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St. Louis’ Riverfront Reopening Next Week

We’re all invited to a riverfront picnic next week, Thursday June 2nd.  No blanket needed — a 2,016 foot-long table will be set up, chairs provided.

From the official press release:

Great Rivers Greenway, the City of St. Louis, CityArchRiver Foundation and other partners invite residents from across the region to join them in celebrating the transformation of the St. Louis riverfront on Thursday, June 2. The organizations will be hosting a “Picnic on the Riverfront” event from 5:00 to 8:45 p.m., which will feature St. Louis’ largest-ever community picnic – complete with a 2,016-foot-long table with chairs – to commemorate the opening of the new riverfront beneath the Gateway Arch.

The official ribbon cutting on June 2 will begin at 5 p.m. on the overlook stage along Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard, with remarks from dignitaries and partners. Afterward, attendees can explore the nearby Mississippi Greenway, enjoy local music and educational activities for kids and purchase dinner from food trucks and other vendors. People are also welcome to bring their own picnic meal. An interfaith blessing will kick off dinner at 6:15 p.m., followed by an aerial photo of all the picnickers. The event will end with a brief fireworks display at 8:30 p.m.

“This new front door for our region celebrates the energy, adventure and awe of the mighty Mississippi and our iconic Gateway Arch,” said Susan Trautman, Executive Director of Great Rivers Greenway, the regional parks and trails district and lead agency on the project. “We invite people to bring their friends, family and neighbors from all parts of the region to celebrate.”

The renovation of the 1.5-mile stretch of riverfront includes the recently rebuilt Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard and extension of the Mississippi Greenway from the Biddle Street Trailhead south to Chouteau Avenue, with protected walking and biking paths. The entire riverfront was elevated an average of almost two feet to limit flooding, returning more days of the year back to the community for walking, riding bikes, sightseeing and special events. While the historic elements were preserved, such as the cobblestones lining the levee; new amenities such as benches, bike racks, lights, power outlets and a street-level stage will make the space more inviting for events and programs. The lineup for this summer and fall includes bike rides, walk/run events, the St. Louis Brewers Guild Heritage Festival, a free concert series with The Sheldon, swap meets and more.

Earlier this month, on May 8th, my husband and I decided to check on the progress from the Eads Bridge. First though, a photo from September 2015:

Work continues on the North end of Lenore K. Sullivan -- raising it was delayed by flooding. Click image to see September 2015 post with more images
Work continues on the North end of Lenore K. Sullivan — raising it was delayed by flooding. Click image to see September 2015 post with more images
Looking more complete on May 8, 2016
Looking more complete on May 8, 2016
Looking West from further out
Looking West from further out
Looking down river
Looking down river
Moving closer to downtown
Moving closer to downtown
Further West
Further West
Down on Lenore K Sullivan looking where Washington Ave used to be
Down on Lenore K Sullivan looking where Washington Ave used to be
Lenore K Sullivan Blvd is now higher
Lenore K Sullivan Blvd is now higher
Looking North from Eads Bridge, Laclede's Landing area on the left beyond the elevated tracks
Looking North from Eads Bridge, Laclede’s Landing area on the left beyond the elevated tracks
Further North, ML King Bridge in background
Further North, ML King Bridge in background
Looking back south toward the Eads Bridge
Looking back south toward the Eads Bridge
Now at the center, some steps will be hidden by the new elevation of Lenore K Sullivan Blvd
Now at the center, some steps will be hidden by the new elevation of Lenore K Sullivan Blvd
Still under constructions are four ramps from the top down to bottom
Still under constructions are four ramps from the top down to bottom
These ramp will be great for those of us in wheelchairs, pushing strollers, etc
These ramps will be great for those of us in wheelchairs, pushing strollers, etc
There will also be ramps down to the cobblestones
There will also be ramps down to the cobblestones
It appears a smooth concrete sidewalk will run along the base pf the wall next to the rough cobblestones
It appears a smooth concrete sidewalk will run along the base pf the wall next to the rough cobblestones
Looking South from the bike/job path
Looking South from the bike/job path
One of the smartest ideas is concrete bases for light fixtures, these can go under flood waters without messing up wiring
One of the smartest ideas is concrete bases for light fixtures, these can go under flood waters without messing up wiring

So bring food, buy from food trucks, or just show up on June 2nd. I’m looking forward to exploring from end to end. Access is best from Chouteau or Laclede’s Landing Blvd (under the King Bridge).

