), is that buses are just something that blacks and poor people use, period. Until we get past that mindset, that public transit is just for “other people”, running scheduled, frequesnt, actually-useful transit service to most parts of the region would a) take a huge leap of faith, b) some serious money, c) a serious rebranding effort, and d) potentially, lower fares. The reason our population declined is pretty simple – people go where the jobs are, and more of them are being created in the popular sunbelt cities than are being created (or maintained) here in rustbelt USA. For transit to work, here, in Chicago or in Denver, you need density and you need motivation to do something that either appears to be, or actually is, harder than jumping in your and just driving directly to wherever you want to be! And just building it will be the first, tentative step. The next step is to see ridership actually increase, substantially. I continue to be amazed that our suburban park-and-ride lots usually have plenty of spaces available – go to most other areas in the country and they’ll be filled to beyond capacity. Sure, we can, and probably should be, investing more. I’m just not hearing any arguments (as a voter) that more transit is viewed as priority by most regional residents. As a transit wonk, I get why it should be happaening, but as a veteran of a few too many political battles, I going to have to say that Metro has some major, major perceptual issues to overcome before we see any new, major investments being funded.

          • John R says:

            I agree our fractured regional govt. is a major problem but I don’t consider that policy per se; education is a big issue as well but all urban centers have had the same problem, but the ones with better rapid transit appear to be healthier. Rapid Transit is a clear policy issue that we should have committed more strongly and earlier. I do think if during our heyday we would have built out a robust subway system along the lines of the proposal that Tom Shrout has shared (sorry I don’t have an image handy) we would have avoided much of our decline. Otherwise, looking at the more modern era of light rail, I think if we could have opened the Red Line say a decade earlier (Baltimore opened its subway I believe in 1983 about the same time as Pittsburgh) followed by a North-South light rail line in 1993 we’d also be considerably ahead of where we are today…. for the city I could easily envision an alternative universe of at least 350,000 people and growing by 2010 and a much healthier county as well.
            Now that we’ve delayed for so long and fiscal issues are more of an issue, we may be looking at Bus Rapid Transit as the form of any rapid transit expansion rather than light rail… not ideal, but if it is something along the lines of Cleveland’s Health Line and not some watered down express bus service then that should be fine… ridership on North-South wouldn’t be a problem. .

          • JZ71 says:

            Pretty much agree . . . However, our fractured governmental structure IS an unstated policy decision – instead of being annexed, we’ve decided (or, at least our predecessors decided) that pretty much any subdivision, even one lacking any revenue sources other than residential property taxes, can create a police department and a local court to enforce local ordinances, even ones that are implicitly or explicitly racist. When Denver passed their FasTracks transit plan ten years ago, it required support form something like 30 suburban governments*. Our region has three times that number of governments, so it’s going to be three times as difficult to reach consensus on where transit should go and how it should be financed. And without consensus, we’re left with our current transit reality . . . and it ain’t good.


          • dempster holland says:

            One city plan document I have seen from the 1920s in St Louis
            opposed a large subway system on the grounds that it would
            make travel to st Louis suburbs faster and thus would drain
            population from the city. Having said that, I am in favor of better
            public transit but am also aware of the reasons people turned to
            their own cars. As to the demise of the streetcar,
            read the works by Andrew Young, who attributes much of the
            decline in st louis streetcars after ww2 to highway construction
            causing expensive track reroutes and the consequent decision
            to change to buses, rebutting the consplracy theory of bus

          • GMichaud says:

            First of all I don’t think you understand what a fully functioning transit system might look like, do you understand there many cities of the world were transit users outnumber auto users.
            It is a question of design, which is my point, poor overall design of not only the transit system, but the urban plan also contributes to an ineffective transit experience.
            And yeah cars break down on the side of the road and have flat tires, so what? Maybe you have a crazy ax murderer for a neighbor, who knows, then life wouldn’t be much fun then would it? So what’s your point?, everyone has challenges, even those in autos.

            Nor do you seem to understand what the features of a walking neighborhood can do to improve the quality of life.

            Actually when people who drive all the time begin to pay the full costs of the auto to society I will be inclined to listen, right now the automobile, even with it’s expensive habits, does not even begin to recover its costs to society.
            Walking is free. Ok sidewalks are nice.

          • JZ71 says:

            Here, in the USA, at least 80% of the cost of every trip on public transit is subsidized by other taxpayers – less than 20% comes from the fare box. Buses, that provide the bulk of public transit, use the same streets and highways as other drivers, so don’t give me the “drivers are are also subsidized” argument. Unless you’re driving a company-provided vehicle, 100% of the cost of operating your own car comes out of your own pocket – you buy or lease the vehicle, you buy the gas, you pay for repairs, you provide the driver, you pay for the insurance. If you take the bus, you’re only paying for less than 20% of these things, and if we tried charging the full cost (can you say a $10 local fare, $15 for a ride on Metrolink and $500 monthly passes?!) you’d see an even bigger loss in ridership.

            There are few, if any, cities where “transit users outnumber auto users”. The ones that I can think of are either incredibly poor and third world or are part of a heavy-handed, socialistic, communistic government, neither of which most Americans aspire to be. And I do have a pretty good idea what a “fully functioning transit system might look like” and it requires density to justify frequent, 24/7 service. But, guess what? The cost of building multi-story, dense, urban structures is higher than the cost of building single-story, standalone structures. The only real variable is land cost, and that is driven solely by supply and demand. Land here is not expensive, we don’t have many natural barriers, so sprawl happens, for simple, economic reasons.

            The United States was founded with a vision of individual propery rights, and we continue to have vast amounts of affordable, undeveloped land, especially around here. Look no further than the population decline in the city, at the willingness to just walk away from tired, old structures. Sure, we can and should be reinvesting and repurposing our old building stock, but WE’RE NOT! Yes, walking is free, but most of us are lazy. We’ll walk from the parking lot, we might walk to a bus stop, but few us are willingly going to walk more than a mile in the summer or the winter, here, if we have other options.

