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Sunday Poll: Should St. Louis Require Businesses To Accept Cash?

November 4, 2018 Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should St. Louis Require Businesses To Accept Cash?
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I often get asked for change by homeless downtown, which doesn’t bother me. The thing is, I don’t use coins. The exception is I make sure I have a quarter on me for my monthly shopping trip to ALDI — to get a shopping cart. When I get home the quarter goes back into our change bowl. So when a homeless person asks me for change I’m being totally honest when I say I don’t have any on me.

This got me thinking about how I live basically a cashless life, the opposite of my brother-in-law.  Groceries is the main thing I purchase. At ALDI, Trader Joe’s, & Culinaria I use ApplePay with a rewards Visa.  At Target I show the cashier a bar code on the Target app linked to our Target MasterCard. And at Costco our membership card is our Costco Visa.  Our monthly Costco trip is the one time shopping I need to get my wallet out of my pocket and get a card out.  I usually have $5-$10 in my wallet for emergency use, but I don’t carry change.

In researching this topic I found out an increasing number of places don’t accept cash, some cities are proposing laws to force businesses to accept cash and cease cash discounts.

From July 2018:

Mobile payments. Credit cards. Digital currencies. Going cashless seems to be a worldwide trend. In Belgium, it is illegal to buy real estate with cash. Some banks in Australia have eliminated cash from their branches. Sweden has seen its use of cash drop to less than 2% of all transactions, and the number could be heading even lower in the next few years.

However, one city in the US is resisting that trend: Washington DC. In the nation’s capital cash is still king, and a new bill introduced this week wants to keep it that way. The Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018 would make it illegal for restaurants and retailers not to accept cash or charge a different price to customers depending on the type of payment they use.

City councilmember David Grosso, and five other councilmembers who co-introduced the bill, are responding to the recent tide of retailers in their city and around the country – like the salad chain Sweetgreen – who are no longer accepting cash. These retailers, which mostly serve upscale customers, say that going cashless speeds up transactions, improves customer service and makes for more accurate accounting. They also argue that having less cash lying around also minimizes the risk of crime and contributes to a safer environment for both their customers and employees. (The Guardian)

There are a couple of restaurants in town I’ve stopped patronizing because one charges more when paying with plastic, the other has a minimum charge I don’t reach when eating alone.

I usually know my position before you see a poll, but I’m very torn on this subject. I love living cashless but know the struggle for those with cash, even managing a debit card is difficult for many.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight, hopefully I’ve got the settings right to adjust to the time change. Wednesday I’ll talk about my past problems managing credit, going all cash, and finally going cashless without going into debt.

— Steve Patterson

 

Looking Back on 14 Years of Blogging, Starting the 15th Year

October 31, 2018 Featured, Site Info, Steve Patterson Comments Off on Looking Back on 14 Years of Blogging, Starting the 15th Year

Here we are at another blog anniversary, the completion of 14 years and the start of the 15th year. I was 37 when my dad had a heart attack on October 1, 2004. I needed a mental distraction. I began blogging in the year it entered the mainstream:

In 2004, the role of blogs became increasingly mainstream, as political consultants, news services and candidates began using them as tools for outreach and opinion forming. Even politicians not actively campaigning, such as the UK’s Labour Party’s MP Tom Watson, began to blog to bond with constituents.

Minnesota Public Radio broadcast a program by Christopher Lydon and Matt Stoller called “The blogging of the President,” which covered a transformation in politics that blogging seemed to presage. The Columbia Journalism Review began regular coverage of blogs and blogging. Anthologies of blog pieces reached print, and blogging personalities began appearing on radio and television. In the summer of 2004, both United States Democratic and Republican Parties’ conventions credentialed bloggers, and blogs became a standard part of the publicity arsenal. Mainstream television programs, such as Chris Matthews’ Hardball, formed their own blogs. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary declared “blog” as the word of the year in 2004.[19]

Blogs were among the driving forces behind the “Rathergate” scandal, to wit: (television journalist) Dan Rather presented documents (on the CBS show 60 Minutes) that conflicted with accepted accounts of President Bush’s military service record. Bloggers declared the documents to be forgeries and presented evidence and arguments in support of that view, and CBS apologized for what it said were inadequate reporting techniques (see Little Green Footballs). Many bloggers view this scandal as the advent of blogs’ acceptance by the mass media, both as a news source and opinion and as means of applying political pressure.

Some bloggers have moved over to other media. The following bloggers (and others) have appeared on radio and television: Duncan Black (known widely by his pseudonym, Atrios), Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit), Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (Daily Kos), Alex Steffen (Worldchanging) and Ana Marie Cox(Wonkette). In counterpoint, Hugh Hewitt exemplifies a mass media personality who has moved in the other direction, adding to his reach in “old media” by being an influential blogger. Music blog publisher Jeff Davidson, Earvolution.com, now produces Sun Studio Sessions airing on PBS stations across the U.S.