For more event information see:

I’ll do a complete review after completion.

— Steve Patterson

 

8th & Market: Vehicle Stop Line Where Pedestrians Should Cross 8th Street, No Marked Crosswalk

Last week, while we were out at 8th & Market. I noticed another design flaw in St. Louis’ pedestrian network.

There's a green light but no pedestrian signal, but that's not the main problem
There’s a green light but no pedestrian signal, but that’s not the main problem
The vehicle stop line is in direct conflict with the unmarked crosswalk
The vehicle stop line is in direct conflict with the unmarked crosswalk

This is between Citygarden and Ballpark Village/Busch Stadium. The stop line and markings are recent. The detectable warnings on the sidewalk/ramp are there to help guide the visually disabled. Vehicles must stop before the stop line — but pedestrians and vehicles can’t occupy the same space at the same time.

This conflict occurs more than you think, because many of downtown’s signalized intersections fail to have marked crosswalks. If a crosswalk were marked it would’ve been obvious the vehicle stop line would be back where the Buick is in the second image.

In the 11+ years I’ve been doing this blog at least two downtown traffic studies have been done. To my knowledge, no pedestrian study has ever been conducted.  Another example of nobody paying attention to what they’re doing.

D’oh!

— Steve Patterson

 

Old Sidewalk-Blocking Bike Racks Finally Removed

When Culinaria opened it was a relief having a decent-sized grocery store downtown. A problem was trying to get to the entrance at 9th & Olive. The public sidewalk along 9th was so full it was basically single file for many years.

I got the number of tables reduced — and pushed back out of the way. But the four original “dish drainer” style bike racks remained.

Bike racks that place bikes perpendicular to the building/curb lines never should've been allowed by the city
Bike racks that place bikes perpendicular to the building/curb lines never should’ve been allowed by the city
May 26th 2015 I posted this image to Twitter & Facebook of the new rack being installed on 9th Street
May 26th 2015 I posted this image to Twitter & Facebook of the new rack being installed on 9th Street

Nearly a year later those old racks that place bikes so they narrow the sidewalk remained in place, getting used at times. On May 10th of this year I asked the manager, Adam, when the old racks would be removed. He wasn’t sure how to get them removed — they were anchored pretty well. So that day I emailed photos to people at Streets Dept and Great Rivers Greenway (did the new rack) to inquire, copying Adam so he’d be in the loop.

The old races the next day, May 11, 2016
The old races the next day, May 11, 2016
They were removed on May 16, 2016, the cones are gone now.
They were removed on May 16, 2016, the cones are gone now.
Cyclists now have a much better rack right in front of the entrance and pedestrians have full use of the sidewalk.
Cyclists now have a much better rack right in front of the entrance and pedestrians have full use of the sidewalk.

It’s all about how we share the public right-of-way (PROW).

— Steve Patterson

 

The ‘Great Streets’ Project on Natural Bridge, Part 3

Now sidewalks are generous, pedestrians feel protected from passing vehicles
Now sidewalks are generous, pedestrians feel protected from passing vehicles

The last two days I’ve shown you before & after photos of the Great Streets makeover/road diet of Natural Bridge Rd — a 1.7 mile stretch from Lucas & Hunt on the East end to Hanley Rd in the West end (map):

In May 2012 I posted about the upcoming project, see Redeveloping Natural Bridge & The UMSL South MetroLink Station.

Many have said it now looks better, or is prettier.  True, but it functions & feels better — at least for pedestrians in my experience. I’ve also driven the stretch both directions, before and after, but that was on weekends. It also felt better to me as a motorist.

One complaint I received last month is that driving it now can take quite a bit longer. Only two options — either it does take longer or the perception is that it takes longer. I have no method to determine which it is.

The number of traffic signals seems about the same as before, I didn’t tally the number, though that could be done via Google Street View. The major change was reducing the number of driving lanes  per direction from two to one. This freed up a significant amount of the public right-of-way (PROW) for use by pedestrian amenities.

Where such road diets have been performed, the actual number of vehicles through the area, in a given period, remains the same as before. Are there times where it might take longer? No doubt. But any speed that was achieved during the prior decades was at the expense of other users of the PROW.  Before this project vehicles traveled too fast. Two wide lanes per direction made drivers think it was OK.

Posted speed limits have little bearing on vehicle speed — motorists drive at speeds that feel comfortable to them. Give them only one narrow lane per direction and they’ll slow down. However, they can’t pass like they used to. To those who like to race to the next red light, it must be frustrating being behind someone going at or below the posted speed limit.