            I do agree that it does boil down to design – design for a transit-centric city is different than design for an auto-centric city. Where we differ is in how design decisions are actually being made. Everyone that I’ve designed for has told me what they wanted, and I tried my best to meet those requirements. You seem to think that if we tell people that what they want is wrong that they will embrace a completely different vision than they originally started with. You seem to think that people just don’t understand the benefits of public transit, and are making uninformed choices when they pick paying for a beater Grand Am over buying a monthly pass on Metro or riding a bike. You seem to think that if we build it, they will come. After 60+ years on this planet, my take is that people are inherently lazy and narcicistic. If they can afford it (and even if they can’t), they will almost always take the easier way out. A perfect transit system would still require more planning and effort than just getting in and driving, and transit, here, is far, far from perfect. We had good transit 100 years ago, cars became affordable and reliable, and people chose cars over transit. You and others may not like that, but it informs most design decisions on most projects being designed and built today!

          • Motorists are subsidized. Try getting from A to B only using private roads, you wouldn’t get very far. Try filling up with fuel not subsidized by taxpayers. If fuel cost was closer to the true cost of $6/gallon you’d see more using transit.

          • JZ71 says:

            Buses and private cars use the same subsidized roads and the same subsidized fuels. And where do you get a “true cost of $6/gallon”? A good chunk of the retail cost of fuel is taxes used to build and maintain highways. Oil companies pay lease fees for drilling rights, and pay to transport and refine the crude oil, plus pay taxes – where’s the “subsidy”?

          • “The notion that the government should invest more in mass-transit infrastructure has always raised conservative hackles. As they sit on the Amtrak Acela, or ride the New York City subway or Washington, D.C., Metro, to their think-tank jobs or to the Wall Street Journal’soffices, free-market types frequently fulminate against the systems that ferry them around. (New York Times house libertarian John Tierney’s “Amtrak Must Die” from 2002 is a classic in the genre.) To such critics, money spent on mass transit, such as the $1.3 billion 2007 appropriation for Amtrak (here’s Amtrak’s 2007 annual report) represents an unconscionable waste of taxpayer funds. With their top-down bureaucracies and public ownership, they argue, mass-transit systems can never hope to compete economically with the private-sector alternative—driving gasoline-powered cars. They can’t compete culturally and socially, either, since rugged American individualists prefer sitting by themselves in traffic to rubbing shoulders with strangers. And for those few areas where it does make sense to have mass transit, the market will step in and provide.”

          • JZ71 says:

            I’ve never said that we should not invest in public transit. My two points are that a) public transit requires large public subsidies, so more transit will require even larger subsidies (and how will that argument be made to the voters, here, successfully?), and b) EVERY trip on public transit is highly subsidized by taxpayers, while individual drivers pay the full cost of operating their own vehicles. Metro buys vehicles, you and I buy vehicles. Metro buys fuel, you and I buy fuel. Metro buys tires, you and I buy tires. Metro pays for maintenance, you and I pay for maintenance. Metro pays operators to drive their vehicles, you and I drive our own vehicles. Metro pays for insurance, you and I pay for insurance. The difference is that Metro expects taxpayers to pick up a large portion of these costs (in excess of 80%), while you and I receive no direct taxpayer subsidies to operate our vehicles. And I don’t oppose these taxpayers subsidies for public transit – they serve a well-established public need and public purpose. I just react, negatively, to statements that the cost of providing a robust public transit system is no different than letting people operate their own vehicles. I also know that public transit accounts for less than 5% of the daily trips in the region. If we want to see that increase to 25% or 30%, it will mean increasing Metro’s budget by five, six, eight or ten times MORE than what it is now. This is a HUGE public policy discussion, one that I’m not hearing and that I’m not seeing an appetite for. Money talks.

          • GMichaud says:

            As Steve points out auto’s have many hidden cost and even direct ones that are not calculated. And of course pollution, oil wars and global warming are all part of the automobile calculus.
            Things aren’t working, no matter what data is flung around. That everyone will agree with I think.
            If conservatives were really conservative they would support mass transit, to conserve the precious and limited resource of oil for example.
            It just seems to me that it might be best to discuss what shape and form a St. Louis that really works might look like and then figure out how to fund it.

            All of the arcane laws is part of the problem.

          • JZ71 says:

            And I think not “everyone will agree”. If you want to beat the academic drums about “hidden” costs, so be it. I’m a big believer in the Law of Unintended Consequences as well as direct financial analysis. Public transit, IF it’s operates near capacity, most of the time, IS more efficient in fuel consumption than most single occupant vehicles. But that also comes with its own set of “hidden costs”, primarily in time spent (wasted) in transit. It’s not uncommon, around here, for a 20-30 minute commute by SOV to require an hour or more by public transit. To many people, an additional hour spent either at home or at work, is far preferrable to sharing a seat with a stranger for that hour, even if costs more, directly, and has a greater, negative impact on “pollution, oil wars and global warming”. Heck, in a “perfect world”, none of us would even need any damn oil – we’d just walk everywhere, and it would be “good for us”, physically – we’d just have a really hard time paying our bills, since we’d be spending (“wasting”?) all of our waking hours, walking for hours to get someplace that we can drive to in minutes!

            I will agree that one of the first steps to a better transit SYSTEM, here, would be “to discuss what shape and form a [system in] St. Louis that realy works might look like”. But that can’t occur in a vacuum, it needs to happen in a setting where land use regulations, governmental agreement and support (playing nice together) AND funding realities are all in play. As an architect, I can come up with plenty of ideas that are unbuildable and/or way too expensive to “solve” pretty much any program. The “genius” is in getting to a buildable plan, including one that is financially viable. The same goes for public transit – we “could” run streetcars, north south, east and west, every half mile, running every 5 or 7-1/2 minutes, but we would have to implement a new, 3%-5% (or higher) sales tax, dedicated solely to transit, or implement or increase other taxes, to pay for that level of service. We can’t just “figure it out” after the fact!

