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MetroLink Escalators “Temporarily Closed” For Years

April 18, 2022 Accessibility, Downtown, Featured, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on MetroLink Escalators “Temporarily Closed” For Years

Escalators are great, very helpful to those who find stairs difficult.  However, like elevators, they’re expensive to install and maintain. Escalators exposed to the elements are even more challenging to keep in operation.

When our original light rail line opened in 1993 two stations were located within an old freight tunnel under the central business district (CBD). The Convention Center and 8th & Pine stations were designed with stairs, elevators, and escalators. Because the tunnel is narrow the tracks are in the center, the passenger platforms are on both sides — one per direction of travel, east or west. This meant a total of four elevators and four pairs of escalators — all exposed to elements to a degree.

When the Shrewsbury (Blue) expansion line opened in 2006 its three underground stations had stairs, elevators/ramps — no escalators.

In 2018 & 2019 I’d frequently see ThyssenKrupp maintenance people working on the Convention Center escalators, or at least their service truck on the public sidewalk near the westbound entrance/exit. April 1, 2019
Here’s the same location on November 2, 2020
Another view, with parts visible. November 2, 2020
View from the platform level. November 2, 2020
The big plywood barricade has been gone for quite a while, but the escalators remain out of service. March 7, 2022
The eastbound escalators at 8th & Pine have been a similar story. Note access to the elevator is on the right, back — between the escalators and stair. April 21, 2021.
The street entrance of the eastbound 8th & Pine station after the plywood construction barricade was constructed, steps & elevator are accessible. March 1, 2022

I search all Metro press releases from 2019 through the present, only one mentioned escalators in the subject/summary.

From May 3, 2021:

Rehabilitation work on the westbound escalator at the 8th & Pine MetroLink Station in downtown St. Louis begins on Tuesday, May 4. During this project, the station’s westbound elevator will remain in service, however, the accessible pathway to the westbound side of the 8th & Pine Station (near Pine Street) will have to be closed temporarily.

MetroLink riders who are traveling to or from the 8th & Pine Station and use a wheelchair or mobility device may need to make adjustments to their commute, as it will be necessary for riders to use stairs (located near Chestnut Street) when entering or departing the westbound side of the 8th & Pine Station.

The escalator rehabilitation work is expected to take approximately three months to complete. (Source: Metro)

The above press release was issued a week after I followed up with Metro again since I hadn’t received any specifics from my inquiry on December 28, 2020. Receipt of my original inquiry was acknowledged but I never received anything. Just the one press release, above.

Since I use my power wheelchair when using transit why do I care if the escalators aren’t working?

Well, it looks bad to have something temporarily non-functional for days, weeks, months..years.

What do I hope to accomplish with this post?  I want all the escalators either in good working condition — or I want them removed and replaced with fixed stairs (I can’t speak to concerns of those who have a hard time with stairs). It obviously won’t happen quickly, but steady progress needs to be demonstrated.

It looks very bad for visitors to see out of service signs, but it’s even worse when returning visitors say “oh yeah they were out the last two years I’ve visited.”

— Steve Patterson

 

8th Street Walkway Needed To Fill Missing 110’ Connectivity Gap

March 14, 2022 Accessibility, Featured, North City, Walkability Comments Off on 8th Street Walkway Needed To Fill Missing 110’ Connectivity Gap

When cold water flats and tenements were cleared just north of downtown for St. Louis’ first high-rise public housing project, Cochran Gardens, several blocks of 8th Street were erased from the grid. Six decades later 8th Street was rebuilt* when the mixed-income Cambridge Heights apartments & townhouses replaced Cochran Gardens’ towers.

* 110 feet of 8th Street wasn’t replaced!

This short missing piece is a connectivity problem for those of us who live here. Later, when Cass Ave over I-44 (aka I-70) was raised as part of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge project 7th Street got disconnected from Cass Ave. So now neither 7th or 8th connect to Cass. Getting to/from the bus at Cass Ave & Broadway is likely the primary reason for needing access here, it would also be nice when we go to Shady Jack’s or walk/roll up Broadway.