I plan to return during an afternoon rush hour to see if I can see backups at any of the lights, it’s possible the timing needs to be adjusted.

On the other hand, I received an email from someone who says his significant other walks from home to/from the MetroLink station weekdays — the project is a huge improvement.

While there are some issues I pointed out in the first two parts, the public right-of-way (PROW) is now well-balanced between vehicles & pedestrians. Designing streets that are great for those of us who are disabled also turns out to be great for every pedestrian. Hopefully in the new couple of decades we’ll see new urban infill in the various commercial areas along this stretch.

— Steve Patterson

 

The ‘Great Streets’ Project on Natural Bridge, Part 2

Natural Bridge received a ‘Great Streets’ road diet and makeover, yesterday I looked at the North side from Lucas & Hunt to Hanley Rd — see Part 1. My May 2012 visit was exactly four years ago today.

In today’s post we’ll look at the South side on the return trip.

At new curb ramp looking from the NE corner South across Natural Bridge
At new curb ramp looking from the NE corner South across Natural Bridge
But nothing was changed at the SE corner, the right turn cur off should've been eliminated
But nothing was changed at the SE corner, the right turn cur off should’ve been eliminated
The "ramp" on the side isn't remotely close to being AFA-compliant
The “ramp” on the side isn’t remotely close to being AFA-compliant
Looking West toward Hanley in 2012
Looking West toward Hanley in 2012
And now pedestrians have more room
And now pedestrians have more room
This was one of the worst areas I encountered in 2012
This was one of the worst areas I encountered in 2012
Now there's parallel street parking. a clear pedestrian path, and room for patio tables
Now there’s parallel street parking. a clear pedestrian path, and room for patio tables
There still isn't a ramp into the building. The owners retired last year, the next person who operates a business here will need to figure out wheelchair access. Click image for article on the closing.
There still isn’t a ramp into the building. The owners retired last year, the next person who operates a business here will need to figure out wheelchair access. Click image for article on the closing.
This is the point where the woman crossed with her child that I showed in yesterday's post
This is the point where the woman crossed with her child that I showed in yesterday’s post
Leave MetroLink for the school across Natural Bridge, the nearest crossing is out of view to the left
Leave MetroLink for the school across Natural Bridge, the nearest crossing is out of view to the left

Which brings us to the UMSL South MetroLink/MetroBus station. From a 2012 study:

The Station is somewhat remote and largely surrounded by the University. People using Natural Bridge Road – either in cars or on foot – are not able to see the Station from Natural Bridge and vehicular access
is not obvious. As mentioned previously, the Station is also inaccessible from properties immediately east and requires passengers to enter via Natural Bridge and East Drive. Lacking even basic restroom facilities, the Station is very austere and does not encourage riders to linger. Currently, there are 680 parking spaces at the Station and excess parking capacity is the norm. One area resident noted that he “loves the stop because no one knows about it. [He] can pull right up, park, and hop on the train.”

While basic transit connectivity exists via the existence of the UMSL South Station, rider connectivity to Natural Bridge Road and to the east needs to be enhanced to better support the community and Metro ridership. Through development at and around this Station, the Station will achieve greater visibility, and riders will have an increased sense of the built environment and a greater sense of security. (Urban Land Institute, St. Louis)

In my 2012 post I looked at the poor connection to transit from Natural Bridge — an indirect 2/10ths of a mile!

The sidewalk on the east side of UMSL's South Drive will lead you to the light rail station
The sidewalk on the east side of UMSL’s South Drive will lead you to the light rail station
Once visible the most direct path is through an unfriendly park-n-ride lot
Once visible the most direct path is through an unfriendly park-n-ride lot
The pedestrian route takes an unpleasant circuitous route
The pedestrian route takes an unpleasant circuitous route

Let’s take a look at how this has changed. Sadly, it hasn’t.