          • gmichaud says:

            Academic? when we have signs along the highway that advertise high
            pollution days and encourage everyone to carpool or if we are not in a
            Mideast war for oil, then what is it? I am speaking about reality and
            Americans inability to deal with it.
            I’ll end with design, yes the design of the region and the funding are different.
            can anyone make a decision on a route for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)for instance if
            there is a lack of knowledge of overarching concepts that make BRT desirable. This is a good example of the disconnect in regional St. Louis
            You like to be a devil’s advocate, which is good to a point, but changes need to be made and some sense of a path forward is needed
            Design and what works is central to architecture and urban planning.
            Design and funding are, and should be, two different issues.

            is real, but so is life. What surprises me, that as an architect you
            don’t respect the ability of design to help create an optimum human environment.
            In response to your citylab post then I would say more than likely an analysis will turn up poor design is the failure.

            What is poor design? Waiting for that debate.

          • JZ71 says:

            EVERY form of motorized conveyance creates polution, either directly or indirectly. Some are more efficient than others, and any causes less pollution, per person, when it carries more people, as in more than one person, the hated SOV.

            YES, design informs both our region and our commuting and living patterns. But like the old saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. Ignoring its location, New Town St. Charles is a good example of new urbanism and a walkable, new community. There is currently a request to change some of the zoning there to allow the construction of more “typical” suburban tract housing, because the “good” stuff isn’t selling: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/mark-schlinkmann/st-charles-council-approves-conventional-subdivision-on-new-town-tract/article_91b3b69d-5621-5797-9b54-1dc36246fbe1.html

            You pose the question, “What is poor design?” My response is that it takes many forms. It can be ugly, energy-inefficient, unbuildable, unsafe or a poor solution for the problem that’s trying to be addressed. Architects are usually not involved in site selection – we’re asked to design something to fit an established set of parameters, created by both the client and the local government. Sure, we can refuse, but most of us like to eat and pay our bills.

            Where we differ, philosophically, is you seem to think that we can tell or force people to do something that they don’t want to do – don’t drive, take transit, don’t buy into sprawl, move closer to downtown. While I believe that people should consider and be encouraged to do these things, it’s better to entice them than to try and force them.

            You state that “Design and funding are, and should be, two different issues.” I disagree, strongly! If you design anything that is “too expensive”, most likely it will never be built. Do that too many times and people disengage and you lose what little credibility you may have had. Metro could “design” / imagine a comprehensive transit system, one encompassing buses, BRT, streetcars, light rail and commuter rail, stretching from O’Fallon to O’Fallon and from Alton to Festus, but Metro can’t even secure the funding for BRT on its busiest corridor, Grand Avenue!

            If you want to acually accomplish change, instead of just dreaming about what could be, it takes multiple small, positive steps. You have to lure drivers out of their SOV’s one at a time. Investing in reduced fares will result in more sustained, increased ridership than investing in rail technology (streetcars) IF, IF, IF travel times don’t change. Until we decide that we’re not going to add highway capacity (increasing congestion and travel times), there really is no incentive to park the car and use transit.

            You continue to argue that Sweden does it better. I’ll counter that they have a different culture, climate, geography, governmental structure and taxation system. And one big difference is that they spend far less, per capita, than we do on their military. They benefit from our never-ending wars over oil, we subsidize their security with our taxes. Should we, as a nation, shift our priorities? Both you and I think that we should, but we each only get one vote. I use mine, and I assume that you use yours, yet we continue to see more of the same, if not worse. And that brings us full circle – until our politicians start to “get it”, we’re going to be stuck spending our tax dollars on the military-industrial complex and protecting the wealth of the top 1% . . . . .

          • gmichaud says:

            I am not talking about forcing anyone to do anything, but if the mass transit/ city design interface is undesirable then of course no one will ride transit, just as dempster points out elsewhere transit has to be convenient and frequent among other attributes to be successful.
            The reason a framework of an overall approach to transit and city planning is important is the many ways piecemeal thinking and building becomes counterproductive.
            If you had a client that wanted a second home for instance, but could not afford to build it all it once, would you just design say a bathroom and say we’ll figure out the bedrooms next year? What kind of house would that turn out to be? And of course you have to be aware of budgets. You wouldn’t design a Taj Mahal for a client asking for a 3 bed, 2 bath home.
            If you scale up to a regional view the same methodology and concerns will apply,
            You mention Sweden, yes the book Vallingby and Farsta by David Pass actually describes a comprehensive planning process of building these two suburbs north and south of Stockholm. They include transit, auto, homes and commercial in their discussion, They also negotiate with desirable large department stores in each community to make sure the urban plan offers what they need.
            In contrast your New Town example is yet another piecemeal project,
            irregardless of its merits or demerits.
            I have also previously mentioned San Francisco planning which is far more rigorous and comprehensive in their urban planning than anything that is done in St. Louis. The result is that San Francisco is a more attractive city.
            In fact rather than continually propose these isolated BRT routes or streetcars and so on, if a basic framework was established to show how all of the parts, including physical planning of commercial, residential and industrial, interlock and work together as a whole, it would likely make the system easier to market as desirable and as a result make it easier to attract funding.
            Look at how the land has been handled around Grand Metro Station. Here is one of the most important stops in the region and SLU is allowed to build suburban style developments surrounding the station. This failure to apply comprehensive standards is why mass transit doesn’t work and why St. Louis has become an urban planning nightmare.