Some blogs were an important news source during the December 2004 Tsunami such as Médecins Sans Frontières, which used SMS text messaging to report from affected areas in Sri Lanka and Southern India. Similarly, during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and the aftermath a few blogs which were located in New Orleans, including the Interdictor and Gulfsails were able to maintain power and an Internet connection and disseminate information that was not covered by the mainstream media. (Wikipedia)

In the early years I wasn’t taken seriously, I recall planner Rollin Stanley, dismissively telling me he doesn’t read blogs. A few years after he left St. Louis he emailed me asking me to check out his work blog!

This blog peaked in popularity in 2006. St. Louis magazine named me the 50th most powerful person in St. Louis in their December 2006 issue. That month I met a young man named Alex Ihnen. I attended at 2-day event downtown on “accessible streets” reviewing ADA/accessibility issues — I wasn’t yet disabled. After the 2nd day, December 15th, I agreed to meet Alex at 6 North Cafe to discuss blogging. At this point I only had a little over 2 years of experience, though in January 2006 I switched to WordPress 2.0 on my own leased server space.

Outside 6 North Cafe on December 15, 2006

Alex went on to do great things here with UrbanSTL, and later with NextSTL, before moving to Cincinnati. My only time in Cincinnati was at a Streetsblog event, also attended by Alex prior to his move.

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll most indicated they found value in local blogs:

Q: Agree or disagree: Local blogs, including this one, provide insights not gained via mainstream media.

  • Strongly agree: 10 [43.48%]
  • Agree: 9 [39.13%]
  • Somewhat agree: 2 [8.7%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [4.35%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 1 [4.35%]
  • Disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Strongly disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

I still enjoy sharing my thoughts. There’s no shortage of material to write about. Occasionally I get some little things accomplished, like getting an obstacle removed from the 6th Street sidewalk earlier this year, see: Sidewalk Obstruction Removed After Annoying Pedestrians For 7+ Years.  I can easily see reaching the 15 year mark — only one more year.

Not sure if 20 will be reached.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Do Local Blogs Provide Valuable Information Not Found In Traditional Media?

October 28, 2018 Featured, Media, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Do Local Blogs Provide Valuable Information Not Found In Traditional Media?
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Since I began in 2004, this blog has always been a way for me to express my thoughts, flattered others take the time to read my posts….thousands of them. Wednesday marks the 14th anniversary of UrbanReviewSTL.com.

A lot has happened in these 14 years, including my stroke over a decade ago. I also ran for public office, started grad school, bought a 50cc scooter, went car-free (twice), got married, etc. When I began blogging about St. Louis YouTube, Twitter, etc didn’t yet exist. Facebook had been around for less than 9 months, limited only to Harvard then.

Different blogs have different focuses, purposes. Today’s poll is about blogs and more traditional media sources (newspaper, radio, tv).

This non-scientific poll will close at 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Sunday Poll: Can Missouri Afford A Hyperloop Between St. Louis & Kansas City?

October 21, 2018 Featured, Missouri, Sunday Poll, Transportation Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Can Missouri Afford A Hyperloop Between St. Louis & Kansas City?
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Today’s poll involves a rather technical new idea, so it makes sense to look at what it is first:

A Hyperloop is a proposed mode of passenger and/or freight transportation, first used to describe an open-source vactrain design released by a joint team from Tesla and SpaceX.[1] Drawing heavily from Robert Goddard’s vactrain, a hyperloop is a sealed tube or system of tubes through which a pod may travel free of air resistance or friction conveying people or objects at high speed while being very efficient.

Elon Musk’s version of the concept, first publicly mentioned in 2012,[2] incorporates reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on air bearings driven by linear induction motors and axial compressors.[3]

The Hyperloop Alpha concept was first published in August 2013, proposing and examining a route running from the Los Angeles region to the San Francisco Bay Area, roughly following the Interstate 5 corridor. The paper conceived of a hyperloop system that would propel passengers along the 350-mile (560 km) route at a speed of 760 mph (1,200 km/h), allowing for a travel time of 35 minutes, which is considerably faster than current rail or air travel times. Preliminary cost estimates for this LA–SF suggested route were included in the white paper—US$6 billion for a passenger-only version, and US$7.5 billion for a somewhat larger-diameter version transporting passengers and vehicles[1]—although transportation analysts had doubts that the system could be constructed on that budget; some analysts claimed that the Hyperloop would be several billion dollars overbudget, taking into consideration construction, development, and operation costs.[4][5][6]

The Hyperloop concept has been explicitly “open-sourced” by Musk and SpaceX, and others have been encouraged to take the ideas and further develop them.

To that end, a few companies have been formed, and several interdisciplinary student-led teams are working to advance the technology.[7] SpaceX built an approximately 1-mile-long (1.6 km) subscale track for its pod design competition at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California.[8]

Some experts are skeptical, saying that the proposals ignore the expenses and risks of developing the technology and that the idea is “completely impractical”.[9] Claims have also been made that the Hyperloop is too susceptible to disruption from a power outage or terror attacks to be considered safe.[9] (Wikipedia)

Last week Missouri received lots of national press because one group is saying a Hyperloop between St. Louis and Kansas City, with a midway stop in Columbia, is feasible:

Virgin Hyperloop One has announced the results of a feasibility study on a planned route connecting Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis. The study, which has yet to be published in full, purports that the route between the three cities is commercially viable. Researchers at Black & Veatch examined the engineering, viability and economic challenges of a proposed line running parallel to I-70.