The blue star on the left indicates the approximate location of the destination. Able-bodied pedestrians have worn a more direct route but the rest of us must follow the official route to the right
The blue star on the left indicates the approximate location of the destination. Able-bodied pedestrians have worn a more direct route but the rest of us must follow the official route to the right
The sidewalk isn't wide enough for one person, has tilted. This was built in 1993 -- was designed to meet the bare minimum
The sidewalk isn’t wide enough for one person, has tilted. This was built in 1993 — was designed to meet the bare minimum
This view is leaving the station looking toward Natural Bridge. The sidewalk should be wider and go off to the right for a direct route to Natural Bridge. The grade isn't the big deal you might be thinking it is
This view is leaving the station looking toward Natural Bridge. The sidewalk should be wider and go off to the right for a direct route to Natural Bridge. The grade isn’t the big deal you might be thinking it is
From Natural Bridge we can see the station and how the grade drops off. Excess soil can be used on the East side of the station
From Natural Bridge we can see the station and how the grade drops off. Excess soil can be used on the East side of the station
The blue line represents a straight path from station to Natural Bridge. The remaining triangle cam be a pocket p;ark and/or a mixed-use TOD site. Click image to view in Google Maps
The blue line represents a straight path from station to Natural Bridge. The remaining triangle cam be a pocket p;ark and/or a mixed-use TOD site. Click image to view in Google Maps

The 2012 ULI study totally missed the straightforward opportunity to connect to Natural Bridge. They focused on development of the underutilized site to the East of the station, right above. From the 2012 ULI study:

To create the destination development and a corridor of mixed use, the Panel recommends building a new street from Natural Bridge Road south through the City Hall property. The new street would terminate in an event space due east of the UMSL South Station. The Station would connect to the new development via a pedestrian walkway or bridge. To rebrand the area and create the much-desired sense of place, the area would be named Plank Street Station and would encompass the UMSL South Station, rebranded Plank Street Station. “Plank Street” gives a nod to the history of Natural Bridge road, yet should not bring to mind any existing negative references. Through the use of one brand name for the development area, a new name without existing negative connotations, development and investment in the area might be more easily realized.

The University, MetroLink station, and neighborhood surrounding Plank Street Station would benefit from the development’s amenities and provide additional support for the development. In addition to on-street parking and parking in the existing MetroLink lot, the land north of the existing Station could be utilized for parking for Plank Street Station via a new parking garage. To the south of the new Plank Street, the driving range could become a mix of residential uses and could provide a direct connection to the Station for members Glen Echo Country Club. Within the neighborhood to the east of Plank Street, access to the Plank Street residential area component and the Country Club could be realized via an improved Oakmont Street.

The Plank Street Station entertainment district becomes a critical amenity for the University, attracting and retaining students and professional staff and sheltering its student housing flank and investment.

The ULI wants a pedestrian bridge over the tracks? Why? There is a platform on each side with a walkway between them across the tracks. All that’s needed it to develop the land to the East and connect to the existing Northbound platform.  Ok, let’s look at the Normandy City Hall just East of the MetroLink light rail tracks.

Looking East in 2012, the grade change makes a level of parking under a building(s) worth considering
Looking East in 2012, the grade change makes a level of parking under a building(s) worth considering
Now looking West from the other driveway, toward UMSL and MetroLink
Now looking West from the other driveway, toward UMSL and MetroLink
A variety of surfaces at different levels in 2012
A variety of surfaces at different levels in 2012
Much better now
Much better now
At this gas station there is clear physical separation between the public sidewalk and drive for the gas pumps. This is important for maintaining pedestrian space
At this gas station there is clear physical separation between the public sidewalk and drive for the gas pumps. This is important for maintaining pedestrian space
Back at the new fountain at the circle where Florissant Rd meets Natural Bridge, this commercial district is known as The Wedge
Back at the new fountain at the circle where Florissant Rd meets Natural Bridge, this commercial district is known as The Wedge
In 2012 the buildings along the South side were fronted by parking, no clear pedestrian sidewalk
In 2012 the buildings along the South side were fronted by parking, no clear pedestrian sidewalk
Today it's dramatically different! Hoping cafes open so I can return and eat outside
Today it’s dramatically different! Hoping cafes open so I can return and eat outside
Looking East toward Lucas & Hunt, wider sidewalk with trees. What's hard to see in person and it pictures the right rises up higher than the left side
Looking East toward Lucas & Hunt, wider sidewalk with trees. What’s hard to see in person and it pictures the right rises up higher than the left side
Looking back West we see the new lower sidewalk stops short pf the corner, which is already filling with debris. If in a wheelchair on the new/lower section you'd need to return to the split and take the old to reach the corner
Looking back West we see the new lower sidewalk stops short pf the corner, which is already filling with debris. If in a wheelchair on the new/lower section you’d need to return to the split and take the old to reach the corner

Tomorrow I’ll recap, add some additional thoughts, and discuss differing options I’ve received about this project.

— Steve Patterson

 

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