          • JZ71 says:

            “SLU is allowed to build suburban style developments surrounding the [Grand Metro] station.” Let’s dissect that statement. The Grand Metro station is located below and on the middle of a viaduct, NOT in the heart of the campus (unlike Wash. U. and many other campuses around the country). The city’s zoning sets maximum coverage areas, not minimums, and SLU complies. What you want is for “government” to say “You HAVE to build 80,000 square feet, here, not 15,000 or 20,000, and no, you CAN’T have green space or surface parking lots.” That’s not the world we live in, nor the world most of us would want to be living in!

            There is one huge reason why SLU does what it does and why the folks in San Francisco do something completely different – LAND VALUES! SLU can afford to buy up block after block and “build suburban style developments” because the land around SLU has dropped in value and is relatively CHEAP – there are few incentives, financial or otherwise, to build densely. San Francisco, in contrast, is a peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides and is a HIGHLY desirable place to be – land values reflect that reality. When land costs 10 times as much, there’s more incentive to use it wisely. When land costs 20 times as much, you don’t need the government setting minimums, you need them setting maximums. And when you’re setting maximums, you have leverage on other design issues, as well.

            Yes, city planning and transit planning need to be done in unison – I played a small part in making that connection in Denver when they did their Blueprint Denver city plan in 2000: http://content.lib.utah.edu/utils/getfile/collection/FHWA/id/1381/start_TOC.pdf . . Prior to that, Planning and Zoning were doing their own thing, including master planning, while Transporation Engineering was doing their thing and RTD was was developing their expansion plans. But the reason that these efforts have succeeded is because stuff is happening – people and businesses are moving to town, things are happening, money is being spent. And, most importantly, the plan recognized “Areas of Stability” and Areas of Change”, with different expectations and regulations – one size was not expected to fit all.

            The big news at CMT’s annual meeting, here, this year, is that the feds are going to pay for a new station for Cortex. Whoopee – we’re adding one new station to an existing line! Yes, Cortex, BJC and Wash. U. are doing good things (and SLU isn’t). If we want to more “good” stuff, and less “bad”, we need to focus on what works, not on what doesn’t. But the biggest thing that needs to happen isn’t a change in rules, it’s a change in mindset. Wash. U. offers subsidized transit passes, SLU does not – why?! People ARE price sensitive – if you’re “getting a deal”, transit becomes a lot more attractive. One of the stupidest things Metro did was to eliminate the free-fare zone downtown – what little new revenue that decision generated was more than offset by increased fare enforcement costs and negative perceptions among downtown workers. You gotta get more people to use what you already have before you can shift perceptions on urban planning!

          • gmichaud says:

            So what you are saying is that you accept garbage urban planning and development in St. Louis and that everyone else should too, because “land values”
            Yes government needs to set standards of development, it already does that with zoning and other means, however it is not enough.
            Again I’ll point to the City of London Unitary Plan (called something different these days, but essentially the same).
            In it strategic goals are set for London in all categories, housing, commercial, transit etc. The developer has free rein to propose what they wish, but there is a document to guide them for the approval process.
            Absolutely yes the City of St. Louis should be managing surface parking. How can you think otherwise? It is one of the most damaging aspects in St. Louis urban planning today.
            So strategic goals for St. Louis parking might read something like this “encourage parking to be put around back of building or discreet location and avoid surface parking on corners, especially in districts that are walkable”
            Or a strategic goal for the major transit station at Grand. would be “land surrounding major transit stations should be considered for dense development of apartments, offices, commercial and so on, especially within 400 to 800 feet of the station”
            I don’t know what SLU paid for land around the Grand Station, it may have been expensive or not, but the price of the land has nothing at all to do with how to develop this area around Grand Station for the public good. This is true especially in light of the multi million dollar public investment in transit.
            You keep harping on capitalism, well here is one, cheaper land should attract many business and and residential customers, but it doesn’t, why? there are many reasons of course, but an attractive environment that serves the public well gives San Francisco a huge edge over St. Louis
            .St. Louis is a city with many good amenities like the zoo and the symphony orchestra, but lacks a coherent urban strategy to integrate all of the parts to create an attractive city for tourists and visitors alike.
            That is where the value lies, building an attractive and desirable city. Then your land values will go up.
            And going back to the original post about land hogs, it is clear the government response is whatever. That seems to be your preferred government response. Is that correct?

          • JZ71 says:

            It’s way easier to govern when people want to be someplace. It’s called leverage. Both San Francisco and London are very expensive and crowded cities, places where people are clamoring to be, places where they’re willing to make significant financial sacrices to be, St. Louis, not so much. London imposes a Congestion Charge (tax!) in central London – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_congestion_charge. . Imagine what would happen if that was tried here – it would get a resounding “F You!” and we’d see even more business flee to Clayton, St. Charles, Earth City and Chesterfield.

            I agree, TOD SHOULD be happening around all of our Metrolink stations. It’s NOT happening, here, except in a few instances and only very tentatively. You keep saying that we need to force it to happen, my question is HOW? Writing new rules is NOT a magic wand! You question “cheaper land should attract many business and and residential customers, but it doesn’t, why?” Because cheap land does NOT encourage dense development – if anything, it encourages stupid uses, like surface parking lots, or in the case of the Grand Station, a little-used rail yard.

            Denver had a similar dynamic in their Central Platte Valley. They worked with the railroads to move the rail yard that bordered downtown, much like the one here, to a more-efficient, more spacious, suburban location, leaving only the two mainline tracks. They expanded public transit, created a new park and linked a booming, near-downtown residential area (the Highlands, not unlike Soulard or Tower Grove, here) with downtown. They planned and they replanned and they finally got what you see today, some serious TOD: http://www.denverinfill.com/neighborhood_pages/cpv_north.htm . . Similar things are happening in San Francisco, Brooklyn, Nashville, Atlanta and Portland, but they’re all happening because there’s a market for what’s being built. Yes, planning was a big part of the equation, but it was always framed in financial realities, not just idealistic dreams!

