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Few Exposed Brick Pavers Covered With Asphalt

June 10, 2021 Featured, North City, Transportation, Walkability Comments Off on Few Exposed Brick Pavers Covered With Asphalt

Most older streets in St. Louis were paved in cobblestones or paver bricks, few exist anymore.  Asphalt paving is significantly smoother, just far less attractive. In 1953 the Cochran Gardens high rise public housing complex opened, but construction closed off 8th Street between O’Fallon Street and the alley south of Cass Avenue. Eighth Street was reopened when the high rise towers were replaced with the mixed-income Cambridge Heights townhouses & apartments, except 8th wasn’t connected through to the little stub of a street to Cass.

This October 2, 2019 view is looking south on 8th from Cass. You can see the land just after the alley, Cambridge Heights, and the downtown skyline on the horizon. In the foreground you can see brick pavers. It looked like it had been paved over decades ago, but most was long gone so the old bricks were exposed.
On May 5th I returned home tfrom a press conference at the Chain of Rocks water treatment plant to see city crews paving over the small amount of bricks.
Closer view
A couple of days later I went back to see the finished results.The concrete in the foreground was part of the new river bridge project, when Cass was raised in height over the interstate.

This half block of 8th Street gets very little traffic, the uniformity of the asphalt paving does look better than it did with patches of old asphalt and broken bricks. This is better, but I still miss seeing the bricks.

— Steve Patterson

 

The 9th/10th One-Way Couplet Needs To Return To Two-Way ASAP

May 25, 2021 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on The 9th/10th One-Way Couplet Needs To Return To Two-Way ASAP

More than six decades ago 9th & 10th streets were changed from two-way to one-way in the opposite directions — a one-way couplet. This still exists from Clark Ave on the south to Cass Ave on the north — a distance of 1.2 miles. The north end used to continue past Cass to connect to I-70, but it was shortened when construction on the newest bridge over the Mississippi River began approximately 15 years ago. The south end still connects to I-64 ramps.

The purpose of one-way streets decades ago was to quickly get cars into downtown in the morning, then back out after work. They did their job…a little too well. Downtown was so quick to empty out nobody stuck around for shopping, dinner, or a show. There many reasons why downtowns emptied out, but one-way streets were a major contributor. To make downtown St. Louis enjoyable as a place to live, work, and visit all the one-way streets need to return to two-way traffic eventually. When Locust Street west of 14th switched back to two-way a dozen years ago it made a huge difference.

For nearly 50 years  9th & 10th extended north of Cass Ave to connect to I-70, but that ended with the 2010 start of a new bridge over the Mississippi River, later named the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge. But downtown 9th & 10th weren’t the original couplet of paired opposite direction one-way streets.

Let’s look at the original one-way couplets in the downtown central business district (Arch to 12th/Tucker):

  1. Northbound 4th & southbound Broadway (aka 5th)
  2. Southbound 6th & northbound 7th
  3. Southbound 8th & northbound 9th
  4. Southbound 10th & northbound 11th

The first still exists today, the rest have all been changed to the point they no longer function as original intended. Three streets lots blocks to the convention center & dome: 6th, 7th, 8th. Ninth will soon be added to that list.  Sixth street lost blocks to Kiener Plaza & the hotel south of Market. Both sixth & seventh streets lost blocks to the original downtown Busch Stadium (now Ballpark Village), and the current Busch Stadium. And finally northbound 9th Street is closed for one block between Market & Chestnut because the designers of Citygarden didn’t think about a pedestrian signal at 9th & Market. D’oh!

I’ve posted about changing these opposite one-way streets back to two-way traffic numerous times, but now it’s urgent. When the convention center expansion begins a couple of blocks of 9th will be closed, but that’s not the urgent reason for restoring two-way traffic. The vacant AT&T Tower downtown at 909 Chestnut (bordered by 9th, Chestnut, 10th, and Pine) is why these streets need to revert to two-way traffic. Why?

909 Chestnut was built at the headquarters for Southwestern Bell Telephone, later purchased by AT&T

The entrance and exit to the small underground garage was designed with the one-way streets in mind, the entrance was off northbound 9th and the exit was onto southbound 10th. The 44-story building has been vacant since 2017, but eventually someone will renovate it. When they do it would be easy to switch the entrance and exit. If the building is renovated while 9th & 10th are still one-way it’ll be impossible to make them two-way in the future.

The original entrance off nb 9th could be an exit after future renovations.
The original basement entrance could just as easily be the exit.
On the opposite side of the building we have the original exit onto sb 10th. Again, this could easily be the entrance if 10th was two-way.

Since built, exiting traffic has come out southbound just before Chestnut. Switching the exit from 10th to 9th wouldn’t change this potential conflict point.

The building has lost value and changed hands numerous times, eventually someone is going to renovate it. 