A little bit of the original 8th Street exists south of Cass Ave, but it quickly ends at an alley. Jersey barriers exist to keep drivers from going straight ahead.
From the broken sidewalk on the east side of 8th you can see a clear route to 8th Street 100 feet further south. The west side of 8th, unfortunately, has no sidewalk.
In the field you can see beyond Dickson Street to 8th Street
At the public sidewalk you can look south along 8th Street to downtown. 8th Street is the center of Cambridge Heights.

Motorists use the alley south of Cass to get to/from Cass Ave, but pedestrians often walk though vacant land where 110 feet of 8th street should be. As you’ll see, putting in street, curbs, drainage, etc would be challenging & costly — all that’s needed is a 110 foot long sidewalk and a couple of curb ramps.

Looking toward Cass Ave from the SW corner of 8th & Dickson streets.
Looking toward Cass Ave from the SW corner of 8th & Dickson streets.
The same view after a recent snowfall. Two desire lines where people walked are clear. A community center is visible on the left, but no good way to get there directly.

This is needed because going between the neighborhood and Cass Ave is challenging as a pedestrian. I’ve thought so for the 3+ years I’ve lived here. I’ve also seen a woman at least 15 years my senior (so 70+) walking though the grass with a cane. The trail through the snow earlier this year was also a clue.

You might be thinking this land is vacant do it can be developed for more housing. Let’s take a look at the property lines.

The blue dot marks a 15 foot wide parcel owned by the St. Louis Housing Authority (725 Dickson Street). They also own the land from here to 9th Street. 723 Dickson Street is 64.26 feet wide, includes the 22 foot wide end of 3 townhouses.

My assumption is the 15 foot wide parcel known as 725 Dickson (map) is there to prevent anyone building over utilities, like sewer, under the old 8th Street. The end row house has a lot of extra land beyond their fence. Basically there’s more than enough width to create a generous pedestrian path. There are some obstacles near the alley.

From the alley you can see a little bit of concrete and some useless chain link. And an electric utility pole.
From the lot you can see the pole and an electrical box (transformer?). There are also wires to help keep the pole upright on the private land side.

There’s room to fit a 5′ wide walkway at the alley to then toward 8th & Dickson streets, we just need to figure out property lines, utilities, easements, etc. City mowers have a hard time during the summer keeping the back area cut — a private home owner would get a violation letter from the city for such conditions. The elevation is slightly higher at the alley than south at Dickson Street.

The need exists, much of the land is owned by the housing authority. Cost wouldn’t be that substantial. I’d love to see fruit trees planed on both sides of a walkway so the public can access free fruit.

— Steve Patterson

 

Last Mile to Cahokia Mounds Is Impossible For Pedestrians

September 27, 2021 Accessibility, Featured, Metro East, Walkability Comments Off on Last Mile to Cahokia Mounds Is Impossible For Pedestrians

I’ve working on my bucket list in the last two years living with stage IV kidney cancer. Right after Memorial Day I was able to visit Milwaukee, my very first time in Wisconsin. I’m also working on items closer to home that I can safely do during a pandemic. To help me I pulled the 2013 book 100 Things To Do In Saint Louis Before You Die off my bookshelf.  One of several books written or co-authored by my longtime friend Amanda Doyle.

Well, I don’t see myself being able to physically sled down Art Hill, or use a paddle boat in Forest Park. Hmm, visit Cahokia Mounds? I’ve always wanted to see it, it’s likely the only additional  World Heritage site I’ll be able to visit — I’ve been to Independence Hall & many Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, including Fallingwater.

Embarrassingly in my 31+ years living in St. Louis I must admit I’ve never once visited Cahokia Mounds, a World Heritage site only a 15-minute drive into Illinois from St. Louis. Like so many places I thought I could go  &  things I could do in the future, until I became disabled a month before my 41st birthday. I had lived here less than 18 years before I had a massive stroke, meaning I couldn’t walk around the large Cahokia Mounds site. My power wheelchair allows me to “walk” around places like the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Cahokia Mounds:

The remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico are preserved at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Within the 2,200-acre tract, located a few miles west of Collinsville, Illinois, lie the archaeological remnants of the central section of the ancient settlement that is today known as Cahokia. (Cahokia Mounds Museum Society)

The fastest way there is for me and my husband to just drive there. But, I couldn’t see much because I can’t walk far. I also have a manual wheelchair we can put in the trunk, but he’d have to push me or I use my right foot and right hand to propel myself. One of us would get worn out.