            The city government, here, is trying, but when we’re a “city” of 350,000, in a region with a population in excess of 2 million, AND we’re being undercut by multiple other “cities”, on both sides of the river, there’s only so much that we can do, on our own. We scored big with IKEA, but we missed out on many, many other recent and not-so-recent opportunities. Our response is slightly better than “whatever” because we’re running scared (likely with very good reason). If Trader Joes or Walmart or Google wanted to build in the city, do you really think any of our “leaders” would say that we “want” a more “urban” solution? That we won’t “let you” have “enough” surface parking?! We simply lack the leverage to “demand” better when Brentwood, Maplewood, O’Fallon (MO and IL) and Chesterfield WILL say “whatever”!

          • gmichaud says:

            Ok, I get what you are saying, then it means you are ok with garbage development and urban planning in and around St. Louis City especially, correct?
            Really I’m good, carry on.

          • JZ71 says:

            Am I “good with it”? No! But poor urban planning is only a small part of the problem. We could “plan” for an urban nirvana in East St. Louis or Wellston, but if no one buys into the dream, why bother?! Before we see significant changes, here, in the St. Louis region, we a) need to learn how to play nice together (cooperate on a common vision), b) limit sprawl (with no natural barriers, that will require government edicts), c) grow our economy and our population (welcome immigrants, both white and non-white), d) get crime under control in the city (so businesses, primarily, and residents, secondarily, actually WANT to be in our existing urban core) and e) convince businesses, both new and established, that downtown is where they want to be.

            Go to Nashville, go to San Francisco, go to London, go to Denver, go to Chicago and you’ll see multiple, new, multi-story buildings, both residential and non-residential, under construction, in and around their downtowns. Here, downtown, we just finished the new Stan span and “phase one” of Ballpark Village, and we’re working on putting a lid on the highway at the arch, but no new, large buildings. The only real, intense growth (and that’s relative) is in the CWE and on the suburban fringes. For the urban fabric to change, for the better or for worse, requires actual change, not just dreams, one- and two-story buildings set in parking lots and highway projects!

          • gmichaud says:

            No matter what happens, all of your endless reasons why nothing can ever be done is your approach. It is clear why you have been a government bureaucrat in the past, you feel nothing is possible and condemn the people of St. Louis to helplessness until your magical capitalist cartel throws fairy dust on St. Louis, thereby raising land values.

          • JZ71 says:

            Never said nothing can be done in St. Louis, but cities and communities are complex entities. What works in growing areas is completely different than what works in stagnant or dying areas – St. Louis ain’t London or Stockholm! A third of the city is dying, half the city is stagnant and only the central corridor is seeing any significant new investment. Creating zoning minimums or lamenting the “loss” of land to freeway interchanges north of Delmar is an exercise in futility until all the other very real reasons why these areas are failing – crime, schools, land values – are fixed. North city has more local bus service than most other areas in the region, yet it’s done nothing to improve things economically, nor has it encouraged the maintenance of existing walkable neighborhoods. McKee has a plan (and no one else does), yet he continues to get push back. The search for perfection is often the enemy of real, incremental progress!

          • gmichaud says:

            It is amazing you say that you never said nothing can be done in St. Louis, then launch into why nothing can be done.
            You mention London and Stockholm are not the same as St. Louis, how about Bethel Missouri also? Are you saying the people of St. Louis are too stupid or incapable of utilizing the best urban planning practices of other cities?
            Also a key word you use is “until”, until means nothing can be done “until” such and such happen.
            You complain about fractured urban planning on one hand, but on the other are completely opposed to discussions that are positive and involve changing the current planning process to be more comprehensive and connective.
            Change is needed, St. Louis has been handling urban planning in your mode for some time to great failure I might add.
            It is not tilting at windmills as you suggest. For you and much of the status quo the art of the possible is doing nothing at all, which is what apparently you advocate.
            I have yet you see you offer any positive solutions. I have used many examples from cities around the world that may have elements useful to St. Louis going forward. All I see from you is the negation of possibilities.

          • JZ71 says:

            Want some possibile solutions? How about focusing on keeping stable areas stable instead of trying to “fix” areas that have already seen serious decline? Steve loves to do an annual tour of MLK Blvd., pointing out failures and places whre money should be spent – how about doing the same thing with Hampton Avenue? I find it pretty amazing that Mercedes of St. Louis opened a dealership at Hampton and I-64, yet there’s been no discussion of its positive contribution, and the contributions of other stable businesses, to the city, on this blog. Reward good behavior, punish bad behavior. A rising tide raises all boats. In the words of Federico Pena, “Imagine a Great City”. Thirty, forty years ago, Harlem and Brooklyn were not very desirable places to be in NYC. Today they are, because Manhattan has become too desirable and too expensive. If you want to see north city come back, you gotta make south city too desirable and too expensive, for most folks.

            We have a serious crime issue issue in the city, and more from a perception standpoint than from direct impact, for most residents. Shots fired and people wounded and killed on the north side, on a nearly daily basis, isn’t news to most residents, but it’s a huge disincetive to attracting businesses into the city. And, recently, the crime reports seem to be getting both more violent (rolling gun battles on I-70) and spreading into the “safer” parts on the south side. Use a gun to commit a crime? Do some serious time! Locally, we’ve become immune to the (daily reports of) violence. Until we take ownership of the problem, as both a city and region, it’s going to be hard to change national perceptions (and Ferguson sure hasn’t helped!)

            Paul McKee has some big plans and big ideas. How about uniting behind his efforts, instead of trying to derail them? No, they’re not “perfect” – NOTHING ever is – but if he’s even partially successful, it will go a long way towards changing perceptions and dynamics in the city, not just the north side. You want to equate “the art of the possible is doing nothing at all.” No, the art of the possible is growing incrementally and organically, and not imposing arbitrary, draconian mandates.

