Water Main Break Underscores Need To Update Century Old Water System

 

 You may have heard about a press conference last week at St. Louis’ Chain of Rocks water treatment  facility. St. Louis and Environmental Protection Agency officials are calling for the passage of President Joe Biden’s jobs plan to help update the city’s water treatment system to continue to provide safe …

Rampant COVID violations at Fast Eddie’s Bon Air freaked me out Saturday

 

 We knew Saturday would be a gorgeous day so we decided to drive up the Great River Road along the Mississippi River north of Alton IL. Our first stop would be a favorite, Fast Eddie’s Bon Air. We knew it had been cited for Covid violations in October 2020: A …

Smart Electric Meters & Time Of Use (TOU) Rate Plans Coming To Ameren Missouri Customers

 

 Recently we received a flyer from electric utility Ameren Missouri notifying us that our meter will be changed to a smart meter within the coming months. I soon began digging into Ameren’s website to learn more detail: Smart meters enable wireless, two-way communication that will allow us to pinpoint and …

New Book: ‘Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges’ by June Williamson & Ellen Dunham-Jones

 

 One of the most important issues facing regions in the coming decades will be the enormous amount of land around the inner core that was developed in a manner that exacerbates current & future problems. Suburbia everywhere will need to be retrofitted. In 2009 I posted about a new book …

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So Long 2020: Too Much Death

December 30, 2020 Featured, Steve Patterson Comments Off on So Long 2020: Too Much Death
 
Didn’t have a dumpster fire photo, so this October 16th McKee warehouse fire will have to do representing 2020.

Most agree 2020 was, overall, an awful year. So much death. Not just from COVID-19, murders in St. Louis also set records. As of December 24th 254 people had been murdered in the city.

St. Louis has seen a nearly 25% increase in the number of homicides over the same period in 2019.

This year is the deadliest year in St. Louis’ history on a per capita basis. In 1993, 267 people were fatally shot, but the city had about 80,000 more residents. (KSDK)

There’s no vaccine to keep our murder rate from going up, no treatment has been found to lower it permanently.

When 2020 began I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to 2021. In December 2019 I received my first two immunotherapy treatments stage 4 kidney cancer. My to do list for 2020 included checking off bucket list items and making final arrangements should the treatment not work.

In early February I got the first news — the treatments prevented the tumors from growing! I was very happy and thought this was going to be a good year. I began thinking about making a 2-week solo trip to Chicago in April. As I was about to buy a round trip ticket on Amtrak everything went into lockdown.

In April, instead of a trip to Chicago, I had surgery to install a power port in my chest. I inherited my mom’s tricky veins, so this little device is connected to a jugular vein making blood draws and intravenous treatments much easier. We’d received homemade masks from my sister-in-law the day before my surgery.

Unlike so many, I’m still here. I’m actually optimistic I’ll see at least 2022. At some point in the 2nd half of 2021 it’ll be less risky to travel, eat out, etc. Unfortunately I’m not optimistic about crime in St. Louis being substantially reduced.

— Steve Patterson

Metro’s Blue Color Scheme A Welcomed Change

December 24, 2020 Featured, Public Transit Comments Off on Metro’s Blue Color Scheme A Welcomed Change
 

A year ago Metro announced that a new color scheme was being phased in.

You will continue to see the red-white-and-blue trains and buses for a long time. There are currently three MetroLink trains featuring the new look, as well as 26 new MetroBus vehicles. These new 30-foot Gillig buses have improved emissions and a much smaller turning radius than other buses in the fleet, making them more flexible in the types of service they can provide and in the locations where they can better operate.

The new paint scheme will only be applied to new vehicles being added to the Metro fleet as they replace older trains, buses and vans that are being retired out of service. All of these updates are part of the normal maintenance and replacement cycle for transit vehicles, signs and materials, and no additional funds are being used or needed to make these changes.

It took a while but I think most vehicles have now received the new design. Train vehicles haven’t actually been replaced, but individual cars gets updated and the livery changes from the standard to advertising, etc. Buses also get a change of livery based on advertising wraps.

The new blue design in July 2020
New blue design last month

MetroLink trains & buses have been white for decades.

The old blue & red design on a white background, 2014.
The old blue & red on a white background on August 26, 2006 — the opening of the Shrewsbury line.

I’ve been here 30 years and I couldn’t think of a different color scheme, but a friend reminded me prior to the 2003 Bi-State to Metro change to blue & red on white they had a red/orange/yellow scheme.

Red, orange, & yellow strip on white background. 1996 photo by Ron Walker.

I personally love the new design. The bold blue design stands out, at least for now. In time it’ll get old and tired. It’s refreshing to no longer have the white background. I’ve seen the new blue design on buses, but haven’t gotten a photo yet.

— Steve Patterson

New Book — ‘Oldest St. Louis’ by NiNi Harris

December 17, 2020 Books, Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on New Book — ‘Oldest St. Louis’ by NiNi Harris
 

I’ve been fortunate enough to know local historian & author NiNi Harris for more than two decades. I posted about her books before, and another is now available.

From iconic buildings like the Old Cathedral to the Polish butcher shop in North City, Oldest St. Louis explores the history of St. Louis through the history of the city’s oldest institutions, streets, and businesses. From the oldest library book, to the oldest museum, Oldest St. Louis traces the history of the city’s rich cultural life. From the oldest Italian bar to the oldest bowling alley, the book recalls St. Louis’s ethnic traditions. In following the stories of the oldest businesses and institutions, the book becomes a sensory tour of St. Louis featuring the crunchy oatmeal cookies made in the Dutchtown neighborhood the same way for 82 years, the fragrance in the 138 year old Greenhouse in mid-winter and the beauty of St. Louis’s 184 year-old Lafayette Park. Oldest St. Louis is also a nostalgic look at recent history from the space-age design of South County Mall, to a cherry Coke made with a secret recipe since the Chuck-A-Burger drive-in restaurant opened in St. Ann in 1957. (Reedy Press)

The contents are long, all starting with “Oldest…” I knew some, but not all. I had to quickly turn page by page to see the oldest this and that. In my 30+ years in St. Louis I’ve been to many of them: oldest soda fountain, convent, soul food diner, etc.

Each Oldest subject is headed by the year. The oldest Oldest is a tie — from 1474! Most are 19th & 20th century. Harris talks about each Oldest.

If you’re a St. Louis fan then this book needs to be on your bookshelf.

— Steve Patterson

New Book — ‘Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America’ by Angie Schmitt

December 11, 2020 Books, Featured, Walkability Comments Off on New Book — ‘Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America’ by Angie Schmitt
 

For months now we’ve all been living through the COVID-19 pandemic, but a silent epidemic has been going on for years: pedestrian deaths. Every week we hear about a pedestrian being hit & killed by a car. Often these are seniors just trying to cross a busy street — like 87- year old Phyllis Powers — she was hit & killed trying to cross MacKenzie Road to vote a month ago.

A recent book looks into the issue:

The face of the pedestrian safety crisis looks a lot like Ignacio Duarte-Rodriguez. The 77-year old grandfather was struck in a hit-and-run crash while trying to cross a high-speed, six-lane road without crosswalks near his son’s home in Phoenix, Arizona. He was one of the more than 6,000 people killed while walking in America in 2018. In the last ten years, there has been a 50 percent increase in pedestrian deaths.

The tragedy of traffic violence has barely registered with the media and wider culture. Disproportionately the victims are like Duarte-Rodriguez—immigrants, the poor, and people of color. They have largely been blamed and forgotten.

In Right of Way, journalist Angie Schmitt shows us that deaths like Duarte-Rodriguez’s are not unavoidable “accidents.” They don’t happen because of jaywalking or distracted walking. They are predictable, occurring in stark geographic patterns that tell a story about systemic inequality. These deaths are the forgotten faces of an increasingly urgent public-health crisis that we have the tools, but not the will, to solve. 

Schmitt examines the possible causes of the increase in pedestrian deaths as well as programs and movements that are beginning to respond to the epidemic. Her investigation unveils why pedestrians are dying—and she demands action.  Right of Way is a call to reframe the problem, acknowledge the role of racism and classism in the public response to these deaths, and energize advocacy around road safety. Ultimately, Schmitt argues that we need improvements in infrastructure and changes to policy to save lives.

Right of Way unveils a crisis that is rooted in both inequality and the undeterred reign of the automobile in our cities. It challenges us to imagine and demand safer and more equitable cities, where no one is expendable. (Island Press)

I want to talk about some issues addressed in this book, but first, here are the contents:

Introduction: Outline of an Epidemic
Chapter 1. The Geography of Risk
Chapter 2. The Profile of a Victim
Chapter 3. Blaming the Victim
Chapter 4. The Criminalization of Walking
Chapter 5. Killer Cars
Chapter 6. The Ideology of Flow
Chapter 7. A Hard Right Turn
Chapter 8. Pedestrian Safety on the Technological Frontier
Chapter 9. The International Context
Chapter 10. Families for Safe Streets

Yes, pedestrian deaths are an epidemic. A pandemic, like COVID-19, is worldwide. An epidemic, like pedestrian deaths, is largely a problem in one area such as the U.S.

Increasingly older adults are unable to continue driving, finding themselves in suburbs not designed for pedestrians. Timing of infrequent crosswalk lights are too fast for slow walkers. For many it’s too far to reach a designated point to cross an arterial so people attempt to cross where they can because they can’t do the extra distance.

The alarming rise in pedestrian deaths coincides with the switch from passenger cars to larger and larger pickups & SUVs. Why? A primary reason is the higher mass on the front of these vehicles — hitting people in their torso rather than legs.

These problems are worse in low-income & minority neighborhoods. The population that needs better pedestrian facilities often don’t get them.

The book details the problems and offers solutions.

Pedestrian safety expert Dan Burden (right) leads a “walking audit” on Delmar just west of Union in 2011 — that’s me in the wheelchair. Photo credit: Lou /AARP

This book is for anyone interested in addressing pedestrian safety and removing inequalities in our rights of way. The author and others discuss the epidemic of pedestrian deaths in a video here.

You can order from the publisher.

— Steve Patterson

Longtime Election Board Building Was Previously Police Headquarters (1907-1929)

December 5, 2020 Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on Longtime Election Board Building Was Previously Police Headquarters (1907-1929)
 

For most of the 16 years on this blog I’ve often used a vintage photo, below, when posting about local elections.

Vintage photo of the former offices of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners. From my collection

Though I’d been using this photo I didn’t know anything about it. From the cars I knew not only was it from before I arrived in St. Louis (August 1990) but before I was born (February 1967). I also knew I’d never been to this building, the only location of the Board of Election Commissionrs I’d ever visited was the current, 300 North Tucker.

Another photo I use often for election-related posts:

The St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners is on the first floor at 300 N. Tucker (@ Olive)

Not sure where I registered to vote, but my first time going to the election board offices was in January 2005 when I filed to run for alderman — at 300 North Tucker.

Recently I was more and more curious about that vintage photo, so I contacted a lifetime resident who is a St. Louis political encyclopedia. He suggested I look in the book “We Elect! The Story of St. Louis Government and Politics”, published by the St. Louis Public Schools in 1967. I received a copy years ago as part of the Beckerle collection.

At the bottom of page 4 was the address — 208 South Twelfth Boulevard. In 1967 Twelfth hadn’t yet been renamed in honor of former mayor Raymond Tucker (12/4/1896-11/23/1970).
At the top of the next page is a photo of the building and the address again.

So now I know the address but that didn’t tell me when they moved out of the building and why. Was the building built for them or a previous occupant? I know the new city jail currently occupies that and additional land.

Let’s begin with the election board moving into the current location, 300 North Tucker. Thankfully St. Louis Library members can search Post-Dispatch archives online.

An August 1998 article (8/27/1998, p18) indicated the move from 208 South Tucker to 300 North Tucker will happen in December. A December 6, 1998 article indicated the move would happen on December 14, 1998. The earlier article mentions 208 South Tucker is 91 years old. Both articles indicate the election board moved in during the ‘late 1930s.” They got the decade right, the 1930s. But it wasn’t late in the decade — it opened on February 12, 1932 (P-D page 14 of 48).

The Post-Dispatch in 1998 said it was 91 years old, so built in 1907 — if they got that research right. That means the building was roughly a quarter century old. Who was the previous occupant?

The headline gave away the answer, the building was previously police headquarters. Growing city outgrew the police headquarters just a couple of decades after building it? Not exactly. As part of young Harland Bartholomew’s plan, the 12th right-of-way would be widened from 60 feet to a massive 150 feet, 40 feet would come from the east side of 12th. In 1919 a condemnation suit began to take the 40 feet from property owners.  Police would lose the front 40 feet of their headquarters, only 12 years old.

By March 18, 1926 a site for a new headquarters was secured on the southwest corner of 12th & Clark — consolidated from 18 owners.  That headquarters opened in late 1928 or early 1929.

The headquarters that became the board of elections was opened in August 1907, after a long delay. Three residences were bought and razed to construct the building.

Original plans called for the police department to occupy half the basement of the new city hall, but that was scrapped once the decision was made to make the basement ceilings only nine feet high.  Police would need to stay across the street at “four courts” building. Prior to Bartholomew’s arrival they already had plans to widen 12th, not sure how much. (P-D 4/24/1898, p9).

In July 2014 the St. Louis police headquarters moved again, this time to a renovated office building on Olive between 19th-20th.

— Steve Patterson

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