The 1.4 million-square-foot, 44-story office building on Chestnut Street is the largest office building by square-footage in the region, and the 1986 structure built for a single tenant has posed a vexing challenge amid a downtown market already struggling with the highest office vacancy rate in the metro area. 

AT&T vacated its lease in September 2017 and about 2,000 of the company’s employees relocated nearby in buildings at 801 Chestnut and 1010 Pine streets. (Post-Dispatch, May 2019)

For comparison here are some other large vacant buildings downtown

Since 909 Chestnut was built as a headquarters it was connected to buildings to the east & west. Another block west was a large company parking garage. The garage under 909 Chestnut is small, was built for service vehicles and company executives. A MetroLink light rail station is only a block away, but parking obsessed assumes everyone has a car.

The building footprint is too small to ramp up to use some upper floors for parking. A car elevator or automated system are the only options to get cars up higher, but they’re very costly.

Eventually someone will figure it out. When they do 9th & 10th should be two-way traffic.

— Steve Patterson

 

Hodiamont Streetcar Ended Service 55 Years Ago, Right-of-Way To Become Trail

May 21, 2021 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Hodiamont Streetcar Ended Service 55 Years Ago, Right-of-Way To Become Trail

Fifty-five years ago today the last streetcar ended service. That line was the Hodiamont. West of Vandeventer Ave. it ran on a private right-of-way, not mixed with vehicles on the street.

Looking East on the last eastern section of the Hodiamont Right-of-Way, 2012

For a time after the last streetcar Metro (then known as Bi-State Development Agency) ran a bus down the private strip.  The bus was a huge improvement over old fashioned streetcars — faster, quieter, flexible, etc.

Not sure when buses stopped using the Hodiamont right-of-way. Currently Great Rivers Greenway is working on making it a trail.

The Hodiamont Tracks were once the route of a streetcar line and in later years a bus route.  While the bus route is no longer active, the 3.5 mile corridor has the potential to become a greenway that would link the St. Vincent and the future Brickline Greenways. (GRG)

In the ideal world a new streetcar/light rail line would occupy this corridor as it snakes through neighborhoods.

I’d love to go back in time to ride the streetcars and see the neighborhoods at their peak. Of course, I’d also have to see the segregation of housing and transportation.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Auto-Centric Pandemic, Vaccine Site Adjacent To Light Rail Station Didn’t Mention Using Transit

March 25, 2021 Central West End, Featured, Public Transit, STL Region, Transportation Comments Off on Auto-Centric Pandemic, Vaccine Site Adjacent To Light Rail Station Didn’t Mention Using Transit

The previous 12 months have highlighted how auto-centric the United States is. So far during this pandemic we’ve seen drive through food banks, and COVID-19 testing. Each with cars backed up for miles. To keep the cars on the road there were also lines at licensing offices.

From May 28, 2020:

On Friday, May 29 CVS Health will open 22 new COVID-19 drive-thru test sites across Missouri, including locations in St. Louis.

CVS Health expects to have up to 1,000 locations across the country offering this service by the end of May.

The testing will be by appointment only. You won’t go into the store, but sit in your car and administer the test. (Fox2)

From June 11, 2020:

Many St. Louis-area residents endured long lines and waiting times at licensing offices Thursday, which recently re-opened due to COVID-19 worries.

Thursday, a News 4 crew found some people who waited several hours at two licensing offices in west St. Louis County, where only a few people are allowed inside at one time to due to COVID-19 restrictions. (KMOV)

From November 25, 2020:

From California to New York, pictures have emerged of thousands of people waiting to receive groceries from their local food banks ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

It’s one side effect that has cropped up as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that continues to sweep the nation. Experts say the problem is rooted in high unemployment and low cash flow. (CNBC)

So it was no surprise when it came time for vaccinations that many sites weren’t accessible by foot or public transit. As with food & testing, people in their cars were backed up for miles to get a shot.

Last Thursday:

Traffic was backed up for more than a mile in both directions entering the county’s drive-thru mass vaccination site. The event, put on by the St. Charles County Health Department with support from the Missouri National Guard, was expected to vaccinate 4,000 people by the time it wrapped up Thursday evening. (KMOV)

Monday I got my first shot. I’d been on a waiting list at BJC only, as I knew I’d be able to take transit. Many people signed up for multiple lists with the expectation they’ll drive wherever they need to.

Valet parking makes sense, especially for those who can’t walk far.

I was given a choice of vaccination sites, but I picked the 4353 Clayton location because I knew it was adjacent to the Cortex MetroLink station. The instructions from BJC, however, didn’t mention transit at all.

  • Due to social distancing restrictions, do not arrive before your scheduled time.
    • If you arrive earlier, please remain in your vehicle until it’s time to enter the building.
  • Please park in the lot at the front of the building, labeled “30 minute visitor,” or the lot west of the building, labeled “2 hour visitor.”
    • Free valet parking is also available at the front of the building.
    • Click here for a parking map.

Despite my criticism of their lack of mentioning transit, the entire process was very well orchestrated. Outside they had signs & people to direct drivers. At the building they had people stationed at every step to keep the flow going. I was in and out in under a half hour!

– Steve Patterson

 

Metro’s New Battery Electric 60-Foot Articulated Buses Coming Soon To #70 (Grand) Route

March 15, 2021 Environment, Featured, Public Transit, Transportation Comments Off on Metro’s New Battery Electric 60-Foot Articulated Buses Coming Soon To #70 (Grand) Route

My previous post was on the subject of BEVs — battery electric vehicles —- was the realization the used car we will purchase in a couple of years can’t be a BEV because we rent and can’t charge at our apartment. Even though we won’t own a BEV I’ll still be able to ride in one…on the #70 bus route.

The North Broadway transit center reopened after adding infrastructure to charge electric buses.

From September 2020:

Metro Transit announced Tuesday a deal with Minnesota-based New Flyer of America to add 14 zero-emission buses to the city’s fleet.

The new buses stretch 60 feet long and come with a price tag of $1.33 million each. Eighty percent of the cost will be covered by grants from the Federal Transit Administration, said Jessica Mefford-Miller, executive director of Metro Transit.

The regional transit agency has been considering adding electric battery-powered vehicles to its fleet for more than a decade, Mefford-Miller said. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Here’s some additional detail:

The 60-foot battery electric buses have 320 kilowatts of battery storage on each bus. That is enough power to support about 10 2,000-square-foot houses for an entire day. They will operate exclusively on the #70 MetroBus route, which is Metro’s busiest route and carries about 10 percent of Metro’s customers on a daily basis. (Metro’s NextStop blog)

For comparison a Chevy Bolt EV has a 66kWh battery, the biggest Tesla battery is 100kWh.

After reading numerous articles about the new electric buses but I still had questions, so I asked Patti Beck, Metro’s director of communications, to answer them.

Much of the previously large open waiting area is now filled with electric equipment.

Q:   Why are the buses for use on Grand going to be stored/charged at Brentwood instead of Central?  My guess is not enough room at Central. Or was power supply better at Brentwood? Are the current articulated buses operated out of Central or Brentwood?

A: MetroBus operates out of three facilities- Brentwood, near Manchester and Brentwood; DeBaliviere, at Delmar and DeBaliviere; and our Illinois MetroBus Facility. Metro chose the Brentwood MetroBus Facility as our first battery electric operating facility because of its more advantageous location and power rate. Ameren Missouri, in partnership with Bi-State Development, constructed an electrical substation adjacent to the Brentwood facility that will provide power supply to Metro’s battery electric fleet, as well as the surrounding community.

Comment: The Central facility is very close to Grand, but it’s small. This is the location for Call-A-Ride buses, but not 40 foot or larger buses.

Q: As I recall the current articulated buses are from Gillig. Will having new articulated buses from New Flyer be a problem in terms of maintenance, parts, etc?  Does Gillig not offer an electric articulated bus?

A: The existing 60’ articulated buses will all be retired in 2021. Gillig does not yet offer a battery electric 60’ bus. They do produce battery electric 40’ buses, and we have purchased four Gillig 40’ electric buses that will become part of our battery electric fleet.

Comment: the existing articulated buses were bought used and refurbished, began operation in June 2014.

Q: I see buses will recharge at Broadway & Taylor. How many will recharge at a time? How long will they need to recharge?

There will be 3 active 450kWh chargers at Broadway & Taylor. A pantograph from the charger lowers to rails on top of the bus to deliver the charge. To maintain continuous operation of the #70 Grand, two chargers must be used to maintain an effective charge throughout the day. The third charger is a backup when one charger needs maintenance or if there is a component failure.

4.    What type of charging connector do buses use?

There are 22 150 kWh charging dispensers at the Brentwood MetroBus facility. These use a heavy duty plug type CCS type 1 built to the SAE J1772 standard. The depot chargers will “top” off the articulated buses at night and be the sole source of charge for the 40’ Gillig buses stationed there.

Comment: this is faster than even Tesla’s superchargers.

Two diesel 40-foot buses. The existing driver restroom in the back corner remains.

The North Broadway transit center will be an important part of the hopeful success of battery electric bus service.  Some other cities have had problems, Albuquerque returned 13 electric buses to the Chinese manufacturer and ordered diesel replacements for a BRT line.  Other cities didn’t build field charging locations like the North Broadway transit center.

My follow up questions were not answered. I’m still curious how different it’ll be from diesel buses. Will electric buses in service need to wait longer at North Broadway, or will the existing wait/break times give them enough charge? Do & will buses stay in service from begging to end of service, or do they serve part of the day with others taking over later?

I don’t normally have a reason to ride the 70/Grand, but I will at least once when the new electric articulated buses begin service.

— Steve Patterson

 

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