            Density happens when it’s cheaper to use land more intensively than it is to buy adjacent property. We live in a city that has seen it’s population drop from a high of 850,000 to its current 317,000 (http://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/st-louis-population/ . .) There’s a direct correlation between population and land values – lose more than 60% of your population and you WILL see both land values and density go down. The easiest way to grow our population and increase density would be to embrace and encourage immigration. We did that with our Bosnian population, we could do that with other ethnicities and nationalities. We should be more welcoming Hispanics and Asians, we should be offering the same incentives to immigrants starting businesses that we’re offering hipsters and techies. And given our large African-American population, we should be more welcoming to present-day African refugees.

            Neighborhoods are important, having nearly 100 independent governmental units in the county is counterproductive and highly inefficient. Start by stripping smaller “cities” (a population of less than, say, 25,000) of their police powers. Follow that by merging all fire departments and ambulance districts into one, unified public safety entity – where you live should not determine how well you’re helped with a fire or a heart attack. Move forward with reducing the size of the Board of Aldermen, and create wards with natural geographic boundaries, not gerrymandered ones intended to protect the political status quo. Eliminate Tax Increment Financing. It’s mainly used to create shopping centers that would otherwise make little financial sense. Eliminate the city earnings tax, replace it with higher property taxes. And work toward merging the city back into the county, if not creating a single, city-county entity (like Indianapolis, OKC and Louisville).

            Bottom line, us versus them isn’t working, not for cities, not for races, not for religions, in the St. Louis region. We want to, and we should, maintain our distinct identities, but not at the cost of our neighbors’ success. Building walls, building silos, being afraid, being greedy may be human nature, but if we want to be successful, we need to learn how to cooperate and learn how to share. We need to break down barriers, not erect new ones!

          • gmichaud says:

            While I agree with a fair number of your points like eliminate tax increment financing. I also think it is an important caution not to write off much of the city (ie north St. Louis) because of conditions. That is what has happened over the last 50 years with redlining, directing public investment to the central core and so on. Are manmade factors contributing to decline? Part of the city can’t be written off.
            You mention Paul McKee, here I would say is an opportunity for city officials to reenvision St. Louis and work with Paul McKee to make things happen. It should be a transparent process, instead we get the mystery man, as if the all the public money that is being invested on this project is meaningless and does not allow the public a seat at the table.
            It is us vs them only because insider groups like the way everything is run now. They make money, money, money: so the status quo is their ticket..
            The problem is the lack of a larger vision for St. Louis. Connections, creation of new public space, the creation of plazas with markets among many other public works considerations should be part of a broader urban planning/transit conversation.
            A broad planning vision or framework would give some understanding of the future path of St. Louis. This in turn would encourage developers who will feel confident there is a direction in leadership and that garbage will not be built next to their project.

            I have suggested something along the lines of the Strategic Goals of the City of London. Giving developers the ultimate flexibility, but expressing a direction the city would like to go which in turn creates an understanding of what the city wants to accomplish (walking environments or whatever). Yet you call me draconian.
            Truthfully it is more draconian to allow the crap that passes for government to continue. Just look at urban planning policy and the lack of transparency. Let’s start with your pal, Paul McKee.
            Or I guess he is one of the Kings we need to obey?

          • JZ71 says:

            One big challenge the region suffers from is paralysis by analysis. We have multiple wards in the city and multiple cities in the county, and they all want their “piece of the pie”. Yes, it would be great if we had a grand vision and the momemntum to make it happen, but there’s a tendency to be hyper-local when it comes to development decisions. There are two schools of thought in play. Should every area share equally in any goverment spending and in any growth? Or, should “better”, more vibrant areas receive more resources, make them more successful, assuming that their success will spill over into stagnant / declining areas? And no, Paul McKee, is not my “pal”. But unlike most other people, he’s actually trying to make things happen in a struggling part of the city, not just focusing exclusively on his one little part of the world.

            You want “the public [to have] a seat at the table”. That’s a prety broad statement. In the city, our aldermen play a big role in any development’s approval process. Our wards are small, our aldermen are accessible, the public elects them. Do you want individual residents to have veto power? Do you want a public hearing, on any and every project, before any permits are issued? Or, is it just the case that the majority doesn’t hold the same views that you do, and you don’t like being marginalized, being a part of a minority? Any time you have more than one person involved, you will ALWAYS have a range of opinions and some people aren’t going to get what they want. Urban living is messy, decisions require consensus, not complete and total agreement. Mistakes will be made, mistakes will be fixed. But, from my perspective, doing nothing is worse than than trying and failing.

          • gmichaud says:

            It is difficult to know if you have a minority opinion if there is never discussion and debate. And you say doing nothing is worse than trying and failing, does that include the urban planning process too? You know actual thinking about potential outcomes.
            The people of St. Louis now and in the future will be impacted by those outcomes.
            You seem to be saying, let Paul McKee do whatever he wishes.
            Even without the enormous public investment and even if he was really “spending his own money” the public will have a stake in their city.
            Read the preamble to the Constitution. “Promote the general welfare” indicates city planning should be central to conversations. The city environment belongs to everyone. Not just Paul McKee.
            In turn the media almost completely ignores these issues and only blogs like Urban Review and a few others supply at least some discussion.
            With all due respect, as an architect, I don’t get you not recognizing the difference various designs can make in the ultimate success of a family, a city and even a nation.
            We are talking more than only quality of life, which is a major factor, but also about sustainability of life (at all really).
            How can St. Louis corporate and political leadership, along with the media ignore the ability of city planning to contribute to success in lessening global warming, oil wars, pollution while improving quality of life?
            Yes, now is the time for that discussion. There are potential major public investments going to happen on the Northside,
            What is the public vision?
            For example, what is the role of mass transit in any new Northside development? Don’t you think the public should know? Or if it is not even being discussed then should we be asking what the hell planning officials are doing?

