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Not Quite Half Of Readers Would Support Arch/Park Sales Tax, A Third Oppose

ABOVE: The final piece of the Gateway Arch was set into place on Thursday October 28, 1965

If the folks at CityArchRiver plan to get voters to approve a 3/16¢ sales tax with part of the funds paying off bonds for their 2015 project they’ve got their work cut out for them. I think it’s fair to say the readership here is more pro-city than the region at large but not even half of those that voted indicated they’d support such a tax:

Q: Would You Support A 3/16¢ Sales Tax Increase for Parks/Arch?

  1. Yes, we need to invest in parks and the Arch is a major tourist attraction for the region 67 [49.63%]
  2. No, sales taxes are too high already 45 [33.33%]
  3. Maybe 15 [11.11%]
  4. Other: 7 [5.19%]
  5. Unsure/No Opinion 1 [0.74%]

Those that answered “maybe” could be the deciding factor on approval, assuming 50% +1 is what’s needed for approval. Here are the other answers that were submitted:

  1. Not for the current arch ground plan, we need to start over again I’m afraid
  2. for city parks, yes, National Parks, no
  3. Not unless it will help pay for removal of the depressed/elevated section of I70
  4. Yes, but lets also include Jefferson County
  5. No, not for the current project. Save local funds for metro expansion (N/S Line)
  6. Only if they got rid of the ridiculous idea of the gondola going across the rive
  7. yes but only if the bill is expanded to all of the METRO AREA

We’ll see what happens if a tax increase measure is placed on the ballot for voters to decide.

– Steve Patterson


St. Louis Area Not-For-Profit Winners in Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good Contest

August 20, 2011 STL Region 8 Comments

Not-for-profit organizations on the Missouri side of the St. Louis region the did very well in Toyota’s just completed “100 Cars for Good” contest.


Here was the announcement of the finalists in April:

April 25, 2011

Toyota Announces Finalists in 100 Cars for Good Program

• 500 nonprofits selected as finalists in the Toyota 100 Cars for Good program

• 100 vehicles will be given away over 100 days based on daily voting on Toyota’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/toyota

• Public voting will begin on May 9, 2011 and will take place for 100 consecutive days

TORRANCE, CALIF. (April 25, 2011) – Toyota today announced the 500 nonprofit organizations selected as finalists in the “100 Cars for Good” program, which will award 100 vehicles over the course of 100 days to 100 deserving nonprofit organizations based on votes from the public.

Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good initiative engages the public to determine the 100 organizations to receive a Toyota vehicle for use in the community. The 500 finalists, selected from a pool of applications submitted via Toyota’s Facebook page from March 7-21, 2011, were chosen by an independent panel of judges who are experts in the fields of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility. The finalists represent non-profit organizations servicing the community across a broad range of categories including animal welfare, arts, education, environment, health, safety and human services, among others.

Finalists will create an online profile, which may include a video showcasing how the organization plans to use a new Toyota vehicle to do good in their local community. Starting May 9, public voting will begin and take place for 100 consecutive days, with five organizations profiled on Toyota’s Facebook page each day. The public may vote for the charity they feel is most deserving based on the created profiles. A vehicle will be awarded daily through August 16 for a total of 100 vehicles. Voters may place one vote per day, each day, over the course of the program. Winning organizations can choose from the following vehicles: Toyota Prius, Tacoma, Tundra, Highlander Hybrid, Sienna, or Sienna Mobility. With each vehicle, Toyota Financial Services will provide a six-year 100,000 mile Toyota Vehicle Service Agreement to help provide extended protection from mechanical breakdowns beyond the vehicle warranty.

For a complete list of finalists, please visit www.facebook.com/toyota.

The following are the five winners in Missouri, all from the greater St. Louis area:

Day 5: May 13, 2011 - St. Louis Area Foodbank


About us:

The St. Louis Area Foodbank (SLAFB) feeds hungry people by acquiring and distributing food through our member agencies, and educates the public about the nature of and solutions to the problems of hunger. We believe that our mission aligns with Toyota’s goal to allow each individual to live with dignity and hope. By providing quality food items, in a dignified manner to people in need, we alleviate hunger while instilling hope. 261,000 unduplicated individuals rely on the SLAFB annually, of which 101,790 are children—the largest demographic served (39%). In calendar year 2010, SLAFB distributed over 23 million pounds of product through 500 member agencies.