The release doesn’t go into specifics, but Hyperloop One must feel justified in saying that the route is worth the effort. It claims that the number of people traveling between the three cities would increase by 80 percent, from 16,000 to 51,000. In addition, the local economy is said to be $410 million better off, thanks to reduced journey times, with an extra $91 million coming in savings from a less congested I-70.

Virgin Hyperloop One has doubled down on its claim that journey times between Kansas City and St. Louis could be cut to under half an hour. The release suggests that the trip would now last 28 minutes, with the time to Columbia — roughly equidistant between the two — being cut to 15 minutes. (Engaget)

From the press release:

The news follows on an historic congressional testimony of September 2018 by Virgin Hyperloop One before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on the necessity of a new regulatory framework for hyperloop systems.

Two other states are currently studying hyperloop through in-depth feasibility studies—Ohio and Colorado. In addition, Ohio is also participating in the first U.S. Environmental Impact Studies (EIS) of a hyperloop system and Texas has announced its intent to start the process.

Kansas City KS engineering firm Black & Veatch had no Hyperloop study press release on their site.

Here’s more specifics on the user experience:

Travelers would go to what’s called a portal, which will likely be first in transit hubs of major cities before spreading outward to smaller ones. There, they will enter a large tube and board a pod inside of it with 15 to 30 others. The tubes can be built on elevated pylons, underground, through the ocean or at ground-level, and the pod will be roughly the size of a subway car; the tube would be the diameter of a subway tunnel. The door will close behind them, along with the entrance to the tunnel.

The air from the tube will be pulled out so the environment is as close to a vacuum as possible. Airline pilots soar at 30,000 feet in part because it allows them to conserve fuel with low air resistance, and the hyperloop can do that inside the tube. Instead of moving on wheels like a train, the hyperloop will levitate magnetically, allowing it to avoid more resistance. The pod will be accelerated by using electric power and piloted by a computer, zooming forth like a gigantic, passenger-bearing air hockey puck. As it accelerates, floating in the near-airless tube, the pod will be able to coast long distances without losing momentum — like a bike downhill — and the computer will generate bursts of power as needed to maintain extremely high speed. (CNBC)

See articles from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Kansas City Star. Total project cost would be $7.5 billion to $10 billion — from private & public sources. A round-trip ticket would be about the same as gas, about $60.

Sounds great, right? Many say, “not so fast.”

If the Hyperloop’s purpose is to address large-scale urban mobility, then there are many other options already deserving of public funding and attention—ones that do not require a hard rebooting of the entire urban world to be realized. We could increase funding for Amtrak. We could make our existing subways run on time, safely. We could fix our bridges. If boredom is already setting in, recall the fate of the Concorde. We once lived in a world that boasted a supersonic airliner, capable of whisking passengers from New York to London in three and a half hours—but this was a very qualified use of the word “we.” Who exactly could book a ticket on the Concorde was determined entirely by wealth, and, as such, that now lost transatlantic wormhole never felt particularly futuristic. Certainly, it failed to revolutionize international transportation for the masses. Today, it’s as if this feat of aeronautical engineering never existed. (The New Yorker)

More criticism from MIT’s Technology Review. Hopefully that’s enough background, here’s today’s poll:

This poll will automatically close at 8pm tonight.

My husband and I are in Kansas City for the weekend. We usually take Amtrak, but we drove this time because we needed a car to visit a museum that’s inaccessible to public transit. Wednesday I’ll share my thoughts on the St. Louis to Kansas City drive, train ride, and proposed Hyperloop.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Sunday Poll: Should Larry Rice Be Allowed To Reopen His Homeless Shelter?

October 14, 2018 Downtown, Featured, Homeless, NLEC, Religion, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Larry Rice Be Allowed To Reopen His Homeless Shelter?
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Last month a 2nd court ruled against Larry Rice and his downtown homeless shelter:

The Missouri Court of Appeals upholds a lower court ruling that found the city of St. Louis acted properly when it shut down the New Life Evangelistic Center homeless mission in April of 2017.

The center’s director, the Reverend Larry Rice says, it’s hard to re-open when he can’t get petition signatures from neighbors in the locked loft next door.

“What’s really made this difficult is the people they want us to get signatures from are the people that put in the petition in order to stop us from doing the shelter,” Rice said, “At the same time, we’re willing to do our individual appeal to each person that lives in the loft next door at 15th and Locust, the management of those lofts refused to give us access.”

Rice says he may seek a court order granting him access to the building to talk to knock on doors of residents.

Also, he plans to appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court and argue that his homeless shelter is a “local church” and has a Consitutional right to stay open to serve its congregation–the homeless. (KMOX)

Today’s non-scientific poll is about Larry Rice and his former shelter.

Today’s poll closes at 8pm tonight. The usual number of votes is around 28-32 so if there’s an effort to influence the outcome it’ll be very obvious. My thoughts on Wednesday.

— Steve Patterson

 

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