            Yes the city is messy, complex and myriad in happenings. But it is all finite and it certainly different directions of the future of the City of St. Louis and the region are possible and should be discussed in public
            A vision will also include questions of an ongoing planning public process. San Francisco has one, Helsinki has one, Stockholm has one and so on.
            The whole Paul McKee thing is process that again favors insiders, from the state level on down. We now see the clear evidence of the corruption by the system of justice dispensed in St. Louis City and County to better steal everyone’s money.
            How can we not believe the system of urban planning is not exactly the same corruption in a different form? Paul McKee has recieved a hell of a lot of public money up front. Highway deals should be looked at carefully, no doubt the good old boy system is in place almost everywhere in government.
            So yes, I think the people of St. Louis deserve transparency in the urban planning process, starting with Paul McKee.

          • JZ71 says:

            Are you active in your neighborhood association? Do you talk to your alderman? These two are closest to grassroots representation on any city design discussion.

          • gmichaud says:

            This is not about me. It is about the people of St. Louis.
            And yes I have been involved to varying degrees far more often than most, and intensely, in a wide range of city neighborhoods. All over the city, north and south side both. I just submitted an article for publication on education and the economics and design of the city.
            But again, this isn’t about me. It is establishing a process and planning criteria that everyone can understand and use.
            Paul McKee is not the master. So what are you saying that only those who talk to certain people are suitable to have their voices heard?
            Right now, as far as I can tell, McKee is free to do as he wishes, irregardless of short and long term goals St. Louis leadership should be voicing in response to an inclusive system of discussion. This while examining and explaining strategies for redevelopment of the Northside in public forums.
            There is nothing instead.

          • JZ71 says:

            We live in a representative democracy. We elect people, hopefully “leaders”, to represent us. My experience has been twofold, that it’s more effective to work inside “the system” than it is to throw bombs from the outside, and that most people have very little interest in being “a part of the process” until, and only if, it directly impacts them and their lives. I’m sensing that both you and Steve feel disenfranchised from the city’s planning processes, that you both feel like your voices aren’t being heard, that your “better” ideas are being ignored. I agree that there really isn’t much of a master planning “process” evident in the city, that we’re “doing things like we always have”. I think it boils down partially to complacency and partially to priorities. It takes both time and money to do a compfehensive city plan, to have “an inclusive system of dicussion”, to have a series of increasingly focused public meetings, to mediate the inevitable different agendas and priorities and to ultimately craft a new “plan” – been there, done that. But for that to happen, there needs to be a real public perception that change is either inevitable or that it’s actually happening, right now, and most people simply don’t see much change.

            With the exception of Cortex, the only changes that most people are seeing, around here, in the city, are local and incremental – a building or two goes away, only to be replaced by either nothing or something similar to, or smaller, than what was there previously. Most people like the city the way it is, they expect that it will either stay the way it is (south side) or that it will continue a slow decline (north side). Most people don’t see a need for a new planning process since they either don’t expect things to change or that, if they do, it will just be something new replacing something old. Most people defer to their alderman to “protect the ward” from evil developers, and are way more concerned about crime, stop signs and trash than they are about any “plan”. You and Steve want to bring new ideas and use your educations. You want see the ideas implemented because they will make the city “better”. The problem is that most people in the area are highly resistant to any change(s) – they either like things the way they are or they’re so desparate for any reinvestment, for anything “new”, that they don’t see any need to revisit the current standards, just make it happen.

            Until that mindset changes, until most residents quit being so damn parochial, until they want to do planning citywide, instead of just at a ward level, there won’t be any political reason to tackle a new master plan. Until there are multiple examples of conflicts between longtime residents wanting the status quo maintained and new occupants, both commercial and residential, both spec developers and owner occupants, wanting to do things differently, there won’t be a reason to avoid future conflicts by doing anticipatory planning. I get it, there are many, good, academic reasons for doing a new city plan. The next step is coming up with viable political reasons for spending the money to do one, instead of paying for police or repaving streets or offering financial incentives to evil developers . . . .

          • dempster holland says:

            IF you look at rapid transit in New York and Chicago, you
            will see that each system was built one line or extension at
            a time over several decades. Even sf, DC and Atlanta, which
            built a number of lines at the start,are still adding new lines
            and extensions. The St Louis city-county sales tax of several
            years ago promised a new line every ten years or so, but the
            powers that be have decided not to do that, apparently because
            of much higher expected costs (a common rapid transit matter)

          • dempster holland says:

            I think the cost per gallon of gas so high probably includes the
            cost of the US navy and some of the air force, which protect our
            access to mideast oil. This is a valid point, in my judgement

          • dempster holland says:

            Since I grew up in the central west end, in a family without a car, I
            am fully aware of what living in a walkable neighborhood is. All I can
            say is that nearly all people, when given a choice, opt for a car instead of taking a bus. As to the relative costs of a system of public
            transit, vs cars, you would probably have to calculate the costs of
            a system with routes at least every three blocks, running at least
            every ten minutes, to match the convenience of cars

          • gmichaud says:

            You’re right a competitive mass transit system would have to be easily accessible and of high frequency, neither is the case now.

        • Todd Spangler says:

          Well said.

      • JZ71 says:

        And you’re underthinking and reaching rational conclusions?! EVERY public amenity consumes land that could otherwise be occupied human residences. Urban areas are complex constructs – there are no easy or simple answers, everything impacts everything else. Faster travel, no matter the mode, allows humans to spread out. If your only option is walking, you live in a pretty small world.