How we would use a new Toyota:

A new Toyota vehicle would be utilized by the SLAFB to more efficiently establish partnerships throughout our service territory in order to further our mission. SLAFB partners with 500 agencies in 26 Missouri and Illinois counties to feed hungry people. Agencies include food pantries, emergency shelters, residential facilities and soup kitchens. Agency Relations staff work closely with representatives of our partner agencies, which requires driving their personal vehicles within an expansive 14,173 square mile service territory in the bi-state region. In fact, Finance projects that a new Toyota vehicle would save the organization nearly 30% in mileage reimbursements annually.

Day 10: May 18, 2011 - Mission: St. Louis


About us:

Mission: St. Louis fights poverty one neighborhood at a time, walking alongside people as they help themselves. While increasing home safety by providing free repairs, we build relationships. As we improve families’ surroundings, we also focus on long-term empowerment. We help people find employment so that they can provide for their families. In order to help break the cycle of poverty, we read with children to increase literacy and bolster educational success. Through a holistic approach that addresses education, empowerment, and economic development, Mission: St. Louis seeks to transform neighborhoods into safe and nurturing environments for all people. Vote for Mission: St. Louis!

How we would use a new Toyota:

The Mission: St. Louis home repair program makes vital steps toward improving the safety of families. Currently, Mission: St. Louis does $6 in home repairs for every $1 spent on materials. We secure many thousands of dollars in donated goods, and we have a warehouse to store these materials until needed. However, we are limited by lack of transportation. A truck will help us get materials to the warehouse and get them to homes where they can be used to create safe living environments. With a truck, we can repair more homes. We can build more relationships. We can help more people get jobs, provide for their families, and build stronger neighborhoods. Vote for Mission: St. Louis!

Day 41: June 18, 2011 - Lincoln County Council on Aging


About us:

In 1978, several women from the community created Lincoln County Council on Aging to meet the needs of local seniors and disabled adults. The agency has grown from one center serving Troy, to four centers (Winfield, Silex and Elsberry) serving all of Lincoln County. The county has a large rural population and for many of the agency’s clients, participating in the home delivered meal program provides the support needed to remain in their own home. The four centers offer a wide variety of activities to promote socialization, education and general well being. Lincoln County Council on Aging promotes independence and dignity while encouraging clients to enjoy each day with quality of life.

How we would use a new Toyota:

Lincoln County Council on Aging’s fleet of vehicles’ average age is fourteen years old. Most are donated and require frequent major repairs. Driving rural routes quickly adds miles to the vehicles. They are less fuel efficient and increase the agency’s vehicle expense. A new Toyota vehicle would improve the safety and comfort for our volunteers, staff and clients. In November 2010, the agency’s main vehicle was totaled in an accident – leaving us with less reliable transportation for our volunteer drivers and our clients. A Toyota vehicle would reduce cost for repairs, fuel and maintenance. This savings would allow us to expand meal routes thereby, reaching more clients in need.


Day 77: July 24, 2011 – Friends of Kids with Cancer, St. Louis, MO


About us:

Friends of Kids with Cancer is devoted to enriching the daily lives of children undergoing treatment for cancer and blood related diseases by providing them and their families with the recreational, educational, and emotional support needed throughout the long hours of chemotherapy, illness and isolation. Friends engages minds, instills confidence and, most importantly, helps kids with cancer…be kids! Check out our impact on the community firsthand- here is a thank you note from a parent of a child in treatment: “We had an amazing time at Incredible Pizza today. Thank You!!!! I don’t think words could ever describe how big of a blessing you guys are to our family and so many others!”

How we would use a new Toyota:

Friends provides many programs ALL over the St. Louis area on a small staff, so we utilize many volunteers for errands and to implement our programs. We need a safe, clean vehicle for them to use that can hold the eclectic mix of items that we provide: toys, games, tickets and all kinds of great things for the kids at the treatment centers every day. We also hold events just for the kids and families. In addition to the programs, we have to run multiple special event fundraisers each year. Having a roomy vehicle would help us be more efficient and save on any costs related to hauling signs, shirts, auction items, banners, food, drinks and everything in between that comes up during events.

Day 84: July 31, 2011 - Operation Food Search


About us:

The mission of Operation Food Search is to provide food and other basic necessities to individuals in need to relieve the burden of hunger and its consequences. Founded in 1981, Operation Food Search is the largest distributor of free food in the Saint Louis bi-state (MO/IL) region. We are a “big roots” organization serving the needs of 130,000 Saint Louisians, half of whom are children, through our network of 250 community partner agencies. Sadly, 1 in 4 children risk going hungry on daily basis. Operation Backpack and our Nutrition Education programs focus efforts on low-income children specifically, as these vulnerable kids face the greatest risk of starvation and malnutrition.


How we would use a new Toyota:

Our dietitians and their volunteers currently travel within a 75 mile radius around the bi-state region with food and cooking supplies to provide nutrition information to more than 4,000 low-income families. Our Cooking Matters team needs reliable, secure transportation, with ample space for their gear and staff, to continue their hands-on outreach program in our community. The families and individuals we reach rely on our team to learn how to keep their children healthy on a tight budget. Our current vehicle has nearly 190,000 miles on it and is falling apart. A new vehicle would be an asset to not only Operation Food Search, but to strengthening our community as a whole.

Congratulations to these organizations on winning a new vehicle.

– Steve Patterson




Readers: MetroLink Light Rail was a Good Investment

This morning I’m meeting a friend at the airport so we can catch up on the ride to his downtown hotel. Sure, he could take a cab or ahotel shuttle or I could drive out there to get him, but why?

ABOVE: The MetroLink platform at the main terminal

Our light rail connection to the airport is outstanding. We’ve enjoyed the connection since 1993. When I flew to Seattle in 2009 their airport light rail wasn’t yet complete.   Flying into LaGuardia Airport in 2005 I took a bus into Manhattan, NYC’s excellent rail system didn’t reach the airport.

No doubt the airport connection helped garner so many favorable responses in the poll last week, Poll: Was MetroLink a Good Investment?:

Q: MetroLink light rail opened 18 years ago, was it a good investment?

  1. Yes, it is an important part of our region’s transportation system. 180 [79.3%]
  2. Other answer… 19 [8.37%]
  3. No, likely cost too much given the ridership 16 [7.05%]
  4. Possibly, need data to know 10 [4.41%]
  5. unsure/no opinion 2 [0.88%]

Here are the numerous other answers:

  1. If it went faster I would easily say YES. Right now it is a VERY “nice to have”
  2. Yes, although we need more lines for it to be truly effective.
  3. Good starter line but not designed to take advantage of STL’s Urban Form
  4. Yes, but it needs more lines to make it fully functional
  5. No, because it’s taking away from the bus system.
  6. It’s a good start, we need a north south line in high density residential nabes
  7. It’s a needed part of trans. system, but need data to know if good investment
  8. Yes, but it needs to be expanded to MidAmerica to grasp the airport’s potential.
  9. ghetto link
  10. Good investment, but really need to encourage TODs to maximize investment return
  11. Overall yes but NIMBYs have strongly compromised its potential and overall worth
  12. Yes, but the subsequent failures have hurt: lack of extension down 40, etc.
  13. a good investment subsequently wasted by failure to expand to critical mass
  14. It would have been but not as it stands.
  15. No. It is too limited to be useful.
  16. Only if they build more lines
  17. Yes, but we need to do better.
  18. yes, but it still needs improvement in service hours and number of stops
  19. Without turnstiles, we have no idea how much revenue we are losing.

Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Light rail is one of several types of fixed rail transit, others include heavy rail and streetcars. Each has it’s place. Light rail into Illinois and to the airport was a good investment because we had the right-of-way, bridge, and tunnels to support the construction.
  • The extension further into Illinois was also a good investment as the distance is substantial, getting many cars off the roadways with minimal infrastructure since the line used existing at-grade right-of-way.
  • The extension to Shrewsbury, however, was not a good investment. Expensive tunnels and flyover bridges drove up costs enormously. The distance covered is not that great.
  • The lack of turnstiles made sense in the late 80s when the original line was being planned, ridership was unknown and the additional costs to construct a closed system would have been too much. I don’t think much revenue is lost by those who don’t pay, but not having a reloadable card option (yet) is a huge disadvantage.
  • Light rail is typically run in it’s own right-of-way so therefore it isn’t where you need it to be – in the street next to your destination.
  • Light rail doesn’t belong in street right-of-ways, that’s what a streetcar is for.
  • I see very limited need for additional light rail in the region.  An extension into Madison County Illinois would be nice.  Connecting north county via existing right-of-way from Clayton or airport area makes sense too.  Extending into south county from Shrewsbury also makes sense.
  • I oppose street running light rail going through north & south St. Louis to get county riders downtown.
  • We will never again have a streetcar system serving all neighborhoods in the city and light rail only serves a very small portion of people.  Bus service, therefore, is the main mode of transit.
  • Light rail distracts Metro and funding from bus service, which has been getting the short end of the stick for too long.

– Steve Patterson


Poll: Was MetroLink a Good Investment?

ABOVE: The elevator tower at the Convention Center MetroLink station, 6th & Washington Ave.

Eighteen years ago today St. Louis’ initial light rail line, MetroLink, opened for service:

Construction on the initial MetroLink alignment from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport to the 5th & Missouri station in East St. Louis began in 1990. The portion between North Hanley and 5th & Missouri stations opened in July 31, 1993, and the line was extended westward to Lambert Airport Main station in 1994. At that time another station, East Riverfront, was opened in East St. Louis. Four years later, in 1998, the Lambert Airport East station was added. The capital cost to build the initial phase of MetroLink was $465 million. Of that amount, $348 million was supplied by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

MetroLink exceeded pre-opening ridership estimates, but the system has expanded slowly. Construction on proposed extensions has been delayed by the increasing scarcity of FTA funds. As time has passed, an ever-greater share of the costs has been borne by state and local governments. The most recent work has been entirely funded by local dollars. (Wikipedia)

The fact we had the Eads Bridge, existing tunnels under downtown, and unused railroad right-of-way, created the needed local match to get federal funding the initial project.

Since today is the 18th anniversary I thought I’d do the weekly poll question about MetroLink: was it a good investment?

– Steve Patterson


Readers: Find Another Way to Stop Meth

July 20, 2011 Crime, STL Region 16 Comments

In the poll last week readers made it clear they don’t want to need a prescription to buy common cold & allergy medication:

Q: Should St. Louis County & City Require Prescriptions for Cold & Allergy Medicines to Stop the Production of Meth?

  1. No, don’t punish innocents in an effort to stop the illegal activities of a few 52 [48.6%]
  2. Yes, meth is a regional problem 26 [24.3%]
  3. Only if the other four counties agree to fund homeless services in the city 12 [11.21%]
  4. No, rural counties don’t care about our problems, why should we help them? 8 [7.48%]
  5. Other answer… 7 [6.54%]
  6. Unsure/no opinion 2 [1.87%]

So much for regional cooperation. Here are the seven other answers:

  1. no, current laws are strict enough (and just shifting production to Mexico)
  2. Put it behind the counter
  3. These choices are ridicules. Yes, by prescription, to protect the innocent.
  4. Why isn’t the electronic tracking system, in place now, doing the job?
  5. Could write the law to expire in a few years?
  6. What do homeless services have to do with cold
  7. No. This will drive up the cost of the medicine by forcing everyone to see docs

The answer with the most votes was not originally one I provided.  The poll software allows me to convert a reader submitted answer into an official poll answer, which I did early on the first day of this poll.

– Steve Patterson