I’ve traveled to five different states using transit and my power wheelchair so I should be able to go less than 10 miles. So I looked. Yes, I can roll 8/10 of a mile to the Convention Center MetroLink light rail station, take the train east to the Emerson Park station, and then catch the #18 Madison County bus northbound to Fairmont Ave at Collinsville Rd. Then it’s just a mile west along Collinsville Rd to the entrance to Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (map).

A mile isn’t an issue at all, a week ago I rolled almost 5 miles home from Siteman Cancer Center. Yes, returning home on MetroLink would’ve been considerably faster but I got to see a lot of stuff along my route. I’m on disability so I’m usually not in a hurry. So what’s the problem?

The problem is Collinsville Road is a high-speed (45mph) 4-lane roadway with zero pedestrian infrastructure. None. No pedestrian signals or crosswalks at the signalized intersection near the bus stop. A few businesses near the intersection have a public sidewalk but they’re not connected to each other. Most of the mile distance is just a very tiny shoulder and a ditch. If I were somehow to make it I’d need to cross Collinsville Rd. Opposite the entrance to Cahokia Mounds is a pedestrian sign, but trying to cross 4 lanes of high-speed traffic is a death wish.

Approaching Cahokia Mounds from the east you see it on the left. On the right is a pedestrian crossing ahead sign, next to the ditch.
Further up as you get close to the entrance the road splits so there’s a center turn lane. On the right is a Cahokia Mounds sign pointing drivers left. The driveway to the right has a culvert under it so any water in the ditch can continue to flow.

My thoughts turned to contacting someone to bug them about this. But who? Most of the north side of Collinsville Rd is in Namioki Township, Madison County. Part of the south side of Collinsville Rd & Cahokia Mounds are in Collinsville, St. Clair County. Yes, most of Collinsville is in Madison County, but this part is in St. Clair County. And finally  the the intersection of Collinsville Rd & Fairmont Ave/Black Lane is State Park Place, an unincorporated community in both Madison & St  Clair Counties. Maddening fragmentation!

I suppose an able-bodied person could navigate this last mile, but I doubt anyone would.  Back at State Park Place there’s business on both sides of Collinsville Rd, including a Mexican restaurant on each side. I read somewhere a while ago that one is among the best Mexican restaurants in the Metro East.

My first task will be to contact Cahokia Mounds to see if they have any power wheelchairs/scooters for rent, their website doesn’t mention accessibility at all. I’ll also contact the Highway Dept at each county, though it might take state and/or federal funds to get anything built. I just want to get things…rolling.

Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis County Moved Mandatory Beg Button After I Complained About Not Being Able To Reach It

September 10, 2020 Accessibility, Featured, Planning & Design, St. Louis County, Walkability Comments Off on St. Louis County Moved Mandatory Beg Button After I Complained About Not Being Able To Reach It

Buttons used to activate pedestrian signals are derisively called “beg buttons.”

These buttons have long been decried and criticized by advocates for walking, anyway. The buttons’ purpose is less to keep people safe than to reinforce the primacy of cars on the street by forcing people who want to cross a street to “beg” for a walk signal. (California Streetsblog)

In the City of St. Louis many buttons don’t do anything, a walk signal is displayed even if you don’t press it. In June I encountered an intersection in St. Louis County where it was mandatory to press a button to get a walk signal across one street, but not the perpendicular street from the same corner.

On June 3rd I was at the southeast corner of Hanley & Dale Ave, wanting to cross Hanley — but using a wheelchair I couldn’t get to the button.
Looking west across Hanley.

Crossing Dale Ave doesn’t require pressing the beg button, it activates the walk signal in conjunction with the traffic lights. However, if you don’t press the button you’ll never get a walk signal to cross Hanley. Even when Dale traffic gets a green light you’ve got a don’t walk unless you pressed the beg button. Without a walk signal westbound Dale motorists turning left onto southbound Hanley wouldn’t expect to see any pedestrians crossing the street. On June 3rd I had to cross, in my power wheelchair, even though I didn’t have a walk signal.

Thankfully left-turning motorists yielded to me.  I later shared my frustration on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

A friend & reader suggested I call St. Louis County. Though this is in the municipality of Richmond Heights, Hanley is maintained by St. Louis County — a fact she knew. I’m not a fan of making voice calls but I did find a compliant form on their Department of Transportation website. A day or 2 later I got a phone call from a county engineer. I emailed him the photos I took rather than call him back. A few weeks later I got an email saying it had been moved.

Yesterday I went out to the nearby  Trader Joe’s  and another store so I went to this intersection to see the change. I’d suggested the button(s) not be used, just switch to a walk signal timed with the light. So I figured the beg button would still be mandatory, I just wanted to see if I could reach it.

A pole was added to hold the two beg buttons — one mandatory and the other completely useless.
Now looking west across Hanley.

No telling how many years this was like this. It amazes me how often I see situations where someone wasn’t thinking about disabled pedestrians. There are likely many more examples out there.

— Steve Patterson

 

Checking Out New Pedestrian Bridge Over I-70 Connecting Old North St. Louis and Near North Riverfront Neighborhoods

August 6, 2020 Accessibility, Featured, North City, Walkability Comments Off on Checking Out New Pedestrian Bridge Over I-70 Connecting Old North St. Louis and Near North Riverfront Neighborhoods

In December 2018 MoDOT temporarily closed I-70 to remove an old pedestrian bridge at North Market Street. A similar pedestrian bridge was removed from over I-44 at Marconi Ave, and at other locations.  Yesterday I checked out the new ADA-compliant replacement over I-70.

The East side of the new pedestrian bridge, along Northbound 10th Street, has a switchback ramp.

Before getting into the new bridge we should look at what it replaced. Interstate 70 was built decades before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, so the old pedestrian bridge had stairs on each side.

This 2010 photo is from the West side along 11th Street. The stairs on each end went  down in opposite directions.

Stairs make such a bridge impossible for those of us who use wheelchairs, but also difficult for people who walk using a cane or walker. They’re also a challenge to a parent pushing a stroller, cyclists, etc.

In April 2019 I snapped this image of construction on the new bridge as I was driving by. Yes, I drive too!

Yesterday’s weather was so nice I decided to check out the completed bridge. It was 1.2 miles just getting there from our apartment near 7th & Cass Ave. I did encounter missing curb ramps in a few places — often missing sidewalks. But I made it.

The access point on the East side of I-70 is at North Market Street. There is no painted crosswalk, no signs warning drivers to yield to pedestrians. No curb bulbs to narrow the crossing distance. Nothing. 10th Street traffic is one-way northbound — and it is fast.
Once safely across 10th Street you see trash has accumulated. The city has equipment to clean streets but tight spots like this don’t get cleaned.
From the base looking up the ramp to the landing. I use a power chair which had no problem with the incline. Being ADA-compliant means the maximum level should be acceptable to person using a manual wheelchair. Every so often there are level spots to give someone s rest.
From the landing, looking back down.
Looking South from the landing
From the very top looking back at the landing
Looking East at North Market Street from the top.
Looking West across the level top of the bridge.
Looking North at Northbound I-70.
Looking South at Northbound I-70. The switchback ramp can be seen on the left.
Looking South at Southbound I-70. The straight ramp on the West side (11th Street) can be seen on the right.
From the West end of the bridge you get an excellent view of Jackson Place Park. This was the center of three circles in the original plan of the separate Village of North St. Louis.
Looking South down the straight ramp on the West side (11th Street).
Looking back up from the bottom.
At the bottom you look across 11th Street at Monroe Street. A new curb ramp was built across the street. Like the other side, 11th is one-way and there is no crosswalk markings, signs, etc.
Back up toward Jackson Place Park you can get an overview of the West side.

It is nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. Highways divided many neighborhoods, many previously connected streets permanently severed. I have no idea how much this cost, but it was worth every penny. The highway is still an at-grade divider at this point, but the bridge makes it possible for everyone to safely to cross over it.

Once the current pandemic is over I’ll take the bus to other new pedestrian highway bridges so I can compare.  Yesterday I explored in Old North, got takeout from Crown Candy, and returned home 3.5 hours after leaving. Roundtrip was about 3 miles.

— Steve Patterson

 

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