  3. kas63032@hotmail.com says:

    I’m old enough to recall when I-170 end at Page, the rework of both ends and how NIMBY shaped the Innerbelt. Heck one got off the interstates, usually at a stop sign, except certain drivers seem to require more safer and costlier intersections. IMHO, spend time in small rural towns and you will realize the locals don’t work on spending time in traffic court, like they do in Ferguson. Finally, wasn’t a past mantra of many St. Charles County voters, ‘I don’t want ’em riding over on the ghetto link, stealing televisions at Midrivers Mall and then going back to the City.’

    • Ryann says:

      The last time “we” voted (I live in St. Charles) was in 1996. I am only 17 and not old enough to vote. But I believe that if the voters were shown a presentation of where the metrolink line would go and where the stops would be and how it would connect our community that we would definitely vote for the expansion. Although right now may not be the best time for that thanks to the people (mostly black) that are protesting and more importantly looting in their own city. which reinforces the mindset that they will ride the metrolink steal from mid rivers mall and head back to STL. Which is a stupid assumption because it would be easier to drive I-70 and steal a TV and put it in your car than have it for all to see on the metrolink. I am all for transit, the people of St. Charles though is what matters.

      • St. Charles county doesn’t have public transit within the county, extending light rail would be a waste. The county first needs to establish a bus system within the county. St. Clair & Madison counties in Illinois are examples.

        • JZ71 says:

          Umm, no – St. Charles city has 5 bus routes – http://www.stcharlescitymo.gov/331/SCAT-Transit-System . . and OATS provides service in the county – http://www.oatstransit.org/#!east-region/cida . . Is it as good as Metro / Bi-State? No, absolutely not, but it ain’t nothing, either . . .

          • Madison & St. Clair counties in Illinois both fund/provide public transit, the latter hires Metro to provide bus service. St. Charles county has yet to follow their example.

            “OATS, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation providing specialized transportation for senior citizens, people with disabilities and the rural general public in 87 Missouri counties.

          • JZ71 says:

            Unlike Missouri, the state legislature, in Illinois, provides substantial funding for local mass transit, so we’re talking apples and oranges. My point was that you stated that “St. Charles county doesn’t have public transit within the county”, which is technically incorrect. The transit provided is certainly NOT up to the levels available elsewhere in the region, but there IS public transit available, albeit with lmited service areas and limited schedules.

          • St. Charles still doesn’t have public transit. OATS does a great job serving their base: seniors. They also operate in St. Louis County. The person living in Wentzville that wants to use public transit to get to work at MasterCard International can’t.

          • JZ71 says:

            . . . . and someone living in Oakville can’t “use public transit to get to work at MasterCard International”, either. We’re arguing semantics here – we agree, public transit in St. Charles COUNTY is virtually nonexistent / sucks. Public transit in St. Charles CITY does exist, however, but it’s not very good. Your original statement was that “St. Charles county doesn’t have public transit within the county”. I read that as saying that there is no public transit available ANYWHERE in the county (of which St. Charles city is clearly a part), but the CITY (which is IN the county) does provide bus service – from its website: http://www.stcharlescitymo.gov/331/SCAT-Transit-System

            “The St. Charles Area Transit system, otherwise known as SCAT, consists of 5 bus routes that provide transportation to various locations within the City of St. Charles as well as to the Metrolink North Hanley Station. Curb-to-curb service is provided for all riders, and all buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts.”

          • Yes, you read it wrong. Sorry, I should’ve anticipated your response.

            My original point on this tangent was that it makes no sense to bring light rail across the Missouri River into St. Charles County given that the county lacks a a bus system to get people to/from light rail stations.

  4. Gary says:

    Something else to think about is the cost of future expansion. I think that’s why land is “grabbed up” and held along Interstates. As some others have suggested below, while its great to use public transportation and other means of transportation, fact is, St Louis doesn’t do a decent enough job of maintaining or developing more options; Quickly enough. So folks revert back to their cars. And, more people, in more cars, means more lanes for now. And having the land available, means its cheaper to build. I also would like to see better options for transportation, but it just seems like St Louis isn’t going in that direction fast enough. AND, that “held land” could also be used for future alternative transportation projects.

    • Incorrect, this interchange doesn’t have any extra land. To the south the I-170 & I-64 interchange rebuilt a few years ago required taking homes from people to get more land.

      • Gary says:

        OK. I misread what your point was about the article. I thought you were suggesting that there was extra land. Your just saying that interchanges and highways in general take up too much land?

  5. JZ71 says:

    A better metric, in the discussion about freeways, would be the physical corridor needed to construct a freeway BETWEEN interchanges. While the width varies, it’s usually between 200′ and 300′ wide, depending on existing, adjacent, land uses. An argument could be made that density probably goes up adjacent to most interchanges with surface streets (not other freeways, as in this example), either with higher-density housing or with increased retail and/or office uses, resulting in a net gain, not a net loss. Where density is lost, however, in many cases, in urban areas, is when block after block is demolished and NOT replaced, nearby. Look at what was lost, for example, both directly and indirectly, when I-44 was constructed between Tower Grove (Vandeventer) and Spring (Grand). And this impact becomes exponentially worse when the freeway crosses the existing urban grid at an angle, since multiple parcels end up being completely demolished, even though only part of the parcel is actually needed for highway construction.


    • GMichaud says:

      Interesting link showing the cross section of alternatives. I think the whole point that Steve is making, (correct me if I am wrong) is that highways are not carefully integrated into society or the landscape.
      I would contrast this to a public square or plaza that is not only transit orientated but also includes auto’s in the plan. Compare that human friendly environment with the interchange which is completely auto centric as in Steve’s example. In addition, humans, beyond a doubt, are completely excluded unless sealed in their hermetic boxes.
      But you are correct about the differences, the underlying problem that I see is the integration of the auto into society has only involved the desires of a few insiders and not the fate and interests of the region as a whole.
      The example Steve points out is grossly inefficient and anti human. Then the question becomes is this what we want when designing cities and urban/suburban regions?


Comment on this Article: