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Delmar Crosswalk Missing ADA Ramps

July 13, 2009 Accessibility 6 Comments

Twice now in the last few weeks I’ve crossed Delmar at the crossing shown below:

Both times I drove to the Loop area in my car and parked in the disabled parking next to the Pageant.  Note to Secretary Salazar, I have a state permit to allow me to park there.

Both times crossing Delmar I had to deal with the curbs on each side of the street.  A person that requires a wheelchair would be completely out of luck.  Many people use wheelchairs.  I use mine downtown all the time.  I’ve taken MetroLink to the Loop in my chair too.  Some folks, say just after surgery, use a chair temporarily.  But while walking I still find the ramps very helpful.  Parents pushing baby strollers also find ramps helpful.

When the roadbed was narrowed and sidewalks widened a few years ago the idea of crossing the street was overlooked.

The distance between Rosedale Ave on the East and Skinker on the West is nearly 1,000 feet – roughly the distance of three blocks downtown – with no place to cross in between.  This distance needs two, not one, crosswalk with curb cuts.

– Steve Patterson


Welcome All-Star Fans

Visiting St. Louis for the 2009 All-Star Game?  Welcome to St. Louis.

Whether this is your first visit to our city or you’ve been here often I want to share a few things with you. We’ve been busy sprucing up downtown for weeks & months.  Actually we’ve been working on downtown for decades.  Efforts over the years have been a mixed bag — some positive and others destructive.

Next month marks my 19th year in St. Louis.  For me it is a love-hate relationship.  This city is worth fighting for so I stick around.

The most recent in the positive category is Citygarden between 8th & 10th on North Market St — a couple blocks North of Busch Stadium.

As you walk around downtown spending money (thank you) you will notice a couple of things.  First, not all intersections have pedestrian crossing signals.

Looking South along 9th at Market St.

Please be careful crossing streets — look at other signals to see who has the right of way.  In the above example if you are leaving Citygarden heading south on 9th you get no clue as to when it is safe to cross Market St. It would be nice to get some stimulus money to make sure we get pedestrian signals at all intersections.

Normally I’d also warn you about cabs on the sidewalk in front of our convention center but they have been displaced by vehicles related to the Fan Fest.

We have a long way to go but we’ve come a long way in the nearly two decades I’ve lived here.  So please enjoy your visit and spend money so we will have funds to address our shortcomings.

– Steve Patterson


The Use of the Drive-Thru Lane

June 17, 2009 Accessibility 29 Comments

Most of you reading this have been to a drive-thru.  Be it a bank, fast food establishment or for coffee.  For your visit you were likely in a motor vehicle.  Duh, right? But what if you don’t have a car or don’t drive?  The most obvious is as a pedestrian.  Other options might include a bicycle or motor scooter.  When I rode a motor scooter I was able to use the drive-thru if they knew I was there.  Bicyclists have, for years, complained they have been refused service at banks and at other drive-thru lanes.  What about mobility scooters?

A reader sent me a link to an interesting story:

A White Castle in St. Paul, Minnesota, is a 24-hour establishment, but it locks its dining room doors at 11 pm. Unfortunately, its drive-through service is restricted to customers in cars, so the employees refused to serve a 37-year-old woman who pulled up on an electric mobility scooter. Now she says she’s madder than fish grease, which is pretty mad, and she wants to sue them for discriminating against customers who can’t drive.

Fish grease? Anyway, if a business is open is it legal to refuse access to the disabled who are not in a car?  Or even the able-bodied not in a car?  Our society has become so auto-centric we don’t know how to relate to other humans not in a car.  We use their car to judge them — their income & social standing.  The lack of a car presumably puts them at the bottom.

As someone who drives a car as well as an electric wheelchair I can tell you I expect service regardless of which “vehicle” I’m using.  I hope the woman in the story forces White Castle and such places to examine their policies.

Steve Patterson


McCormack Baron Salazar Gets ADA Curb Ramps All Wrong at Renaissance Place

The old Bluemeyer public housing project was a combination of high-rise and low-rise buildings, all fairly disconnected from each other and the adjacent public streets.

October 2006
October 2006

The entire complex was razed( in a few phases) and the replacement project is nearing completion.  The map below shows the project area:

Everything inside the shaded area is new.  Everything from underground infrastructure to the buildings to the street grid, curbs sidewalks and curb ramps.  McCormack Baron Salazar had a clean slate to work with.  Here is how they summarize the project:

Renaissance Place at Grand | St. Louis, MO
402 units
Total Development Investment  $68,792,300

The Arthur Blumeyer public housing development, constructed in 1968, consisted of four high-rise and 42 low-rise buildings and housed 1,162 families, including 585 elderly. The development is located north of Grand Center, the mid-town arts district in Saint Louis.

The Federal Omnibus Consolidated Reconciliation Act of 1996 requires that viability assessments be performed for public housing projects of 300 or more units with vacancy rates of 10 percent or higher. This law requires units to be removed from the housing stock within five years if public housing costs exceed the cost of housing vouchers and if long-term viability of the subject property cannot be assured through reasonable revitalization plan. In 1999, Blumeyer’s two elderly high-rise buildings, 174 of the family townhouses and both of the family high rises were declared non-viable by HUD.

The St. Louis Housing Authority took the opportunity to collaborate with the larger community, and elected to pursue a strategy of transformation through HUD’s HOPE VI program. The application submission was successful and the Blumeyer public housing site was awarded $35,000,000 in HOPE VI grant funds.

Overall the new project is quite nice.

Above is one of the new street intersections, Franklin Ave & Josephine Baker Ave (map).  I’ve drawn lines to show the path at the intersection that an able-bodied person would walk — a straight line.  No surprise.  While walking with my cane I’d follow the same path as well — dealing with the curbs is preferable to the longer distance required to use the ramps.

But what if you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter?  Keep in mind that the 1st floor units are accessible.  The other day I saw two different residents using mobility scoters in the area.  So the disabled are expected in the immediate area.

Above is the same intersection with one path for wheelchair/scooter users shown in red.  Rather than being able to continue in a staright line the disabled must angle out and cross one street while being very close with traffic going parallel.

This intersection needed twice the number of ramps so that a straight path could be maintained.  Rather than a single ramp out at the corners each quadrant would have two ramps – one per direction of travel.  Keep in mind that the entire intersection is new.  We are not talking about the expense to retrofit the intersection with 8 vs 4 ramps.  The additional cost would have been minimal when this was done from scratch.

Same situation at another intersection
I just love the mis-match of ramps crossing Theresa parallel to Delmar.

In St. Louis and other cities retrofit ramps are often placed at the corners.  As cities were retrofitting ramps following the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 they had limited budgets.  Doing four ramps per corner was faster and cheaper than eight.  Additionally, obstacles like sewer inlets prevent more ideal placement of ramps.  The corner ramp was a valid retrofit compromise.

But in new construction the corner ramps are unacceptable.  There is no excuse for the way the ramps were placed in the above project.  None.  I’d like to see a public flogging of the engineers that designed these streets, sidewalks and ramps.  Better yet, they should have to live here and use a wheelchair to get around!

It may be too late but the city should not accept these streets from the developer.  Someone’s Errors & Omissions insurance policy should pay to correct these ramps.


Lack of Curb Cuts Annoying, Requires Backtracking

Saturday I met a friend and her nieces at Union Station.  I didn’t drive there, I took my motorized wheelchair.

On the way back home  I decided to take a slightly different route.  Normally I take 17th street North across Olive to Locust.  But Saturday I thought I’d go one more block East before heading North on the former 16th.  16th has been closed for decades, ever since the Plaza Square urban renewal project cleared the area.  But as I approached the former 16th Street as I headed East on Pine I encountered a problem.

My destination is the sidewalk going off to the left on the other side of this drive.  This drive goes to a locked gate.  All of the street intersections around here have ramps but little drives like this get overlooked.

Unable to proceed as planned I backtracked to 17th to cross Olive.

Crossing Olive without a signal is a bit scary but when there is no traffic such as Saturday it is alright.  The green light you see is 16th, where I was trying to cross.

The street grid is a joyous thing, when it is still a grid for motorists and pedestrians in wheelchairs.  As you destroy the grid you destroy the essence of the city.  Someday I plan to map all the public streets & alleys that have been vacated since say 1950.  How many acres of land has the city given away as the street grid was destroyed?

I’m emailing a link to this post to Alderman Phyllis Young, the director of the Streets Dept and the Office on the Disabled so they will be made aware of the issue at 16th & Pine.